We just set up an additional chicken coop for our breeding hens this spring. It’s been a while since I set up a new coop and I was impressed with how easy it is to meet a chicken’s needs with these inexpensive screw-together coops. It’s like IKEA for chickens!
I’m happy with this coop for a breeding pen, but a little disappointed in that the manufacturers claimed it would comfortably hold 8 chickens. In seeing just three of our Easter Egger hens in this coop, I feel like they need additional space, so we are building an addition to the run.
I would feel bad for 8 chickens who considered this home year-round without being let out to pasture at least once a day.
So this brings me to my first requirement for ever chicken coop.
“They” say that chickens need at LEAST 10 square feet, especially if you are not free-ranging.
A better gauge, in my opinion, is to note how fast is your coop getting dirty? Cleaning your coop once a week is always a good idea, but if by the end of the week the coop is trashed, it might be a sign that your space is too small. Are your eggs getting dirty? Are the feeders getting pooped on? Do the chickens have to climb over each other to get to different areas? I think common sense works better than an actual figure.
When in doubt, give as much space as you can afford. Chickens do better with ample room.
Security from Predators
Everybody loves chicken! That includes foxes, raccoons, owls, hawks, coyotes, the neighbor’s dog, etc.
Make sure your coop is secure against predators, especially the run. Hardware cloth seems to stand up to inquisitive wildlife better than chicken wire, so if you have a choice between the two, I’d choose hardware cloth. Predators like raccoons also have a harder time reaching through the small holes of hardware cloth.
Protect from the sky, under the ground and at night.
An overhead covering is also a good idea to protect against flying predators, and be sure to protect against digging animals like dogs and coyotes.
Protection from weather
Mostly in the form of wind and rain barrier, and the sun. Chickens actually do quite well in extreme cold so long as they’re dry and out of the wind. They also need ventilated shade in the heat/sun.
While you want your coop secure, you don’t want to seal it up so tight that there is no air circulation. Coops need ventilation to allow odors like ammonia, heat, and condensation to escape.
Without a properly ventilated coop, your chickens can suffer from respiratory problems and other diseases.
Chickens are convenient in that if you give them a place to lay their eggs, they will deliver! You should supply 1 nesting box per 5-6 hens. Nesting boxes should be 12’-14” square.
In the wild, a chicken’s natural instinct is to roost in a tree branch for the night. Chickens are almost blind in the dark, so this elevated sleeping spot helps protect them from ground predators.
In the coop setting, when the sun goes down, chickens will have this instinct as well.
Roosts can be anything from a large stick, a broomstick handle, or a 2×2 board.
Roosts should be placed higher than your nesting boxes. This will detract from your chickens sleeping in the boxes and soiling the egg box bedding.