How To Build A Chicken Coop That Wastes Time, Money, and Energy

When the average person sets out to build a chicken house, they try to do it the smart way – researching plans, buying materials, and putting everything together to make a great chicken house that lasts for a long time.

But there are some people who just can’t make smart choices… step by step, amateur house makers turn a (relatively) simple gig into a painful, frustrating experience that flushes time and cash down the drain.

How do they do it? Read on and avoid these simple but far too common mistakes.

Difficult To Clean And Poorly Ventilated

If you live in the city and you’re looking to add a couple of chickens to make your house more sustainable – congratulations! But be sure to think of some of the practical elements of owning chickens before you start building a house. Here are a couple of simple ones : chickens sweat and… well… poop.

building a chicken coop

And they do it a LOT. In fact, dealing with those bodily functions is going to take up a healthy portion of your maintenance time. That means you’ll need vents and windows in your walls on the side that doesn’t face the wind so that chicken stale air can get out and fresh air to get in.

You also need to think about the place you live. If you live somewhere moist, you want roofs that are sloped so that you can moisture doesn’t collect and seep though. Chickens are very resilient to the cold (if it’s above freezing), but they pretty easily get sick in the moisture. You can also reduce moisture by putting your coop on a slight incline to avoid water pooling in the floor.

Too Many Plants

Chickens will tend to tear up foliage and rip up plants. You need to make special methods to protect your plants, and you ignore them at your own peril. The poor chicken house builder gives up on their plants right off the bat, or doesn’t spend the few dollars they’d need to put a little fencing around their shrubbery.

You need to take a little look at your plants, especially if you’re building your place on an incline, because the chickens might stir up a little extra dirt and harm them.

Hot And Cold

A chicken coop is totally useless if it doesn’t keep a steady, consistent temperature. That doesn’t mean that you need to use an air conditioner for your livestock – that would waste electricity and be a pretty obvious fire hazard. Just don’t use any wacky, irregular materials.

Everything’s Safe

If you’re worried more about keeping your chickens looking nice than keeping them safe, you’re making a serious mistake. You need to have protection that’s difficult to penetrate – regardless of whether you’ve seen dogs or wolves or anything else in the area.

Try burying the fence a foot or so, making it harder for dogs or even raccoons to get under it.

You also need to make it high enough to prevent your chickens from flying over – and believe it or not, the smaller your bird is, the higher up they can fly.

building a chicken coop

Don’t Make This Crucial Chicken Coop Mistake!

No matter how many experts speak out on this problem… it’s still the number one mistake when people get to work building a house for their chickens. They simply can’t get their minds off of how the chicken coop is going to look, and they don’t plan for functionality.

Believe it or not, the vast majority of chicken owners are regular people with small farms and just one coop. That means the job needs to be done right the first time, or risk major hassles and problems. But there’s a way out: instead of “being chicken” and going skin deep with your design, incorporate these basic elements into any coop that you build.

Your Budget

Chickens are a pretty good long term investment, but chickens are very sensitive animals that can have a lot go wrong with them, so if you try to build the coop on a shoestring budget, you risk giving yourself a big list of headaches.
You’re going to spend between $2000-$3000 on a good coop that lasts.

Remember that you’ll also need to pay for utilities, permits, and veterinary care. Think about how much money you plan to spend, and map out your materials before you get rolling.

You’ll also need to budget your time – expect to spend 45 minutes to an hour tending to your chickens every day, maybe a bit longer if you’re totally new to chicken rearing or farm work. You need to clean them, groom them, physically examine them (chickens that are sick tend to produce bad eggs and worse meat) … and you’re going to need to do it consistently, so if you take a lot of vacations, you might need to make some arrangements.

Keeping It Light

Chickens love natural light, so put in a square foot of window for every ten square feet of space on the floor. You can also put a little bit of fencing over the windows so that you can have good circulation regardless of the weather. You want to have enough light at all times to be able to see the feed when you’re refilling the feeder.

