We would like to thank our friend Dan for his help with this newsletter. Chickens don’t require much gear, but they do need a coop. A big and safe coop. A chicken coop usually refers to the combination of a hen house and a run. The hen house is the place where the hens lay their eggs and all the chickens sleep at night. Whereas the run is the protected area where they hang out during the day. You can either buy a coop or build one yourself. After spending some time shopping for a coop, finding them too small or too expensive, Dan decided to build his own. He went out with his wife on the Tour De Cluck in Davis for inspiration, visited friends’ coops, and learned about the basic requirements for a coop:
The hen house should have:
a minimum of 4 sqft per chicken
one nestbox (1’x1’x1’) for every 3-4 hens
1’ roosting space per chicken
good ventilation to avoid moisture buildup
The run should have:
a minimum of 10 sqft per chicken
access to dirt for dust-bathing
partial shade so it’s cool but also offer some sun-bathing spots
The whole coop must be predator proof from all sides (including aerial and underground). Ideally it would also be rodent proof to avoid feeding the wildlife and more importantly spreading diseases to the chickens.
In addition, they wanted a coop where they could walk inside to make cleanup easier. They also wished to re-use as much materials as possible. Dan looked first at buying plans online, but quickly decided to design his own coop spacious enough for the 3 chickens they were planning to get. One guiding principle behind his design was to dimension the coop based on the lumber size and the width of a roll of hardware cloth. This significantly simplified the building phase.
Dan is graciously sharing his coop plan. Click on the image to download a pdf file containing sketches, pictures, and a bill of material. You can also download the SketchUp 3D model of Dan’s coop here. You will need the free SketchUp viewer to open it.
The coop is somewhat portable, meaning it can be moved if needed but not like a chicken tractor that you can move every week. It is built on a strong foundation: a frame of Trex (composite made of recycled wood and plastic) resistant to decay. Hardware cloth is stapled to the frame to prevent any critters to enter the coop from below. Dan used ½” meshing hardware cloth everywhere to not only exclude predators but also all rodents. He used 2x2 untreated redwood for the framing of the coop, pre-primed siding for the walls of the hen house, and ¼” plywood covered with asphalt shingles for the roof. Dan built his coop in 2010 for about $600 in materials. He later added an automatic door for $200 for the chickens to get out of the coop to their backyard. It has a light sensor that opens the door at dawn and closes it at night. It’s battery operated so there was no need to bring electricity to the coop. Dan’s coop is very sturdy and still looking good after 7 years. He said that if he had to build it again, he would make it more weather proof by adding removable panels on the sides to keep the run dry during the rainy period, and by better water proofing the roof. He would also make it bigger since their flock has now 5 chickens :) If you are interested in getting Dan’s advice in building your own coop, you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.