40+ Free Chicken Coop Plans: Learn How To Build Now!
Our chicken coop plans are specifically designed to simplify the building process while ensuring optimal safety and comfort for your birds. With basic construction skills, you can efficiently build a suitable home for your chickens without excessive time or expense. To assist you in your project, we offer these user-friendly, budget-conscious ideas with plans at no cost.
These free chicken coop plans offer sizes from small chicken coops to extensive chicken houses. Additionally, they serve as a resource for chicken coop ideas, offering innovative designs and inspiration.
DIY Chicken Coop Plans
Walk-In Chicken Coop Plan
This walk-in chicken coop offers a spacious interior to house up to 12 chickens, and the integrated run is a safe space for them to explore and forage during the day. To ensure the safety and health of your flock, it offers a predator-proof design, and you can always get inside to tend to the chickens.
Capacity 12 chickens Dimensions 20 x 9 Difficulty to build Beginner friendly
Extra large chicken coop with run
The Chicken’s Dream Home plan is designed by a professional architect and offers clear directions to help you construct your Egg-cellent hideaway for your feathered friends. The design allows for plenty of space for the chickens to nest, roost, and run. You can use reclaimed corrugated metal for roofing.
Capacity 20 chickens Dimensions 9 x 42 Difficulty to build Beginner friendly
DIY Chicken Coop
This DIY chicken coop features a medium-sized run, making it ideal for bird enthusiasts looking to raise a medium flock. Our designers have ensured that this coop combines both elegant and contemporary styles.
Capacity 20 chickens Dimensions 8 x 16 Difficulty to build Medium
Urban Poultry Palace
This modern loft-design chicken coop is perfect for urban and suburban chicken growers. The elongated run ensures enough space for roaming. Using pallets or scrap wood can keep the costs down. The elevated hutch makes this coop perfect for areas that tend to flood.
Capacity 12 chickens Dimensions 17 x 6 Difficulty to build Intermediate
Egg-stra Sanctuary for Chickens
Do you have an extensive backyard that you can dedicate to a flock of chickens? This is the best bet. The hutch is inspired by a typical storage shed (storage sheds are known to be sturdy), so it is secure. Adding a spacious run makes it a complete home to raise a large flock.
Capacity 50 chickens Dimensions 40 x 20 Difficulty to build Intermediate
The Dutch Barn Chicken Coop
This barn-style chicken coop offers a predator-proof design, integrated aviary, raised coop area, easy-access door, large doors for cleaning, and nesting boxes for optimal egg production.
Capacity 12 chickens Dimensions 6 x 14 Difficulty to build Medium
Garage Shed-Inspired Chicken Coop
This spacious retreat resembles a garage shed and features an all-contained coop with integrated large run. If you are planning to raise a large flock, this comprehensive DIY blueprint will guide you through each step of building a coop, including building nesting boxes, installing perches, predator-proofing the run.
Capacity 50 chickens Dimensions 24 x 8 Difficulty to build Intermediate
Backyard Chicken Coop Plans
This lean-to chicken coop plan is detailed with steps to build a small haven for your chickens. The finished coop offers a healthy and safe space for up to 8 chickens and has a cabinet-style door that offers wide access for hassle-free cleaning and a spacious interior where you can come in and tend to your birds.
Capacity 8 chickens Dimensions 4 x 12 Difficulty to build Intermediate
Walk-in Hen House
What’s better than a good-looking chicken coop that one can easily walk into? This is a safe coop that you build for much less. The designer intentionally created the two lofts such that they can only be accessed from inside to enhance security. It has plenty of ventilation to keep the birds cool in summer.
Capacity 12 chickens Dimensions 6 x 10 Difficulty to build Beginner friendly
Shed-like Chicken Coop Plans
With an exterior furnished and finished to look like a garden shed, this modernized chicken coop is designed to be predator-proof and has enough nesting boxes plus roosts for 30 chickens. It has a human-sized door equipped with steps for easy access when harvesting eggs and cleaning.
Capacity 30 chickens Dimensions 10 x 8 Difficulty to build Intermediate
Hen’s Paradise is perfect for those looking for a small unit to try their hands in chicken rearing. The free plan is detailed with a cut list and instructions to help you build a safe haven for your flock. When built, the coop can hold up to 10 chickens. Its gable-style roof and height allow for the installation of more roosting bars.
Capacity 10 chickens Dimensions 4 x 10 Difficulty to build Beginner friendly
Chicken House Plans
This chicken coop can be perfect if you plan on having only a small to medium flock. It offers a predator-proof design, a spacious interior, and sufficient boxes. Moreover, it has a strategically positioned chicken-size door, so you won’t have to do the extra work of making a ladder.
Capacity 20 chickens Dimensions 8 x 12 Difficulty to build Beginner friendly
All-in-one Chicken Abode
This extra large, all-contained coop is sandwiched between two integrated aviaries and has two chicken-sized doors that open to the aviaries, so you won’t have to let your chickens in and out every time they want to stretch or return inside to lay eggs. With the spacious interior and standard-size access doors, you will have an easy time getting inside the coop to collect eggs and inside the fenced runs to tend to your birds.
