Please Help....Did I Mess Up My Coop Design?


9 Years
Oct 11, 2010
I recently built and designed my first chicken coop, and adopted two 7 month old Rhode Island White Laying Hens and, 2, 1 1/2 year old Araucana Laying Hens. This is my first time building a coop and having chickens. My question is pertaining to the design that I came up with for my coop. I built four nesting boxes below and above a perch/branch so they have the option of both. I was not expecting the chickens to Never go down below in their boxes, They only stay above....Did I mess up in the design? Or are most chickens like this and happier on a perch. It has been almost a week and not one poop down below (or egg for that matter), so I know they spend All their time above the nesting boxes. I know there will be a adapting period, as far as getting used to the new location ect: Due to stress, I understand, But it has been a week since they moved in. Is it normal to have not laid any eggs yet, When could i expect them to lay? Mainly though, I cant figure out why they wont lay in their cozy boxes. I put at least five inches of wood chips combined with a little alfalfa. Also the boxes are more than a foot square so their not too small. Could it be the wood chips they don't like? Is there a type to avoid? Not really sure if they are just trying to tell me somthing. Also I am thinking about adding Muscovy ducks into the coop as well, Judging from the pictures how many would you say I can fit? I am not expecting any one person to answer All my questions. If you have experience in any aspect, Any advise would be appreciated. Thanks

Amateur Chicken Momma






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Are you asking why your girls are not sleeping in the nest boxes? Most chickens prefer to roost, the higher the better. I would think a month would be more than enough time for them to adjust to their new surroundings and start laying eggs. Maybe its the change in the amount of light during the day and they are just adjusting to that. Your coop looks fine to me. Just right for your 4 girls. Try placing some golf balls to entice the girls to lay in the boxes. I hope this helps you and I understood your questions correctly.
Your coop looks perfect fo your 4 girls. But I wouldn't add any muscovies to your coop. Muscovies are very large, and very messy, and they need almost twice the room as chickens due to their size. I was able to comfortably house 4 adult muscovy ducks in a 5'x5' dog house.
It's a rather tight squeeze for them to hop down there, your coop is pretty narrow. They may get used to it. Give it a bit of time. It often takes a while for hens to settle in to their new surroundings and begin to lay again. Was the younger one laying before you got her?

It's usually recommended to give chickens 4 square feet per bird inside the coop, plus 10 square feet per bird in the outside run. You didn't give the dimensions of your coop, but it looks rather snug. Are your chickens in the coop only for roosting, and free ranging all day? If they're free ranging, they may be laying their eggs out somewhere in your yard.

Ventilation is very important for chicken housing, too. Aim for 1 square foot of ventilaton (covered with hardware cloth for security) per chicken, ideally up high at the top of walls well over roost level. Are your vents on the back side of your coop, not shown?
I agree that your coop looks too narrow. I don't think your hens will like the close confines that restrict wing movement. If it were mine, I think I'd remove the nest boxes and make new ones OUT in front, if there is enough room in the area between the coop and fence. Otherwise, it is a nice coop.
When your 'roof' is closed, they have next to no ROOM to get down out of the top level. They may be staying up there because they are *trapped*
I would seriously suggest modifying your walls so that the roof does not close so much -- it would be fine with an angle halfway between what it is now and horizontal. That'll give the chickens a better opportunity to go up/down. In fact, if you fill in those new triangular areas of the redesigned wall with plexiglass (at least on one side) it would also provide needed LIGHT too.

Another thing that would help them out would be to put a piece of 2x4 sideways across the middle of the opening. Like, running crosswise to the way the camera is looking in the 3rd pic, and at the level of the upstairs floor. So (headspace permitting - again, you need to raise the roof level) they can jump up onto the 2x4 and then walk onto the platform, when they want to get back up.

OTOH if I'm misunderstanding -- if the chickens do go down out of the top into their run even when the roof is closed, and all you're wondering about is why they spend their indoors time upstairs instead of downstairs -- that is 100% normal. Chickens like to perch (nest boxes are really meant for only a few minutes' of use at a time, when an egg is actually being laid) and they like to be as high up as they can be.

You can save yourself some money and effort by skipping the alfalfa under the roost, btw. It's serving no purpose. Just sprinkle enough shavings on that floor to prevent poo from sticking so hard it doesn't clean off well. It's a matter of trial and error to find the amount that works best in your particular situation. No point in anything but shavings, though.

I know there will be a adapting period, as far as getting used to the new location ect: Due to stress, I understand, But it has been a week since they moved in. Is it normal to have not laid any eggs yet, When could i expect them to lay?

A week is not long. OTOH we are getting into the shorter-day period of the year when chickens often trail off in egg production ANYhow. And as your coop appears to have no windows (?) other than the open slit above the roost, that will make apparent daylength be even shorter for them. Installing some light-transmitting windows (doesn't need to be fancy house windows or anything, just a hole with hardware cloth over it is quite fine, with plexiglass in a frame to cover it for wintertime or in sideways rain) may help.

