10 Things Novice Chicken Coop Builders Should Know

Chicken Coop Tips

Published by Dave Malcolm

August 17, 2018
chicken coop

Building a chicken coop is the kind of activity that you are probably doing for the first time unless your job is professional chicken coop builder. This means that once you’ve completed your plan, you’ll most likely discover things you wish you had done differently. This is a list of ideas to trick out your chicken coop that other coop builders have said they would change after they completed their project.

Paint before you build

Like with many hobbies, you’re eager to get started and to see your birds clucking around in their new coop. There are a lot of steps to building the coop itself including planning, purchasing the materials, cutting the lumber, and assembling it all. Painting the lumber before you put it together means that you can easily reach every piece and not have to hang from a ladder to reach certain areas.

Getting the painting done before you release your birds into the coop is critical. Once they are in there, they will begin to make their chicken messes. The last thing you want to have to do is clean the coop and move the chickens out while you paint and allow the paint to dry.

Bigger is better

If you’re building a coop for the first time, you’re probably a novice chicken keeper. This probably means you are just going to have a few birds to start out with. That’s terrific, but you should know that many backyard chicken farmers end up expanding their operation. Having fresh eggs nearby is a really nice perk but tending to the chickens is a lot of fun too. Hearing their clucking and watching them graze in the backyard are infectious and you may end up wanting more and more chickens in your coop.

You want more room for yourself. Keep in mind that you have to go inside the coop to collect eggs, to fill the feeder, to retrieve sick birds. While you’re in there, you don’t want to step on any of your birds so make sure there is room for the flock and room for you.

It may happen that you don’t decide to expand your flock. If that’s the case it’s still nice to have a spacious coop that allows the birds plenty of room to move around and there is still space for you too.

Giving your chickens more space means birds because they are not literally “cooped up” together. They are more likely to stay healthy as well.

Consider your location

Sure you want to keep the chicken coop away from the house because it’s not going to be the most beautiful piece of architecture around. Remember that on cold mornings and rainy days like you’ll still need to trek out there to retrieve your eggs. Make sure it’s a walk that you’ll enjoy.

Also, consider sun exposure. Chickens are fragile. Will the afternoon sun make it impossible for the cooped chickens to find shade? Is there a way for them to get out of the cold or wind? Make sure there’s a windbreak on the north side of the building.

Don’t build in a low spot. Where do the puddles form in your yard? You don’t want to have to walk through a puddle to get out there and you certainly don’t want the hens wading around in the dirty water.

Finally, think about the wind. Make sure that the coop is positioned downwind for obvious reasons.

Screws are a hobbyist’s best friend

Nails are terrific for speed, as long as everything is done exactly right in the first place. However, if you have to reposition a plank or board, prying out the nail can be a challenging task and can possibly destroy the plank you’re working with.

Using wood screws is a much easier way to correct your mistakes. Let’s face it, if this is your first time building a coop, you’ll probably end up making some mistakes.

Also, keep in mind that you may decide to change things around later on down the road. You might want to add another roost box or add-on to the coop. Using screws will make the necessary adjustments much easier to accomplish.

Chickens are short, you are tall

Remember you have to go into the coop to collect the eggs, fill the feeder, and help injured chickens. While you’re in there, you’ll be looking down a lot, which means you won’t see that beam coming as you walk underneath it. Cracking your head on the coop all the time will make your chicken-keeping hobby less fun than you hoped.

Just make sure there’s plenty of room for your head and remember to take in to account that you’ll probably get some coop boots, which may add a little height. Leave a few inches of space for your head and you’ll be glad you did.

Build off the ground

Building a coop at ground level seems like an easy way coop together. Chickens don’t care if they have a dirt floor. Keep in mind that when it rains the ground will get very wet and muddy. This is bad for your chickens and can cause them to go lame or get sick. Try building your coop on concrete blocks or footers to get them up off the soggy ground.

Depending on how high you build your coop, remember to build a ramp for your waddling chickens to be able to ascend to their home.

Wide doors are better

Picture yourself entering the coop with a bag of feed, a flapping chicken, or a bucket of water. Now, remember that there will be chickens scurrying around at your feet. Do you want to have to take the time to squeeze through a narrow doorway? Build the doorway wider than you think it needs to be.

Invest in quality

You’re taking the time to build this project and hoping that it’ll pay you back with fresh eggs and chicken meat. Using substandard materials will only result in spending more money on new materials, quality materials this time. Don’t waste your time and money, just do it right the first time and you’ll have a happy and healthy flock and a maintenance-free structure.

Plan for the poop

The area under the roost is the area that will see the most chicken droppings. That makes planning to clean your coop easy. There are lots of strategies you can use to make your coop easy to clean.

  • Place a strip of linoleum underneath the roost to catch most of the droppings. You can easily lift this piece and hose it off.
  • Place litter boxes under the roost.
  • Create a hole in the floor with wire mesh over the top of it so the droppings can fall through.
  • Build a tray underneath the roost that you can pull out and rinse off.

If you skip this step, you’ll quickly see why it’s something that most builders wish they had done in the first place. Keeping your coop clean is important for the health of your flock. It’s also important for you, the flock keeper, to make this chore easier to keep up with.

Don’t let the fox in the henhouse

The coop is not just for keeping your chickens in, it’s for keeping predators out. A fox, a coyote, a raccoon, and lots of other critters are all too happy to dig a few inches underneath your chicken wire to get to a plump chicken dinner.

This means that you need to build your chicken run with a fence that protects the birds. Bury the fencing one to two feet underground around the whole perimeter of the coop. Take this step and you won’t show up one morning expecting to see happy chickens and find an empty coop instead.

Eggs over easy

The nest boxes are where your chickens will lay their eggs almost daily. That means every day you must collect these eggs to preserve them while they’re fresh. Do you want to crawl into your coop on your hands and knees? Picture yourself trying to get yourself and half a dozen eggs out of the coop without breaking them or ending up with a hand full of chicken poop.

Consider a way to access your nest box from the outside coop. Some nest boxes are mounted on the outside and some simply have a little hatch where the egg farmer can reach in from the outside to collect the eggs.

Keeping chickens is a terrific way to make sure you are getting fresh, humane eggs and maybe even chicken meat. Building your coop should be a fun job, but before you tackle such a big project, consider using some of these tips to make sure your coop is a safe place for your birds and easy to maintain.

Published by Dave Malcolm

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