Capacity 50 chickens Dimensions 30 x 15 Difficulty to build Advanced
Walk-In Chicken Coop Plan
This chicken coop is engineered to be sturdy, incredibly protective, and functional. It provides room for ten chickens, a feature-rich aviary, and sufficient nesting boxes to hold eggs. The sturdy framing guarantees longevity and performance.
Capacity 10 chickens Dimensions 6 x 12 Difficulty to build Medium
Barn-Style Chicken Coop
With just 50 square feet of your yard, you can raise a happy flock of up to 12 chickens. This hen house is truly safe, with only two doors(one human-sized and the other chicken-sized) and no windows. Paint the coop with slightly bright paint to add interest and function to your backyard.
Capacity 12 chickens Dimensions 5 x 10 Difficulty to build Intermediate
Well-Appointed Barn For Chickens
This free plan is detailed to help you build a fully furnished and quaint home for your feathered friends. It has a large door, windows, and a ramped chicken-sized door for the hens. The space underneath is a cool area where other pets can rest when temperatures get too high.
Capacity 8 chickens Dimensions 5 x 4 Difficulty to build Beginner friendly
Urban Chicken Coop
Are you living in a condo and want to produce eggs for household consumption? This hen house is only 4 feet wide, making it ideal for raising chickens in an urban setting. It can hold up to 8 birds. The run extends underneath the hutch to provide plenty of roaming space.
Capacity 8 chickens Dimensions 4 x 8 Difficulty to build Beginner friendly
Small Flock Chicken Coop Plans
Finding a compact yet all-contained chicken coop can mean having the ultimate solution to raise a decent flock in small backyards. If your goal for raising chickens is to produce eggs for household consumption, these downloadable blueprints can be ideal for you. The coop can hold up to 8 chickens and is lifted to ensure enough space for the bird to explore as they search for worms.
Capacity 8 chickens Dimensions 4 x 8 Difficulty to build Intermediate
Charming Chicken Barn
This roost- and nest-only chicken barn provides a safe and healthy haven for a flock of up to 10 birds. Its design incorporates a large access door, windows, and protruding nesting box, allowing for outside egg harvesting. You can download the printer-ready blueprints and get started with your next project. The coop is perfectly suitable for rural and suburban settings.
Capacity 10 chickens Dimensions 5 x 6 Difficulty to build Intermediate
Elevated Hen House
Ideal for beginners looking for chicken coop plans for eight chickens, this blueprint makes it easy for you to build your hens a place they can call home. The coop is elevated to minimize threats posed by predators and floods. Moreover, the design incorporates two doors (human-sized and chicken-sized), windows, and a protruding nesting box, which ensure good looks once built.
Capacity 8 chickens Dimensions 4 x 8 Difficulty to build Intermediate
DIY Chicken Coop Plans
House your chickens and give them space to explore safely with this chicken coop. The blueprint is a professionally designed chicken coop plan to simplify coop-building. Once finished, the coop offers a home for ten chickens, space to explore and forage, and sufficient nesting boxes to hold the eggs. The coop area is elevated to provide more space for birds to scratch grass, search for worms, and take refuge from the afternoon sun.
Capacity 10 chickens Dimensions 4 x 8 Difficulty to build Beginner friendly
Backyard Shed Coop
If you already have a garden shed on your property, this comprehensive plan is designed to help you build a chicken coop that will complement your shed. When complete, the coop offers a safe abode for your chickens with enough nesting boxes, roosts, and ample ventilation.
Capacity 10 chickens Dimensions 5 x 6 Difficulty to build Intermediate
Hexagonal DIY chicken coop Plans
When it comes to building a home for your chickens, you can get as creative as you want. This one-of-a-kind chicken coop plan has been designed by a professional to help chicken lovers of all levels create a haven that will not only house their hens but also add interest to their property. Even with its unusual shape, the coop is furnished with everything you need to raise a safe, happy, and healthy clock of ten chickens.
Capacity 10 chickens Dimensions 7 x 8 Difficulty to build Medium
Cottage Style Chicken Coop Plans
This chicken coop is disguised as a playhouse, but its interior is furnished with nesting boxes, roosts, and other essentials you need for a flock of up to 12 chickens. Its sturdy design keeps predators and other threats away. Best of all, your woodworking skill level doesn’t matter; the plans will help you get started with your project in no time.
Capacity 12 chickens Dimensions 6 x 8 Difficulty to build Medium
Garden Shed Turned Chicken Coop
You just built a garden shed and then realize your chicken coop is getting smaller for the flock. Repurposing a new or old garden shed is an easy way to provide your feathered friends with a safe and cozy abode. The height provides plenty of space for installing enough roosting bars and nesting boxes. Proper ventilation also helps ensure proper heat regulation.
