Before you even think about building a chicken house there are seven important factors you must take into consideration.
Location, location, location! Just like in real estate, the location of your chicken house is very important. Choose your chicken real estate wisely, taking into account the following factors:
- Build on dry or slightly elevated ground to prevent flooding of the chicken house during heavy rains
- Face the house towards the sun to get maximum light and warmth
- Protection from the elements; if high winds are a problem select a sheltered location
- Protection from predators; locating the chicken house near the house or grazing animals can minimize the danger from predators
Size: Make sure the chicken coop is large enough to comfortably house your chickens. If you are starting with only a few chickens, are you planning on breeding or expanding your flock in the near future. Although the space requirements depend on the type and size of your chickens, as a general rule allow 4 square feet inside the coop and 10 square feet in the run per chicken. For bantam chickens you can get away with half that much space.
Predator Proof: Common chicken predators include raccoons, foxes, coyotes, rodents and aerial predators such as hawks. Your chickens need to be protected from attack on all sides. Wire mesh fencing is commonly used to keep the chickens in and predators out. Make sure when you are installing fencing to dig down at least 12″ to protect from burrowing predators. And don’t forget your cat – who is probably eying your tasty birds!
Lighting: Where possible your chicken house should face towards the sun for maximum sun and warmth. Don’t forget the windows to let the light into the chicken coop. A minimum of 14 hours of sunlight a day is recommended in order for the chickens to lay eggs.
Ventilation: For healthy chickens the coop must be well ventilated, but not drafty. Good windows which open and close will let the fresh air in and the foul (no pun intended!) smells out.
Insulation: In cold climates the chicken house will need to be well insulated. A warm chicken is a happy chicken, and a happy chicken lays more eggs! Yes it is true. Chickens lay more eggs in a warm house than a cold one. The ideal temperature in the coop is between 12C-26C (54-79F).
Feeders and Waterers: Make sure the feeders and waterers are located in the right position and height for the size of your birds. They should be easily accessible for both man and fowl. Also make sure they are not positioned under the roosts or the chickens will poop in them.
The above seven steps should get you a long way in making a plan for your chicken house. If you are looking for pre-made blueprints, Bill Keene’s “Building A Chicken Coop” has excellent plans for coops of all sizes – from small portable coops to large two storey chicken houses.