Topic of the Week - Building a Chicken Coop

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by sumi, Jun 19, 2017.

  1. sumi

    sumi Égalité Staff Member

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    Pic by @bgchicken

    Many of us found that building vs buying a chicken coop can be a better option for economic and other reasons. And with summer in full swing (for most of us anyway!) and spring chickens moving outside, it's the time of the year when many new chicken owners start thinking "coop". So this week I'd like to hear you all's thoughts own coop building. For starters:

    - Do's and don'ts - What did you wish you did differently, or knew, when you built your coop?
    - What materials would you recommend (or not) and why?
    - Coop size(s)?
    - Money saving tips for coop builders?
    - Anything you'd like to add?


    For a complete list of our Topic of the Week threads, see here: https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/topic-of-the-week-thread-archive
     
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2017
    Katrina89, alexa009, Lori C and 2 others like this.
  2. jeria

    jeria Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Love this as I have just started building my coop. I know there will be adaptions along the way. I need to have it done by mid July. Would like sooner but my grandsons who will help me with the roof are busy with baseball every weekend until then.
     
  3. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    To me the three most important things in building a coop (and run) are location, location, and location. If you put your coop (and run) in a low spot where water drains to it or stands you will have issues. If you build it where (or so) water drains away life will be much more pleasant. You need to keep it dry!

    - Do's and don'ts - What did you wish you did differently, or knew, when you built your coop?

    This is hard to answer because we all have our different preferences. My coop has been constantly evolving as I go along. You make your plans but they never work out exactly as you expect. We are all going to have different goals and conditions. Even if you have some experience your needs will change. Things you think you want are never used. I made a couple of my nests so I could access them from outside. I never use that feature, it’s much more convenient for me to just walk in and gather eggs. Some people really like access from outside, and if your coop is too small to get inside yourself it’s pretty necessary.

    - What materials would you recommend (or not) and why?

    Anything touching the ground needs to be able to stand up to touching the ground. Non-treated wood will rot pretty quickly in most climates unless you use special expensive varieties of wood. Some metals will rust. Pay attention to the foundation, use stuff that will last. That can be treated wood, special wood, certain metals, cinder block, brick, concrete, or something else. They can all work.

    For roosts I want wood. Metal or plastic are good heat conductors while wood is a good insulator. Wooden roosts will stay warmer in winter and won’t be as hot in summer.

    That’s about it for specific material recommendations. People successfully use wood, metal, or plastic in various combinations for coops. Some of that is personal preference, some might be climate, some might be what’s available or inexpensive.

    - Coop size(s)?

    You can follow the link in my signature for some of my thoughts on things to consider when determining coop size. We keep them in so many different climates, with different goals, set-ups, flock make-ups, and use so many different management techniques no one square foot number can fit us all. We are all unique.

    Make it bigger than you think you need. I find the more I crowd them the more behavioral problems I have to deal with, the harder I have to work, and the less flexibility I have to deal with issues. A lot of this is about me, not the chickens. If I manage them right I can crowd them, but why make my life harder than it has to be?

    Flexibility is priceless. If you shoehorn them into the tiniest space possible what do you do if you get a broody hen? Or if you need to separate an injured chicken for a while? Or try to integrate replacement chickens? If you plan your coop around free ranging all day so they only sleep and lay in the coop, what do you do if you have a predator issue?

    You need to be able to access everything inside your coop. At some point that’s going to change from a small coop you can reach most places from outside to where you need a walk-in coop. Again, think about your convenience.

    - Money saving tips for coop builders?

    Consider the size of your building materials when planning your coop. If you are buying new, here in the States most building materials come in 4’ and 8’ standard dimensions. If you plan your build around this you can usually reduce cutting and waste. A 4’ x 8’ is probably not going to be much more expensive (if any) than a 3’ x 7’ and will probably be easier to build.

    - Anything you'd like to add?

    I’ll give links to a couple of articles that I think should be required reading for anyone building a coop (and run).

    Pat’s Big Ol' Ventilation Page

    http://www.backyardchickens.com/web/viewblog.php?id=1642-VENTILATION

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

    http://www.backyardchickens.com/web/viewblog.php?id=1642-fix-a-muddy-run

    You will get a lot of advice on this forum, many people will tell you that you absolutely have to do things one specific way. But then you’ll see where someone did it totally differently and it still worked. There is practically never one way to do something, there are many different ways that work. That makes it harder because you have so many options that can work instead of someone just telling you that you have to do something a certain way.

    We all keep chickens in totally different conditions. When you see advice from someone I suggest you try to determine if they are talking about your circumstances. What works for someone free ranging a large flock with multiple roosters may not work at all for someone keeping four hens in a small suburban back yard, totally contained in a small coop and run.

    Try to keep things simple. Again, that’s for your convenience, but animals are a commitment. If you leave town for a wedding, vacation, or funeral, you will need to get someone to feed and water the chickens. The easier you make it to take care of your chickens the easier it may be to find someone. Think about where you store your feed, get water, and such as that. Chickens should be easy to take care of. They are much more enjoyable if they are not a burden.
     
  4. IdyllwildAcres

    IdyllwildAcres Chillin' With My Peeps

    Rule of 2's....
    Make it twice as big as you think you want.
    Make twice as much ventilation as you think you need.
    It will take twice as long as you think it will and it will cost twice as much (if you are lucky that is) as you thought it would!

    Things I am glad I did:
    Finished it before getting chicks, did you realize people brood chicks in the HOUSE? Ewe.
    In coop brooder
    Dirt floor
    Made it big!

