Even though our raccoon
problem probably stemmed from lax management, the issue still
started us thinking about designing the perfect chicken coop.
Mark built both of our coops from odds and ends we had lying around,
which means the materials dictated the design. I highly recommend
that method for your first experiments, but after a while you start to
see flaws that could be corrected with a more carefully designed
coop. Here are some of the features I envision in an optimal
- Large door.
Especially if you’re using deep
bedding, it’s handy to have an ultra-wide door, at least large
enough for a wheelbarrow with weeds sticking out to fit through, and at
least seven feet tall so Mark won’t bump his head when the bedding is
deep. I think a barn-type door (two doors that hinge together)
would expedite bedding filling and cleanout even more, and a removable
lip might be handy to keep bedding from spilling out while still
allowing you to run a wheelbarrow all the way inside when bedding is
- External nest box.
It never really seemed worth our while to provide more than a milk
crate on the ground filled with straw for our girls to lay in.
But I suspect Mark (who collects the eggs) would be thrilled to have a
raised nest box with a flap opening to the outside so he wouldn’t have
to enter the coop to harvest the eggs. This arrangement might
also tempt our hens to go broody more, and would probably result in
cleaner eggs for incubation.
- Well-closing popholes.
The little openings that let chickens out into each pasture never quite
ended up getting solid doors in our coops. I tend to lean this
and that up against the unused popholes to block them off, but a
chicken can get through if she really wants to. If we were going
high-tech, we could put an automatic
chicken door on each pophole, but I don’t think that’s necessary
with our usually low predator pressure.
- Predator-proof construction.
This would probably entail a concrete footer, solid walls, then windows
around the upper edges (since ventilation is essential) screened with
hardware cloth. (It would be pretty funny to provide a foundation
for our chicken coop, though, when we live in a trailer that doesn’t
even have skirting yet. You can see where my priorities are….)
- Insulated roof. In
the summer, I think the heat pounding down on the roof of the coop is
too extreme, and some insulation would also help our chickens stay warm
during winter nights.
- Other infrastructure.
Of course, we’d include all the usual — quality perches, a light
for winter (which we only use some years), our chicken waterer, and a trough
for daily rations. I’d probably also like to add an automatic
feeder for when we go out of town, or to
fill with grain to see if Salatin’s right that auto-feeding grain
lowers the overall feed bill if your chickens are on pasture.
Meanwhile, the perfect
coop could use some add-ons outside as well. A storage area for
deep bedding materials would make it much more likely that I’d top off
the bedding every day or two rather than waiting a couple of
weeks. An isolation chamber would come in handy to allow a
troubled hen to keep away from pecking beaks without really being in
solitary confinement (and we could put chickens there the night before
butchering days). I might also like to move food scrap delivery
into an attached compost run, so that any ornery raccoons end up there
instead of inside the coop.
Our summer farm chores
keep us far too busy to build anything right now, but we’re slowly
letting coop ideas percolate for whenever coop-replacement day finally
comes. What other innovations do you recommend in the perfect
(As a side note, all of
the photos in this post come from other websites. Click on each
one to find more information about the owner’s coop.)