Chicken coops for beginners – a primer!

Your chickens will need a safe dry and well ventilated place to roost at night or to be in bad weather.  So here is a chicken coops for beginners primer!

chicken coop for beginners

Just cute chicks!

Chicken coops for beginners – things to consider!

We have had a variety of coops since we first started with chickens. We have had old wooden crates converted to a basic house through to our latest construction. We have learned much from each design and have tried to build a better coop for both the chickens and us each time we have had to reconstruct. The only reoccurring theme is that we have tried to use as many recycled items as we could….more to save costs than any other noble reason.

To get some inspiration, have a look at these great coop photos and advice.

chicken coops for beginners

The chickens in the new coop

Here are the things that we now consider when we are designing our coops.

Is the coop secure from other animals trying to get in? Here in the NE of the USA we worry about foxes, coyotes, raccoons etc. So it needs to be a design that can’t be broken into, ripped open, lifted up or turned over.  In Australia I would be also trying to keep out snakes.  Out coop lets in a chipmunk and a squirrel – they get a free feed but don’t do any other damage.

Even in our cold climate, we have a well ventilated coop. Chickens seem to cope extremely well in the cold (ours did great in three months of very bitter winter when it did not get above freezing). So they don’t need a coop that is centrally heated. So good ventilation without being breezy on the birds is perfect.

Chickens on ice!

Chickens on ice!

You don’t need it be be insulated and have central heating.  On the really cold days and nights when the thermometer reading was way below freezing we run a red heating lamp to provide a little comfort.

Damp chickens are not happy chickens…and will probably end up as sick chickens. Your coop needs to always be dry.   So it has to be up off the ground, a roof to stop rain and/or snow dripping in and a way to open it up in case it does get damp inside.   We have stopped providing drinking water in our coop unless its winter (with a water warmer) because the chickens just made a wet mess!

Roosting poles

Chickens need to be able to roost on a perch to sleep, just like all birds do at night (ok …emus don’t). Your chickens needs to have an old broom handle, tree branch or other item to settle on inside the coop.  We have four feet of old curtain rod and all six adult birds are very happy.  When we get more chickens (the coop could take another dozen) we will install more perches.

The new coop's roosting pole.

The new coop’s roosting pole.

Nesting boxes
Your girls will appreciate a place to lay their eggs. Some people like to build nesting boxes inside the coop. We found that having nesting boxes that have easy access for humans to collect eggs are great, however our free ranging girls like to lay in a spot in our barn rather than the nesting boxes.  Inside our coop the nesting boxes are cut down plastic buckets and these are only used if we are late in letting them out and one girl just can’t wait.

The plastic nesting boxes

The plastic nesting boxes

Easy to clean
We use the deep litter method –  which is just code for laying a deep pile of old hay onto the floor of the coop. We clean it out every few months and find that it works great. On past coops it was quite a chore to get into the coop and clean it. With our current design we made a flap on one wall so we have great access for cleaning. We also made the coop tall and added two cut down doors so we can get inside both from the outside and from inside the barn in winter.

Front of the coop - see the lower flap we can open to clean it out - now its a 5 min job!

Front of the coop – see the lower flap we can open to clean it out – now its a 5 min job!


Chicken coops for beginners – why do it!

Building the coop can be a great family affair.  We collected materials from our dump for a few months and then built the structure as a lean-to off the barn.  That way we could have a door to the inside of the barn so during winter the chickens could use the barn to roam around if they did not want to venture out into the snow.  We also have a door on the outside of the coop and a window on the south side – so it gets loads of light and is easy to clean and air out.

Chicken coops for beginners

The coop framed up

Coop fininshed

Coop finished

So far this chicken coop has been perfect!   Easy for us to get into.  Easy to clean.  But most of all, the chickens seem happy to call it home!  Using recycled materials has kept our costs low as well!

Jan and Madie 'fancy up' the coop with paint.

Jen and Madie ‘fancy up’ the coop with paint.

We hope this chicken coops for beginners primer will help you have happier and safer chickens!

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About Gaz

I'm an Australian transplanted to rural Maine where I live on a small property with my wife and two youngest children. Life about family, work and trying the make the planet a better place for everyone.
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4 Responses to Chicken coops for beginners – a primer!

  1. Ginnie says:

    This looks great, Gazza! Those are some lucky chooks. 🙂

  2. Nadz says:

    Looks great! I like how many recycled materials you were able to save $ on.

    Also, if you have cold winters, giving the hens a 2×4 to perch on instead of a round rail will make them spread their feet out, and sit on them. Helps prevent cold feet.

    • Gaz Gaz says:

      We saved a lot using as much recycled stuff that we could find :). Thanks for the tip of using the larger lumber to help them in winter. Great advice!

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