The Chicken Coop - a tour of the necessities plus some inspiration
Posted on 27 Mar 16:16 | By Alycia Lang | 9 comments
Spring chicks are in but have you considered where your ladies will live once they're fully feathered? We explore the essential elements of a chicken coop and run and explain why each is necessary and then we show some inspirational examples of beautiful coops that others have made.
Please join FARMcurious in welcoming Lisa Gasink, our fabulous new intern and this week's guest blogger. This post is all about building a coop but you can follow Lisa as she goes through all the steps to owning chickens - from research, to building a coop from recycled wood, to finding chicks - at her blog caliperks.blogspot.com.
So you want to have chickens. Me too! I embarked upon this adventure at the beginning of February, researching in the evenings after work, on the weekends, any free time I had. I wanted to be as knowledgeable as possible before really jumping in to owning chickens, and especially before planning our coop and run.
My fiance Erik, originally reluctant, was eventually won over by my overwhelming enthusiasm for the project. I'm sure you're nodding. If I've learned one thing, it seems in most cases that one person is more enthusiastic while the other needs a little convincing.
Anyway, we live on the peninsula and our town only allows three hens but I want them to have a good life. Oddly, I had a hard time finding a singular place that listed all the needs of chickens and what purpose each part actuallyserved and since we're building our coop ourselves I decided to compile it all into one blog post.
Let's take a quick moment to review what chickens need to live happy lives in backyards. Then we'll move on to some really interesting coop designs by a local team in Oakland.
You should know this one. This is the structure where the chickens will be secured at night so they are out of harm's way from some of our huge neighborhood raccoons, feral cats, and any other animal that might think a chicken would be a tasty late-night snack.
An enclosed run
This is essentially a pen - enclosed on all sides in chicken wire, hardware cloth, or whatever product will protect the chickens from predators in the area. Be advised that, if you are like us and have large raccoons in your neighborhood, classic chicken wire may not be strong enough. Check out your local hardware store or pet & feed supply and talk to other chicken owners in your area.
The run can be full human height, they can be a few feet tall, whatever works for your chickens, you and your overall design. Erik and I are planning to use hardware cloth (basically galvanized wire that's in a 1/2" x 1/2" grid formation) because of the aforementioned huge raccoons in our 'hood. We'll build a 6' tall run to make cleaning easier and to allow our girls to spread their wings to get up to an outdoor roost. Our hens will be given access to the run all day while we're at work.
Square footage per hen
This varies greatly depending on who you ask: anywhere from 2 to 4 sq ft inside the coop and for the run anywhere between 8 and 15 sq ft. Erik and I will build a coop that provides each hen with ~4 sq ft of space inside, and 8 sq ft in the run. Our hens will also be allowed to wander around our big backyard (which is fully fenced) in the evenings before sundown and on the weekends when we're home. They'll eat our weeds, snack on some grass, hunt for snails, worms, etc.
This is where they'll lay their eggs. The general recommendation is one nesting box per 3-4 hens. We'll have 3 hens, per the city's ordinances, but we are going to build two nesting boxes. (Explanation: if we ever expand our flock, building two nesting boxes now, when we're building the whole coop, would be easier than trying to retrofit a second nesting box down the road.)
The nesting box should be at least 1 cubic foot, which is about the size we will build. It's recommended to have an exterior door to access the nesting boxes so one can collect eggs with minimal disruption to the ladies.
RoostsIn the wild, chickens fly up into trees to sleep for the night. Roosts are essentially a branch inside the coop and, if so inclined, in the run. They are typically made out of 2"x2", 2"x3" or 2"x4", or actual branches from trees. Apparently wooden dowels are too smooth for chicken feet to get good purchase. We'll have one or two roosts inside the coop and one or two outside in the run - I found 2"x2" at the salvage warehouse, so we'll use that!
This is a little 1'x1' door that goes from the coop directly into the run. We'll have one!
Chickens are messy and poop a lot, so I've heard. In order for their environments to stay dry and free of disease, their spaces need a lot of ventilation. We'll have a lot of ventilation at the top of the coop near the roof and the pop door will be open every day while the girls are out in the run.
For humans easy access to clean the coop and run
Erik and I have designed two big doors in the front of our coop to allow for easy access to all parts of the coop for cleaning and upkeep as well as easy access to the girls, in case there's any issue. And again, why we're building a tall run - easy to get in and rake it clean, etc.