Thinking About Coop Design

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Bush84, Jan 4, 2015.

  1. Bush84

    Bush84 Chirping

    Jan 4, 2015
    Kensington, mn
    Hello all. I have been lurking a bit and finally decided to write. I moved this summer to a nice 8 acre property this past summer. I already keep bees and attempt to grow my own veges and hopefully soon my own fruit. The next step on my journey is chickens. I have read quite a bit and I am starting to formulate ideas. I know I want to get orpingtons. I live in minnesota so a big breed is desirable. I also want eggs, broody hens, and to butcher. I also have kids so a friendly breed is important. So the Orpington seems perfect.

    Anyways back to coop design. I am torn between one of two things. First building a new building. My second option is using one of my current buildings. In my far back yard I have an old dirt floor pole barn. It's rather large. I believe its 35x70 or so. Clearly to big and not predator proof with that dirt floor. But whose to say I couldn't section off a corner of the building. It already has electric so that's a big bonus. Cons are distance and cutting holes in the walls for their entrance/exit. Pro is reduced expense due to minimal materials required and electric already in place. Any thoughts? I may temporarily place them there until I can build their own coop.

    Another issue is coop size. I've read everything about sq ft per bird and everything, but I am not sure how many birds I want. I will probably start with around 10 but I can see this hobby expanding rapidly once I get a broody hen. All hobbies seem to expand. I am thinking about an 8x12 building. It's also important to note that in the winter they will likely spend considerable amount of time in the coop. It gets very cold with strong winds here on the minnesota west central plains. So I'm figuring that I better go bigger than smaller. So not sure if I should maybe just go 12x12 or if something smaller is ok. I'm not yet sure about a run. I have zero neighbors and am considering free ranging.

    I guess my only other question is about insulation. It's easy enough to insulate the ceiling and walls, but does everybody here do anything with the floor? Also is it common to use cement for the floor or cement footings or just lumber?

    That's it for now. Thanks in advance!
  2. Judy

    Judy Crowing

    Feb 5, 2009
    South Georgia
    See the link in my sig for an excellent article on ventilation which is particularly applicable to the far north. Here is another good link for northern coop design:

    And here is a link for a partly open air design which works well in your area:

    You can make a dirt floor predator proof by fastening something like hardware clost to the bottom of the building all the way round, then extending it out about 2- or 3-, forming a dig proof barrier. I have a dirt floor coop, always have, and prefer them, myself. Much easier for cleaning, expeically if it is a large coop. I only rake out the litter once a year. Otherwise, it is turned as needed and where the chickens don't turn it, and extra litter, pelletizzed lime, and a bit of Sevin are added periodically.

    One of the rules of thumb around here is, there is no such thing as too big. Severe cold may be one of the few exceptions to that -- but you still want them to have plenty of space, an absolute minimum of 4 sqw ft per bird of free floor space, and 2 or 3 times that is not too much in a cold climate where they may want to stay indoors for days at a time. (A covered or partly covered run is an excellent addition.) You can always partition off part of the interior if you choose. It is very convenient to have a couple of galvanizedd trash cans for food and snacks inside the coop, for example, plus storage for other needed items.

    If you insulate, you will need interior walls, not sheet rock. Most people use plywood or particle board. Insulation is a debatable item; more on the subject in the links I gave. The articles were written by a Canadian member.

    Most people probably use wood floors, often covered with some sort of vinyl flooring for ease of cleaning. That sort of floor needs cleaning much mmore often. Cement is convenient to clean and of course durable, but I'm not sure it is very suitable in your northern climate.

    Good luck!
  3. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    The main things chickens need in a coop is protection from the environment and protection from predators, mainly at night. So you need roosts for them to sleep on and a way to lock them in at night. Practically everyone includes nests too, especially in a situation like yours, but a few people have nests separate. Some people feed and water in the coop, some in the run, and some both. In your climate you probably want to do that inside, at least in the winter.

    Protection from the environment means they need to not get wet when it rains and they need to be able to roost without a wind hitting them directly. Chickens can handle cold really well as long as a direct wind doesn’t hit them. One member on here tells a story about how a flock of feral chickens spent the winter outside in the trees in Northern Michigan. Those trees were in a kind of wind protected area, not a lone tree in the middle of a prairie, but the chickens could handle it. Chickens trap air in their feathers and heat it up. Those tiny pockets of air is what provides the ventilation. If a direct wind ruffles the feathers and lets the air out of those pockets, they can get cold.

    I don’t know how windy that pole barn is in a blizzard. It’s quite possible you could build a coop inside totally out of wire and save some money. At the most all you have to do is box in at the level where they sleep to block winds and leave the rest open, covered with wire. If it were me I’d build a coop inside that pole barn or some other outbuilding instead of erecting a totally new building.

    Here are a couple of other articles from Pat that I think should be required reading for anyone building a coop or run.

    Pat’s Big Ol' Ventilation Page

    Pat’s Big Ol' Mud Page (fixing muddy runs):

    A question to me is how much light do you have in that pole barn? You and the chickens need enough light to see what you are doing in there during the day without using electric lights. You may have enough light in that pole barn or you may need to cut a window. Most barns I’ve seen should have plenty of light inside but someone will prove me wrong. That’s another advantage to having a mostly wire coop, it lets light in.

    I don’t know how you are planning on using the rest of that pole barn. If the chickens have access they will probably spend a lot of time inside in the shade in summer. They will create a lot of dust with their scratching and will enjoy perching and pooping on any farm equipment or anything else in there. You might want to think about that a bit.

    Do you need a run? Maybe, maybe not. I like mine. Not everybody can free range. Many predators hunt during the day, bobcats, foxes, coyotes, skunks, raccoons and of course the worst, dogs. Most are more active at night and they have more undisturbed time at night to cause mischief, but a predator resistant run can be really handy during the day is something attacks. A run gives you some flexibility in managing a situation. Also, you said you garden. Chickens can do a great deal of damage to a garden. You will probably either have to fence the chickens out of your garden or fence them in a run. Also, there are just times I need to contain the chickens when I am working with them, maybe inspecting them for mires or lice or when I butcher some, I don’t want the others sitting around watching. Possibly you could use the rest of that pole barn as a run in an emergency so you might not need to build one.

    I would not even consider doing anything to the dirt floor unless it is in a low spot and collects water. Then I’d haul in more dirt and build it up high enough to stay dry. Use the apron Judy mentioned to keep digging predators out.

    You might check us out on the sister garden site. We are a small friendly forum, some in the city and some in the country. Most of us have chickens. We even have a very active member from Wisconsin. Seems like you would fit in.
  4. Bush84

    Bush84 Chirping

    Jan 4, 2015
    Kensington, mn
    I'll keep that forum in mind but I've got a lot going on and probably don't have time for another forum. I'm also going through a house remodel, and I am trying to do most of the work lol.

    Right now there is nothing in this building, but it is very dark. No windows. A couple of lights but it is a big building and two lights don't do much. I was planning on using it as a little side income for winter storage. I don't know...I'll have to think about it a bit more.
  5. If you're wanting egg producers and a broody hen, the barn sounds like a good idea. That way it would be possible to have your whole chicken operation under one roof, and won't e having to go back and forth between your adult chickens, your broody, and your juveniles.
    My dad has always had dirt floors, and after predator proofing we have very little problems with predators, only the occasional snake.

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