Tips for Designing a Successful Chicken Coop
When starting a chicken coop design construction project, the most important thing to remember is that prior planning is vital to your success. You can save hours of time, and also plenty of money, by planning with precision exactly what you want your coop design to be like, a large or small chicken coop, how many chickens you intend to keep in your coop, and what kind of chickens you intend to raise.
Keep in mind that the whole point of the chicken coop is to give your chickens a place to live. So don’t skimp on the planning stage or try to cut costs with cheaper materials. A well-constructed chicken coop is a key to having healthy happy chickens who will lay you lots of delicious eggs.
Here are a few guidelines for chicken coop building plans:
- Give your chickens enough space inside the coop, at least 3-4 square feet per chicken. Avoiding overcrowding is very important, as it will harm your chickens otherwise.
- Likewise, you’ll want to make sure your chickens have enough room outside their home. Somewhere between 8-10 square feet per chicken is a good idea for the chicken run.
- Make sure you include some way for you to get into the coop yourself. You will need to get in both to collect any eggs your chickens may lay and clean out the coop on a regular basis.
- You’ll need to make sure predators can’t get in. This usually means wire of some sort, as well as making sure the coop itself is constructed in a way that keeps unwanted visitors out.
Aside from these practical concerns, you’re free to design your coop in any way you please and to construct it from any materials you wish. Chickens are fairly easy to please, so much of what you decide to do with your coop will be for your own personal convenience. This is why building the coop tall enough for you to easily get in will be a help to you.
Just make sure that any materials you use in your chicken coop construction will stand the test of time, and that you also take into account your local climate. Those in warmer year-round climates may be able to use wire doors or walls, but if you live somewhere that’s cold and wet for part of the year, you want to make sure that you use solid walls and possibly even some insulation to stop your chickens from stressing when it’s cold.
Building the coop off the ground is also an excellent idea, as it will not only stop water from flooding the floor of your coop, but it will keep out snakes and weasels. To allow your chicken’s easy access, you can build a chicken door off the ground with a ramp leading up to it.
Once you’ve planned out everything to a full extent, then you can get started on constructing your coop. Don’t skimp on the materials, because the better quality ones you use, the more sturdy your coop will be. At the same time, don’t be afraid to re-use others’ discards. Local recycling centres can be great places to find cheap quality construction materials.
If you’ve planned out your chicken coop construction before you began, then the actual construction process should be fairly easy and fun. This is why having a good design is so important.
What is Chicken Ark?
A chicken ark is a particular kind of housing for chickens that is a bit different from a regular chicken coop. In the United States, this kind of housing is often referred to as a “chicken tractor” instead, but the building is the same thing. It’s just the name that’s different. Essentially, it is a portable chicken coop without a floor. This makes some things, like cleaning, much easier, because most chicken droppings will simply fall directly to the dirt.
The most common design for a chicken ark is an “A-frame,” which is kind of the same structure as a saw-horse. For this kind of ark, you attach two end-pieces with a long horizontal beam at the top. The end-pieces consist of two beams put together at roughly a 45-degree angle (or greater). These vertical beams are then connected to each other with a cross-piece, forming roughly the same shape as a capital A, hence the name “A-frame.”
Once you have the frame constructed, you can attach walls, chicken or similar wire, and nest boxes and a roost within the frame itself. Since there is no floor, and not a whole lot of heavy wood attached to the chicken ark, this type of house for your birds is usually more easy to move around your garden. You can attach wheels to it to make the process even easier. This type of design is not perfect, though, because the lack of floor makes it a bad choice for cold environments. If you live somewhere that gets extremely cold, you may wish to consider using a different kind of portable chicken coop instead, or your birds will get sick from the temperature.
A different design looks more like a wheel-barrow or hand-cart, with a more traditional coop on the end in place of the cart. This design is still very portable, and still, has wire walls at the bottom with no real floor on the coop part of the ark, but provides a little bit more protection from the heat. They are also heavier, though.
Another problem with using a chicken ark instead of a traditional coop to house your poultry is that they are not very predator-proof. Since the construction of the bottom part consists largely of wire mesh, your birds will not feel very safe if there are animals prowling about which want to eat them. The lack of a floor means that if any predators manage to get in through that wire, your chickens will be in dire straits indeed. Make sure you don’t have large numbers—or ideally any—natural predators of chickens if you construct an ark.
However, if predators and temperature are not big problems where you live, then a chicken ark may be the ideal solution if you plan on raising chickens. They are very easy to clean, and most designs come with detachable walls to make this even easier. They can also help to let your chickens range the yard without walking completely free, which while nice is not always an option. For instance, if you live in a suburban area but have a very large garden, this kind of housing is probably a much better bet than a larger coop and just letting your birds walk free, where they will probably get into your neighbours’ gardens as well.
Tips for Installing Roosts in your Chicken Coop
One important aspect that you absolutely do not want to leave out of your chicken coop designs, when you plan and build your coop, is a roost for your birds to sleep on. Chickens do not like to sleep on the floor of the coop or in the nesting boxes but instead prefer these roosts – raised platforms on which they can huddle together during the night.
This is because of how chickens act in the wild for safety purposes. A chicken’s brain is hardwired to view higher ground as safer ground. It means predators cannot get to them as easily. In the wild, chickens often sleep in tree branches or other similarly raised parts of the terrain. This behaviour is just as true in a contained environment like a chicken coop. After all, your birds don’t really know why they’re doing it. Just that it makes them feel safe.
With that in mind, it’s not surprising that chickens prefer to sleep in the highest place possible inside your chicken coop. Don’t build your nest boxes too high off the ground because that means your birds will sleep in them instead, which tends to make them much messier and harder to clean. Chickens naturally defecate during their sleep, which you don’t necessarily want happening where you’re collecting eggs! Because of this, it’s also important to make sure the roosts that you do build are at an equal level.
If you build a multi-leveled roost, your chickens will sometimes fight each other to get the highest spot, and even if they don’t, the birds on the lower levels will become quite dirty with chicken droppings during the night. A cross design, where your roosting bars intersect at right angles, can maximise space in your coop while solving the problem of fighting for the highest sleeping spot. Another way to prevent your birds from fighting over roosting space is to make sure there are about 9 or 10 inches of horizontal roosting space for each chicken. Less space than that is too crowded.
Regardless of how you choose to organise your roosts in your chicken coop, the construction method should be just about the same. You will want to use some sort of wood for the roosts themselves, although what exactly you use is up to you. Dowel rods work well, although you want to make sure they are thick enough to hold up the weight of all of your chickens. 2” x 2” planks or 2” x 4” planks also work wonderfully. If you use planks, though, you may wish to round out the edges, as this will make it easier for your birds to grip their roosting platforms while they sleep. Make sure that the wood itself is smooth, as well, or your birds will get splinters.
Something you can do to make cleaning your chicken coop easier is to put an easily cleanable surface area under your roosts. As already mentioned, chickens tend to defecate a lot during the night, so make sure you don’t put the roosts above somewhere that you want to keep extra clean, like your nesting areas. Some people put a sort of “litter box” under their nests which they can remove from the coop and clean weekly. The chicken droppings and the bedding material that you use can make a great mulch or compost!