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Building A Chicken Coop


There is nothing better than collecting fresh, still warm, chicken eggs in the knowledge that you and your family have exclusively looked after the birds. You know what the birds ate and you know what went into the eggs. There is a growing trend in the U.S. for people to keep chickens in their backyards both for eggs, meat, and gardening fertilizer.

In Austin, Texas, for example, chicken keeping is widespread and, for the moment anyway, even roosters are permitted. Building your own chicken coop could be the first step to a satisfying hobby farming that could lead to healthier living and save you some dollars at the grocery store.

Planning To Raise Chickens

Guard roosterBefore you even start looking for chicken coop plans do some research, find out what restrictions and regulations there may be for keeping chickens in your town or city. Call your county or town office to get detailed information. Once you know what you have to do to satisfy bylaws then you can calculate the number of chickens that you can keep in the space that you have available.

Next, select a permissible site for your chicken coop. If you can, select a site

  • south-facing
  • higher ground that will allow water to drain away
  • away from anywhere that might be sensitive to chicken's smell or noise

Subject to local bylaws, which may differ, each bird will require between three to five square feet of coop space; allow for more space, up to ten square feet per bird, if your birds will be in the coop all day. If you are building an outside run, allow between eight to ten square feet per bird. Stinting on space in the beginning may cause problems in the long run because the more room your birds have the less chance they have of becoming sick. Chicks need ventilation but also warmth and protection from drafts.

Designing Your Chicken Coop

There is a whole range of plans for chicken coops available for downloading on the Internet many of which will have the requirements that you need designed in. However, you may want to design your own coop. If that is the case, or you need to check an existing plan, the coop will need to:

  • Be adequately sized, dry, dust free, and ideally facing the most sunlight
  • Be easily accessed by both your chickens and yourself (for gathering eggs, cleaning, and maintenance); doors and windows need to be fit for the purpose but also secure against bad weather and predators
  • Have adequate light and controllable ventilation, but your coop should also be as draft-free as possible. Light is known to stimulate egg production, if it can be natural, so much the better; you may want to install electric lighting for fall and winter days
  • Allow for sufficient perch space and nests, nine to ten inches of perch space per bird and one nest box for between three and five birds should suffice; ladder style perches are common and popular. Try not to inadvertently provide other areas where your birds could perch and also avoid putting roosts over where you enter the coop
  • Have easily reached feeding and watering systems. Designing your own is an option but commercial, some automatic, systems will often be a cleaner and more efficient solution
  • Be resistant and secure against the predators that are likely to be in your area; research and installing extra predator precautions could pay dividends

When choosing your coop plan (or if you are designing your own) try to put functionality over pleasing your eye. Of course, some plans, or your design, may achieve both.

Chicken Coop Plans To Get Started

Chicken Coop Materials List

Though every chicken coop is different, here is a general materials list:

  • various sized lumber for the exterior, the interior
  • nest boxes and supports
  • ¾ inch plywood sheets for the exterior
  • tar paper (roofing)
  • aluminum paint
  • shingles
  • metal sheeting for the roof
  • an assortment of hardware, Perspex, Plexiglas or acrylic sheeting for windows
  • mesh, wire, or cloth to protect permanent openings from predators
  • installing sliding windows will discourage birds from roosting on them
  • select building materials that are easy to clean and disinfect.

Construction Materials

It is a good idea to set up a construction area for building your coop a little way away from your actual site. Putting down a tarp will catch saw dust if mess is an issue and this can be used on the coop later. Your tool kit can be simple or you can employ your power tools. Basically you will need:

  • A measuring tape
  • A hammer and suitable nails
  • A screwdriver and suitable screws
  • A drill
  • A framing square
  • A saw

Working in an organized area should mean a safer and more efficiently executed project.

Poultry Predators

Depending upon your area you could be protecting your chickens from predators such as

  • cougars
  • coyotes
  • eagles
  • foxes
  • hawks
  • raccoons
  • rats
  • wolves

It would also pay to be mindful that domestic cats and dogs can be partial to chicken too. It is far easier to overprotect from predators rather than do the job after you have lost your birds to predators. Research the risk and use stronger materials where you think it is warranted; check your coop and the area around your chickens for predator activity (eg, signs of animals digging) and attempted entry often.

You can shop online or come into your local Southern States stores for more chicken supplies, like chicken feed, waterers & heat lamps. If you have further questions about building your chicken coop let us know! Leave a comment, give us a call or come on in and we'll be happy to help you.

Read the post on this topic in our blog, The End Row.

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