Advice on small backyard coop for a beginner

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by hens4jen, Jan 13, 2015.

  1. hens4jen

    hens4jen New Egg

    Jan 7, 2015
    Hello all,

    I've been reading the forums and have found them very useful so far. I have wanted to get a few chickens for almost ten years now. I'm finally in a position where I have the time, space, and budget to do so. I'd like to get a coop set up in time to get a few chicks in the spring. I have several factors to consider:

    1. I live in a suburban neighborhood with a relatively small backyard. City ordinances allow chickens as long as the neighbors don't oppose it. Our next door neighbors have a coop and several hens, so I think neighbors will be okay.

    2. I'm in north-central Utah, not too far from Salt Lake City. Winters are moderate (I grew up in Minnesota, so by comparison, they're downright pleasant), although we do have cold snaps that linger in the single digits for a week or so, and summer can get hot and very dry. The backyard is west-facing, so I do think I'll need to provide some shade in the summer.

    3. I am living with family for the next year or two. After that, there is a good chance I will move, so I would like something I can take with me when I leave -- in other words, not a permanent structure.

    4. My carpentry skills are limited. I have a friend who is handy and willing to help, but I don't want to be a burden and would like to do as much as possible on my own.

    5. I'm looking at getting 2-3 hens, possibly bantams, primarily to keep as pets, with eggs as a bonus. My 6 year old will be my "helper." She is very excited about the project and thinks anything small is "cute."

    6. Budget is $500-800 or so. I know the chickens don't care, but I'd like it to look nice (and be functional, too).

    7. The yard is fully fenced, although I think a bird might be able to hop the low chain link fence or slip through the gate on the side of the house. Oh, and the side gate is the only access to the back yard -- it's 4-1/2 feet wide, so I'd like to be able to fit the coop through there to move it out someday.

    8. The hens won't get much free-range time, so I'd like to get a coop with an enclosed/attached run.

    I am currently looking at the Garden Ark plans from the Garden Coop or the Mobile Coop or Backyard Coop from Urban Coop Company. Do you think with the Mobile Coop that the girls would stay warm enough in the winter? It doesn't have a floor at all, although I could winterize by adding some panels over the screens. I've read some other threads about the Backyard Coop -- some owners love them and others think the wire floor is a bad idea. The Mobile Coop doesn't have a floor.

    Alternatively, I could convert an A-frame trellis that is currently in place in the yard into a coop. This would not be mobile, but it might be less of an investment, so that could be okay. The trellis is made of 2x4's cemented into the ground and with cedar wood lattice on the sides. It's about 6 feet tall and 4 ft square at the bottom. If I don't use the trellis, the coop would probably go in that far corner. Here is a photo:


    I'd appreciate any advice for an absolute beginner as far as the coop design goes or for what breed of birds might be a good choice for us. Thanks for being willing to share your knowledge!
  2. lynnehd

    lynnehd Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 1, 2015
    Vancouver, Wa.

    I am a new member, too, from Vancouver, Wa. Welcome!

    All of the sources for your chicken tractors are excellent. The Garden coop plans, including the Garden Ark, were designed by someone in the PNW, and from my understanding, area very easy to follow. I think they are very well designed.

    A chicken tractor makes a lot of sense in your situation. And it seems to me, that when you do eventually move, you will want a 'fast' home for your chickens. Being able to move a chicken tractor with you would allow this, if you are able to transport it.

    One downside to tractors is that predators can conceivably get under them or tip them up. Depending on the type of predators, you could keep the tractor in one place so you preserve most of the yard. In that case, you could add an 'apron' of 1/2" hardware mesh around the base and use garden or deer stakes to secure it to the ground (unless the Garden Ark has mesh underneath already).

    Good luck!
  3. hens4jen

    hens4jen New Egg

    Jan 7, 2015
    Thanks for the reply, Lynne. Yeah, I bought the plans for the Garden Coop about 5 years ago, but I ended up moving before I could build it. They do look like nice plans--easy to understand--but I think the Ark is a better solution for me now. I don't think it has mesh underneath, but I would figure out a way to rig up a "foundation" of some sort with either pavers or hardware cloth (or both!) to guard against predators.

    The ark is only 3' x 6'. Is that enough room for three birds full-time?
  4. dekel18042

    dekel18042 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 18, 2013
    I would say three only if they're very small and you move it around, otherwise two. What breed of chickens do your neighbors have? What do they like or not like about their breed? You can go to and answer a short questionnaire for an idea on breeds.
    Just a guess, but if you're looking for something small and want pets, and have kids you might want to get bantams that would give you an assortment of egg colors. You could choose among cochins, welsmers (terra cotta colored eggs) or even bantam Easter eggers (blue or green eggs).
    Three of these should be able to fit into the tractor you are getting.
    There are some friendly docile large breeds but they would need more room.
  5. hens4jen

    hens4jen New Egg

    Jan 7, 2015
    Those are great suggestions, thank you! I did the survey on mypetchicken and Easter Eggers are an appealing option.
  6. dekel18042

    dekel18042 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 18, 2013
    Good choice. [​IMG] I have several (Many?) favorite breeds but EE's rank at the top. Even the full sized ones aren't large, They have neat quirky personalities. Mine lay large eggs so they have an excellent feed to egg ratio. One is my smallest bird and lays the largest egg of any of my hens,. I have a son of hers that is twice as big as both mother and sisters, and he has a nice personality.
    Another Easter egger advantage is with their pea combs they are extremely cold hardy as well as tolerant of the heat and humidity we often get over the summers.
    Someone else can probably tell you better how the bantams are in weather extremes, but the full sized ones are fantastic.
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2015
  7. matt44644

    matt44644 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 14, 2014
    Sanilac County,Michigan
  8. HandsomeRyan

    HandsomeRyan Renaissance man

    Feb 18, 2013
    Music City, USA
    Welcome to BYC!
    Good luck with whatever you decide to build!
  9. ampho

    ampho Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 28, 2013
    Northern NJ
    I don't know how handy you are, but this was the first run we built, fairly easy, small enough to move and more solid than the ones you can find would have to either make a skirt of hardware cloth to predator proof it or keep the chickens locked in the actual coop at night. Our coop is 8 x 10 so too large to be portable but you could attach this run to anything. Good luck!
  10. HighStreetCoop

    HighStreetCoop Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 28, 2014
    Oakland, CA
    My Coop
    The guys over at The Chicken Gardener build their arc to fit on top of a raised bed. Maybe you could so something like that with a wire bottom? It would be secure and portable.
    1 person likes this.

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