I'm looking to have four laying hens. I'm planning to build a box 4 feet by four feet with a sloping roof (to allow the rain water to come off), which will raise up so I can clean it out. I also plan on having a little yard, completely fenced in (including the top), where the chickens can be outside without fear of predators. I'll let them free range in my pasture when someone's at home (three or more days a week), but they will otherwise live in the coop and chicken yard. I live in TN, so they'll get to enjoy the yard pretty much all year long; I'd only have to confine them to the coop when we get the occasional snow or sleet storm. Here're some questions: What's the minimum height on the coop? Since I'm cleaning it through the roof-lid, I don't need to get into it, so it only needs to be high enough for the birds and a light in the winter. Do they need perches or nesting boxes inside the coop? I plan on putting the coop up on stilts to help guard against predators and because the terrain where I want to put this isn't perfectly level. Not sure if they need to perch inside a building that is itself a giant perch. Do you just put a door in the side (about how big if I'm looking at laying, not meat, chickens), and put a little ladder up to it for them? Do I need any other holes in the coop besides the door (i.e. vents)? Coop and yard is going to be against the lee of our barn and under a large tree, so they will have plenty of shade in the summer and some reduced exposure to wind and weather in the winter. Oh, and when I get my chicks, is there 1) any reason why they can't be raised in this coop, provided I give them a light for warmth, and 2) is there any reason why I can't use some dirt/composted horse manure for the flooring? Everyone seems to have conflicting opinions on straw, paper, wood chips and pine needles. Pine needles and shredded paper I have free access to, but I would rather avoid buying some other form of bedding. But I wonder why some nice soft composted horse manure would not serve? It's not slippery, and it replicates soil, which is pretty natural for a chicken to live on. And, needless to day, I'm an old hand when it comes to cleaning it up. Some of it was composted more than a year ago, so it should be free of any really nasty germs. Of course, if they can't handle horse poop germs now, they're never going to make it free-ranging in our yard!