One run and two coops?


8 Years
Jan 8, 2012
I have considered raising chickens for many years now but only recently came up with an idea for a coop that I like. I'm sure that you are familiar with the yard design where you have a fenced in run with a structure similar to a dog house that provides shelter. This is the design that I am employing using a 5' x 5' x 10' run created from pvc pipe and poultry netting. For the actual coop I have a 50 gallon sterilite tote that I purchased from Walmart. It is turned upside down so that the lid becomes a litter pan. This container provides almost 8 square feet of enclosure. I have installed a large crawlspace vent on one side and a wooden door that drops down to act as a ramp on the other side. This arrangement would comfortably hold 5 large birds. Kinda like a poor mans eglu.

I have constructed 2 coops using the sterilite totes (I call them chicken castles because the totes are grey and they have a draw bridge type ramp).

My question is this. If I have two of these castles together in the same run can I get the birds to use both of them or would they all try to pack into one? I know that when you first put the birds out you are supposed to pen them up for a period of time in the place that you want them to call home and they will naturally return there. Does it just follow that if I had six birds I would pen up three in each coop and then they would naturally split up and return to their respective homes at night?
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You may want to consider starting over with a bit more research 1st. I dont mean that to sound as rude as it probably does, but all your #'s are completely wrong. The containers are not tall enough to roost a chicken, the containers will get too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter, they will hold humidity (plastic, convection, etc) they are not big enough to hold 2 chickens, where will the hens lay eggs, and the list goes on and on and on. Sorry to disappoint, but I doubt even a few chickens would survive longer than a few months in that set up
No that is fine. I understand your concerns and I am informed. The crawlspace vent and the door combined open up nearly half the container to the outside air. So there is plenty of both light and ventilation. Second, there is 18" of height in the container and as I outlined 8 square feet. Making it much larger than several coops that you would find for sale elsewhere. Again, this is a 50 gallon tote. It is huge. Third, this design was already used successfully in mother earth news using a dog carrier, a far inferior enclosure. Fourth, I am housing three hens in each. Fifth, the nesting box (assuming I use one) is provided by placing a divider in the last foot of the container (also outlined in mother earth news).

This is only sleeping quarters, these guys have 50 square feet of run.

And finally, I have already gone over this design with someone keeping chickens and they agree that it is a worthy approach.
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Guys just answer his question... he's asking if they will employee both coops or pile into one.

Its just my guess, but I imagine they will try to pile into one. LOL Sorry, that's likely not what you want to hear. Chickens flock, and the same tendency goes to roosting, so I've noticed. So my guess is that they would pile into one and probably throw fits over roost space. Then again, they are also creatures of habit so if you pen them up in their respective coops, its possible they'd stay in their assigned spaces. Worth a try I'd say!!!!

As for the other posts-- they have valid concerns but you're the keeper-- so use your judgement and no one is questioning your concern and keep of your flock-- just be mindful and watch out for shortcomings in your design-- every design has them!
Hi and welcome to backyardchickens!

Well, your chicken math is a bit off, but doable.
Personally, I use wood shavings (premium low dust) from Tractor Supply in my coops and often don't use roosts at all. I do have roosts outside. I have large fowl. For large fowl, your roost shouldn't be any further than 12 to 18 inches off the ground. My birds like to snuggle down in the shavings. Large fowl need 3-4 sq. ft. per bird inside and 10 sq. ft. outside. Ok, so 3 1/2 ft. per bird should work,
. As to your original question, I have found the birds like to snuggle together, so yes, I think they will all try to crowd into one house.
So if you plan to put 3 fowl in each house, you need 30 sq. ft. outside. That's easy if you raise the house inside the run so you can count the area beneath into the 30 sq. ft.
You only need to put the house 2 ft. off the ground in the run. That should still leave you room for the top of the tote to fit beneath a 6 ft. tall roof. Also makes it easier to put 2 runs side by side in your available space. So you need a raised house inside each of 2 runs which measure 6ft. by 5 ft. by 6 ft. high. Trust me, I learned the hard way it's much better to send the extra time to make a run you can stand up in. Or sooner or later you will find yourself on hands and knees chasing a chicken thru the poop and around the run for one reason or another.
That's only 10 sq. ft. more than you had originally planned. I make my runs with 2x4 panels covered with chicken wire. Well, 2 runs isn't a disaster,
. Plus they come in handy if you want to turn one into a breeding pen later.

Sounds like you put a lot of thought into this.

Best Regards,
Karen in western PA
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The run could be torn into by a raccoon at night, that's always possible. But that is why I want to close up the birds at night into coops that latch.

Maybe I've given the impression of being clueless but I'm not. I grew up in the sticks and I've seen chickens roost underneath of truck bed covers on the ground. Not that that's a great idea, simply a reality. That is the housing they chose.

And where I'm from chickens don't freeze to death. As a rule they die of heat exposure.

I think I've given you the impression of stuffing these animals into a hot plastic box. That is not the case. I've built what are essentially extremely ventilated dog houses. A board turned up end acts as a roost in this configuration. Again, they have wooden latching doors attached to wooden frames. This is not a new idea, simply a new method of implementation.

Disadvantages? You cannot house all of your birds in one, that's a given.

Advantages? It's a breeze to clean and the birds always have a clean, secure, shelter from the elements. The system is modular and easy to expand on. The coop will not rot, it will not decay, it cannot harbor disease and pests that a traditional wooden coop would.

And none of this has absolutely anything to do with my original question.

I will split the run.
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Thank you Karen, this is very helpful.

You are right. I need to split the run and raise the coops 2 feet off the ground. Good call. I will also raise the roof of the run as you instruct. Very insightful.

I don't really have an answer to your question (though I think the chickens would all try to cram into one coop eventually...even if you segregate them at first)...but I am really curious...can you post pictures?
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