Open-Air Chicken Coop for Bantams


9 Years
Jan 11, 2011
Colorado Plains
I had everything all planned out for our bantam breeding project, then Hubby tore ... something ... and can't do anything more strenuous than walking for 4-6 weeks! So I've had to change my plans, and need your input. I've read a lot about open-air housing for chickens and how it's healthier for them (yes, I know, this is debateable but not for this thread, please). Most of the info I found was for large flocks. Ours will be smaller... for 1 bantam boy and 3-5 bantam girls plus possibly chicks they hatch until old enough to move out.

Housing for silkies and eggers (all bantam, no more than 2 pounds each)

Size: 4' wide x 4' deep x 2' tall (but raised 2' from ground by cinder blocks)
Front: half walled, half open (faces west or east)
Sides: both closed but the side facing south will be split in half and open to access nest boxes, food and water
Back: closed
Roosts: 2
Made with: OSB (probably)
Floor: that fake tiling stuff for easy cleaning
Roof: covered with tin-roofing, extending an additional 2' in front to prevent snow, wind, hail and rain from coming in

Ramp up to the house (esp for the silkies and any babies). It gets quite cold here and also very hot. That's why it would be raised 2 feet above ground, to provide shade in the summer, and addiitonal shelter from bad weather. Ground directly underneath would be rocks on sand (our soil is mostly sand) for good drainage.

This would be in a 6'x10' dog kennel, wire mesh (or maybe plywood) around bottom to keep in babies, and poultry netting across top to keep out hawks. The house would be smack against the back of the dog kennel (north end of kennel) and that north end would be covered either with plastic or plywood to help winter storms stay out. Water and food in house during winter or bad weather, but outdoors the rest of the time.

Actually have a row of these ... 5 of them. Only the two ends kennels would be a little different with more weather protection.

This set up is not so different from what we have now. Our chickens actually don't have a house right now ... just roosts in 6x10 dog kennels with practically every inch covered with boards, shower curtains and towels. But we've never had bantams before.

I don't really have much construction experience but I think I could do this pretty simply. Nothing fancy.

Those of you who use open-air housing for your chickens ... would this work?

And ... do I need an air-vent towards the back? Should I put a "window" there or on one of the "doors" on the south side? Maybe cut a hole about 2" x 2" towards the top, cover with screening, and during the winter cover it with plastic or a board or something?

From what I have read and know about open air coops, The open end should face to the south. Open air coops are usually deeper than 4Ft. 4Ft would probably not be deep enough in the winter time. Before you build one, I would highly reccomend the book 'Fresh Air Poultry Houses' by Prince T Woods. You can get the book from Amazon cheap. He shows several different designs, and explains how the houses work. He also explains and shows how an open air house can be built wrong. Get the book, and you'll have a much better idea on how to build an open air coop.
I don't think the open air design will work for the dimensions you're considering, unless you don't really have much in the way of the winter (but you do, right?). Here's an example of an open air coop that would work in a serious winter:

It's 16 feet deep.

Adequate ventilation is important, but too much can be as bad as too little if that means birds have to withstand freezing drafts. If your vents are high above roost level and in the range of 1 square foot per chicken, and you keep the moisture down in the coop by removing droppings, you can keep the humidity down as low as possible.
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Well, one thing you could consider that would be more realistic than increasing the size of your coop substantially would be to make a removeable panel for the fourth wall that you could put up in the winter. You'd still need to design adequate "above the head/top of the wall" ventilation that could be left open in the winter without the danger of allowing cold drafts to blow on your birds. The problem with a three sided coop that's only 4 feet deep is that even huddled at the back of it the birds are still going to be at risk of wind chill from moving air coming in the open side.
This is how my open-air coops are made:

The coop is 2' deep by 3' wide by 3' high in back and I believe the front is 44". The bottom 11" is open on both sides but covered with wire, the front is open 11". The sides at the top are also open but covered with wire. There is one roost in here that goes across the widest part (3'). I have 2 of these so far, one has 5 bantam cochins and the other has 7 silkies. The 3' roost is apparently big enough for 5 large bantams since 2 of the silkies sleep on the ground...but they always have so it could just be them.

I didn't plan for it to be open-air but I didn't feel like trying to cut a 'perfect' angle for the 'peaks'.

ETA: The roost is about 10" up from the 'bottom' of the higher parts (approx. 21" off the ground) so it's pretty much smack-dab in the middle of the fully enclosed areas. The run is covered with a tarp and their food and water is outside at all times. The floor is just ground, less cleaning that way
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Probably depends on how cold your area gets...

My silkies do just as well as any other birds I have in the cold we get in WA. Every year almost everyone sleeps outside in tractor runs even when it gets into the teens for a week or two.

No frost bite here on anyone, even leghorns with their flopppy combs.
In the book I recomended to you, There is a plan for an open air coop, that kind of looks like a half scale version of the one I built. The author kind of pushes the bigger models, but says the smaller one might be good for what he called "Back Lotters". If you are going to build one, You just got to make it deeper than your present design.

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