    Here it is:)
    http://www.backyardchickens.com/t/1160673/must-finish-coop-done

    Good luck

    Gary
     
  5. driver

    driver Chillin' With My Peeps

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    This is timely, as my coop is almost finished. It's finished enough for now and I moved the 6 week old chicks in last week. I need to finish the windows for closing them in the winter, and make nest boxes before they need them. The run is 8'x8' with a roof, and the coop is 4'x4'x4' (to work with lumber dimensions). It will house 6 chickens (the 5 chicks and an old hen who stopped laying). It has two hardware cloth covered windows, an egg door, a large door (about 3'x3'), drilled one inch ventilation holes at the top of 2 of the walls, and a 2" gap between the top of the walls and the roof (but it's all under the roof of the run). I might need to cover one side for winter, as it's on the edge.

    - Do's and don'ts - What did you wish you did differently, or knew, when you built your coop?
    I wish I didn't learn about dealing with hardware cloth as I went along. I could have saved some time and effort. The corner of the fence I built it into is not level or square, so that presented some challenges when adding the coop to the run, and making sure it was level and square.

    - What materials would you recommend (or not) and why?
    I used wood to keep the cost down. I bought plastic/PVC roofing panels.

    - Coop size(s)? 4x4x4 inside a 8x8 run which is tall enough to stand up in.

    - Money saving tips for coop builders? Work with sizes that minimize lumber scraps. Recycle where possible - my roosts and the ramp are both made from some wood that was in my barn. I'm also using leftover paint, but you can also sometimes find paint bargains on the "oops" shelf at Lowes/Home Depot.

    - Anything you'd like to add?
    I wanted one anyway, but buying a table saw for this project made things much easier, and my cuts way straighter than if I only used a circular or hand saw.
     
  6. Bogtown Chick

    Bogtown Chick Overrun With Chickens

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    My Coop
    "Rome was not built in a day."
    It was the best thing I heard from a contractor friend who came over and critiqued my first build, my coop. When you think you are 'done'. Know that you are really not!
    Hahaha. So that's what YOU think!!!

    Here are my druthers:
    I wish I had poop boards. I have so many windows (3 sides) and a door on the 4th side that I cannot properly attach poop boards to the walls under the roosts. I might have to assess my coop again. But for maximum roosting bar space I like my roosts the way they are. So when building consider manure management. Easy cleaning. Your sore back. All of those things fall under Poop Management. a little shovel door slot that a wheelbarrow fits under and to just push the soiled shavings through and out.

    Another thing I should have maybe thought about is designing the nest boxes to be more "indoor" vs. an outside attachment of the coop. We are cold climate and I have essentially a non-insulated, non-heated coop. It's cold in there in the winter. And Eggs like to freeze and crack.

    I probably have a bunch more nit-picky things. But those are the things bugging me right now. :lol:
     
  7. KarennFallon

    KarennFallon Out Of The Brooder

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    We inherited an old 8x8 chicken coop with 8x16 ft run in the yard when we rented this old farmhouse and was thrilled when the landlord said we could use it if we wanted. It only had 2 4 ft roosts and no boxes so I used 2 milk crates in on the floor, which was fine for my 4 hens. Now my question. We doubled the roosts and added 8 more feet to the run, as we got 10 chicks this spring for eggs in the fall. I still have the 2 milk crates as nest boxes, BUT, how many nests do I need for 12 laying hens?
     
    Katrina89 likes this.
  8. jeria

    jeria Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Bogtown chick, I am actually planning to have a large door (at least for a 4X4X6 foot wall as a clean out door on the north side, basically sealed in the winter, with a smaller access door on the south side. The larger one will be perfect for the wheelbarrow. With deep litter is there an advantage to having poop boards? I really don't want to mess with bird poop much in the winter if I can avoid it. One reason for using the deep litter method.
     
  9. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    My Coop
    Some basic coop design/build tips.
    Go as big as you can, in my climate it's very nice to do all the chicken tending and supply storing under the same roof. Adding birds takes 'extra' space. Nice to be able to keep part of coop away from birds for storage of feed and supplies. Being able to split coop space with a temporary wall can make adding new birds/chicks much easier.
    Good article on Space:
    http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/how-much-room-do-chickens-need

    Ventilation is very important all year around. The more, and more flexible, the better.
    Large roof over hangs with open eaves, and top hinged windows, ensure weather proof ventilation 24/7/365. Here's a pretty good discussion on ventilation:
    http://www.backyardchickens.com/t/1048597/ventilated-but-free-of-drafts

    Here's my theory on the 'stack up' aspect to coop design:
    Bottom of pop door is best about 8" above floor so bedding doesn't get dragged out of coop.
    Nice to have bottom of nests about 18" above bedding to allow use of that floor space under them(doesn't count if your nests are mounted on outside of coop).
    Roosts are best about 12" higher than nests so birds won't roost(sleep) in nests and poop in them, if you use poop boards under roosts it will also 'stretch' your floor space.
    Upper venting works best as high as possible above roosts so no strong drafts hit roosts in winter...and hot/moist air and ammonia can rise and exit coop.
     
  10. jeria

    jeria Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Aart, someone, don't remember who stated that you should have a couple small vents low in the coop so the air will be drawn up and out. What do you think of doing that? Based on that previous advice I was thinking of using my hole bit and just doing a couple 1" holes under the nest boxes on the east side (it is rare that we have any wind from the east) of my coop of course vents up by the ceiling.
     

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