4 Tips To Help You Build a Better Chicken Coop
A coop-building pro relays the most important things to know before you build a chicken coop, including ventilation tips, roost placement and more.
When I built my first chicken coop, I had no idea how much I didn’t know. Over many years and many coops, however, I’ve learned that the basic principles are straightforward.
Your chicken coop should be spacious, sturdy and safe, protecting your hens from predators and diseases. It should be easy for you to access, repair and clean. Make sure your chicken coop plan meets these specifications, along with the ones below, to ensure your first flock has a secure home.
Chickens are susceptible to various respiratory ailments, including Newcastle disease, bronchitis and Avian flu. Adding proper ventilation is one of the most important things you can do to protect them. The other is quarantining any new birds that come to your flock for at least a month.
Appropriate ventilation will help keep the air in your coop dry and dust-free, and healthy airflow will make it harder for diseases to spread between birds.
The easiest way to put in ventilation? Add two vents near the ceiling. These should be on opposite sides of the coop and above the roosts, so they can remain open year-round without your hens feeling a draft. You’ll need additional ventilation throughout the coop in warmer months, simply by opening your coop doors and windows during daylight hours.
If your coop doesn’t have windows, add a fan at the back of the coop and aim it towards the door to move the warm air outside.
Create Great Roosts
Good roosts make for happy hens, since that’s where they’ll sleep at night. Imagine living in a fancy mansion without a comfortable bed.
Luckily, the easiest and best way to build roosts is also the cheapest: a single 2×4. Measure out about eight to 12 inches for each bird, though this can vary depending on the size and temperament of your breed.
Attach the 2×4 to the coop near the top, above the nesting boxes. Chickens evolved from prey animals, so they like to sleep as high up as possible to feel safe from predators. Don’t position them directly underneath a window or vent, or above the boxes, to prevent them from becoming toilets.
Nailing the board is easiest. You may want to build one that’s freestanding and removable, so you can easily pull it out when cleaning or doing maintenance.
Add Plenty of Predator Protection
Protect your flock from predators by ensuring the chicken coop door (AKA the pop door) is no larger than 14- x 14-inches. For coop-tender access, incorporate a full-height door elsewhere, or a roof that opens.
Consider hardware mesh or hardware cloth your most important predator-prevention tool. It has smaller holes and is generally tougher than chicken wire, so it will do a much better job of keeping ground-based predators out.
Secure hardware mesh across the bottom of your floor and along the bottom three feet of your fences. Sink the mesh or your coop walls at least one foot underground, too. Use it to cover all vents, especially those low to the ground.
For aerial predators like hawks and owls, build a wooden overhang above your run, which will also provide extra shade and protection from inclement weather. Dangling strings of reflective tape or pieces of old CDs or DVDs from your coop can also frighten off predatory birds.
Perfect Your Nesting Boxes
Like roosts, nesting boxes are simple structures. A good rule of thumb is one per every three hens. Put them in a dark, quiet part of your coop. Chickens prefer a little privacy when egg-laying. Too loud and bright and they may hunt for another spot to lay, which will leave you hunting for eggs.
For standard size chickens, keep the boxes at around 12 sq. in. For larger breeds (more than eight lbs.), up that to 14. They can be purpose-built wooden boxes or even repurposed milk crates. Add plenty of bedding with wood shavings, shredded leaves, shredded newspaper, grass clippings or straw.
Despite the term “bedding,” nesting boxes should be where your hens lay their eggs, not where they sleep. If hens sleep in nesting boxes, they’ll get messy, leaving them without a clean place to lay their eggs. Prevent this by placing your nesting boxes lower in the coop than your roosts.