So, you have decided that you want to own your own chickens. However, the only thing holding you back is that you think building a chicken coop would be just too hard. To set your fears to rest, let me tell you that it is not as difficult as you might think it would be. You don't have to be Bob Vila to be able to build your own coop, and you don't need a fully furnished carpentry shop and tools. However, there are some basic things you need to include in your chicken coop plans.
It Must Be Easy To Clean
Although your construction should keep the chickens in mind first, you must also give some consideration for human access. Chickens can make a mess, and you will want to makes sure that you can get inside or into you coop to clean up. If you want to have healthy chickens, you will definitely want to make sure you keep the coop clean. To facilitate this, you must make sure there is a door big enough for you to get into, or at least hinged openings where you can do some good "coop-cleaning."
It Must Be In a Clean and Dry Location
You have to remember that a chicken coop is not supposed to be a chicken swamp! To keep this from happening, you need to make sure that your coop is built in a slightly raised location so that precipitation will flow away from your coop. You also need to make sure that your coop has sufficient exposure to sunlight so that the ground will dry more quickly. If you live where it's cold, that will also make sure to keep your birds nice and warm, too.
It Must Be Big Enough For Your Birds
As human beings, we don't like living in cramped conditions, and chickens are no different. And also, like humans beings, the more active chickens are, the more space they need. Chickens that are constantly kept inside of a confined environment (with little or no access to the outdoor) do not require a lot space. A good rule of thumb to use is to allow 2-4 square feet for each chicken in that environment. On the other hand, chicken with access to a run or an open yard need to have a coop that allows for about 5-10 square feet per bird.
It Must Have Plenty of Room to Roost
Chickens need to have adequate roosting room to comfortably rest, too. Now, chickens are a little different from us in that they prefer to roost up off the ground, because, in the wild, chickens love to roost in trees. So the roosting space needs to be at least 18 inches from the ground or the floor of the coop. You also need to build a perch that is appropriate for the size of your chickens. The easiest thing to use is a 2x4 with rounded edges so the chickens can get their claws around them. For smaller chickens, the perch should be no less than 1 inch wide. And don't forget, you will probably need dropping boards beneath the roosting area that you can pull out easily for cleaning.
It Must Have a Place for Your Hens to Nest
The most immediate benefit of having your own chickens are the fresh eggs that they provide. However, you need to make sure that your coop has a nesting area that will encourage your hens to lay their eggs in a safe and easily accessible place. The answer is nesting boxes. For a regular size hens, your nesting box should be at least 12 inches high, 12 inches, deep and 14 inches high. If you have larger hens, just increase the width to 14 inches. Don't forget to build a perch outside the nest, and also make a 4 inch lip to keep your precious eggs from falling and breaking. It also would not hurt to put an angled roof to keep the flock from nesting on top. You will need to build on nesting box for every 4 hens.
Wilbur Perkins is the owner of Chicken Coop Culture, an online resource for those wanting to build safe, durable, and economical chicken coops for their flock. For more information on chicken coop building.