So you’ve decided to take the plunge and become a full on urban farmer, with a nice flock of backyard chickens to provide you with a clean and untainted supply of meat and eggs. Well, you’re going to need to build a chicken coop for that and if you find that task to be too daunting to contemplate and are considering just buying one off the market; hold up! We have summarized the checklist to make your job that much easier. And if are reading this article you still feel that building a chicken coop is harder than building Noah’s Ark then go ahead and buy one off the market. But read this first!
Chicken Coop Design Checklist
There are many plans that you can download or purchase of the web but if you are planning on designing your own coop, here are some chicken coop characteristics to consider. You can also read this chicken coop building guide as it contains everything you need to know about how to build a coop for your chickens. Remember, when it comes to chicken coops, opt for function over form.
- Should be properly sized, dry, free of dust, and with the entrance receiving the most sunlight.
- Easily accessible to both chickens and humans for maintenance purpose while still providing proper shelter against the elements and predators.
- Sufficient light and proper ventilation is crucial but try to make your coop as draft-free as possible. Light is important for stimulating egg production and while natural is better, electric lighting can be a good option during the fall and winter.
- In addition to coop space (2 to 4 square feet per bird), also ensure proper perch space (9 to 12 inches per bird) and nest boxes (one nest box per 3 to 4 birds). Make sure the perches are properly positioned as well to avoid droppings from entering nest boxes or food supplies.
- Make your feeding and watering systems as convenient as possible; you may want to go commercial for this as there are many hanging feeders and automatic water dispensers on the market.
- Predator protection is extremely important; do your due diligence on predators local to your area and take preventive measures accordingly. While many sites advocate the use of chicken wire or chicken mesh, which are the most common options, we prefer hardware cloth instead which is costlier but also sturdier.
Chicken Coop Materials Checklist
Of course, depending on the design of your coop, the materials required can vary greatly however in general, these are the materials that you would require. Opt as best as you can for building materials that are easy to clean and disinfect.
- Lumber of various sizes; check with your local lumber yard.
- Tar paper for roofing.
- Plywood sheets for the exterior; use ¾ to 1 inch sheets.
- Support and nest boxes.
- Aluminum paint.
- Metal or zinc sheeting for the roof.
- Chicken wire, chicken mesh, or hardware cloth.
- Perspex, Plexiglas or acrylic sheeting for the windows (use sliding windows to prevent your chickens from using them as roosting perches.
We recommend setting up a construction area that is separate from the actual site of your chicken coop. Put down a large tarp to accommodate all the mess that you will inevitably make. You can keep your tool selection simple all the way up to the most sophisticated power tools. The basic tools you will need are:
- Measuring tape.
- Hammer and assorted nails.
- Screwdriver and assorted screws.
- A power drill.
- A saw or power saw.
- A framing square.
Once you’ve built the skeleton structure of your coop it’s time to accessorize! Perhaps accessorize is not the best word as it implies that it is optional; in fact most of these items below are very important to the success of your flock.
- Roosts: We already mentioned the appropriate roost space per chicken; it is also important to ensure that the roosts are about three feet or less above the coop floor and spaced about a foot apart.
- Nests: Standard nesting boxes are one foot all around which is appropriate for most chickens. However in general the nest boxes should be one and a half times the size of your chickens so if you have larger chicken breeds, you might need nesting boxes that are larger than the standard size.
- Proper Lighting: For natural sunlight, use windows in the south side of your coop which will also double in function as ventilation during the warmer month and additional warmth during the cold months (moving air actually removes moisture from the air). As mentioned, electric lighting placed above the feeding and watering area during the darker months are also good.
- Ventilation: Not even chickens like stale air. Other than the smell, stagnant air can also cause a buildup of unhealthy fumes which can cause health issues. The rule of thumb is this: there is no such thing as too much ventilation.