Capacity 20 chickens Dimensions 6 x 8 Difficulty to build Beginner friendly
This free plan is a detailed guide to help beginner chicken growers build a sturdy home for their birds. The complete hen house has all the necessary amenities to raise ten birds. There is a large door, a window, and an exterior nesting box that allows you to collect eggs from outside.
Capacity 10 chickens Dimensions 4 x 10 Difficulty to build Intermediate
This chicken coop is designed to resemble a miniature barn. Its height provides more space for installing roosting bars. It is also designed with convenience in mind. The ramped chicken-size door allows chickens to easily enter and leave the coop and is strategically placed near the nesting boxes.
Capacity 6 chickens Dimensions 2 x 4 Difficulty to build Beginner friendly
Greenhouse Chicken Coop Plan
Use this chicken coop plan to DIY a shelter that resembles a greenhouse in shape. This arc-style streamlined design is suitable for rural neighborhoods and offers ample ventilation for proper air circulation, which makes it suitable for poultry farmers in hot regions. One side of the coop is equipped with wheels to allow you to move it to give your flock new grass to scratch and eat.
Capacity 10 chickens Dimensions 4 x 12 Difficulty to build Beginner friendly
Use this free henhouse plan to DIY a small coop for your chickens. Although seemingly small, this coop is well-furnished to hold up to 8 chickens. You can use pallets and scrap wood to save on construction costs. A convenience door in the idea allows you to collect eggs without disturbing the birds.
Capacity 8 chickens Dimensions 4 x 5 Difficulty to build Beginner friendly
Modern Walk-in Chicken Run
This luxury looking 10×16 chicken coop, designed to house up to 20 chickens, boasts a spacious run, sturdy construction, and ample roosting bars and nesting boxes. With two large doors for easy access and high-quality security features, it combines rustic charm and practicality.
Capacity 15 chickens Dimensions 10 x 16 Difficulty to build Medium
Table of Contents
Choosing Location of the Chicken Coop
Where you set up your backyard chicken coop is vital to your success in enjoying and nurturing birds. The best chicken coop location provides a dry, healthy, happy, and safe environment for your birds. Ideally, you want to keep your feathered friends close but not directly near your house. If you are trying to select a chicken coop location around your home, read the article location for your chicken coop to help you make the best choice.
Chicken Laws and Permit Requirements in Your Area
Many localities restrict the raising of poultry. Recently, however, numerous cities, towns, and subdivisions throughout the nation have reexamined local laws, ordinances, and HOA guidelines to allow residences to raise small numbers of poultry in urban areas.
Regulations vary greatly from state to state and town to town, and most urban areas require a permit to raise chickens and build a chicken coop. These laws may state if you can raise chickens, if so, how many and what types of birds can be raised, and guidelines for the coop built on your property. Obtaining a permit can be a lengthy process and has some costs, including review, zoning permit, and license fees. There are also license renewal fees, which vary from one town to another. To avoid potentially harsh consequences, it is crucial to do your homework to understand all regulations and ordinances regarding keeping chickens in your municipality. Check our article about getting a chicken coop permit if you need more information.
Selecting the Best Chicken Coop Design
Chicken coops provide a happy and healthy place for your flock to call home. Whether you are an aspiring chicken grower or an old pro, knowing the different types of chicken coops is crucial to the chicken-rearing hobby. This is vitally important because different coops are designed to hold different capacities.
Always remember it is important to build and maintain a chicken coop that is not seen as a nuisance or eye sore by neighbors. Most complaints about chickens being raised in developed areas are due to poorly designed or maintained coops that distract from the appearance of the neighborhood. The public always sees the worst-looking chicken coops and runs as an example of what to expect from everyone, which leads to more restrictions.
For the unacquainted, there are limitless ideas and coop designs — a chicken coop can be any shape or configuration imaginable. While you can easily find unusually elaborate chicken coops, most hen houses fall under the following types:
1. A-Frame Chicken Coop
Also known as Chicken Ark, an A-frame chicken coop is a small rectangular unit that keeps chickens confined. As the name suggests, it has two sharply sloping walls that meet off the ground, so the coop resembles the letter A. Despite being small, A-frame chicken coops have a nesting box or two, a roosting bar, and space for your chickens to move around. They are popular among beginner chicken growers and in cities where ordinances restrict chicken roaming.
A typical chicken ark is usually designed to host two to four chickens but can be designed with a larger capacity.
2. Chicken Tractor
A chicken tractor is a coop on wheels. The inspiration behind the design is the high level of functionality and movement they offer.
A chicken tractor can include a run or not, but the entire structure is usually lightweight for hassle-free moving. Because they are designed to be moved around, chicken tractors are also relatively compact. Grab bars, or wheelbarrow-like handles, are usually included on one end so you can lift and move the coop wherever and whenever needed.
The biggest issue with this design is the need to manage the movement of the coop. It is critical to move the coop often so you do not allow the area under the coop to become eaten down to damage the vegetation. Also, if you have a small lot, you can quickly develop a yard with patches of bare spots throughout the yard.