Get skylights and something transparent on the roof area. Remember that if you’ve got a good light source, it’ll keep the chickens warm. One electric light every 40 feet and one over the feeding area is a good choice. Just hide the installation in the wall so that the chickens don’t rip it out.

Chickens Are Delicious

As I’ve said elsewhere on the site, everyone love chickens – up to and including your fellow humans. If you live in a crowded area, it’s a good idea to make protective structures strong enough that a person can’t push it over once it’s built. Don’t fall into the trap of only preparing for varmints – if a human can get in or even budge it with their bare hands, your fence isn’t strong enough.

Don’t worry about tools – if it comes to that you’ll be able to track them down. Don’t forget the doors – they’re the weakest part of your defense and can always be reinforced.

build a chicken coop

How To Cover Your Chicken House Floor

Let’s talk about one of the most basic elements of building a chicken coop – the floor. You may want to know what the best choice is for your chicken house floor, and that’s a smart idea, after all you don’t want a floor that’s hard to move, smells bad, looks bad, and makes your chickens irritable. So what should you use to fill your chicken coop?

Well, it depends: your climate and location have a lot to do with what you pick. Let’s look at your major options… together.

Sand

Sand is by far the favored covering for most chicken coops – they work in a wide variety of climates and chicken sizes. But this isn’t as simple as grabbing a bag from a nursery store, you’ve got to get the right stuff. River sand is the best kind, it’s inexpensive and the texture (which is similar to kitty litter) makes it easier to collect chicken manure – so in addition to making it easier to clean, you can get your hands on some easy fertilizer.

But let’s suppose you live in really cold weather and want something that makes the area a bit warmer. Lots of people think of using sawdust to handle the floor, especially if they’ve got a lot of it around. But there are a lot of little problems with sawdust that add up to make it less than an ideal solution.

First of all, sawdust is a great insulant, but nobody really needs it since the chickens are comfortable in low temperatures. Next, it’s going to draw mildew and bacteria once it gets wet, which it almost inevitably will be. Finally, you’ve got to worry about smaller chickens inhaling the sawdust and doing long term damage to themselves.

Sawdust is OK if you’ve got adult chickens and you’re on a serious budget, but you’re really better off using corn shavings or something similar.

Here’s another idea – bamboo sticks are getting more popular because they’re inexpensive, dispose of waste easily, and they’re “green”, and the environmentally friendly aspects help people get behind this building material. Best of all, you can use it for the floor or make a sturdy frame. If you’re growing this already, bamboo is a no brainer.

Plywood works pretty well, too. It will supply your chickens with even temperatures… and a clean environment – this is another one of the most popular backings for chicken coop floors, but it’s not as easy to clean.

So what should you do? Well, as I said earlier, it depends. Sand is still your safest method of dealing with your flooring needs, but if you’ve got bamboo or plywood on hand, it won’t hurt to check things out . Also, remember that what your floor is made of isn’t as important as where you put it. You need to keep the floor of the chicken house above the dirt – a raised coop will help defend you from predators and keep the work of cleaning to a minimum.

building a chicken coop

The ABC’s of Chicken Coop Plans

It’s inconvenient, but most states forbid keeping chickens inside the same living quarters as people. And if you want to keep your animals, you need to keep a clean and hygienic living area that protects your chickens from injury, predators, the weather, and even human theft. That’s why before you start building your chicken coop, you need…

… A Plan!

Don’t build your coop in parts, and don’t wing it – most first time builders get started on a project and as they learn about the practicalities of building a coop, they try to add more and more to it looking to save themselves time and energy. This is just a foolhardy way of doing business. Instead, do the research first, and THEN make a plan. You want to measure your yard off and either draw a schematic yourself (that’s not too hard) or grab one from Chicken Coop Guides.

