Coop Questions


8 Years
Mar 4, 2011
We're hoping to finish our coop and run over this coming log weekend, and I am trying to get everything straight before we get going, (or have to go back and redo things we did wrong
) I have a few questions to start...

If the run connects to the face of the coop, and hardware cloth is buried around both, we are using galvanized steel fencing (the kind that makes a rectangle pattern?) with a 2x2 top rail, and covering the entire thing with aviary netting.... Do we need a door on the coop right away? We are converting the old horse barn into the coop, and it has not had a door on it. We're planning on getting one on before fall, but do the chickens need to be shut tight in the coop at night, or can they have access to the run?

Also, since there has not been a door on the barn, once there is a door, there won't be any proper ventilation. We live in Michigan. It gets hot, but generally not blazing hot, and certainly not at night when they would be shut in. We are planning on getting windows in for light before winter as we get goat loads of snow and it's unlikely they will be able to leave the coop for much of it, (It's a pretty big and tall coop, though,) but do they need to be in right away? Or a roof vent? A roof vent may be easier to accomplish over 3 days with everything else, but reading through, it looked like a lot of the people talking ventilation lived in pretty hot locations. The coop is in a fair amount of shade, but the sides, front, and roof are metal. The main back wall is wood.

Should I mow the area over before putting the chickens in? It's not lawn, it is mostly fertile dirt (well... it is old horse pasture...) in a semi wooded area with some foliage. I'm mean, not wading through a jungle, but I though it might be easier on the chickens if I shortened things a bit. My husband didn't think it was worth bothering. I really don't know, but it wouldn't take but a few minutes to go over with the mower if that would be nicer for them. I haven't taken a picture since it was covered in snow, or I'd post one.

Lastly, the coop has a wooden structure, but the metal siding doesn't quite meet at the corners or in some places where the roof meets the walls. We will pound them together, but I'm worried that won't be enough. Should I try to put corners on, somehow? Or, we are planning to insulate the coop before winter, could I pound them together and fill any gaps with "Great Stuff" which will eventually get covered over with insulation and plywood?

Any other thoughts or tips for a newb would also be appreciated, thanks
Yes, you need to be able to secure the coop as the netting on the run will not stop a coon or opossum, if they're a threat. Also you need a mandoor to be able to get in to clean and moniter your birds.

For ventilation, what about using a 2 - 3 inch hole saw and drill holes around the top of the wall just under the eaves, save the cutouts, cover one side of the hole with bug screen and, when it gets cold, just put the plugs back in the holes. Next spring they can be popped back out again. Don't suggest a roof vent, if the roof is tight, don't mess with it. Chickens don't like getting dripped on and wet litter is bad for birds and a pain for you.

Don't bother mowing, the chickens will make short work of it and bugs (ie chicken treats) like it too

As to tightening up the building, I agree you should try to tighten it up (use screws, they don't back out) to keep unwanteds out. Depending on type of birds, suggest cold hardy varieties, you may just want to Tyvek it as people up here don't even turn on a heat lamp till -30 but they're deadly serious about stopping drafts in contrast also remember chicken poo can get pretty toxic in a closed area so some air movement is required, or you'll gas your chickens.
Ventilation is important for more reasons that just keeping the heat down inside a coop (although that's important, too). Chickens like all birds have very efficient respiratory systems and are affected by poor air quality. And adequate ventilation in winter helps to avoid frostbite! Here's the best discussion of the subject I know of:

If you don't lock your chickens inside a secure coop at night, anything that can get into the run can get into the coop. If you use aviary netting for the roof of your run, that means a raccoon (etc.) can easily get into the run, enter the pop door and finish off your flock before morning. The same issue applies to gaps between the walls and roof of your coop.

It's your choice whether you want to accept this risk, of course. Some people just decide to trust to luck (a predator not finding the weaknesses in their setup), and if their luck doesn't hold, they're willing to just clean up the mess and buy more chickens.
If you want to prevent your chickens from being eaten by raccoons or possums while asleep in the coop at night, yes. Since your run is only hawkproof and mnoderately dogproof, not anything-else-proof.

Also, since there has not been a door on the barn, once there is a door, there won't be any proper ventilation.

If this is just a coop-sized shed, e.g. 12x12 or such, then yes, you need ventilation now, probably in large amounts once it gets to be hot sunny weather (and you will need something also that is suitable for use in your winters).

OTOH if this is one stall in a larger barn, and the chicken stall has fairly free air exchange with the rest of the barn, and you don't have excessively many chickens, you MAY be ok (at least short-term) with no external ventilation. Because the chickens' humidity and ammonia will be dispersing in ALL the barn air, not just in the small volume in the actual coop part. However you are really, really likely to need some proper external ventilation at some point. Without pics I am not sure I understand the setup well enough to make specific recommendations tho.

Should I mow the area over before putting the chickens in?

Nope. Let the chickens have their fun

Lastly, the coop has a wooden structure, but the metal siding doesn't quite meet at the corners or in some places where the roof meets the walls. We will pound them together, but I'm worried that won't be enough. Should I try to put corners on, somehow? Or, we are planning to insulate the coop before winter, could I pound them together and fill any gaps with "Great Stuff" which will eventually get covered over with insulation and plywood?