3. Walk-in Chicken Coop
As the name suggests, walk-in chicken coops are hen houses designed with a large access door so that you can walk in. This type of coop can be the chicken’s home, or they can provide a small door for the chickens to access the outdoors. It can be built from scratch or repurposed as a backyard storage shed. The most exciting thing about walk-in chicken coops is that they are usually permanent structures, and you can go as big as you want.
Because there’s more room inside, they are easier to clean. This style also allows you to add nesting boxes, roosting bars, enrichment, and accessories to create a more inviting environment for your flock. Many owners also build in a small storage area for storage of feed, equipment, and other supplies needed to clean or care for the birds.
No matter the size, an excellent all-in-one chicken coop should be easy to clean and save time.
4. All-in-one Chicken Coop
All-in-one chicken coops are elaborate and substantial hen houses with a walk-in coop (complete with enough nesting boxes and roosting bars) and a sizeable free range. They come in a wide range of sizes and shapes, so there is something for every flock.
No matter the size, an excellent all-in-one chicken coop should be easy to clean and save all time.
What Chicken Coop Size Do I need?
Most breeds of chickens require two to four square feet of indoor coop space per bird. However, this only applies if the chickens have outdoor space to roam during the day.
If there is no outdoor space available or you plan to keep the chickens in the coop all the time, each chicken will need about four to six square feet of coop space. Providing your chickens with adequate space helps keep them happy and healthy, plus the coop won’t get dusty and smelly too quickly. The ideal chicken coop size for your flock will depend on how many birds you intend to keep, the breed of the birds, and how you plan to raise them.
How much does it cost to build a chicken coop?
Building the coop is perfect if you love do-it-yourself projects and sustainable living. Plus, you can save hundreds of dollars by building your chicken coop instead of buying a commercially available one.
If you buy lumber to build the coop, the type of wood you select will impact the overall cost. Softwood, such as pine, is a budget-friendly framing material and costs $2 to $3 per board foot, depending on quality. Pressure-treated lumber is popular because it’s rot-resistant and prevents insect infestation; it’s available for $7 to $10 per board foot on average.
Redwood or red cedar are great choices because they’re both naturally weather resistant, but they’re relatively expensive, costing about $10 to $12 per board foot.
The hardware that goes into your chicken coop depends on the design and size of the coop. To construct a typical coop, you can expect to spend about $20 to $50 on fasteners. Ensure that all the fasteners and hardware are rated for use outdoors.
Chicken coops do not necessarily need floors; the bare ground is acceptable. However, depending on where you live or where you are building your coop, a floor can help keep your birds dryer and safer from predators. Plus, floors are easier to scrape or sweep clean than bare ground.
Plywood is a common choice for flooring; it’s quick and easy to install and comes in large 4×8 ft. sheets. However, it tends to absorb odors and could be chewed through by some predators. If considering plywood, it costs about $10 to $20 per sheet. Pressure-treated plywood is much more weather-resistant than untreated plywood. Protect plywood with two coats of exterior-grade polyurethane varnish applied to both sides. You can also install vinyl sheet flooring over a plywood floor. Sheet vinyl costs about $2 to $8 per square foot. Another option is to make the floor out of solid-wood boards, such as 2x6s or pressure-treated decking. Wooden flooring ranges from about $6 to $10 per board foot.
A concrete floor will be the best option if you live in a region where predators pose a severe threat. However, at around $110 per cubic foot poured, it’s also the most expensive type of coop floor. Concrete floors can be cooler. Which is good on warm days, but will require a deeper litter base in winter to keep the chickens warm.
Wire mesh fencing, commonly called chicken wire or poultry netting, is ideal for covering the walls of your chicken coop. It’s inexpensive and resistant to predators and the weather. A roll of good-quality 4-ft. x 50-ft. roll of chicken wire costs about $50. Depending on the size of your coop, you may need more than one roll. Coated wire, while a bit more expensive, is less prone to rust and lasts longer.
Solid-wall options include plywood and corrugated metal. Each option costs roughly $10 to $20 per sheet. Covering part of the coop with a solid wall and the remaining walls with chicken wire creates two spaces for the chickens, one indoors and one outdoors.
Any roofing used on your home is suitable for a chicken coop, including asphalt shingles, metal roofing, or wood shingles. You could also use pressure-treated plywood. It all depends on your preference. Depending on the size of your coop, you can expect to spend about $70 to upwards of $200 on roofing.
- Chicken Run
Unless you intend to keep your chickens entirely indoors, you must provide a safe space for them to roam and explore. A chicken run is essentially an enclosed pen that provides a protected outdoor area.
To minimize the chances of predators attacking your chickens, you may want to take two additional precautions. First, burying the outdoor fence in a toe-out manner can help deter curious predators that may want to attack your chicken by burrowing under the enclosure. Secondly, if raptors are a concern, you may need to net the tops of your chicken pens.