Building Materials

You really can’t afford to go cheap here. Remember that your building materials are going to be exposed to the elements all the time, and you can’t afford to have anything rot out, or worse – for your chickens to peck away at pressurized wood with chemicals in it. When you go out to the local hardware store, get fresh wood – don’t bother getting scalped wood from a junk pile because you’ll just exacerbate the normal wear and tear.

Crawlspace

Well, first you’ve got to build a coop that works for you, just as well as the chickens. If you’ve got a coop that’s too small, you’re not going to be able to get in and clean all the nooks and crannies, let alone grab the eggs. That’s why you should get two doors for the coop – one for the chicken and one that’s big enough for you to walk through yourself.

Chickens like to be low to the ground, so there’s no reason to stick the doors high in the air or use a ladder. It’s also best to add a latch to these to keep chickens in shape and mobile.

As for the chickens, they’ll need some room too.

Defenses

First, you need to defend them from the weather. You need a draft free house that’s dry and prevents wetness and dampness. If you live in a hot area you need to set them up somewhere that’s well ventilated. A smooth airflow will keep insects out, and just as importantly, keep bad smells out too.

Eating

You’ve got to think about ways for feeding your chickens in an efficient way – you want something that’s rodent proof because you’ll need to stop small critters that can sneak in along with bigger animals you’re blocking out with fencing. It also needs to be easily emptied, because you’ll need to refill it fresh on a daily basis. You can put the bottom of the waterers and the top tip of the feeding plank at bird height.

Finally…

Network with other people that own chickens or are in the business. This is a heck of a task to take on with no experience of how chickens work or what exactly they need. Spend time at forums, reading books, or browsing websites like this as you look to care for your chickens and profit.

building a chicken coop

Portable Chicken Houses – A Primer

If you’ve got enough land to grow your own crops and support an animal or two, chances are you can afford to raise chickens.

There’s a good reason chickens are such a staple in farm life. Everyone knows that their meat and eggs are satisfying and full of flavor – especially if you raise them yourself – but few people think about the many other benefits of owning a few chickens. They fertilize the ground, they chase down insects, and they don’t have temperament issues like some other farm animals.

Plenty of people get intimidated by the idea of raising chickens because they feel like they don’t have the technical knowledge they need.

Fact of the matter is, making a tractor (a portable chicken house) is about as easy as taking care of them in the first place. If you live on a small farm, move around a lot, or live in a city, this is a really good project with long term rewards.

building a chicken coop

Here’s the most important stuff, the things you’ve got to have before to set off to work building a world-class chicken house.

A Bottom Frame

First, you need to figure out how many chickens you’re going to house – it depends on whether you want meat, eggs, or fertilizer, and how much.

A good rule of thumb is to draw out 4 square feet of room per chicken. You’re going to want to use zip screws to tie it down with… one of the best parts of having a portable chicken coop is that you can unzip the screw and carry the frame around. That will free you up to rotate the chickens through your yard, or move them around to keep them safe from predators.

If you aren’t letting them feed on the bottom, you’re going to need to choose a floor. Sawdust, sand, wood-chips – I go in depth on your flooring options elsewhere, but you’ll need to pick carefully.

A Top Frame

You can use an A style frame or a more conventional box – it’s really up to you, just remember that your choice here impacts how air and light come into your coop.

Whether you need light to come in from the sides or overhead will impact your frame choice. Remember to get a couple of hinged doors too – you want the chickens to have somewhere to go in case of rain, and you want them to access food easily too.

The Roosts

Want eggs? You’ll need one. And the more chickens you have, the more roosts you’ll need. A typical chicken can give you 5-8 eggs per week. Make sure the roosts are a couple feet off the ground and are fastened securely. You might have better luck using screws than nails – they’re less likely to fall apart while you’re putting them together.

Wheels

You’re going to need some wheels, too – hard to make a portable coop without one. You can have two or four, but the wheels you pick are going to depend a lot on your terrain. If you’re in a bumpy area, you’ll need bigger wheels, if you’re on the grass or a smooth-ish surface, you can get something with a smaller diameter for a tighter turn radius.

building a chicken coop