PLANNINGOn to the planning stage.
Many, many newbies, myself included, started out learning as much as they could about raising chickens so they could design the "perfect" coop. The perfect coop must provide for all the chickens needs first and foremost and then the caretakers needs and desires. The unfortunate reality is that you do the best you can and just go for it. If you find your coop isn't working out they way you hoped, either you make modifications if that's feasible or you call a Mulligan and do it over.
The coop I built from scratch was cute and it worked for the chickens. I'll be perfectly honest here and say that I was looking for a "quick fix" and chose that coop because it came with (crappy) plans and was visually appealing. My back and occasionally my forehead hated it.
I NEED a walk-in coop.
I NEED a walk-in run.
Did anyone look at my first coop article and see the run I built? WHAT was I thinking? The 2' high extension was inaccessible and un-cleanable, two features you should avoid like the plague in chicken husbandry.
What I learned after becoming a chicken caretaker is invaluable. I now know all the shortcomings of my initial choices so those mistakes won't be repeated.
I was able to come up with a must-have list:
- Walk-in coop and run. Duh! Unless you are young, small and very flexible, do yourself a favor and design your coop for EASY access to clean it out AND retrieve chickens at roost time for routine health checks, etc.
- Run must have lots of perches and as close to twice the recommended minimum as I can get. Wouldn't you know it? Those darn chickens like to perch on items off the ground. Confined birds need exercise and stimulation. Adding multi-height perching locations also adds vertical dimension to the space. My plan is for a 32' x 12' run to house 26 birds.
- Fully wired. If you have the ability to understand basic wiring, (correctly) run a circuit to the coop and install more receptacles than you think you will need. I cover unused outlets with child-proof covers to prevent dust and chicken beaks from getting in the slots.
- Heated nest boxes. If I find ONE MORE frozen egg.... I typically have many consecutive days during winter that never get above 25 ºF. I will not always have someone available to collect eggs for me during the day. (See link for what will be installed).
- Poop boards . Such an easy way of managing the 'poop in the coop'. I have a compost bin to dump it in. What the little darlings deposit on the main floor of the coop can be easily mixed into the thick bedding and the poop in the run will compost on it's own with the wood chips I will use for run litter.
- Built-in brooder. As I plan to raise replacement pullets each spring, this feature is invaluable. When not being used as a brooder, it can be used for overly amorous cockerels or injured birds... or brooding broody hens!!
- Year round protected dust bath site.
- Heated waterer that the chickens don't hate.
- Some way to keep my fermented feed from freezing during winter. Again, I will not always have someone to continually bring in the feed trough to thaw and put it back out with warmed feed throughout those long, cold winter days.
- A relatively easy way of wind-proofing the run for winter. The pop door from my coop to my run is never closed unless I want to lock the birds in or out of the coop for some reason. As soon as they leave the roost in the morning, out they go to the run. That is where they spend the vast majority of their winter days. This is a very important aspect for newbies to consider. Make your run as predator proof as possible so you can leave that pop door open.
- Copious amounts of ventilation. My old coop had lots of ventilation and I had very little frostbite even with some bitterly cold weather. And the coop itself never stunk.
- BIG eaves and gable overhangs. I leave windows open year round unless they will allow a draft directly across the roosting space in cold weather. The large eaves and gable overhangs will allow me to do this without rain getting into the coop. The other obvious benefit is it will direct roof runoff further away from the base of the structure. I want 2' overhangs. Yes. TWO FEET.
- Must have equal level of predator protection as the first coop. I have never had any predator gain access to my pen or coop/run. I have seen evidence of access attempts.
- Timer-controlled automatic door between run and electro-netted pen. I don't really want my birds to go out too early. And they have been known to dawdle around in the evening waiting until the very last minute to go to roost. I'm certain they would be locked out of the secured area if the automatic door operated in dusk-to-dawn mode.
- MUST NOT LOOK LIKE A BUTT UGLY EYESORE!!!! When we bought our property, the entire parcel (house, detached garage, septic, landscaping) needed renovation and most of that has been done. Seems silly to do all that work just to have a big huge eyesore of a coop and run plunked down in the middle of it.
And a want-to-have short list:
Now, how to fulfill my must-have list?
- Coop cameras.
- Functional weather-vane. Who wouldn't want one?
- Window boxes with chicken-proof plants.
A shed to coop conversion including sketches, design criteria, list of features and approximate build cost.
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Animal lover and Doberman addict, health and fitness enthusiast, former runner now hiker, once equestrian and showed Western, Chemical Engineer by training and occupation, House Flipper at heart, unhappily retired from it . I eat a Paleo diet which led me to wanting chickens for fresh, healthy eggs. After acquiring my flock, I quickly realized that they play a huge roll in stress management.
I love taking neglected houses and renovating them into someone's home! It is the most rewarding work I've ever done and I loved every aspect of it. So, because I can no longer flip houses, I decided to flip a shed into a coop for me and the chickens!
Recent User Reviews
"Glad I read this before I started building my coop"
- 5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Oct 8, 2019 at 6:24 AM
So many good things to think about in your article and coop. I'll have to give my coop plans a little redesign now to incorporate some of your features.