Setting your coop on a concrete slab and chicken run is effortless to construct, requiring just a few posts, some chicken wire, and a roof. Depending on the design and size, you can expect to spend $100 to $300 to construct a chicken run.
- Garden tools: shovels, rakes, etc.
- Tape measure and pencil
- Post-hole digger
- Level and square
- Wire cutters
Please read our complete guide about the costs of building a chicken coop.
Understanding the Basics of Housing
Many chicken breeds are relatively hardy. However, they need somewhere to escape the elements and frigid weather when winter rolls around. They must also live safely in a clean environment with enough space. Here are some basic things you need to keep in mind when building your chicken coop:
1. Shelter from the weather
While it is true that chickens are hardy birds, protecting them from severe weather conditions is imperative. No matter the style of your coop, the idea is to keep your birds dry and healthy. Chickens do not tolerate damp or cold drafty conditions, which will lead to various diseases and foot conditions.
Building your chicken coop on high ground can help prevent flooding and wet pens, but higher areas are windier, which can drive rain inside and increase drafts. To create a comfortable environment for your chicken, try these tips:
- Build the shed on a level ground that drains well after rain
- Do not build your coop and outdoor run in low, wet areas
- Equip the interior of the coop with enough sleeping roosts for the chickens
- Provide a protected, roofed outdoor space for your flock to frolic in all types of weather
- Monitor temperature and humidity inside the coop, and add additional insulation or ventilation, if necessary
Remember to maintain good coop ventilation to provide a dry, safe, and comfortable environment where your chickens are protected from the elements and harsh weather. Good ventilation will prevent stagnation of moisture, ultimately reducing the risk of frostbite, moldy feed or bedding, and possible respiratory infections.
2. Protection from predators
One of the most important considerations when building your coop is how to protect your birds from the threat of predators. Coyotes, raccoons, fisher cats, foxes, bobcats, dogs, hawks, owls, weasels, and snakes are some predators that pose the biggest threats to chickens. While most predators attack hens when foraging outdoors, some may take a more conventional approach and try to break into the coop through the cracks and opening to the coop during the dusk and dawn hours.
To minimize the chances of predators attacking your chickens, avoid placing your backyard chicken coop close to wild areas that appeal to predators. Shrubs, woodpiles, and low-hiding objects can harbor predators, snakes, and rodents. Hawks and owls can also hide in overhanging branches unnoticed. If raptors are an issue, you may need to net the tops of your chicken pens.
Raising the coop about 10 to 12 inches off the ground is advisable to protect your chickens from predators. This will prevent them from burrowing under the coop to live. This can also prevent wood rotting, ensuring longevity. Whether you build your chicken coop on or off the ground, it is imperative to use sturdy wall materials and set it on a reinforced foundation to deter digging predators.
Setting your coop on a concrete slab and burying the outdoor fence in a toe-out manner can also help deter curious predators that may want to attack your chicken by burrowing under the pen.
This depends on what type and the number of chickens you plan to raise. Take time to think through how many chickens you would like to raise to supply your fresh egg needs and how many you can afford to feed. Then, you can get an idea of what space is required and where that space is available on your property.
Providing your chicken with adequate space is vital to keeping them happier and healthier. You can also try a chicken coop size calculator if you need more help.
Chickens also like to explore and look for a meal. When deciding where to build the coop, consider a location with natural foraging areas. Chickens eat nearly everything, ranging from grass, insects, plants, seeds, worms, and small rodents, so they will live happily in a space where they can forage.
4. Lighting and electricity
The coop should provide natural and supplemental light for layers and to aid working in the coop at night in the darker winter months. One 25- to 40-watt bulb located above the feed and water area at ceiling height for every 40 square feet of pen is ample. Provide 14 to 16 hours of light per day for maximum year-round egg production. Do not light adult birds longer than 16 hours per day. Never decrease the lighting period on birds in egg production, or they may stop laying. Most flocks will need to add supplemental light in the fall until early spring to sustain egg production. An inexpensive time clock can be installed to turn lights on in the early morning hours and let the birds go to roost with the natural sunset.
Lighting a coop can help your chickens stay warm during winter and keep egg production consistent. Adequate light helps you see everything when cleaning the coop or caring for your birds. However, remember electricity in the chicken coop can pose a fire risk if not set up properly.
When choosing lights, research shows that blue or green spectrum LED lighting helps keep the birds calm and in optimal egg production. If using heat lamps to heat the coop, red light soothes your flock. Red spectrum lights work well if you are having severe picking issues. However, chickens won’t continue laying eggs because they do not perceive red light as daylight.
The most important point to remember about lighting is that chickens see light at a different spectrum than the human eye. So, full light to a chicken is at one-foot candle or very dim light. So do not use high-intensity lighting. They only need the equivalent of 1 25-40 watt bulb in most coops. Intense light will stress the chickens and can bring on behavior problems in the flock.
- Water Hygiene
It is essential that you provide a constant supply of fresh, clean water for your chickens. Clean the waterers and provide fresh water daily. Place the waterers so that the lip of the waterer is level with the birds’ backs. If you use a nipple watering system, have the nipples just above eye level. Never let the laying hens go without water for more than eight hours; you will see a drop or stoppage of egg production.
