In 1979, the British government established an advisory body on the welfare of livestock and poultry. The council has stated that animals kept by man must be protected from unnecessary suffering. Here in the United States, changes will soon be made in how poultry must be housed. If you've ever seen some large poultry operation, where your store bought eggs generally come from, then you know that often hens are caged in "barren" cages. Barren cages have no perch, have wire flooring and hens are packed often 6 to a cage. Under these conditions, they can't even spread their wings. I'm happy to report that as of January 1, 2012, barren cages will be banned in the United States and since January 1, 2003, no new barren cages may be manufactured. You and I care for poultry on a much smaller scale of course, so we are in a good positon to provide well for chickens in our care.
The British council decided on these FIVE FREEDOMS:
1. Freedom from hunger and thirst
2. Freedom from discomfort
3. Freedom from pain, injury, or disease
4. Freedom to express normal behavior
5. Freedom from fear and distress
Do well for them and they, in turn, will to very well for us.
Click on the thumbnail above to see a basic coop structural plan. Feel free to print and use this plan, I only ask that you reference Fred's Fine Fowl as the source. Remember, that local building codes may even control small out-buildings. Also, consult the tax-man to see if your particular design will be taxed based on square footage or foundation type. Many townships consider a coop up on trusses to be a temporary structure which is not taxed. It's worth checking into.
Follow this link to read about the material I use as sub-floor in every coop I build:
Looks nice in a field, but you'll be hauling feed & water to it.
Don't forget, build for weather extremes in your area!
Remember, they don't "free range" in winter.
(Excerpt from www.FredsFineFowl.com)
Chicken Coop Construction Suggestions
Where you choose to locate your coop is worth careful consideration.
Look at the slope/grade of your property. Do not place your coop where you have problems with standing water after a rain. Slopes are nice, as water runs off quickly and will serve to wash away chicken droppings. Avoid wooded areas, place in a clearing if this is possible. Predators often follow tree lines and are most successful where there is cover. At night your coop will be locked up, but during the day, your hens will make frequent trips to the coop, letís not set them up for ambush. Also, consider that youíll be making trips to the coop, morning to open up, night to close and during the day for water and feed trips. Think snow, how far do you want to hike with a 50# sack of grain, or a water fount? Consider placing your coop near a vegetable garden, itís convenient to spread droppings and floor litter, or near a compost pile? A large coop, with more than 60 residents, may be best located down wind? A well-maintained coop doesnít overwhelm you with odor, but rooster crows do tend to follow the wind also (food for thought). It helps to have your coop face 90 degrees to prevailing winds, in the winter, snow will bank up on one side of the coop (assuming you live where there is snow fall). Also, wind driven rain will pound the weather side of the coop, so itís probably not the best spot for a door.
Plan the size of the coop, with the future in mind. How many birds do you intend to have in the end? In the northeast, where birds may be inside for extended periods due to heavy weather, your coop should be designed to allow your flock plenty of room for socializing and feeding/drinking. Also remember, that you will be maintaining the coop, so low overheads may be great for chickens, but youíll want to straighten your back from time to time. The rule of thumb is 4 sq. ft. per adult standard/large hen or rooster. For example, the coops above are various sizes, the smallest measures 8 x 8, resulting in interior space of approximately 64 square feet. 64 square feet is enough for 16 adult chickens. Bantam chickens require much less space, approximately 2 sq. ft. per bird. Think also, in terms of construction materials, why build a coop that is 11 by 13, when standard sheet material comes in 4 x 8 foot pieces? So, it helps and makes best use of material if you do it in increments of 4 feetÖ 4 x 8, 8 x 12, 12 x 16 and so on.
