Next hurdle...the coop...ideas?


In the Brooder
8 Years
Mar 2, 2011
Our babies are a week old today! I need to figure out where they are going to live. I'm willing to take any advice you guys have to give!

We have 6 black sex-linked pullets and 2 Brahma straight runs. They are pretty curious buggers...Anyway. We are contemplating getting up to 6 more (darn the NC 6 minimum...I really only wanted 2 more). My son REALLY wanted some Rhode Island Reds, but since this is our first attempt at chickens ( my husband and I are both 'from the city') I figure we'll take what we can get and focus on different breeds later. Anyway, 8 chicks now with a potential for a maximum of 14.

We have a lot that is .5 acre in mid-central NC. The backyard is about half of that. We have a 6' wooden privacy fence and no predators that I have seen in the yard. We do have dogs (a rottweiler-pitt bull mix, a lab-chow mix and a jack russel-beagle mix, all rescues...ok, not the rottie, we got her as a puppy). The two big dogs have the wireless collars that will not allow them to go anywhere near where the chickens will be. The little dog doesn't seem interested in them, but will get a collar as well if it seems necessary. He likes to snatch his birds from the sky as they are flying.

I have a north facing house, so I am thinking about putting the chickens in the south-western corner of the lot. I figured they would get all of the eastern morning sun and I could use the fence as one of the walls for the run. I'm also contemplating making an 'L" shaped run to take advantage of the corner...or just a large square. The run will be 6.5' tall and encased in wire mesh. I don't know how many hawks are around, but it will be covered anyway. I need to put a door in it, obviously so we can get in and out.

I want to make a coop that is elevated so 1. my son (who is a tall 12) can get in there easily to clean it and 2. provides a covered part of the run for the chicks. I have a work table already built that is no longer being used that I wanted to use as the base. The table is 32" wide by 73" long. I'm not sure this will be large enough for the chickens though. I'm thinking 3 nesting boxes. I'd like to have one whole side of the coop hinge upward to make it easier to clean out. I'm unsure where and how to put perches in though...or how tall the coop should be. We're going to use screen ventilation near the roofline to keep it ventilated. Add a locking coop door and a ramp...and I think that is most of it.

So, what have I forgotten about?
What size coop and run are you thinking? I have 12 hens, and 1 roo in a 8x10 coop, and a 12x25 run. Remember the golden rule minimum of 4 sq. ft per bird in the coop, and 10 sq. ft. for the run. More is better though. And lotsa ventilation for the coop.You WILL get more birds,LOL Here are some pic ideas that may help All the best, and have fun with them.......
.. and remember you may have some of these roaming build strong...
You are asking several good questions, so my response will probably be a little long. Please bear with me.

On this site, we normally recommend a minimum of 4 square feet per chicken in the coop plus 10 square feet per chicken in the run. This is a lot more than the commercial operations use but our management techniques are usually quite a bit different. We do not automatically trim off half the upper beak to keep crowded chickens from eating each other. Most of us don't medicate to handle crowded conditions, nor do we practice the biosecurity the commercial operations do. We don't shower and change clothing every time we go into where the chickens are. I know you have a 12 year old, but most of us don't have automatic poop handling equipment. Poop management, especially in crowded conditions, can be a big issue. There are conditions where less space works just fine, but that usually requires more work and management from you on an everyday basis. I find if you use these guidelines as a minimum and provide even more space if you can, you and your chickens are happier.

One requirement for coop and run is to keep it as dry as you can or they will stink. The coop has to stay dry. That is just a requirement. If the coop gets wet, you have a strong potential for many different problems. The run is a little different. It is very hard and often impossible to keep a run perfectly dry, especially during wet spells. I sure don't manage that and my run is on a slight rise with drainage arranged to keep water from running into it when it rains from the coop roof or the surrounding ground. They will eat or scratch up everything green in the run. It is either going to be dusty or muddy. Just prepare yourself for that and try to keep as much water out of it as you can. I'm making it sound worse than it usually is as long as you don't put the run where water drains into it.

I think you are envisioning a raised coop where your son opens up one side and rakes the bedding and poop into a wheelbarrow. That is doable, but it has to either be tall enough where he can walk in and work in there or narrow enough so he can reach all the way across or accessible from both sides. Another requirement for the coop is that you can reach all the area inside. If you have a spot you cannot reach, something will happen that you need to reach it. Maybe cleaning, treating, or repair. A chicken may start laying there instead of the nest box. Maybe you need to get a sick or injured chicken. It is hard to build a coop big enough for 14 chickens unless you can walk in it. You can still build it elevated, but it gets taller.

There are advantages to an elevated coop, but you have to have access under it if the chickens do. Again, think of a chicken laying eggs under there or a sick or injured chicken you need to get. That space can make a great place to hang a feeder or waterer. It also provides shade for them, which can be important. But if you don't elevate it enough to provide access, it becomes a great place for Momma Mouse or Momma Rat to raise a family.

