Animals Homestead DIY — 20 March 2013

I’ve noticed that my father in law has a lot of talents.  One of them is taking care of chickens.  I’ve been known to brag about his chickens often.  They don’t need any coercion getting in their coop (he lets them roam in the yard during the day), and they lay plenty of large delicious eggs.  So, when we decided to get chickens as part one of my self-sufficiency projects this year, it was a given that I needed to visit the in-laws for some advice on getting started.

My Father in Law's Chicken Coop

My Father in Law’s Chicken Coop

My Father in law says that his coop has stood with very little repair or maintenance for over 20 years!  I consider that a great track record, so I listened intently as he described some of the features that he recommended be incorporated in my own coop.  I plan to design and build a chicken coop by the end of next month, so here are some of the design features that I plan to incorporate:


  • Off the Lawn. A good place for a coop would be where their currently isn’t any lawn.  Chickens are notorious for scratching up the ground, so where the coop is, plants will most likely not survive.  I plan to put the coop out of the spray of irrigation, so it can stay dry.
  • Avoid low spots.  This will prevent rain from creating puddles where the chickens are.

Chicken Run

  • Use chicken wire.  The idea of the enclosed yard area is to let the chickens out into the sun, but keep predators away.  It also keeps birds out that may come and steal food and water.
  • Fully enclose the roof.  A high fence may keep the chickens in, but won’t keep other birds out.
  • Have a gate in the chicken run.  This will allow you to enter the yard if needed for feeding scraps, or cleaning.  My father-in-law opens the gate in the morning and lets his chickens roam.  They return in the evening, and all he needs to do is shut the gate.

The Coop

  • The coop will need a nesting box, a roost, an opening for the chicken run, food, and water.
  • Keep the roost up high.  Apparently chickens like to roost up high.  lower rungs will be needed for them to get up to the top.
  • Keep the nesting box off the ground.
  • Keep the food and water in the coop.  The kind that hang down from the roof with a chain seem to work good.
  • Lighting may be a good idea, but not necessary.
  • If you live in cold climates, you may need insulation and a heat lamp.  Our winters here have an average low of 26-degrees F in January.  The chickens do okay in this without insulation or a heat lamp, as long as the coop is built well and protects them from the wind and rain.
  • Good ventilation is needed to regulate the temperature, and keep the air moving.  I like the idea of having some vents down near the floor on one side of the coop, and another set of vents up high near the ceiling on the other side of the coop.  During cold winter months, the low vents can be shut.  The high vents keep the coop cool during the summer.

So what do you consider to be an important part of the chicken coop design?

To stay up to date with the latest design and see my progress check my project page here.



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(3) Readers Comments

  1. I have heard that for laying hens you need 2.5 SF per hen. What have you found?
    Do you know where to buy your hens?
    Are you going to incubate hens?
    Are you going to have a rooster?
    What are the zoning regulations in your neighborhood?
    Will you neighbors tolerate a rooster early in the morning?

    • These are some good questions. I hope these answers settle your curiosity.
      -2.5 SF per hen sounds good. I haven’t heard a number per hen before.
      -They’re selling chicks right now (March)at the stores.
      -I don’t plan to incubate eggs.
      -I don’t plan to get a rooster. If a chick turns out to be a rooster, he may turn into soup. If I had some land out in the country I would probably have a rooster. A rooster here would attract too much attention.
      -My City’s zoning limits me to 3 chickens. I may bend this rule a little…or not.
      -I don’t know if my neighbors will tolerate a rooster or not. I don’t plan to find out.

  2. I plan on having around 15-20 hens.

    No roosters, wife and zoning against them.

    I heard you should have around 2ft per hen in the coop and 3ft per hen in the run. This should give my hens around 3.3ft in the coop and 6.4ft in the run.

    I plan on getting my hens from a hatchery. I just don’t know if I trust getting them from Tractor Supply.

    My local zoning laws let me have as many hens as I want but no roosters but their are also noise and odor ordinances I have to abide by.

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