Old-Timer gives conflicting advise on coop


9 Years
Oct 5, 2010
Although I just joined today, I have been lurking for over a month, learning all I can about raising chickens and designing a coop. I figured I had all of the information I needed to design my own coop when my dear wife suggested we use an existing wood shed. Since this was going to be her project (raising the chickens) I was more than happy to make the adjustment. I set about designing the coop (and adjoining storage area) for this 10' x 12' shed with an 8' gambrel roof. I figured I had everything down pat when I happened to mention it to a friend of mine - an old-timer who has raised chickens off and on for the past 75 years
. As he would say, he "licked all the red off of my candy," when he told me everything I was doing wrong! Of course, I argued with him that I knew everything about coop design and raising chickens (from reading BYC, of course!) but he countered with arguments borne of his many years of farming here in Northern Missouri. Now I am thoroughly confused and, since we want to get our chicks very soon, would hope to clear up some misconceptions he claims I may have.

I told him I was working towards 2 to 2-1/2 square feet per chicken. He said I need 4 Square per regular and 5 square for Large breeds. (We want Golden Comets- a Large breed). I told him I would be insulating the coop and he said that you NEVER insulate a coop! I said I wanted to open up the upper 2' at each end for ventilation and he said NO! He wants me to open up about a 2' high by 5 or 6 foot wide area on the south end of the shed with the bottom of the opening about 2' above the floor and place the roost above the opening. And not allow the wind to blow through the coop no matter how high the opening. He told me never to let the chickens out during the winter unless you want their toes to freeze off. (Maybe that's why the 4-5 square foot floor space?)

As I said, now I am completely bumfoozled.
I want to do this right but some of what he says makes a lot of sense. Can anyone set me straight? Is my friend just living in the past or am I too intent on "doing him one better?" HELP, please!
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Everybody has their own way of doing things. Just take everyone's advice, put it in your pocket, and use what you feel comfortable with. What works for one, may not work for another. I personally like your original plan. And yes, you sure can insulate your coop.
From what I've read here the general rule of thumb is 4 sq ft per chicken in the coop & 10 sq ft each for the run. As far as the air vents, I'm still drawing my plans out & working on that myself.
2-2.5 sq ft / bird seems awfully small, especially if you do get harsh winters.

i always try to give at least 4 sq ft per bird and my birds free range (unconfined on 40 acres, not in a run) sun up til sun down, only being locked in at night.
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Heh, I didn't take very much advice from anyone except regarding predator proofing. I built my coop per my own ideas and designs and both me and the birds were VERY happy with it. You're the one who is gonna have to work in the coop and clean it out, etc. so build it in a way that makes life easy for YOU!

There are sooooooooo many different coops and designs, none of them are really wrong. The only real key is to have good ventilation and to keep the worst of the wind off the birds in the winter.
Insulation and such will depend on what kind of materials you use and what kind of weather you face.

ETA: and yes 4sq ft per bird is recommended minimum inside the coop, the exception would be if they are ONLY roosting inside and can leave freely when they are awake - then all that really matters is roosting space and ventilation to keep the ammonia from building up since they poop in the most concentrated area while roosting at night.
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I agree with flashpoint.
And I'd allow the 4 square feet per chicken. Other than that, do what you think is best. There is no 100% right way to do it. Give them a good roof over their heads, food, water and love, they'll give you lots of eggs.
Everyone will always have their own ways of doing things, I agree with everyone else you kinda of have to do what you want to do. As for insulating, why would it be bad to insulate the coop? I've noticed since we did ours that it stays MUCH warmer when it's cold and MUCH cooler when it's hot outside. So much that my chickens actually prefer staying IN their coop in really hot weather. I've even been tempted to go out there rather than being stuck in a hot house, lol.
I don't like cross ventilation ether. I think all vents should be on the same wall. Preferable the wall that does not get hit by the prevailing wind. One high one low. That way its a slow consistent flow. Not driven by wind speed.

4 squre is standard 5 would be good if there not let out much. Run should be about 10 square.
why this person may be telling you the way they do things is perhaps area specific... like temps and humidity and such.
I like to allow 5 square feet as a minimum per chicken, too. My chickens spend more time in the coop during the winter. Litter management is easier at that stocking level, too. At denser stocking levels, you get progressively more crusting of poop on the surface of the litter.

I don't think you need to insulate.

When it comes to ventilation, we have a large amount of ventilation during the summer. Think screened in porch. It can get very hot and humid at the peak of summer here. During the winter, we have most of that closed up. We have enough open to allow fresh air in and moisture to leave, although the winter air here is extremely dry. In the winter, it's more like having a bedroom window cracked open.

During nice weather, breezes in the coop are not bad. During hot weather, they're actually a good thing. A draft blowing on the chickens during the winter, especially while they are roosting, is a bad thing. However you have your ventilation openings set up, don't have them in drafts in the winter.

I normally let the chickens choose whether they want to be inside or outside in the winter. They hang out in the coop when it's too cold out for them. They will also go out for a little bit and come back inside to warm up for awhile when it's cold out. The only time we close the door during the day is when the high is only going to be in the single digits. At that point, the lows can be down to -20, even -30 if it's a bad winter. At those temperatures, the chickens are rarely outside and keeping the door closed keeps it a little warmer inside, including going into the night.

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