In winter, a heater may be required to prevent the water from freezing. If you do have issues with freezing water, make sure to clean and provide fresh water first thing in the morning and at least an hour prior to the birds roosting for the night.
Every living creature loves fresh air, including chickens! For this reason, every chicken coop, no matter the size, should be well-ventilated. Ventilating chicken coops allows heat, carbon dioxide, and moisture to flow out while permitting fresh air to flood the coop, ultimately helping ensure the health and happiness of your feathered friends. Ventilation is critical to keeping the coop dry. If you ever have an ammonia odor in your coop, the litter is too wet.
Chickens need an ambient air temperature of 55 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit, but the optimal temperatures chickens need can vary depending on the breed, the climate, and the time of year. Ventilating their home will ensure they feel comfortable all day and night.
It’s worth noting that chicken coops need less ventilation during colder months. Preventing moisture build-up and cold drafts in winter is important for the chicken’s respiratory health
In hotter climates, more air movement is needed to cool the coop’s interior — chickens handle cold better than heat.
Cleaning your chicken coop is one of the essential maintenance practices. Generally, if your chickens spend most of their time outside, you won’t do as much cleaning as you would if they stayed entirely indoors. Most manure will be dropped below the roosting area. Racking and removing these droppings weekly can help.
Keeping your coop clean can go a long way to reducing the chances of your birds getting diseases. Depending on the size of your flock, you may want to consider a daily coop cleaning routine and then thorough cleaning monthly.
To make cleaning more manageable, you may also want to consider these tips:
- With small coops, use a droppings board (must be cleaned daily)
- Install removable roosts
- Use 3-4 inches of pine shaving for bedding in the coop. Chickens will naturally scratch and stir this type of litter.
- Sand works well for outside runs. Rack and clean as needed. Sand used in inside pens increases dusty conditions
- Build the coop door large enough for you easy access and clean the coop.
Cleaning the chicken coop gives your birds a clean, comfortable environment and helps with moisture and dust control, helping ensure your chickens grow happily and healthily.
8. Temperature control
Stress in chickens due to less-than-ideal coop temperatures is one of the problems many producers have to deal with. That’s why it is vital to commit to managing the temperatures of your coop. Heat stress occurs when the temperature and dew point reach a sum of 150 (an 80°F temperature and a dew point of 70 = 150). So, how do you control coop temperature?
Depending on the breed you are keeping, you need to understand what temperature is too hot or too cold, then find ways of keeping your chickens in ideal temperatures.
The optimal temperatures for most chicken breeds are 55°F to 75°F. When heat-stressed, the birds will stop eating, consume more water, and decrease egg production. The best way to cool the birds is to move as much air over the birds with fans. When the temperatures drop significantly, you may consider using a UL-approved chicken coop heater. Remember, chickens tolerate cold temperatures best when the coop is dry.
If you live in a region with wide temperature swings, from very cold to hot, it’s advisable to build a coop whose design is optimized for temperature control and insulate it as needed.
- Nesting Boxes
Nesting boxes are one of the most crucial chicken coop components. They offer a private place for your hens to lay eggs. Chickens can be particular about where they lay eggs (they can and do lay where they feel secure), and having nesting boxes can encourage them to lay eggs in a safe and clean environment. What’s more, they make egg harvesting super easy when built correctly. This is vital, considering no one wants to hunt for eggs, except perhaps at Easter.
When building your chicken coop, you want to include enough boxes for the flock size and make them attractive to hens. Precisely, you want to ensure they are:
- Placed off the floor
- Place in a darkened area of the coop
Notably, even though hens need plenty of light to maintain peak egg production, the nesting boxes have to be placed in a relatively dark and not too-busy area. Otherwise, the hens won’t use them. Also, make sure the nest boxes are not placed on the floor or near the roosting area. This increases traffic, allowing the dirty litter to enter the nest, and may result in increased egg eating and contamination of eggs.
The number of boxes you need will depend on your flock, and it is recommended to have at least two nest boxes for the first four (4) hens and then add a nest for every additional 3-5 hens in the flock. Please read our complete guide about how to build a chicken nesting box for more information.
10. Feeding and Watering Systems
It is a no-brainer that chickens need access to food and water to stay healthy and happy. Chickens need a steady, balanced diet and water supply to maintain optimal weight, feather condition and egg production. For this reason, it is vital to determine where to place your feeders and waterers when building your chicken coop.
Moreover, whether you are a novice chicken grower or a seasoned pro, you can reduce waste by placing your equipment at the proper height and using automatic chicken feeding and watering systems. Building yourself spill- and mess-resistant feeders and waterers is one of the easiest ways to avoid tipped feeders and soiled waterers.
