RAIN & Chickens: beginners build a coop & need your help


In the Brooder
8 Years
Mar 6, 2011
First time chicken owners here from coastal northern California and we need your help

we are going to get started this weekend - we have five chicks in the brooder with no home yet, just a very wet backyard.

Our plan is to build a 5x10 all in one coop/run that will be 6 foot tall and the entire coop/run will have a gabled roof. The coop itself will be 3X5 and raised 3 feet off the ground, the run and windows will be all wrapped in 1/2" hardware cloth.
We have gotten lots of great ideas from BYC that we plan to implement-
we have read a lot of posts but still find ourselves with questions as we start to really plan it out- (i'm sorry if these are redundant- im new to this
some questions~
Is it okay to to use pressure treated wood to frame in the floor pan? or would it be better to use cedar?
we get lots of rain here in Humboldt county- we are wondering what people do in areas like the PNW or coastal regions where rain is a big issue? what do you love about your coop- what works/what didn't/what would you do differently? How did you design your nest boxes so they don't leak..
Did you use straw/sand/bark/dirt in your run? rain catchment systems? Gravel or pavers or anything around the perimeter for drainage?
if you would like to post photos of your coops that would be awesome!
Quick reply only about the cedar: never! It's pretty much poison to poultry.

Nest boxes: sometimes they get leaked onto, or pooped in. Just make preparations to clean regularly. I use small cat carriers for nest boxes, which my girls love. Lots of space when more than one wants to lay at the same time. And that often happens.

Sand allows rain and snow to drain off well. Of course, I'm sure you know they'll also eat the sand (as grit), and be prepared to poop-scoop from time to time. Pine shavings work, as well as hay and straw (although some chickens eat too much of that and it gets stuck in their craw ... not pleasant). Dirt if you can. Whatever you have, they'll try to take a "dust bath" in it. Provide plenty of covered area so not everything will be soaked all of the time. If you really get that much rain, you need an excellent roofed area. Chickens don't mind the wet but they need dry time too.

If your chicks are still in the brooder, and they are very young (like under a week old), you have plenty of time to build their outdoor home. I'm sure you've learned about the temps for chicks: 95 the first week, lowering 5 degrees every week until they are feathered out and ready to go outdoors.

Enjoy, and welcome!
I agree...NO cedar! Pressure Treated lumber anywhere wood touches the ground.

I also agree that you need to provide them with a dry place to dust bathe. They love to do this, and you will love to watch! Dirt is best (IMO) for this, but sand works, too. Sand is also easier to clean, just scoop the poop.

As far as the coop structure itself, I say go bigger than you think you need. There is a phenomenon known as "Chicken Math." If it hasn't gotten you yet, it will. We started with wanting 3 hens. Well, we ended up getting 5...to start. We now have 7 hens out back, 9 in the brooder 10 eggs under a broody hen and about 30 more in two incubators!

So, go bigger now. Save headaches
down the road. Just remember the rule of thumb...4 sqft/hen in the coop and 10 sqft/hen in the run. An 8x8 coop will give room for 16 birds, FYI.

Oh, and BTW...

We all look forward to seeing your pics
, and talking chicken with you!

P.S. I was stationed in Eureka when I was in the Coast Guard back in the mid-nineties. I lived in Ferndale then.

~ Farmer Lew
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Welcome to the forum!

As I understand it, the potential problem with some kinds of cedar (there are quite a few different kinds) comes from the volatile oils which give cedar its distinctive smell. I've never heard or read of anyone having a problem with cedar wood, as oppposed to cedar shavings. With the shavings, there are so many open surfaces that quite a lot of oils are being released. I wouldn't build a chicken coop out of that special aromatic cedar that you use for cedar closets, but regular cedar would be fine. Any odor goes away quickly after the wood is cut. The baseboards on my best chicken tractor are cedar. But pressure treated wood is fine, too (I just wouldn't use it for roosts), and you should clean up any shavings/dust from cutting pressure treated wood so the chickens couldn't peck them up.

I consider the 4/10 square foot per bird "rules of thumb" as minimums, not as an indication of a good or spacious setup. Build as big as you reasonably can, not so much as room for expansion, but because as stocking density rises, so does work and headaches for the chickenkeeper. It's easier to keep 5 chickens happy and healthy with 20 square feet per chicken than it is to achieve that with 10 square feet per chicken.

