Thinking about building your own chicken coop, but no idea where to start? I’m sharing all of the tips for building a chicken coop in this post.
Tips for building a chicken coop
When we first decided to get backyard chickens, Ben and I had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. Ben wanted to start with a modest 5 baby chicks, while I pushed for 15. I knew that my husband would immediately shoot down the idea of raising 15 chickens, but I hoped that we would meet in the middle. My plan somehow worked, and we placed our order for 10 baby chicks that evening. 10 chickens quickly became 20, and then I became a weird chicken lady.
Let’s get back to the idea of knowing nothing about raising backyard chickens. Neither Ben nor myself grew up on a farm, but we were motivated to live a more sustainable lifestyle by raising and growing as much of our own food as possible. If you have any interest in raising backyard chickens, but you’re feeling overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, then I understand. But here’s the thing – if you dream of collecting your own farm fresh eggs everyday, then just go for it. No matter how much (or little) experience you have raising chickens, these tips for building a chicken coop will get you started.
Larger than you need
First up on my list of tips to build a chicken coop? Built it larger than you think you need. Trust me – once you get chickens, you’ll probably want more chickens. To be perfectly honest, I’ve never met a person who hasn’t expanded their flock at least once. You WILL want more chickens, so just do yourself a favor and plan for it.
To be on the safe side, plan for double the amount of chickens that you start with. That might sound like one of my dramatic tips for building a chicken coop, but it’s not. (Remember how my 10 chickens became 20 within less than a year?) With the exception of a bit more cleaning and feed cost, caring for 5 chickens is about the same amount of work as caring for 20 chickens, so you might as well get more 😉
Space needed per bird
One of the most important tips for building a chicken coop is utilizing appropriate spacing. Generally speaking, the rule of thumb is that your chickens should have 2-3 feet per bird in the coop and a bare minimum of 8-10 feet per bird of outside space. These are general guidelines, and I strongly believe that your chickens should have more space than the minimum. (To put in in perspective, we give our girls over 200 sq. ft. of outdoor space per bird.) More space = happy hens, so give your chickens as much space as possible!
If you live within city limits, then your town may require you to keep your chickens within the confines of your coop or chicken run at all times. If your chickens will not have ample access to outdoor space, then be sure to have a very large run. At a minimum, your run should accommodate 8-10 ft per bird. But again, more space = happier hens, so build the largest run possible.
Basic coop necessities
Another one of the most important tips for building a chicken coop is to include all of the basic coop necessities. Below is a basic list:
- Appropriate size
- Waterer & feeder (we make our own waterer out of 5 gallon plastic bucket and chicken water nipples, but you can buy a waterer/feeder combo here
- Heated water bucket during cold weather
- Layer feed, grit, & treats
- Clean bedding (pine shavings)
- Nesting boxes (we just bought these nesting boxes!)
- Weather protection
- Coop door (our automatic coop door is sold out, but this one has great reviews)
Deep litter method
Chickens poop a lot. One of my most functional tips for building a chicken coop is using the deep litter method. This method drastically reduces the frequency of cleaning your coop, which ultimately saves you a ton it time. Plus, who wants to constantly clean chicken poop, anyway?
Here’s the basic run down on how to execute the deep litter method: Build the floor of the coop with sides, which allows you to keep adding a fresh layer of pine shavings over the dirty layer. You can go up to 6 months without fully cleaning out the coop with this method. (But to be honest, that sounds a bit excessive and gross in my opinion. We clean ours more frequently.)
Do you need a chicken run?
Last but not least in my tips for building a chicken coop is the big question- do you need a chicken run? Well, that depends on your chicken coop, pasture set up, city requirements, and personal preference. The chicken run functions to allow your birds an opportunity to still be outside while also easily accessing protection from harsh weather and/or predators.
Although we included a chicken run (built out of hardware cloth for predator protection) in our original chicken coop, this time around we skipped the chicken run. Since moving, Ben converted an old cattle feeder into a movable chicken coop. The bottom portion is raised from the ground and covered, so if our girls need shade and/or protection from predators, then they can easily access the safe space. We also have our coop and pasture fully enclosed with electric fencing for predator protection.
Moral of the story? Regardless of whether or not your coop requires a run, you absolutely need to give your chickens easy access to a space that will protect them against weather and predators. Often times, a chicken run is the easiest way to accomplish that goal, but it may not always be necessary.
Predator protection tips
And don’t forget! Any open space (chicken run, windows, doors, or any openings on your coop) absolutely need to be covered with hardware cloth for predator protection. Coyotes and other predators will easily rip through chicken wire.
If you’re planning to fence your chickens, then I highly recommend using electric fencing. We use the poultry netting from Premier1 for our goats and chickens, and we’ve had a wonderful experience with the fencing!
Looking for more chicken tips? Check out these posts