The Chicken Coop At Cobble Hill Farm





Hattie loves to welcome visitors

Whether you are planning on building or renovating a coop, there are a number of things to think about - both for you as well as the chickens.  You can also read my "Chicken Coop 101: 13 Lessons Learned While Building Our Coop" post which speaks a bit about the different aspects of a coop.

Here's a bit about our coop, what we did, and how we decided on the design.

We did not use plans to construct our coop.  That answers the number one question we get asked.  We would be happy to share the plans, had we used them, but unfortunately we did not.  Instead, I was thumbing through an outdoor buildings book at a bookstore, pointed to a similar-style shed and said to my husband, "I want something like this".  And he built it.  He's good like that.

Of course, that's a simplified version of events.....I did point to a shed, he did say "ok", but we had further discussion about entrances, exits, roosts, nesting boxes, food, water, etc.  We also wanted an outdoor area that the chickens would be penned in during the day.  Our chickens are allowed to free range only when we're home.  The reason, is that we do have a few neighbors with both outdoor cats and/or unleashed dogs - something that could certainly prey on unsuspecting chickens.  Because of this, we've provided them with 2 outdoor runs - 1 covered with metal roofing and the other covered with re-purposed fruit tree netting {keeps chickens in and wild birds out}.


Here are the specs of our coop:

  • Size = 8'x10'
  • Height = 8'
  • Floor = plywood
  • Floor, Ceiling and doors are insulated
  • 4 Windows provide adequate light and ventilation 
  • Electricity has been run to the coop for lighting, heaters, and heated waterer
  • Litter = deep-litter method {kind of - see note below}
  • 6 Nesting Boxes & Roosts
  • 3 Waterers {1 inside, 2 outside}, 2 Feeders
  • Doors = 1 main door that opens out with a screen door that opens in; 1 chicken door that opens out
  • 2 Outdoor Runs
The specs in more detail:



Size
The standard space requirement is 3 feet per chicken.  The size of our coop is larger than needed for our flock for a few reason:
  1. We wanted an outbuilding that could be multipurpose in case the next homeowners don't want chickens.
  2. We wanted it comfortable for the people as well as the chickens.
  3. I believe in the theory that you should always go a bit bigger than you think you need because your flock may increase.......chickens can be addicting!
If you're building your coop and aren't sure what size to go with I highly recommend a little exercise we did which helped put things into perspective.  We went to the local home improvement store and stood in each of their different size sheds determining where nesting boxes, roosts and feeders/waterers would go.  This helped us see exactly how much room we would have.

Also, remember that you need only enough space for roosting/laying if your flock will be free-range all the time.

Things we would change:  nothing.  We love it.

Height
Our coop is much taller than needed.  We chose the height, also for a few specific reasons:
  1. To give space for insulation.
  2. To be able to comfortably walk around the coop.
  3. To build a storage space in half the ceiling height for extra feeders, waterers, straw, etc. {see comment below}
The last point seemed like a great idea, on paper, however we no longer use that space.  You may recall we had a mite outbreak a couple of years ago when the high humidity went on for weeks.  Because the mites infested EVERYTHING, all items that couldn't be thoroughly cleaned had to be thrown away.  It was awful.  We've never had another mite outbreak but because of the one we did have, as well as the next point, we removed the storage area.

The second issue with the storage area was the chickens thought is was the coolest hiding spot ever!  And because of that, everything was covered in poop.

The only downfall with a taller coop is that during the winter it's more difficult for it to remain warm from the chickens' body heat alone.

Things we would change:  we would make it maybe 1 foot shorter but other than that we are very happy with it.  We have since torn down the overhead storage space so that's no longer an issue.

Floor
We chose plywood although concrete, dirt or linoleum could also work.  We find that plywood works well with the deep litter method so that during our twice a year big cleanings, it's not too hard to scrape poop from the floor.

Things we would change:  Nothing.

Insulation
We were driving to the commissary one day and lo and behold someone had a big pile of brand new insulation in their front yard for sale.  It was a great deal so we purchased it, and that's what we used to insulate the coop.

Things we would change:  nothing.  We would definitely continue to insulate any future coops both to help cool the coop in summer and retain heat in winter.






Windows
We have 2 large windows on the front of the coop, and 2 small windows, 1 on each the north and south ends of the coop.  The front windows are situated above the nesting boxes to help them retain some darkness.  One smaller window is placed at eye level for cross-ventilation, and the other is placed near the peak of the roof for winter ventilation.  Because it's up so high the flock doesn't feel the draft.

All the windows we used are re-purposed.  There was a stack of them in the barn when we purchased the house.  We just knew they would come in handy someday!  My husband attached hinges to the tops of the windows and then a cord to pull the window open as little or as much as we want.  We use a cleat for the cording so the window stays open.  A barrel-lock was added to each window to ensure they close tightly.