A 3' by 5' coop for 5 chickens is a little cramped, but I'm assuming that your climate is such that they'll only be in the coop for roosting. Try to give them at least 1 foot of roost width per bird. Poop boards are the best invention since sliced bread, in my opinion. I use plastic boot trays under the roost to collect nighttime droppings. In the morning, I just whisk out the tray (it's light) and dump/scrape the contents into my composter. I hose down the trays and replace in the coop, clean and ready for the next night's offerings. When you design your coop, if you plan to use a poop board arrangement, think about how you'll access it easily and where the roost can go for this setup. Building one whole wall that opens up for easy access is a good idea, too. You really don't want to have to be climbing inside a reach in coop!

I have sand in two of my runs and love it. I use a reptile litter scoop taped to a long handle so that I can walk around the run and scoop out the obvious droppings very easily. For the rest, I just rake them into the sand. My chickens do love to dustbathe in the sand, but sand is much too fine to actually serve the function as grit, even for my tiny bantams. I offer crushed granite grit in a separate container. I would suggest that you build nice wide eaves on your roof to shield your run a bit from rain that will blow in the sides. That was one thing I goofed on with my runs.

Actually, if your yard is wet right now, that's a perfect time to figure out where the coop/run should go. Go out to your yard and walk around and figure out which are the low spots and which get boggy. Don't put your coop/run there! I sited two of my runs during a period of drought and had never paid too much attention to the boggy thing before so I had no real idea, I just went by looks. Our yard looks basically level, but when it rains a lot even small differences in height can make one place soggy and another less so. I got lucky with one placement, not so lucky with the other one just feet away. Oh, well. Chickens may not mind the rain but you will when the run starts to stink. Dry chicken droppings are pretty much odorless (other than the cecal poops), but when they get wet it's a different matter.

Rather than raise your coop 3 feet off the ground, make it 2 and then the coop itself can be 4 feet tall. I think you might find a 3 foot tall coop too short. Your chicks are tiny now, but standard breeds when full grown are actually pretty tall, as tall as 18 inches or more when they stand up straight. You'll be putting in a roost, and you don't want them bumping their heads on the ceiling of the coop.

A wire apron attached to the perimeter of the run about 2 feet wide and laid flat on the ground, staked down with landscaping staples, will deter digging predators from getting into the run.

Don't forget about ventilation for your coop, either! Have you seen this excellent page?


Up at the top of the page there's a link for "Coop Designs" where you can browse through pictures and descriptions of many different kind of coops. If you'd like to see mine, click on my BYC page.

The coop you're planning to build sounds a lot like the Garden Coop:


There are some good pictures and ideas there on that site, free to look at.

Good luck, and welcome to the wonderful world of chicken keeping...or as I like to call it, the chicken lifestyle.
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Hi there! I am also a newbie currently in construction mode on my first coop! My coop is based on the Garden Coop design (in case you are going the same way) but modified quite a bit. I'm using a combo of ceder and fir for the coop/run; ceder on the lower braces and uprights and fir elsewhere. I'm painting as well (well, trying to, but the weather does not want to cooperate) to protect the wood. I'm near Portland Oregon, so rain is a way of life. Ultimately, wood will need replacement (YEARS away I hope!).
Sorry for the delay in responding- we had a little tsunami excitement here on the west coast...

So, It's unanimous- NO CEDAR

It will be pressure treated wood on the ground, then fir on the rest.
elmo, you guessed correctly, we are using the garden coop design with modifications- we are going to do a gabled/A-frame roof (so the roof of the coop would be higher in the middle slanting down at the sides to three feet tall... and our original idea was to have a 5x3 coop with external nest boxes and two roosts for 5 standard chickens. Now after reading your recommendations, you all have gotten me thinking. How much roost space would five chickens need? 5 feet right? How high of a roost is optimal? Will they even be able to move around in 5x3 coop with two roosts!!!Maybe all we need is one! can we lay a poop tray on the floor of the coop? Now Im rethinking everything

i mean, I think they will be fine height wise since the roof will go up higher in the middle and the coop will only be 3 feet at the ends but I dont really know... and I'm wondering if it shouldn't be a 4x5 coop so they have room to move around each other, get up on roosts etc.
I guess our only hesitancy is that we want them to have a run area under the coop but worry about not being able to reach the hens if they are underneath it if its larger...
I guess its a good thing that the weather and nature haven't been cooperating, gives us more planning time, but i just know this is going to take us forever to get done

@ Kestrel42- I imagine Humboldt is pretty similar to Portland. what are you going to use on the floor of your run?- please post pics when you get it built!

