Designing the perfect chicken coop

Deep bedding doorEven though our raccoon
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
chicken coop:

  • Large door
    Especially if you’re using deep
    , 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 boxExternal 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.
  • Side vent on chicken coopPredator-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.

Chicken 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.)

Latest Comments

  1. Mary August 23, 2012
  2. anna August 28, 2012
  3. James C August 22, 2013

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