Building a chicken coop doesn’t have to be a daunting task. With a little thought and planning, you can create a coop starting from one basic, simple design and use your imagination to add your own special flair.
Before you begin, there are a few things you need to consider. First, how much space do you need. At its most basic, you need a space for nesting and roosting that is comfortable and safe. Overall, the inside of the coop should have at least 3 square feet per chicken (more if you plan on keeping them confined during cold weather). The nesting area should have at least 1 square foot for every 4 or 5 hens and the roosting area should allow 6 to 10 inches per bird. Nests and roosts should be elevated 2 to 3 feet off the ground to keep the chickens cozy during wet weather and improve airflow which will help prevent disease. You may also choose to confine the chickens to a run attached to the coop rather than letting them roam freely. The run should have at least 4 square feet per chicken, although more room is generally better.
You should also consider whether you want the coop to be stationary or mobile. A mobile coop allows you to provide fresh foraging for the chickens and fertilizes different parts of your yard. The coop can be built on a wagon to roll from spot to spot, or be built in a way that is easy and quick to take apart and reassemble.
A basic, versatile design is a 4 foot by 6 foot coop with a separate area that holds the nest boxes and is easy to access from the outside with two sets of double doors. This design can house up to 12 chickens, but can be adjusted for fewer or more birds as needed. The coop sits on stilts with a ramp to the ground to give a shady area for the birds underneath and allow for good airflow to prevent disease. Another simple and mobile design is a chicken tractor which is basically a short fenced-in box. It is very simple to make with 2 x 2 s as the frame and chicken wire and can be attached to other coop designs to serve as a chicken run.
With these basics in mind, you can have some fun and adapt the design to best meet your needs. For example, if you raise the coop to the proper height, you can make the walls of the run tall enough so that you can use a standard size screen door from your local home supply store. This will also make it easier to get in for cleaning and feeding.
You can also reuse and recycle a variety of materials. Consider using old kitchen cabinets to frame the coop or mount them inside the coop and use the shelves as nesting areas. Old baskets or vintage wooden boxes can also be mounted inside for nesting boxes. Curtain rods make nice roosting bars, particularly heavy duty, round rods for drapes. If they have designs on the ends, so much the better. Even a chicken coop can have a little flair. If you want to extend the laying season, you can provide warm lighting inside the coop to make the chickens think the days are longer. This can be from a utilitarian bare light bulb or you can spruce things up with a salvaged, spectacular light fixture.
With a little effort and imagination you will have a solid coop that will keep your chickens safe and healthy and express a little of your personality at the same time.