Mainly though, I cant figure out why they wont lay in their cozy boxes.

Well if they are not laying eggs then they are not GOING to be using the nestboxes, are they
If it were me, I would remove the downstairs ones (remove the partition to make it just an open space for them to walk around in during bad weather) as two boxes is PLENTY for four chickens. Nothing wrong with your box design or furnishing that I can see. YOu just ahve to wait til they start laying. They're chickens. They operate on their own timetable, not ours

You asked for other suggestions. That open slit above the roost (the gap where the roof hinges onto the peak) concerns me greatly. First, any enterprising raccoon or larger possum will not have much trouble climbing up there and sticking an arm down into the coop some midnight and ripping the heads off your still-living-but-not-for-long chickens with that setup. So some form of hardware cloth guard would be the MINIMUM modification I would suggest. But there is also nothing that I can see to keep rain from coming in, or warm-air-out-cold-air-in draftiness right over the roosting chickens. Which is an even bigger problem in some ways. I would strongly suggest putting vents elsewhere -- perhaps louvered vents as high as you can get them in the upper triangular sides -- and closing that top gap off with some arrangement or other. And doing it before winter comes.

Also I am thinking about adding Muscovy ducks into the coop as well, Judging from the pictures how many would you say I can fit?

Um, zero. Sorry. YOu need a separate coop for them. (I would not even put any more *chickens* into this coop, it is quite fine for what you've got but doesn't have a whole lot extra room remaining)

Good luck, have fun,

It looks like they have to hop down in a hole to get to the nesting boxes. I bet that's the issue, that they don't want to go down into the hole. Not sure how much room they have to get down in the hole if the top is closed, either. Also, I didn't see any windows, so if the top is closed it's dark in there and they aren't going to move around in the dark much at all. Could you maybe bump out that front wall a bit to give them a flat space in front of the nesting boxes? That would allow them to jump/fly down and then to walk over to the nest boxes, step over a lip and go in. The lip will keep the eggs and nesting material in the boxes. Then you could add a window for light and ventilation (for when the top is closed due to weather) in the new front wall. You could still slope it for rain/snow purposes, but have it taller in the front than it is now to give them more room and to give you room for a small window.
I think it's a good size for the 4 girls you have now, but I would make some changes because it does look hard to move around in for them, especially when the roof is closed. Here's my suggestions..

As far as for the 4 babies(muscovies), for now, you could frame in a bigger area underneath to keep them in until you're able to build a new house for them. They are Very easy to train to a new coop/yard & picked up on their newest one right away... they were all going in to go to bed within 2 days. Right now they just need area to run/hunt/play and a dry place to sleep in. They like to snuggle up under the raised chicken coop or in their plastic dog house that we just put in a few days ago.

As for my older ducks, I have a house & large, covered yard for them but usually they prefer to just sleep in the covered yard. They do use the ramp to get in the house(or the people stairs, lol) but it's mainly just the broody or laying girls that get up into the house, and of course the chickens.
Thank you for all the reply's!!! I am excited about how much I have to learn!

First off, I did not realize chickens prefer to perch, over a box. Every chicken coop I have ever seen the chickens were nestled in their boxes, seemed so cozy... but that may have been because there was no perch for them as a option. I had no idea they only lay in their box, to sit on or lay their eggs. I thought they just didn't like the ones I made. So being up top does not necessarily mean they are un-happy. Got it.
They are not trapped above, because so far every evening they coop themselves with top shut by jumping above to the perched area. Also in the morning when I open the door they jump right down and walk out with ease. They don't seem to mind jumping down or up. They are free ranging from 6am til they coop them self's at about 6pm. I realize that I have some modifications to make. For starters I am going to enclose the entire bottom of the coop for the muscovies, The coop is 6ft long by 2 1/2 ft wide making the square footage about 15ft, for four female ducks. I think that will be a good amount of space.
Secondly I plan on removing the roof piece of plywood and replacing it with clear corrugated plastic roofing. For natural light. I did not know that the amount of light in the coop affects their perception of the time of year, and there-fore their eggs production. I was told recently that adding a light to the coop in winter helps egg production as well. Also I plan on adding the corrugated plastic to the sides below so the muscovies have light below as well. Creating a double decker until I can construct something better for them.

I like the adding golf balls idea I will try that tonight, very sneaky! Adding a 2x4 to the front of their nest boxes is a good idea as well, Creating a perch and an egg barrier.

I'm not sure if they were laying right before I got them, but I plan on waiting a month or more for them to lay their eggs, I did look around their favourite hang out spots today and did not find any on the ground, I cant believe they may lay them in the yard!

As far as vents go, I left a 2x4 with gap along the top length of the coop and plan on putting the type of vents in that look like 2x4s with holes in the center and mesh inside that, usually used for attic ventilation. Do you think that would be enough?

Thanks again for all your help, Look forward to chatting will ya'll more, as I am sure I will need more help!


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