How to Build a Safe Chicken Coop

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Chicken coops vary with the life stage at which you start raising chickens (eggs, chicks or full-grown), the breed, and whether you want to raise free-range chickens or keep them in a barn. Coops can be simple or complex, constructed with materials salvaged from a dump, utilize an existing building, or are built from scratch with all new materials. However, no matter the kind of coop, certain design elements will remain the same.

Things You'll Need

  • Large Sticks
  • two-by-four studs
  • Plywood sheathing
  • 3/4 inch exterior plywood
  • Hinges
  • Nails or screws
  • Insulation
  • Windows
  • Planks
  • Concrete
  • Roofing shingles or corrugated metal roofing panels
  • Heavy wire fencing
  • Fencing staples
  • Mesh wire or netting
  • Locks
  • Water and food containers
  • Lights
  • (see reference #3)
  • Check local zoning ordinances and neighborhood association rules to make sure you can legally build a stationary chicken coop. Portable chicken coops may be exempt from zoning ordinances, but it's best to check with your local building inspector before building either type of coop.

  • Allow 4 square feet of space per bird inside the coop and 10 square feet per bird in the run, depending on the breed. Your birds will get sick if too crowded.

  • Use vertical two-by-four studs to construct the frame. Attach planks or plywood sheathing on the outside. Depending on your climate, the walls might need to be insulated.

  • Make two doors. The chicken hatchway door should be hinged on the bottom so it’ll form a ramp when it opens, allowing the chickens a way to get outside. The other door will be your entry into the chicken coop. Make it from 3/4 inch exterior plywood. The large door should open inward.

  • Install locks on doors, to keep chickens safe. Many predators, especially raccoons, are very intelligent when it comes to breaking into a chicken coop.

  • Install windows on the south side of the coop, away from prevailing winds, to provide good ventilation for your birds.

  • Construct floors from dirt, wood or concrete. Dirt is cheap but can turn into mud and harbor bacteria. In addition, it can make it hard to clean up the manure. Wood will eventually rot, but, if you decide to use it, it should be 1 or 2 inches thick and should not be treated with chemicals. You will need joists underneath the planks to provide support. Concrete is easy to clean and helps keep predators out, but it’s the most expensive to install and requires the most work.

  • Build nesting boxes in an area separate from nonlaying hens, one box for every four birds. Build a slanted roof over each box for privacy. A slanted roof will help prevent manure from building up.

  • Utilize old stepladders for roosts or lay large sticks across the coop. Chickens like to sleep on roosts.

  • Install heavy, tight wire fencing around the coop to keep your chickens safe from predators, and bury your fence at least 12 inches into the ground to keep predators from digging under it. Consider using an electric fence for added protection.

  • Cover runs with mesh wire or netting to keep chickens safe from hawks and other predatory birds.

  • Install water and food containers no lower than the bird’s back to avoid the birds defecating in them. Do not install water and food containers underneath roosts.

  • Install lights inside the coop. Hens need 15 hours of daylight for maximum egg production. If they don’t get enough light, they will stop laying.

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References

  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images
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