Don’t worry. I was in your place too and soon enough I ended up building 4 chicken coops before I had to scrap 3 of them and build a bigger coop because I just couldn’t fit any more chickens in the same coop.
A couple weeks ago my aunt wanted to build one as well and she was stressed out about it.
“What if the chickens don’t like the chicken coop?” She said.
And that’s the best part about it.
Chickens don’t care how the coop looks. Whether or not the corners are square or if they have enough different rooms to walk into. Because they aren’t doing any cardio.
So if you’re thinking about those things, don’t worry about it. As long as the coop is big enough for them to walk around and have a good time, they will like it.
I think the biggest obstacle for people to build their first coop is they start overthinking about these things.
Instead of doing that, I recommend you relax and give yourself the chance to make mistakes on the first coop you will build. Because that is inevitable. You won’t build the perfect coop on your first attempt.
But all the mistakes you make on the first one, you will be able to avoid on the 2nd one and so on. And by the time you reach your 3rd or 4th coop, you will have almost mastered this.
Now that we know what to expect from ourselves, let’s jump into what your coop is supposed to provide for your chicken.
Things Your Chicken Coop Should Provide to the Chickens
Just like every other project, before you start building out this coop, you need to make sure that you have proper expectations about what result you are looking for.
Here’s what your coop should provide for your chickens:
Importance of Location For Proper Drainage And Easy Cleaning
You always want to make sure that you’re not breaking any zoning laws by putting up a coop in your backyard. If you live in an urban setting, this will become much more of a headache than it’s worth. So make sure you do your research before deciding whether or not you’d like to move forward with it.
Some municipalities do not allow for chicken coops in their town or village. And if they do, there is a limit on how many chickens one can have on their property. There are also rules about WHERE you can place your coop on your property.
Look for things like the space between your coop and your neighbors’ fence for reference to how far your coop has to be.
Again, these rules are different for different cities and villages so make sure you do your research before you move forward.
If your city/village does allow you to have chickens on your property, you now want to make sure that you choose the right location for your coop. These are some important factors you should keep in mind when choosing where to place your coop:
Now that you know where you are going to place your coop, you want to make sure that it also has enough ventilation. The main thing we are looking for here is that the coop should have enough ventilation so that the warm air is able to escape and cooler air is able to get into the coop.
Similar thing for winter – it should allow the warm air to come while letting the moist and stale air escape.
The reason why I say this is that if moisture is not able to escape from the coop, it will cause heaps of issues.
To avoid this project becoming a headache for you, make sure that your coop has enough air flow because ventilation will allow the moisture to escape. And the lower the moisture is, the less problems you will have.
Also, if there’s less moisture, there will be less smell coming from the coop. With more moisture comes more smell and after a certain point it turns into an unbearable stench. We don’t want that.
Where Should I Put the Vent? And How Will I Access the Coop?
Good question. You should think of the coop similar to how you’d think of a house. Usually vents are placed up near the ceiling wall well above the heads. So that’s where the vents should be for the coops as well.
In regards to how big the vent should, if you live in a warmer area, you should try to get as big of a vent as possible. Because we want to maintain an ambient temperature inside the coop. And if the temperature goes high enough the chickens will start to get stressed which will start to cause another set of problems.
And if you live in a colder climate, a good rule of thumb is for every 10sq.ft of floor space you should have 1sq.ft of vent.
Now let’s talk about the access door for the chickens.
This will be done via a ‘pop’ door. The idea is to just cut a hole in the coop that is about 14 inches wide and 12 inches tall. This will allow at least 2 chickens to pass through. The reason why we want to have enough space for 2 chickens to pass is usually you’ll see that one chicken will like to sit in the doorway.
So if there’s enough room for a 2nd chicken to pass through that chicken won’t block the whole doorway.
And for your access to the coop, you will be building a regular sized door because we don’t want to hit our head on the roof each time we enter or exit the coop. So make sure you are designing the door based on how tall you are.