Talking about placement, it is advisable to place your feeders in the coop and waterers inside the aviary, not outside. Inside the coop, your feed system can keep the food dry. If outside, food can get wet and mold. Also, when the chicken feed is outside, it will attract rodents, wild birds, or other animals, threatening your bird’s health and safety. In the long run, building automatic feeders and waterers and strategically placing them will give your flock easy access to feed and water and help you save time.
Find more great tips and tricks by reading our complete chicken housing guide.
Chicken Breed Specific Requirements
There are many reasons why anyone would want to raise chickens. Whether you consider chicken rearing a hobby or part of sustainable living, making sure the breed(s) you are considering best meets your expectations before bringing any birds home is imperative. With so many types and breeds to choose from, it is important for you first to decide why you want to raise poultry and then find a bird that is a good fit for you. Only you can decide what you are interested in raising. What is my purpose for raising poultry: for eggs, meat, exhibition, or dual purpose (that can meet multiple objectives); hybrid or purebred; for hobby or profit? This is vitally important because raising chickens can be a long-term commitment. Chickens in most small flocks live eight years, but they can live for more than ten years.
1. Egg Production Breeds
While all chickens will lay eggs, there is great variability between strains. The best layers have relatively small bodies. From the pure egg-laying efficiency standpoint, the commercial red sex-linked hybrid will lay 240 to 280 brown eggs a year. They are a hardy yet docile bird that is great in a small-flock setting. They are known as ISA or Hy-line brown egg layers. One of the earlier hybrids is known as the golden comet.
Common heritage-type breeds will lay 50 to 200 eggs a year. However, there is great variability between strains and the source of these breeds. Common heritage breeds known for their egg production are Buttercups, Ameraucana, Anconas, Australorp, Campines, Hamburg, Leghorn, Minorca, New Hampshire Red, Sussex, and Welsummers.
Eggshell colors vary between breeds, from white and shades of brown to green and blue shell colors. Egg shell color is determined by the breed and makes no difference in the nutritional value or taste of the egg.
Feed an 18 to 20 percent protein starter to the chicks for the first six to eight weeks and then feed a 14 to 15 percent protein grower or developer to 16 weeks of age. For laying hens over 16 weeks of age, feed a 16 to 18 percent protein layer ration with grit and a calcium source like oyster shells free choice in a separate feeder. Adult layer diets have the proper nutritional calcium, vitamin D, and phosphorus ratio to provide proper shell formation and sustain maximum egg production. If you do not feed a proper ration to the laying hen, she may not produce eggs, produce soft-shelled eggs, and/or become fat, which will shorten the bird’s life.
Regarding nutrition requirements, chicks need a diet that aids growth and feather development. When mature, layers need extra calcium in their feed to support shell development. Typically, hens should start to lay eggs around 18 weeks of age and continue to do so until 85 weeks of age if managed properly. Shortly after the onset of production, 94 percent of your birds will lay an egg daily. They will gradually lay fewer eggs until 60 percent of the hens lay eggs daily near the end of the laying cycle. On average, hens lay one egg every 23-32 hours, but there are days when a hen will not lay an egg at all. Hens will rest or molt at the end of a laying cycle or if severely stressed. They will lose and replace their long feathers and, in 10 to 14 weeks, start another laying cycle. Each cycle, the birds will lay fewer eggs over a shorter time. Most laying chickens will lay well for the first 3-5 years. After that, they lay much fewer and lower-quality eggs.
2. Meat Production Breeds
The best type of chicken to raise for meat production is a commercial hybrid. While all chickens will produce some meat, purebred or heritage breed chickens are less efficient and have large variability between strains. A good commercial strain will reach 5 pounds by six weeks of age and eat 1.8 pounds of feed per pound of meat produced, while heritage crosses will take 14 weeks or more to reach 4 pounds and often eat over 3 pounds of feed per pound of meat. The commercial meat birds also have a much greater meat yet verse frame. There are some strains sold as ranger broilers that are slow-growing and will provide a bit more meat than common heritage breeds.
Some breeds that were developed for meat production include the Cornish and the Jersey Giants. Chickens bred for meat production have two characteristics in common: They have poor egg layers and grow faster. To support their faster growth rate, their diet should be rich in proteins and require a more significant amount of feed than layers. Feed a meat chicken starter crumble containing 20 to 23 percent protein until slaughtered.
3. Dual Purpose Hens
Dual-purpose breeds are average layers and can grow large enough to produce some meat. Although they are not efficient and produce meat or eggs, they tend to have colorful plumage be average layers, and the males or old spent hens can be used for meat. The most common breeds known for their dual-purpose traits are the Australorp, Barnevelder, Buckeye, Delawares, Maran, Orpington, Plymouth Rock, Rhode Island Reds, Sussex, Welsummers and Wyandottes.
Unlike meat birds, dual-purpose hens can be raised and fed much like layers and will grow large enough for meat over time. However, they grow slower than chickens solely raised for meat.
