Coop design is going to be one of your most important decisions. You’re going to live with it day in, day out. So the smallest problem is going to make you swear on a daily basis, or at least think about bad words.
I personally hate external nest boxes, yet 99.99% of companies that build coops have them sticking out. Why do they have to stick out? Either they do it to upset me or they have never kept chickens.
If you live where it’s hot all year and it never rains then go for it, be my guest. But ladies and gentlemen, if you get rain and snow then the nest box lid is going to leak. It’s going to wet the bedding in the nest box and your birds are going to get wet too. This will make you and the birds angry, trust me.
You need internal nest boxes, with an access door in the wall behind them. Simpler to build, great to use and no bad words from you or your chickens.
How Big Should The Coop Be?
I use 4 sq.ft per bird and if you are buying a coop make sure it will be big enough. So many companies claim their coops will house large numbers, but only allow 1 – 2 feet per bird.
4 Chickens – 4’ x 4’ coop
6 Chickens – 4’ x 6’ “
8 Chickens – 4’ x 8’ “
10 Chickens – 5’ x 8’ “
12 Chickens – 6’ x 8’ “
14 Chickens – 7’ x 8’ “
16 Chickens – 8’ x 8’ “
Length x Width = Square Feet ( 4 x 8 = 32 )
Square Feet divided by 4 = How many chickens ( 32 divided by 4 = 8 chickens)
These numbers are for Standard size (Large Fowl) chickens. If you want to keep bantam breeds I suggest 3 sq.ft per bird.
When I think about coop size I think about how the pecking order works. A bird at the bottom of the pecking order needs room to avoid the bullies. Cramped coops cause chickens stress.
What Your Coop Needs
- Pop door – small door for the birds to go outside.
- Nest boxes – one 12” x 12” box per 3-4 hens.
- Egg door – eliminates swearing or thinking bad words.
- Roost bar – 1 ft per bird.
- Windows and vents that can be opened to control the coop temperature.
- Clean out doors – Large enough to make clean out easy.
You need to position your coop so it gets direct sunshine through a window early in the morning. This will warm the coop up on cold days and the chickens will love it.
Drafts in winter are to be avoided, but in summer the birds will appreciate a cool breeze.
Chickens can easily live in cold temperatures, the thing they can’t deal with is excessive humidity. When roosting together at night the chickens create a lot of warmth that causes humidity in the coop. In winter this humidity causes frostbite on the bird’s combs. So a ventilation system that doesn’t allow drafts is needed.
Should your coop be on or raised above the ground?
From personal experience, I think coops need to be raised at least 18 inches. Why? Because small furry animals like to live under them.
In the past, I’ve had a rabbit or two under my turkey house, and rodents under my chicken coop. I don’t like rodents. If the coop was raised they wouldn’t have anywhere to hide. If you leave a small tight space, something is going to try and live in there. So raise your coop so the chickens can walk under it, take a dust bath under there, or go under to stay out of the sun.
I think that covers everything, if not contact me and I’ll be glad to help.
UPDATE: I’m doing a Coop build, it’s going to be 6’x4′ for up to 6 birds. Build Your Own Coop