During a decade of keeping chickens, we have modified, fixed and extended our original coop. We also added a few extra coops and structures in the yard to fit all the needs that came up over time.
Based on all that experience, how would we redo our coop today?
The short answer is: the coop would be bigger, safer, and more accessible.
Let’s start by repeating 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 stays cool but also offer some sun-bathing spots
The whole coop must be predator and rodent proof from all sides (including aerial and underground).
Now do the math based on the number of chickens you have to get the size of your coop, and then triple that size as you are going to end up with more chickens than you’ve planned for. Believe me on this one!
For the chicken house, we would simply get a nice big garden shed. Something we can walk in, stand in, sweep with a broom. We don’t want to have to squeeze in small openings and contort ourselves to access the inside, nor do we want to bend too much or go on our knees to clean it. The shed would have people size doors :)
The floor and walls would be easily cleanable and made of materials that couldn’t be chewed/gnawed through. It would have windows and vents for good air circulation, some type of reflective insulation to keep the heat out (we are in California where heat is a bigger problem than cold).
Inside the shed, we would add nest boxes and roosts to make it a chicken house, but first we would partition the house in at least 3 areas. The bigger one would be the main housing for the chickens, a smaller one to separate temporarily one or two birds (could be used for new or injured birds), and the third partition would be a storage for chicken supplies (food, wood shaving…). This “tack room” would be at the people entrance of the house, so it would also act as an entry lock.
The roof eaves would extend out to the run to prevent rain from entering the house, and provide a dry outdoor area for the chickens to hang out.
Regarding the run, we want it to be as big as possible and safe from predators. Ideally the whole chicken yard would be enclosed so the chickens are completely safe when outside of their house. But there are physical (big mature trees), legal (distance from fences, building permits…), and financial constraints.
Since we don’t want to trade off the safety of the chickens, we would build the biggest run we can afford. It would be large enough so the chickens wouldn’t need more space. Like the hen house, it would be fully protected, and people would be able to stand in it, rake it… There would be shaded and sunny spots, dry areas during the rainy season for the food and dust-bathes. There would also be bushes, perches, and lots of enrichment for the chickens to enjoy all year-round.
To happy chickens and happy keepers!
Check out our previous articles on coops: