Chickens 101: Coop Considerations
Once you’ve determined your coop location and the design type, it’s time to map out the logistics. Some flock raisers like to build their own coops with blueprints while others work with builders or purchase prebuilt coops.
Here are a few points we kept in mind:
Space: Each bird should have indoor and outdoor access. Provide at least 4 square feet of indoor space and 5–10 square feet of outdoor space per bird. Account for additional space in case you add more birds to your flock later.
Access: The coop should be an enjoyable space for your family. Keep in mind your own height. Build the coop tall enough so that you can easily enter to take care of the flock. It’s best if you can stand inside.
Ventilation: Fresh air is essential during all seasons. The coop should have windows on all four sides and ventilation holes at the top. Even if you live in a cold climate, don’t completely seal the coop from fresh air as ammonia buildup can be hazardous to birds.
Electrical outlets: You may want electricity as birds get older. Outlets can be used to power additional lighting and automatic light timers as days get shorter, water heaters during the winter or fans during the summer. We suggest lighting incandescent 40-watt or LED 9- to 13-watt bulb per 100 square feet of coop space.
Predator-proof: Use galvanized welded wire or hardware cloth instead of chicken wire. Chicken wire can stretch and allow predators access to the run. If your windows and doors have traditional mesh screening, add a layer of hardware cloth to those openings to prevent predators from getting in the coop. The opening in the wire mesh shouldn’t be larger than ½” x ½”. Bury galvanized wire underground to prevent burrowing predators. To do this, bury wire 6 inches underground, parallel to the walls of the coop and run. Then, bend the wire 90 degrees to run the wire out from the coop parallel to the ground for 12 inches. Finally, cover the wire with dirt. If a predator tries to dig under the coop or run, they hit the buried welded wire and stop digging.
An area for feed and water: Designate areas for feeders and waterers. It’s a good practice to place the feeders and waterers in the run, so chickens eat outside and sleep inside. Don’t forget about feed storage. You should have a place that keeps feed dry and away from rodents.
Roosts: Provide at least 1 foot of roosting space per bird for sleeping. Chickens like to sleep off the ground. A board that measures 2”x4”, with the wide edge facing up can work well for a roost. Consider roosts for laying pullets and hens but avoid them for meat birds.
Nests: Build nesting boxes with easy access for egg removal. A general rule is to provide one 1-foot cube nest box for every four or five hens. The hens will take turns using the boxes. Keep the nests up off the floor in the darkest corner of the coop.