Tall coop versus short coop

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Cdnkitty, Jul 26, 2014.

  1. Cdnkitty

    Cdnkitty Out Of The Brooder

    I actually stopped lurking to sign up and post this burning question. [​IMG]

    I've had birds for about 5 years in my old barn. And like clockwork, every 18 months a raccoon or two decimates my flock. It's awful. I'm in the process of rebuilding my flock again (from last september's attack) and will be moving my birds from the barn (on the edge of a forest) into my fenced back yard. I won't be doing a closed run, so they'll be able to free range in the fenced area (about 2 acres). I have a concrete pad already so I'm planning on putting my coop there.

    Now here's my debate. Do I build something people height or a half-height coop? The tall coop (6'5"-ish) would be tall enough for us to walk into. I want to be able to accommodate about 20 birds, so I'm looking at a 60sqft build. Or do I put something on stilts, so it's not as high inside (which saves on building materials, and makes it easier to heat in my very cold Ontario winters). But how do you store grain and set out water? How does it work with a shorter coop? Are the birds happy in a short coop? I know currently in their converted box stall that they like to fly off the roosts in into me (a flight of 6' - 10') so they get to stretch their wings sometimes...

    Anyway - some feedback is welcome. Thanks!
  2. Judy

    Judy Chicken Obsessed Staff Member Premium Member

    Feb 5, 2009
    South Georgia
    First, if you're going to free range them, I'm afraid that some of them will still periodically get killed by predators. You might want to consider predator proofing a portion of your barn with nardware cloth instead.

    In that climate they will probably want to stay indoors part of the time, unless you plan to have a covered outdoor area for them. IMO, 3 sq ft per bird for birds who send days or weeks indoors is not nearly enough space.

    As for short or tall, definitely tall IMO, because it is almost impossible to ventialte a small building for 20 chickens properly. Whether they need heat is debatable, but whether they need ventilation so ammonia and humidity can escape is not. Honestly, I would keep them in your barn rather than put them in a short, small coop. A lot of people do this.

    Here are a couple of links to a couple of excellent articles about chicken keeping and coops that were written by a Canadian:



    It sounds like you have a lot of options -- and there are about as many ways of keepig chickens as there are chicken keepers. I hope you find your perfect setup!

    CHIKENROOKIE Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 24, 2013
    Why not keep them where they are, but predator proof it?
    Hardware cloth is the best!

  4. AV8RChick

    AV8RChick Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 22, 2014
    Lake Wylie, SC
    I have short and tall coops. I like the tall a lot better. It is easier to clean and the birds seem to like to roost high... plus I can fit more birds in the tall one. You know how chicken math can get :)
    1 person likes this.
  5. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    On the space issue, you might want to follow the link in my signature for my thoughts about that. Many things factor into how much space you actually need. In your case climate would be a major factor you will need to design for.

    I don’t know what kind of fence you have around 2 acres, but raccoons and many other predators can easily climb a fence. One option that might help with that is an electric fence to add another level of safety but I’m not sure how effective the electric fences are in snow. That’s something I need to find out about. An electric fence could be around the entire two acres or a smaller area around the coop during the day and night, or just on the coop itself for better protection at night.

    While raccoons and many other predators are more active at night, they can attack at any time. Any time your chickens are free ranging they will be at risk. But the danger is higher at night or pretty close to dawn or dusk. I use a strategy of keeping mine in a predator resistant area during the day but locked in a predator proof coop at night. I have electric netting around an area that has worked well, but my biggest problems have been dogs dropped off in the country. Before I got the electric netting, I’d lost 2 chickens in a three year span to a fox, so I was OK with that rate, but I also had to rebuild my flock twice after dog attacks. In the 2-1/2 years I’ve had that electric netting I’ve lost one to an owl when I was late locking them up for the night. Only that one.

    I personally like to walk into a coop to gather eggs and take care of feed and water. I’ve found dead chickens, snakes, and even a possum by going in that I would have missed if I gathered eggs from the outside. If you build your coop so you can gather eggs from the outside you have to take care that you are not creating weak spots that a raccoon or something else could rip apart or that will allow cold air to blow in. This can be achieved but it takes some decent building skills to design and build it.

    One of the problems I have with a low coop of any size is that you need access to all portions of that coop. You never know when you might need to repair something, retrieve a chicken that does not want to be retrieved, or maybe a hen decides the nests are not the best place to lay. It’s so much easier to just walk in.

    Another problem is that the roosts need to be noticeably higher than the nests. If you read Pat’s article, you need ventilation in cold weather but you don’t want a cold breeze blowing directly on them. The best way to achieve this is to have your ventilation over their heads when they are on the roosts in the winter. In summer, you need more ventilation down low. Even in Ontario you can get some pretty warm days. Heat is more of a threat to chickens than cold. In short coops you quickly run out of vertical room.

    If you build a coop on the ground, the soil acts as a thermal mass during your coldest weather. The ground just takes longer to cool off than the air so in your coldest weather it will be warmer than the air. An elevated coop is more subject to wind chill and will cool off a lot faster unless you put in a lot of insulation.

    If you are buying building materials, most come in standard sizes, 4 feet and 8 feet her in the US, I suspect it is the same in Canada. If you design your coop around these dimensions you can often build a larger coop for not very much more money and with les cutting and waste. A 6’ x 8’ is probably not going to cost a tremendous lot more than a 5’ x 6’. The two most logical heights for a coop are either 4’ or 8’ when you take this into consideration, though 6’ is not a bad compromise. Just split a sheet of plywood lengthwise. 6-1/2’ is not a good height from a material use consideration.

    I don’t know what that barn looks like. It can be really difficult in many of them to predator proof the entire building against raccoons or many other things. You might consider electric wire around the outside though the doors might present some challenges. Another strategy might be to predator proof a coop in that barn for night and allow them free access to the rest during the day. That’s not without risk though.

    You can try setting a trap for raccoons to stop any that are hunting your area, but that also has challenges. You have to keep the bait fresh and put them where the chickens can’t get to them during the day. While many different baits work well for raccoons they may prefer a chicken meal to the bait if that is more convenient. Still when I have evidence a raccoon is visiting my coop area I permanently remove them. The problem is that they can attack when you don’t expect them so your guard is down.

    I do think you have options. Each situation is unique so there is no one perfect solution that covers everyone. I hope you find yours.
    2 people like this.
  6. Cdnkitty

    Cdnkitty Out Of The Brooder

    Thanks everyone - getting other opinions (especially those who have tried a shorter coop) helps.

    The converted stall is predator proof except for rats (and one time, a mink). I can't prevent the rats from getting in. I've got an outdoor run that keeps the birds contained but is absolutely not raccoon proof. Problem is that the run faces away from the house so I'm the last one to know if there's an issue. I feel like until we get the pasture knocked back down with pigs, goats, etc, that it won't be remotely safe. We have an issue with raccoons here - one spring I live trapped and moved 16 different raccoons.

    So, the space that I'll be moving them to is fenced but also part of our living space - the dog (corgi) will be around and I find she's good for deterring larger pests. She's shown no interest other than herding the birds so I feel moderately comfortable that I can let the birds range when the dog isn't outside.

    I'll probably go for something full height but not huge, and look more into the floor type - the article on coop design talks about passive slab heating, and since I'll be putting the coop on an already existing slab, maybe I'll forgo the wooden floor for the concrete instead (with lots and lots of hardware cloth).

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