How Big Should This Coop Be?
Well, that depends on how many chickens you are planning to keep in that coop. And it also matters on what type of chickens you are going to get. If you are going to get extra-large chickens like the Jersey Giants, then you will need to have a larger than normal coop.
Ideally, you want to have at least 3sq.ft of area per chicken but if you are able to build a bigger coop then go for it.
You also have to do the ‘chicken math’ which basically is that once you have built your first coop, you will be getting more chickens.
So take that into account as well when building your first coop. You might get more enthusiastic about it and get more chickens.
The main reason why I recommend you build a bigger coop is because during winter season, if your birds don’t have enough space, they will start plucking at each other and it quickly turns into a bad situation. So it really is better for the well-being of your chickens to have enough space.
My suggestion is to have a run area for your birds. That will give them enough space to run around and have a jolly time even during winter months. But it all depends on how much space you have available and whether you’d like to keep them in close confinement for most of the time.
If you’d like to do the latter, make sure there is more than enough space for your chickens to move around even in the confinement setting.
In terms of your access to the coop, I know I mentioned in my previous point that you should build a door for yourself. But you can also just have the ‘pop’ door for your chickens and have nothing else. I personally like to have a door and build a big enough coop so that I can enter it because I don’t like leaning over the coop everyday to see what’s going on.
Plus my back might start hurting if I keep doing that everyday.
Why You Should Build Your Own Coop
There are plenty of reasons why you should build your own coop. That’s a whole another article in itself. But the main reasons why you should do it is that it will be a good learning curve for you to understand what your chickens really need to have a good time. And you will also save a lot of money by just using the materials that are available to you for free like wooden pallets, etc.
Businesses try to get rid of these things all the time. So you can just ask around about these pallets and see if you can find any.
If you opt for a ready made coop, you’ll be spending upwards of $200-500 per coop depending on how many chickens you have or plan to have (remember the ‘chicken math’ I talked about).
And since we are just getting started with this project, we want to keep the costs as low as possible.
Another good thing about building your own coop is that you can build it exactly how YOU want it to be.
Most ready made coops are built based on specifications that are already decided. And if you want to make changes to them, then you’ll basically be rebuilding the coop.
So why not build the whole thing yourself from scratch. This way, you’ll know exactly what your plans are and you can customize the coop to your needs.
Btw, I noticed that most websites recommend you should use chicken wire to cover the windows of your coop. And that is a good recommendation but that will only keep the chickens in. It won’t keep the predators out.
To keep the predators away, you’ll need to use hardware mesh that is ½ inch. Use this for all the windows and vents.
Also, I know most people would like to use a mesh thicker the ½ inch because they think if it’s bigger it will be more effective. That’s incorrect.
If you use a thicker mesh you will end up inviting smaller predators like critters to your birds. So stick with the ½ inch mesh and you should be fine.
Furniture To Have Inside the Coop
The good thing about chickens is that they are not humans. So you don’t need to install a WiFi connection or have a TV in there. Or else it would be way too expensive to have these birds. Who knows, some of us might be more enthusiastic about them and we would end up seeing these chickens have better WiFi and TV than us humans.
But that probably won’t happen unless you are the mad scientist from the Despicable Me movies. Then you might be able to teach these chickens how to be super soldiers and go on covert missions.
Anyway, you should include these things inside the coop so your chickens are well taken care of:
A roosting perch is basically an area where the chickens go to sleep. Think of this as their bed. During winter months they will snuggle together on this perch and when summer rolls around they will spread out a bit so they have cold air pass through.
You want to make sure that there is at least 9-12 inches of space per bird.
The height of this thing should be 17-24 inches but not more than that because if your chickens end up being heavier then they might injure their legs when they jump down from it.
Where to install this perch is the tricky part because birds drop 70% of their deuce at night. So you’ll have to plan this one carefully to avoid having them hanging out in their own poop for too long because that’s a recipe for infections.
