There is no one way to build a chicken coop. I’ve seen coops made from garbage cans, dog houses, wooden pallets, mobile homes, cedar planks, plywood, from the lowliest to the most prime of materials. It just depends on what you want it to look like, the amount you are willing to spend or the materials you are able to find.
The only requirements are that it:
- be dry
- be secure from predators
- have adequate ventilation, but be free from drafts (especially on the west side here in mid-MO)
- have adequate roosting space
- have nest boxes.
Some physical characteristics of typical coops:
- One or more chicken (pop) doors (minimum 15in by 15in) preferably on the south or east wall
- One human/cleanout door
- 8-15 in of roost space per bird (usually made out of a 2X4 with the wider side facing up-so that the birds can completely cover their feet with their feathers in winter) this is actually way more space than the birds will use, but it is typical to provide that much space
- 1 nest box per 3-5 birds (I have 2 for 6 birds-4 use one box)
- nest box doors (for easy exterior access to eggs)
- 4-10 square feet per bird (the lower number is if they have access to a run or are free range, while if confined the larger number is recommended)
- As much ventilation as possible
- an east facing window (so the girls wake up as early as possible) made of glass or fencing with small holes (you don’t want the birds sleeping close enough to this for raccoons to be able to reach in and behead them)
- no western vent openings (here in mid-MO the worst of the winter winds come from the west)
- tall enough to walk into
Chicken tractors take their name from the effectiveness of a small group of chickens accomplishing what would otherwise be done by a tractor: aerating the soil, fertilizing it and removing weed seeds. By making your coop and attached run movable, with wheels on one or both ends, the chickens can be transported from one part of the yard to another to happily work the soil. Find 180 pictures of tractors here.
If I could do it all over again my coop would stand 6 ft tall and have a minimum of 4 ft by 6 ft of floor space. This is really for my convenience. 6 birds don’t need this much space, but it would mean that I could have space to store feed/calcium/grit sources, roosting bars, nest boxes and have the feed and water containers inside all year round. I wouldn’t have to get rained on to collect eggs, feed the girls or even spend some time hand feeding them treats. In the spring I could have enough room for a broody hen to sit on some eggs (fake or fertile) and raise a group of chicks without worrying whether they would be too crowded that the older girls picked on them.
I’d also have a run tall enough for me to enter with levels of perches and shade available all year. My run is currently only 2 ft tall-which is fine for the ladies, but when I need to get into the run because of a wayward egg or trash blowing in or I dropped my flashlight it’s a pain in my back (and occasionally my head too). Since I don’t believe in reinventing the wheel check out a really great article about why you should use deep litter in your run.
I built my new coop run in fall of 2010, check it out here.