@ farmer lew- I think we traded places! I moved up here from the Sacramento area in the 90s.
@ elmo- Thanks for all the suggestions- sand and poop trays sound like the way to go! I looked at all your coops and loved how you compared yourself to goldilocks! totally fitting!
@MyKidLuvsGreenEgz- Thanks for the great advice
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Re: rain -- I can tell you several things that don't work!
I'm in western Oregon, where three seasons are rainy... I have tried a number of rain coverings, and I can recommend against using tarps!
Or anything that is easily blown up/off. I tried a large tarp (like for weddings or market booths) over the whole pen, but the wind and rainstorms took that down fairly fast. Then I tried some of the plastic ripple roofing (like for deck covering) and two days ago, a nasty windstorm ripped that off (luckily not hurting any hens). I had more luck retrofitting an old awning frame with plasticsheeting and making a 2ft high x 4ftx4ft rain tarp... the weight of that makes it wind resistant, I guess. And we get sideways rain here - so if that is a consideration, think about how you might attach tarps or plastic to the sides of the pen in such a way that the flapping doesn't scare the hens. My hens often free range in the yard, and I notice during the rains, they move under the big cedars, which is the only dry spot that also lets them dig in the dirt... they don't seemed to be harmed by the cedar branches or fallen needles.

Good luck! It's worth all the trouble.
Actually, I don't think it's unanimous at all. I know there are plenty of people here who have built their coops entirely of cedar wood, and their chickens are fine. A very experienced poultry keeping friend of ours uses a handful of cedar shavings under the pine shavings he puts in his nestboxes to deter mites. I have cedar baseboards on my tractor.

In a raised coop, you can reach inside fairly comfortably up to a width (or depth, whichever way you look at it) of about 4 feet. You could build a Garden style coop 4' x 8' with access doors to open up on the long side. Then you could have the run 8' x 8'. That would give you 32 square feet in the coop, which amounts to a bit more than 6 square feet per chicken indoors, and almost 13 square feet per chicken outdoors, assuming 5 chickens. That would be a nice sized coop/run for your flock.

Sheet goods come in 4' x 8' panels, so another advantage to this size is that you'd have fewer cuts to make and less waste of materials. And you can also buy lumber easily in 8 foot lengths (still measure them, because a 2" by 4" by 8" isn't always exactly 8 feet long...and it isn't 2" by 4" either).

I honestly wouldn't recommend a gabled roof for a couple of reasons. First of all, it's trickier to build than a simple shed roof. Secondly, it's harder to place enough vents up high with a gable roof. The highest spots on a gable roof are the triangular areas on the peaks. That's a quite small area. With a shed roof, you can design a long rectangular vent on the top of the higher wall, perhaps with an awning flap to control the amount of ventilation. It's good to build at least 1 square foot of vent per chicken up high in the coop, and that would be difficult to achieve in only gable ends.

If you're following the Garden Coop style, you'll be roofing the whole run, right? I think that's a good idea for rainy climates. I regretted not roofing two of my runs and added roofs after the fact. I use the polycarbonate panels, just like they show for the Garden Coop. Just be sure to make the eaves all around wide enough (at least 1 foot, more would be better) or a lot of rain will blow in the sides.
For those of you in the "no cedar camp" can you please provide a link that substantiates your position? I used boatloads of cedar in my coops and I've never had a problem. If there is a legitimate concern I'd be happy to change my materials but I'd like to know what the actual facts are first.
First -- what is it with BYC and cedar??? Cedar is not "poison to chickens", not even cedar shavings (which is what the *potential* problem is, NOT use of cedar lumber). At most, you can say there is mostly-just-theoretical reason to believe that cedar shavings can be irritating to the respiratory tract and potentially cause problems that way -- yet there are so many people who use cedar shavings with no detectible problem, including many large commercial broiler barns, that it is OBVIOUSLY NOT A VERY LARGE risk, and in all likelihood boils down to adequate ventilation. (edited to clarify - by mostly theoretical, I mean that the volatile oils in cedar *are* irritating under lab conditions, but the extent to which this happens in real-world use does not seem to be large, at least if ventilation is sufficient)

I have seen absolutely zero reason, whatsoever, at all, to believe that cedar *lumber* (which gives off less of the volatile oils and is from a different kind of cedar tree) is any sort of a problem.

Cedar lumber is soft, and not *as* rot-resistant as pressure-treated, but those are the only things you can say against it.

How did you design your nest boxes so they don't leak..

There should not be any occasion whatsoever for nestboxes to leak if they are inside the coop, and the only situation in which you would (maybe) NOT put them inside the coop would be ifyou have a very tiny short reach-in coop. If yours should fall into this category, then since you are planning on roofing the run as well, just have the nestboxes protrude into *that*, so that little if any rain falls on that wall anyhow.

Did you use straw/sand/bark/dirt in your run? rain catchment systems? Gravel or pavers or anything around the perimeter for drainage?

You might take a look at my 'fixing a muddy run' page, link in .sig below, which is also in large part about *preventing* a muddy run

Good luck, have fun,

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