I recommend have a poop board so you can easily collect and remove those poop mountains everyday.
By bathtubs I mean dust baths. Remember, they are not humans (thank god!).
This is more of a suggestion rather than a requirement. It depends on how you build your coop. if you plan on keeping your chickens in confinement for most of the time, then having a dust bath is necessary. These birds will be living so close to each other that they are bound to contract parasites from each other.
So to avoid that, or at least reduce the chance of that happening, you can install a dust bath so they can take their daily baths to control the oils on their bodies and also avoid contracting any external parasites.
It’s pretty easy to build a dust bath. All you need is some dirt or sand that’s it. You can even use a mixture of both of those things and put it in.
You should however make sure that the dust bath if not too close to the roost and feed areas of the coop because if it is, then the chickens will poop in the dust bath as well which is not something we want.
These are like private rooms for your chickens when they are laying eggs. Hens do like to have some privacy when they are laying eggs.
So you want to build 1 nesting box per 3-4 hens. And make sure that these are in the darkest areas of your coop. The funny thing about nesting boxes is that even though they all might be the same, these hens will have a favorite one and all of them will try to use that one.
Also, if you have bigger hens, then make sure your nesting boxes are accommodating for them as well.
These boxes should be 12 inches off the floor.
At the end of the day it is all about having the best coop for your hens. It has to be comfortable for them to lay eggs for you. If they are facing issues like parasites, too much moisture or heat, then it will be more of a headache than a fun hobby for you.
That’s the main reason why I wanted to write this article so you have a clear picture in mind of what to remember when building your first coop.
Make sure you the coop is easy for you to clean and that it has enough space for your birds to roam around a bit.
And remember, all you need to do is take action that’s all. Allow yourself to make mistakes and improve upon them. That’s the only way to perfect yourself and get better.
By the way, if you are interested in a more in-depth step-by-step DIY plan to build a chicken coop, click the button below.
We like to keep it simple. For every chicken you have in your coop, you should allocate 3 square feet per chicken. So if you have 6 chickens, your coop should be at least 18 square feet.
Based on the 3 square feet per chicken measurement I mentioned in the question above, in a 4×8 coop you should have 10-11 chicken at most. Ideally you should only have 8-10 chickens because that will give them more room to move around.
There are some websites that advertise that you can have 15-20 chickens in a 4×8 coop. We advise against that because if the chickens feel crammed into a small space, they will be stressed out.
Especially during summer when they will need more ventilation but because of so many chickens in one coop they won’t be able to feel the cooler air come in.
Based on the 3 square feet per chicken, your coop should be about 60 square feet in total. And if you are planning on having an outside run for them, then you should add an extra 7 to 10 square feet of space per chicken on there as well.
If you have an outside run for your chicken, then you can keep up to 25 chicken in a 10×10 coop. But if you don’t have an outside run, then you should consider keeping around 15-20 chickens in a 10×10 coop. This is to make sure that all the chickens that you keep in there are healthy.
Generally, it is a good idea to elevate a chicken coop off the ground by at least 1 foot to avoid having rats and mice from nesting in your coop. It also helps with overall air circulation around the coop which will help keep less moisture inside the coop. Not only that, if you live in a flood-prone area, this elevation will help with that as well.
Most people think that they need to clean out the coop every week. You don’t need to do that. Chicken droppings have beneficial microbes that function as an antibiotic for them. So if you are cleaning out your coop once or twice a year, that should be more than enough.
Based on the 3 square feet per chicken, you can keep between 35 to 40 chickens. If you don’t have an outside run for them, then you should consider only keeping 30-35 chickens.
There are a lot of things you can do to keep your chickens warm during winter. Here’s some of them:
- Protect them against frostbite
- Make sure the coop is well ventilated
- If there is no sunroom, make sure you make one for them so they can get their daily sunlight
- Trap the heat coming from the sunlight
For 20 chickens, we recommend having at least 5 nesting boxes.