Even if one of our recent posts was dealing with taking care of chicken coops, planning one from scratch is a lot of work that requires dedication and time. Any good future owner will have to consider things like the size and breed of their birds, the best spot for placing the coop, and all the necessary items that can’t miss from it.
Why choose a chicken coop?
Regardless of whether you’re dreaming of a backyard chicken coop or you already have one but it’s just not meeting your needs, it’s important to know that having one is essential for the well-being of your chicks.
The true purpose of a chicken coop will vary depending on the goals of each homesteader or backyard farmer. The basic purpose, however, is to keep your hens safe, especially if you don’t have a rooster among them. Even in a secluded backyard, chickens can still fall prey to a variety of hungry predators so you must make their area danger-free.
And that’s not all, though. A well-built chicken coop will also serve to keep your birds from eating your vegetable garden, laying eggs where they are not supposed to, and even pooping on everything.
Such a secure building will also keep nasty rodents from eating their feed and drinking their water and potentially making them sick. As you see, a good chicken coop is essential for these reasons, not to mention your feathery friends also need a place to sleep at night.
Things to consider beforehand
There are literally tons of things to consider before starting your project, that is assuming you want to do a good job and raise healthy, happy chickens.
First of all, you want to think about the size of the birds you will be raising. Smaller bantam breeds, like a Silkie, will be okay with a minimum of 2 square feet in the coop and about 4 square feet of run space per bird.
A standard-sized chicken, like the well-known Rhode Island Red, will double that amount and require at least 4 square feet in the coop and 8 square feet of run space for every such bird you own.
Larger chicken breeds like the Jersey Giant will obviously demand quite a lot of space for every bird. If you get one of those, you’re probably looking at chicken coop plans for at least 6 to 8 square feet in the coop and most likely more than 10 square feet of space where they can stretch their long legs.
After settling this, you have to take into account the number of birds you would like to own. As a tip, you will generally end up owning more than you wanted in the beginning due to the many ‘Aww, that chicken is so cute’ moments you are going to have.
Furthermore, another dilemma of freshly-minted chicken breeders is coop time vs free-roam time. Some people like protecting their birds with the safety of a coop while others appreciate the need for leisure and independence and allow their chicks to roam around a little more.
To free-range or not to free-range
As a rule of thumb, free-ranging your chickens is great! It’s better for their health and better for the quality of your eggs. However, make no mistake about it, you still need a chicken coop! For instance, you can keep your hens in the shelter from sundown until they’ve laid their eggs for the day, and then you can allow them to roam the backyard happily eating what they can find.
The point is, while chickens are not sedentary birds and will, therefore, flourish when given some space to move around in, they are also quite defenseless so simply letting them wander is a recipe for disaster.
Real estate issues
When it comes to real estate, location is always the most important thing, right? Without question, this is also true when it comes to choosing the area where your coop will be built. While the things to take into consideration will vary on how much space you have to offer, there are still a few you can generally consider.
Ideally, the area would have to be able to offer both sun and shade since chickens like to be warm but access to shade will be extremely important during the hot summer months.
The coop would also have to be protected against the elements as much as possible. While building the shelter is technically also doing that, if you can, try not to build it in the center of the yard, at the mercy of all the rains and winds in the world.
Furthermore, your neighbors also have to be a factor in this equation. Make sure to check your city’s zoning laws if you’re a backyard homesteader, just to be on the safe side of the authorities. You’ll also have to protect the people living around your house from being disturbed by noise, flies, etc.
Needs and wants
After you managed to find a suitable piece of land, you will also have to consider what the coop itself will need in order to thrive and be successful.
First of all, you’re going to have to get nesting boxes for reasons that require no explanation. Remember that your hens believe they are laying eggs which will hatch so safety is the number one priority you should consider here.
After that, we can’t stress enough how important it is to protect the food from rodents. If you don’t, you’ll basically raise two species at the same time so you might want to stock up on more food. Furthermore, this is not hygienic since shared water might lead to health problems for your chickens.
A treadle feeder that can only be opened by weight is ideal to have here, while the water problem can be taken care of by using a hanging waterer which is very easy to make at home.
Both the coop and the run need plenty of ventilation and light, as well as the essential roosting bar which should be big enough to allow all birds to sleep there at night. If that’s not possible, get multiple perches that will accomplish the same thing.
While the light issue is hotly debated in the chicken community, the ground rule here is that supplemental lighting will lead to more eggs in the winter. On the other hand, some people argue that hens need a natural pause period where they don’t lay, so more light is going to force them into an unnatural behavior.
Last but not least, don’t forget the super-important dust baths! Your girls need to do this regularly to keep clean and free from parasites. As such, make sure you offer them a specialized area for that or, at least, make some room for them to dig their own.
Build one or get one?
Once everything else is planned out, you will have to make a tough choice: do you build the coop or do you simply buy it? Of course, your personal handiness comes into consideration here, as this is not an easy job for a beginner and you are probably better off just buying one.
Assuming you’re the handyman of the house, there are still several questions you need to ask yourself before deciding if it’s worth taking out the old toolbox and giving it a go. First things first, what have you built before? Nothing will cost you more than trying to build a coop from scratch with absolutely no knowledge or basic instruction.
Second, how much will the materials cost you? Are they available to you for a discount or free? If not, you will probably see that the entire amount you’d pay for getting everything that you need is very close to simply getting a kit off Amazon. Even if you end up paying a few more dollars online, consider which coop you think will be more durable in the long run.
While this next question might be somewhat self-explanatory, we still want to put it out here: do you have the necessary time to build a chicken coop? Make no mistake about it, this is no small project and you will have real birds depending on the quality of your work. If you don’t feel that your time allows you to be up to the task, delegate it or go buy one.