I don't care where you live in North Carolina, even in the middle of the downtown business district, you are going to have raccoons, possums, snakes, rats, weasels, and many other possible predators. If you do not believe me, go talk to your animal control officer or talk to people at the animal shelter. Don't think for a minute that you don't have predators.

The rule of thumb is one nest box for every 4 hens. I'm not sure how many hens you will wind up with. You could easily get some roosters. Three is probably enough but four is better. They will all want to lay in the same nest box, but some will lay in the others. The nest boxes can be on the floor, but they take away some benefit of floor space. In a larger coop like you will build, that is not as critical as in a little bitty coop, but it is a consideration. If you raise them, they need to be high enough that you have good access under there, including above the bedding. Again, think chickens laying under there or retrieving sick or injured chickens. Also, if they are not high enough, think of Mamma Mouse raising a family in there.

How tall does the coop need to be, assuming it is not a walk-in? You need space for the bedding in the floor. If you build a coop on the ground and use the deep litter method, it can get very thick. If you build an elevated coop and clean it out regularly, it does not need to get very thick. Just plan on it being thicker than you expect. If you elevate the nest boxes, consider that. The roosts need to be higher than anything else in the coop that you don’t want them roosting on, which definitely includes the nest boxes. I suggest a 5" to 6" lip on the bottom of the nest boxes to hold in the eggs and the bedding. Otherwise they will scratch them out when arranging the nest. Then you leave an opening 8" to 10" high for them to enter the nest box above the lip. Depending on how you frame out your nest box, you may need a couple of inches for the framing. Chickens stand up when laying the egg, so the extra head height is good for them. Plan on providing a couple of inches more head height for the chicken that you initially think and you should be OK. Then your roosts need to be noticeably higher than the top of the nest box. 12" should be enough.

An easy way to provide ventilation is to leave some openings under the overhang and cover those with hardware cloth. Chickens can handle cold much better than heat, provided they are kept out of drafts and the coop is well ventilated. If it is not well ventilated, the moisture from their breathing and their poop can cause frostbite. Also, the ammonia from their poop can build up and cause respiratory problems. So if you provide this ventilation in the winter by having these permanent openings covered with hardware cloth to keep out raccoons, your birds should do fine. Raccoons can tear through window screen like it is not there. I strongly suggest hardware cloth. Just have the openings high enough above the roosts where the chickens are not sleeping in the draft between these vents. My low this winter was (-) 9 Fahrenheit. I do not provide any heat in the coop and all four of my top walls are open and covered with hardware cloth, 4" to 6" deep practically all around. My chickens did fine. Don't sweat the cold as long as they are not in a draft and have ventilation.

This should set the minimum height for your coop. Remember to slope your roof so the rain drains away from your coop and run, not into the run.

Enough typing this morning. I've probably made it sound worse than it is, but I find if you understand the risks and plan for them, it goes a lot better later. Welcome to the adventure. In spite of what you may take as my tone, I think you really will enjoy it.
I forgot to mention, you can look at the coop design section at the top of this page for ideas.

Also, I consider these required reading for anying building a coop, for you ventilation and muddy run especially but the cold weather coop won't hurt.

Pat’s Big Ol' Ventilation Page

Cold Coop (winter design) page:

Big Ol' Mud Page (fixing muddy runs):
Thanks! Though I currently feel totally overwhealmed...But...doing the math, for my potential 14 a coop of 8 x 7 or larger will work..and a run of 14 x 10 or something similar. Will have to go scope out the backyard and take some measurements. I will see about getting a plan worked up soon. Luckily the babies have to stay in the kennel then are in for a bit yet! Will post my plans here...hopefully you guys will spot any glaring errors on my part.
It sounds overwhelming but when it starts to go together, it is not that bad. I will mention that most building material comes in 4' or 8' dimensions. You can usually build it to these dimensions for very little extra cost and with less cutting. That is outside to outside dimensions, not centerline dimensions. Don't ask why I mention that little detail.

Where this can run up extra cost is in the roof. You need an overhang to keep rain out of those vents so an 8' x 8' coop with a sloped roof will require other than 8' long material for the roof supports.
Yeah, my husband builds alot of stuff, so I'm familiar with '16" on center" and terms like that.
We have roofing from our shed that is 10 - 12 feet long I think. Our shed has rows of the see-through plastic roofing in order to let light into it and Joe was contemplating using that for part of the coop roof as well. And...if we're going to build a standup coop/shed for them, we might as well make some of the run covered as well...hmmm...Maybe I'll have some plans by this weekend. We are homeschooling our 12 year old son, so this will be a good geometry lesson!
That was an excellent post. I am also in the process of building/designing my coop and run, and I ate up every bit of that. Thanks for taking the time to write it up!

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