Straw Bale Coop and Root Cellar?


9 Years
May 29, 2010
Two of my summer projects are to start building a chicken coop (my husband will help me finish it in the fall) and to dig a root cellar. I want to build a straw bale chicken coop with a foundation and sealed with stucco just like a straw bale house for people. My husband figures we should go whole hog and put in electricity (which I agree is a good idea) and plumbing (which I'm a little dubious about). We would like to build a straw bale house some day, so this would be a good practice project - better to make mistakes on a chicken coop (very small) than on a house (big).

My question is this - can anyone think of a compelling reason not to stack the chicken coop on top of the root cellar? Then we could have a sturdy concrete root cellar and the chicken coop would have a foundation to last two lifetimes. The cost will be a little high, I know, but we will be sure our root cellar won't cave in, and we probably need to dig a foundation for the chicken coop as well. So, I figure, why not combine the two projects? Then we only have to dig one hole. And the root cellar will be kind of insulated, too.

The only problem I have thought of is that the root cellar should be below the frost line and the bales on the chicken coop need to start above the snow line. The frost line here is pretty deep. It seems to me that this just means there needs to be three "layers" (like in a cake). The bottom layer is the root cellar, which has a ceiling. Then there's an empty space (my husband suggested maybe a storage space, I was thinking just insulated with bales). Then the chicken coop floor is set on top of the empty room. This is still not ideal, because we're starting to talk about a lot of concrete, but if that's the only problem, I think we'll do it. Here's a schematic (and a very ugly one, at that) of the elevation.

| |
| |
| Chicken Coop |
| |
| |
| |
| |
| Storage Space |___________Ground Level______________
| |
| |
| |
| Root Cellar |
| |
| |
| |

Is there some glaring thing that I'm missing that makes this a horrible idea?
I think it is a cool idea, will the chicken have Bat poles to get into their Batcave?
Hopefully they won't need bat poles, as it shouldn't be that high up . . . although that would be amusing. I'm glad someone agrees with me that it's a cool idea. I have to admit, I'm kind of thinking I'm a genius, but that's usually a sign that someone is about to find some horrible flaw in my plan.
this is something I had not thought of, if you have a stationary coop why not dual purpose the area? couple questions though. 1) will your entrance to the coop and the cellar be in the same area? 2) where is the run going to be located or are they freeranging? 3) I'd be somewhat worried about possible drainage from the coop into the cellar, but if its cement and its all sealed properly that probably wouldn't be an issue. 4) way cool!!
Cant give advice. Just wanted to say nice projects.
I too want to build a strawbale house and had thought about doing a practice straw bale coop.
Check out for hints and tips. Also might consider a straw/clay mix.
Good luck!
Do you have a bank that you can dig out somewhat for the entrance to the root cellar and build the coop on the top of the bank of earth? If you have access to a front end loader or other type digger equipment, then you could make your own earthen bank, right?

There is an old farmhouse nearby that I see from time to time that has what looks like a root cellar/storage area set into a bank that drops off at the end of the front lawn. (Why the front lawn is a mystery to me....) I could take a pic and post it if it would help you. Your idea does sound good, but you will want to be sure the water off the roof of the coop drains away from the base/foundation and not into your root cellar.
We hadn't decided yet about the entrances. My husband suggested that it might work to have a kind of "airlock" or vestibule or porch area, with a door to the chicken coop and a stairway to the root cellar within it. I like this idea because both the chickens and the root cellar don't need our completely frigid winter air washing over them when we open the door. On the other hand, a stairway would take up valuable room if it was within the concrete structure, and I can imagine a chicken getting into the vestibule and wreaking havoc in the root cellar.

The run will be attached on one or two sides (either with the coop sticking out or nestled in the corner).

Thanks for mentioning drainage, it's usually so droughty here that I don't think of that, but sometimes (like right now) it rains quite significantly. I think that we can make it nicely sealed with the cement, and maybe bank up around the walls a little so that it will run off.

peeplessinNC - I have seen people dig out a bank for a root cellar. We don't really have an appropriate bank for this, as our hill is south-facing and not very steep, and it's a little far from the house for comfort in the 20 below. Your comment reinforces the need to ensure drainage, and now I'm realizing that any entrance that was not enclosed in the water-tight concrete wall would be pretty likely to fill with water, in a rainy season, or in spring runoff. That may not be as major here as elsewhere - our annual precipitation averages 16 inches, and we only average two days per year with more than 1 inch. Still, that's a good point in favor of an interior access.

Thanks for the comments. Encouragement is always helpful, and criticism can help me avoid mistakes.

Keep 'em comin'.
I love the concept, but question the practicality of the 'storage space'. Couldn't you just build it like a conventional house basement is built? Frame the floor of the coop like normal, extend the concrete foundation wall above grade ~1 foot, and perhaps install rigid foam insulation along the upper 3 feet or so of the interior of the concrete walls - thereby offereing some frost protection for the root cellar. As far as cellar access, I'd suggest the old-fashioned exterior steps down, with two hinged access doors - insulated of course...


Just a few thoughts - but in general, I love the idea.
ColoradoMike - Yeah, the storage space (or empty space in my original thoughts) is a waste of concrete. It might work to have it sticking up and just insulate it well. I'm not sure how I would find that out. I suspect you have some idea of the extent of cold here, as Colorado isn't known to be warm. Someone elsewhere pointed out to me that a shared entryway would mean that chicken "dust" would be getting on my veggies, which doesn't much appeal to me, and there is the issue of cold air getting in to the (lower) root cellar every time I opened the door to check on my chickens. Thus, the more standard exterior entryway for the root cellar is sounding like a much better idea again.

Just thinking "aloud" here, I just remembered that when we left for the winter last year, our cold room (yes, I want a cold room AND a root cellar) only dropped down to about -4 (Celsius . . . which is 25 degrees Farenheit) even though it got to colder than -40 (C and F) in the garden. And it's uninsulated down there on the side wall. Thanks for the input, you might have just saved me a lot of digging and a lot of concrete! I'll have to think about it a bit more, but it might not need to be too deep, especially with the chicken coop acting as a warm hat for it. Yay, I'm glad I asked.

Sorry if I'm taking up too much posting space, but any other input at this stage?

New posts New threads Active threads

Top Bottom