Posted by Kathy Sproules, Tue, Feb 11, 2020
So, you want to have a flock of chickens in your backyard. They will need a place to live. That opens up an entire world of options. Do you build a custom coop or buy one that’s premade? What size do you need? What about nesting boxes, ventilation, insulation and location? Yes, there are a lot of possibilities.
First of all, you should know how many chickens you intend to keep. We started with eight and now have 11. Chickens need a minimum of two square feet of space in the hen house and four square feet of space in the run. The henhouse is the enclosed “house” in which your chickens will nest and roost at night as well as remain protected from the weather. The run is their protected outdoor space.
You can find some premade coops at your local farm store or even online. They come in all shapes, sizes and colors. If you want only a couple of chickens in your urban backyard then that might be the best option; however, pay attention to what type of chickens the premade coops are for. For example, some premade coops are more suitable for smaller bantam breeds and will not be comfortable for a large breed such as a Plymouth Rock.
We live out in the country and tend to overdo everything, so we decided to build our own. (I should say that I decided my husband would build me what I wanted.) We overdo most things that involve our precious animals. I did not want any critters burrowing under the wall of the coop and harming my girls, so I had a foundation poured for the henhouse and a foot wide around the run. Let’s just say it is thicker that the barn floor that has to support our tractor.
It was important for me to be able to stand up in the coop to do my feeding, watering, cleaning and collecting eggs. We have a full-size walk-through door and have installed two windows as well for light and ventilation. We bought the door and windows at our local building supply store.
The walls were premade in our big barn and hauled out to the location of the coop with the tractor. Lesson learned—just build them at the site! You shouldn’t worry about severe injury while building a coop. We made it without incident, but I was more than a little nervous during the transfer.
We secured the walls to the concrete floor with some impressive bolts. This coop isn’t going anywhere! We also put up the frame for the run, which was much less scary. We stapled chicken wire onto the frame of the run and then put trim pieces over the top to make it even more secure and, of course, look pretty! My husband made a door for the end of the run with scraps of wood and chicken wire.
Then came the insulation. We put R13 in the walls and then covered that up with plywood and paint (of course!). We put our own homemade trusses up and (with the help of a gracious neighbor) covered the roof with metal roofing. In the winter we put some hard foamboard insulation in the ceiling to keep the heat in. I do use a well-secured heat lamp up high in the henhouse during the very cold winter months here in the Midwest.
I purchased premade nesting boxes from our local farm store consisting of a metal frame with two rows of three boxes and roosts attached to the front that can fold up. This nesting box was very easy to hang and has worked very well for us. You do not need a nesting box for each hen; six is more than enough for our 11. We made a roost with a 2"x4" that runs the width of the coop. At first the girls didn’t like it and used only the roosts on the front of the nesting boxes, but now they spread out a little more and use all of them.
Our henhouse is 8'x8' and our run is 8'x12'. That is more than enough space for our 11 chickens. I use coarse sand for the base in the run and am delighted with it. After about two years I scoop it out, put it in the compost pile and add new sand. It has been a wonderful base as far as I am concerned. In the coop I use Manna Pro® Fresh Flakes™ bedding. The concrete floor in the coop makes it easy to clean. I cover the aisles in my garden with the used shavings. We try not to waste anything around here.
I found a cute small mailbox at a thrift store that sits by the girls’ “front door,” in which I keep a few tools such as a whisk broom and a pair of scissors. I have plans to add a window box filled with plants to add to the coop’s “curb appeal” at some point. The only thing I might have done differently would be to place the coop closer to the house. In the winter, when the hoses are put away, I carry water to the coop. That gets a little old on those really cold, windy days.
My best advice is to just have fun with it! Do what you want. Make it your own. Chickens are a very entertaining addition to your family. Ours make us laugh every day. They really do have personalities and deserve a safe home in which to live. After all, they provide us with not only food, but lots of laughs.
Best wishes for a happy flock,