The window openings are covered with hardware cloth to keep wild critters out and Coop Girls in.  The hardware cloth is attached to the outer part of the window and the windows open in.

Things we would change:  nothing.


Electricity
We chose to run electricity to the coop for 3 reasons:

  1. So we would have a light in the dark of winter.  Since it gets dark so early and we like to do a headcount every night, we prefer the lightbulb to a flashlight for this task.
  2. To run flat panel heaters in the winter and a box fan in the summer.  Let me make it perfectly clear that heaters are not a necessity in any climate.  When I talk about them it tends to get a few up in arms over the fact that we use them.  We choose to add them for use on negative degree days/nights mostly because we have a higher ceiling, and it doesn't stay as warm in the coop as we would like it to. The heaters are on a thermostatic outlet so we can control the temp - it doesn't get above 20 degrees.
  3. To keep the water from freezing.  Rather than trying to make sure all day long that the water is not frozen, we chose to install a heater that sits under the waterer.  It warms it just enough to prevent freezing.  We did not think through the placement of the waterer when placing the small door that opens to the outdoor run and they are directly across from each other which means the cool draft goes right to the waterer in winter.  Regardless, it would likely freeze throughout the cold winters we have here.

Things we would change;  nothing.


Litter
We kind of use a deep-litter method.  When I say "kind of" I mean we use a deep-litter method, as much as our flooring allows, but we do a light scooping every morning.  It's just our preference.  If you choose to use a true deep-litter method, keep this in mind when building the floor/door so you have enough space to add litter a few inches deep as needed.

We use wood shavings on the floor and straw in the nesting boxes.  We've never had an issue.  We like that the wood shavings are easy to scoop, making it a great choice for the floors.  We also like the straw for the boxes because it tends to stay in there when the girls are moving it all around before laying an egg.

Things we would change:  nothing.




Nesting Boxes/Roost Space
Our nesting boxes go along the entire left side wall when you enter the coop {8 feet}.  As mentioned in the "windows" section above, they are placed right below the windows to help keep them darker.

The average size for a nesting box is 12x12x12 although ours are a bit bigger.  The number of nesting boxes needed is about 1 for every 4-5 chickens.  For more detail on nesting boxes, you can read this post that I wrote.

We built a little walkway in front of them which the girls pace up and down as they decide which box to lay in that day.  Some days you see 3 or 4 of them lined up on the walkway waiting their turn for the days favorite box.  Even though all the others are not in use.  Those of you who have chickens, I'm sure you're nodding your head at that one.  It's the funniest thing to watch.

The box roof is slanted to deter chickens from hanging out and pooping on the roof.  You may also notice a few other things in the photo above:  The rake hanging above the boxes is our poop-scooping rake.  It works great!  The door to the outdoor run is placed below the nesting boxes {you can see Sam coming into the coop}.  And the white on the walls is diatomaceous earth to keep our coop mite-free!

We have roosts that run along the back wall of the coop and then partly along the wall parallel to the nesting boxes {you can see the start of it in the photo above on the right}.  This, along with 2 shelves {because they love shelves}, gives them plenty of space to sleep.

Things we would change:  nothing.




Waterers/Feeders
We have 2 feeders and 1 waterer indoors and 2 additional waterers outdoors.  The reason for multiple of each is because chickens can be cruel.  They can try and prevent those lower in the pecking order from eating and/or drinking.  Because of this, if you make more than 1 available, they will have an opportunity to get to it.

The indoor feeders are on stands Jay made with a lip that holds them in place.  This makes it super easy for removing them and filling them.  Keeping feeders up off the ground means less waste as a chickens natural instinct is to scratch while they eat and they will scratch the food dish if it's sitting on the floor.  Food goes everywhere.

The waterer is on a short stand throughout most of the year and in winter a heater is added {as shown in the photo above} for light heat to keep it from freezing.  The 2 outdoor waterers hang from strings from the roof framing.  This keeps them off of the floor so they don't get filled with dirt and muck.

If yours won't be free ranging at all, you may also need to have grit available.  Additionally, for layers oyster shell may also be needed.  We have a little shelf that keeps the feeders of off the ground that we use, as needed, to offer one or both of these to the flock.

Things we would change:  as noted above in "electricity", the indoor waterer is in direct line of the small door to the outdoor run which means cold breezes in winter go right to it.  We would probably move it although the water would still freeze, just not as often/quickly.





Doors
We have 1 large door for the coop that also has a screen door.  There is also one small door for the chickens to go from the coop to the outdoor run and then a small door and a large door from one outdoor run to the other.