Do not use pressure treated lumber for any of the interior portions of your coop. Standard framing lumber is good and relatively inexpensive. Siding is your choice and largely dictated by budget. I prefer to use T-111 (texture 111) for the outside walls, itís strong, overlaps at the vertical joints and takes paint or stain nicely. Your in ground support posts should be resistant to rot, as they are in direct contact with the earth. Roofing is largely dictated again by budget, but should provide a waterproof barrier that will last and not absorb tremendous amounts of heat during summer months (light colors are a must in the southern climates). The interior decking should be overlapping material, like sturdy-floor or some other multi-plied material that can stand up to moisture and wonít expand/contract too much. Any hole in the flooring is an invitation to mice or rats. Paint or seal the flooring prior to continuing with wall construction as it's the easiest time. Donít use expansion foam where chickens can get to it, they will make short work of it. Donít bother using dry-wall on the interior, chickens will eat that also. Any electrical work should be in junction boxes and runs should be in conduit. All outlets should be on a GFCI circuit to prevent shock. Light fixtures, assuming that you run wiring to the coop, should be suitable for unfinished spaces and have appropriate heat deflectors and guards in place. Fiberglass insulation in the ceiling is a great plus, for one, it keeps heat in during colder months and quiets coop noises, including the 5:00 a.m. rooster announcements. Be warned there also, chickens will taste test fiberglass bats if they can reach them! To protect the paper face of roll fiberglass insulation from probing beaks, I cover it with aluminum flashing material which comes in rolls.
Nest Boxes: There should be 1 nest box per every 4 hens. Should have floor dimensions of 12w, 14d, 12 high, with the entry opening reduced to approximately 7Ē high, to prevent roosting in the opening. Place the nest boxes on the wall farthest from the hen entry door the people door can be right next to them. You want the hens to have to walk across lots of litter to clean their feet, before entering next boxes, this serves to keep eggs cleaner. Locate boxes approximately 18 to 24 inches off the floor. If you're just starting your flock and your birds are young, don't put nest boxes in yet, or if they exist, cover the openings to prevent hens from just roosting in them. Put the nest boxes up, or open the entries, after the hens have begun to lay.
Perches: Have a perch that is approximately 3 feet off the coop floor, natural maple branches work very well and should be at least 2.5 inches in diameter. High perches, though hens may make it, are a bad idea. In the morning, birds may damage their feed when landing hard on the coop floor and sustain injury. I like to position perches at various heights and have various diameters. It's fun to hang one from the ceiling by a chain, this provides the chickens with fun as they keep their balance... this kind of perch no sooner stops swinging, when another chicken jumps on, starting the whole process all over again! You can also stick greens in the chain links during winter months to provide another nutritious distraction.
Water Fount: Waterers should be located where all chickens can get to it and not be pushed away by more aggressive flock mates. The height should be approximately the same as their backs. If youíve installed electricity, heated fount bases are also available and this would prevent water-freezing problems during winter. Feed containers may be wall mounted, or could hang from a chain somewhere in the middle of the floor. A chain allows the height to be adjusted as chickens grow. There are also water founts, which may be suspended allowing for similar height adjustments.
Windows: Consider where the light is strongest and avoid placing windows on southern exposures (it will cook the coop in summer). Windows that open, with screens in place, are great for those hot stuffy summer days. The area where the nest boxes are to be located, should be secluded and dark, donít place a window where the sun will stream in on setting hens. Windows on the north wall, are great sources of steady even light. If you can do it, have a door with a window in it, your chickens will see you coming and you wonít scare them out of their feathers when you suddenly open the door. On that note, you may want to whistle or talk to yourself as you approach the coop... neighbors may think you're odd, but the birds will have advance notice of your arrival.
Raised Coops: Putting your coop up on posts, much like a deck or porch, serves to allow air to pass freely beneath, which keeps damp conditions from becoming a problem. It also provides a shaded place for chickens to congregate during midday, or a place to escape a sudden downpour. Mice and other rodents are less likely to take up residence beneath an open coop where the chickens are sure to oust them! Let the coop sides overhang the supporting posts, this makes mowing and ground maintenance a snap.
Chicken entry door: Provide a hen-door through which the chickens will enter and exit the coop. For Reds, a door 12 x 12 inches is just fine and should have a sturdy closure, to prevent nocturnal entry by some clever raccoon. Provide some sort of overhang above the door, to prevent rain and snow from fouling the doorway. A nice wide plank should be provided for chickens to walk up. My latest thing is to wrap the plank with plastic chicken fencing (not metal), this gives them a secure footing and they wonít skate board down in the mornings.
If I havenít succeeded in answering your coop design questions, just write and Iíll be more than happy to close the gaps. Fred@FredsFineFowl.com
Visit a friend who raises chickens, ducks, guineas or has their own honey bee apiary... be happy for a day. Learn sustainable living practices with your own living space and be happy for a life time! Live healthy, bring joy to others...