4. Chickens for Shows and Exhibitions
The fancy purebred poultry always catches the eye of chicken lovers. There are over 350 different breeds and varieties of purebred chickens recognized by the American Poultry Association (APA). There are large purebred chickens as well as bantam (miniature) purebred chickens. Large chicken breeds require a floor space of 2 to 5 square feet per bird. Bantam chickens can live in half the floor space.
The hardest part is selecting which breed you like best. Remember, purebred birds are selected for specific appearance traits rather than the ability to produce eggs and meat. While these birds do lay eggs, expect ranges of 30 to 150 eggs at best per year from purebred chickens. However, when you are first starting out, do not pick a breed that is too rare and hard to find or that needs special equipment or care. If you want to be competitive at exhibitions, you will need to find a quality breeder of foundation breeding stock who is actively engaged in the exhibition of poultry. Most of the commercial hatcheries do not sell truly purebred lines. They do not select their breeding pens based on quality breed traits, and their chickens are seldom of show quality. Attend quality poultry shows sponsored by the APA to find breeders.
Exhibition chicken breeds have attractive traits and are usually bred for their appearance. Many breeds may have unique features specific to them. For instance, The Polish Breed has crested (feathered heads), and the Faverolle Breed has five toes, feathered legs, and a bread and muff of feathers around the face. One consideration is not to raise different breeds with too many unique traits together. These unusual traits tend to draw attention from other breeds and cause picking.
For novice backyard chicken growers and families with young children, it is best to raise docile breeds like commercial red sex-linked, Brahma, Cochin, Orpington, Wyandotte, and Plymouth Rock. Bantams are also smaller and easier for kids to handle. Whatever your goal for raising chickens, the idea is to choose a breed whose temperament is compatible with your family. The only way to know the right breed is by gathering as much information as possible.
Chicken Coop Considerations FAQ
Is it cheaper to buy or build a chicken coop?
The cost of building versus buying a chicken coop can depend on the size and complexity of the coop, the materials used, and your personal skills and access to tools. If you’re handy and have access to affordable materials, it could be cheaper to build a coop yourself. However, buying a premade coop might be less expensive if you don’t have the necessary building skills or would need to purchase expensive tools or materials.
How many chickens can you have in a 3 by 4 coop?
The general guideline is to provide at least 2-3 square feet per chicken inside the coop and about 10 square feet per chicken in an outside run. So a 3 by 4 feet coop (which is 12 square feet) could house about 4 to 6 chickens. This can vary depending on the breed and size of the chickens and how much time they spend outside the coop.
How big of a coop do I need for 24 chickens?
For 24 chickens, you’d want to provide at least 48-72 square feet inside the coop. This translates to a coop size of at least 7×7 feet at the minimum, up to 9×8 feet. Keep in mind that the breed and size of the chickens, as well as their access to outdoor space, can affect how much space they need.
Can chickens survive without a coop?
Chickens can technically survive without a coop in a temperate environment, but it’s not recommended. A coop provides shelter from the elements, protection from predators, a place to lay eggs, and a safe place to roost at night. Without a coop, chickens are vulnerable to predators and weather extremes, and their health and egg production suffer.
Do chickens need heat in the winter?
Whether chickens need heat in winter can depend on the breed and the local climate. Most chicken breeds are fairly hardy and can tolerate cold temperatures if they have a well-insulated, dry, and draft-free coop to shelter in. However, in extremely cold climates, or for certain breeds that are less cold-hardy, additional heat may be necessary.
Keep the coop dry. Moisture is a main factor for freezing chicken combs and feet when the temperature gets near or below freezing temperatures. Cold drafts are the main cause of respiratory illnesses. When you start closing your windows in the fall due to colder nighttime temperatures, close the coop windows to prevent cold drafts.
Do chickens like small coops?
Chickens generally prefer to have enough space to move around comfortably, roost, lay eggs, and have some private space. A coop that’s too small can lead to stress, aggression, health problems, and lower egg production. It’s generally better to provide more space rather than less. However, it does not provide so much space that it is hard to keep the coop warm in winter.
Do chicken coops need 4 walls?
Chicken coops typically have four walls to provide shelter and protection from predators and the elements. The design can vary depending on the climate and the needs of the chickens. In warmer climates, some walls might be made of chicken wire for ventilation, while in colder climates, all walls should be solid for insulation.
Are chickens worth having?
Whether chickens are worth having can depend on your specific circumstances and goals. Benefits of keeping chickens include fresh eggs, natural pest control, the enjoyment of caring for animals, and soil improvement. However, chickens also require time, effort, and money to care for properly. They need a suitable coop and run a balanced diet and protection from predators. Due to economies of scale, your input costs will be higher, and you will never be able to produce eggs or meat at a lower cost than you can buy them in the store. They can also be noisy and cause odors if not managed properly. It’s important to consider all these factors and check local regulations before deciding to get chickens.
Building a chicken coop can save you a lot of money. Thankfully, you don’t need any special skills. You can easily build a good home for your flock with basic woodworking skills. All you need is a detailed chicken coop plan. Depending on the number of birds you want to keep, grab a plan and start building your chicken coop today!