The coop doors were set up so the door opens out and the screen door opens in.  We did this because it makes it so much easier when having the door open in Spring through Fall.  The small door to the outdoor run opens out, also set up specifically for ease of use.  This way we don't have to wade through the chickens in the morning to open the door to the run.  I can set up their goodies for the day, get them fresh water, etc. and then open it up to the rush of girls who have been patiently waiting.

We lock all doors at night to keep them safe from predators.  The lower door has 2 types of lock on it so if a predator can open one type of lock they likely won't be able to open the second type of lock.

Initially we were going to make them a chicken tractor to go out on the property in.  We have never built in, instead, letting them run free when we're home.  The reason I bring this up is we put a door on the outdoor run specifically to put a chicken tractor up to that the girls would go in on their own {shown in the second photo above}.  We, however, had it open the wrong way.  It opens out and should, instead, open in so you can pull the chicken tractor up, then open the door.  It's a non-issue since we've never used it for that, but something to think about if it's an option for you.

Things we would change:  nothing {see note about chicken tractor door though}.




Outdoor Run - Covered
This is the run we first built and just last year added an uncovered run so they could get more sun if desired.  We wanted a covered run for a few reasons:

  1. On rainy or snowy days it can be used.
  2. It shields them from direct sun on really hot days.
  3. It keeps them safe from predators overhead {particularly the smaller chickens who can be carried off by hawks}.
The outdoor run has a roost, 2 waterers and is fully fenced in.  It works great and the girls love it.

Things we would change:  because of the wire we wrapped the outdoor space in, when we have younger chicks they can get through so we use a netting across the fencing on the lower part.  We would probably have used a different fencing with smaller holes if we did it again.  If you never raise chicks - only pullets, this is a non-issue.  If you have predators that may enter during the day or you don't lock your coop up at night, I would choose a different fencing, again, with smaller holes that they can't fit through.






Outdoor Run - Uncovered
We added this so the girls would have more space when locked up during the day.  We added a netting overhead to keep them safe from flying predators as well as to keep naughty escapee bantams in the coop.  The netting is re-purposed fruit tree netting that we put overhead using string my husband had laying around {that he knew would come in handy someday...} and screw eyes to hold it.  We put it up high enough that we can comfortably walk through the run.

We did not bury the fencing so we put rocks around the interior to keep more naughty chickens from digging their way out {yes, they do that}.  With the rocks in place the digging on the edge has stopped.

Things we would change:  nothing.  Again, as with the run above, if you're worried about predators you may change the fencing and sink it down a couple of feet.


All-in-all, we adore our coop and tried very hard to think it through both from a chickens perspective as well as a comfort for ourselves.  Their feed is stored in the garden shed which is located directly across from the coop {shown in photo above}.  The only thing I would possibly add is an outdoor storage area like the one I had Jay add to my garden shed where I would store their feed.

The other things to consider are a sick bird area and an area for chicks to grow.  We have a removable wall we use in this coop where we can partition off sick birds, as long as it's not upper respiratory issues.  Unfortunately, if it's upper respiratory, they can't be around the others, so they come in to the house {and boy do they love the pellet stove warmth in the winter!}.  For chicks, it's to keep them safe but also to keep them from eating layer feed too early on.  You don't want an excess of calcium to build up in their little bodies.

I hope this was helpful!



Additional Chicken-Keeping Posts:When Will My Chickens Start Laying?
Supplementing A Chicken's Diet
Chicken Water
Chicken Coop 101:  13 Lessons We Learned Building Our Coop
All You Need To Know About Chicken Roosts
All You Need To Know About Nesting Boxes

5 comments:

Nanna Chel said...

We are going to make a chicken coop very soon as we 'inherited' eight chickens. We don't get snow where we live here in Australia and I guess the hot weather would be more than an issue. Thanks for all the ideas as they will come in handy.

daisy g said...

OMGosh, you can't know how excited I was to see that you had posted this! What a comprehensive post on the subject. It sounds like it's workin' for you pretty well. Thanks for all of the great ideas. Pinned to my "Dream Life" board!

Liz said...

Thanks for posting this! We used a lot of your ideas for setting up our coop. Where do you get your wood shavings from? You must have a very happy coop of chickens!

Anna D said...

I always enjoy reading about other peoples coops. I'm planning to build a bigger coop and run so it's helpful to see what you would change if rebuilding. I know there are a few thing I would change, but it's serving it's purpose for now.

Audrey Sayle said...

Great article! We have only the uncovered chicken run which has become a terrible muddy bogg in all the rain and snow this winter. Covering it is an unlikely option, so I'm really curious about flooring: do people usually just use dirt? We inherited ours when we bought the house and it was originally river stones, but they've over time been dug up and have more ore less been lost in all the mud. I've heard river sand is a good option but not sure if that's only for covered runs??