This would worry me quite a lot in terms of predatorproofness. Raccoons can rip things apart Real Good if thye can get ahold of loose edges. I would say definitely put on corner molding (in this case meaning shaped metal flashing) or soemthing else like that. Expando-foam will fill gaps to prevent draftiness but not do a thing against predators.

Good luck, have fun,

Hot air rises. You really need ventilation at the top of the coop. Do not count on doors or windows to provide much ventilation. I strongly recommend Pat's Ventilation article that Elmo gave you.

In the summer you need to get rid of the heat more than anything else. Chickens really do handle cold better than heat. An opening down low in the summer can help quite a bit in air exchange. Direct drafts on them in the hot summers is OK.

You really need good ventilation in the winter, but you have to keep direct drafts off the chickens. Your main danger in winter is frostbite, but the ammonia from their poop can cause a problem. If you do not get rid of the humidity in the coop (humidity comes from their breathing and from their poop) they can get frostbite at temperatures around freezing. If the humidity is kept low and they are out of drafts, then they can handle temperatures below zero. Or at least mine do. The trick is to provide this ventilation higher than the chickens are when they are roosting. That way any breeze is over them, not on them.

I don't know what your structure looks like. I'll assume a freestanding structure with roof overhangs. Little bitty cut-outs do not provide much ventilation. It is the edge effect. One cut-out 10" x 10" will give you 100 square inches. This will provide tremendously more ventilation than 10 different cut-outs of 10 square inches each, not matter what shape they are in, although the total area is the same.

What I did was to leave the area the rafters took up open. That left me an opening from the bottom of the rafters to the roof. I covered that securely with hardware cloth to keep climbing predators out. I also left an opening on the other side, triangular shaped because of the way my roof runs, and covered that with hardware cloth. With mine, those stay open every day of the year, but it seldom gets below zero here. In your climate, you might want to avoid doing this on the windy side or maybe the north side. Or set up a hinged cover that can go on during the winter.

This might give you an idea what I am talking about.

Thanks everyone for your responses!

Ack! Why is my run only moderately dogproof, not anything-else-proof? I thought this fencing was supposed to be too strong for anything to dig through, and if it's not, why am I burying a hardware cloth apron?
I forgot to mention that we are lining the wire mesh fencing with chicken wire to prevent reach throughs. Is there anything else we can do to help keep out the opossums and raccoons short of covering the entire thing with wire mesh?
Ridgerunner, x-posted with you, thank you for that. If we have a hinged door on them for winter though, won't the be left without ventilation?
When you say aviary netting, I'm not sure of you are talking about the plastic stuff or the galvanized stuff we normally call chicken wire. The plastic stuff will keep the chickens from flying out and will help keep hawks out, but determined hawks, raccoons, dogs, foxes, coyotes, about anything can get through it if they try a bit. It really does not slow most of them down a lot, but it is a fairly good deterrent for hawks. Keeping the chickens in is a huge plus though.

That galvanized metal netting is usually such a light gauge that many of these potential predators can rip it apart. Some of them can actually break it but another potential failure mode is that the wire can become untwisted at the joints where it is twisted together. Dogs, foxes, and coyotes can jump or climb pretty well.

Many of us use the plastic stuff, some use the galvanized, some use nothing, and some use more secure roofing materials. The galvanized stuff is not bad, but consider it more of a predator deterrent than predator proofing. I'd be quite happy with it during the day but would not trust it at night.
Well, it's never going to be at all raccoon- or possum-proof without a solid roof or STRONG (not chickenwire) wire top. That's just the way it is.

Dog-wise (includes foxes, coyotes, etc) if your fencing is good strong stuff (not just garden-fence quality) and your apron is at least 2' wide (you're not actually *burying* your apron, are you? that's kind of redundant), then you are probably pretty ok against everything except the (fairly rare) individuals that decide to climb the fence. If it's a 6' fence, not too many dogs/foxes/coyotes will even try; if it is only a 4' fence, that's significantly more vulnerable.

Weasels and mink can go thru 2x4 wire mesh, which I am guessing is probably what your run fencing is (?). Having smaller mesh stuff along the lower portions will "discourage" them a big but if they want in, both can easily climb up a few feet to where the larger openings are.

I'm not criticizing. Everyone has their own ideas of what's reasonable risk. If I were in your situation and doing a substantial-sized run, I think I'd do it almost exactly the same as you are, unless I'd recently won the lottery. A couple lines of electric wire can help a bit more, but for a lot of people they wouldn't be worth the expense (especially if you don't already HAVE a good charger you're using to run OTHER electric fence with, e.g. for livestock) and of course an electric fence is only as good as its installation and testing/fixing.

All's I'm saying is not to have excessive illusions about complete predatorproofness of whatcha got... and if it were me, I'd for SURE be locking the chickens in by dusk every day.

JMO, good luck, have fun,


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