Chicken Coops: Housing Your Hens
The purpose of chicken
coops is to
shelter, protect and contain back yard chickens. Coops give chickens
relief from the elements, especially in inclement weather and during
the winter, and keep them safe from chicken predators that will
decimate an unprotected flock. Chicken enclosures also prevent a flock
from wandering unbidden into vegetable gardens, leaving their droppings
on the patio and other frustrating behaviors.
Without denying the benefits of free range chickens, it’s also nice to be able to contain your laying hens for the sake of convenience, good neighborly relations and safety.
There are a few options when it comes to housing your birds. You can buy chicken coop plans and have them built to spec (or make them yourself); purchase a ready-made coop; or, convert an existing shed or structure into a chicken house.
Any of these three methods will work. The size of your flock and budget, as well as what’s already available on your property, will usually make the decision easy for you. If you already have a shed that’s not being used, or of which part could be sectioned off for the birds, that would obviously be the simplest solution.
Of the three, buying a ready-made coop is more of a last resort. It’s typically more expensive than buying the lumber and plans to have one built yourself, and the coops are often not as large or as sturdy. The exception to this is if you have a regular garden shed delivered to your property and retrofit it with nesting boxes for your hens.
A more economical method is to buy a set of chicken coop plans and the lumber and parts needed to create your coop. You can then build it yourself, enlist a handy family member or friend to do the project (barter!) or hire a handyman to put it together. By choosing the plans, you can control the cost and scope of the project.
A good rule of thumb is to allow 2-3 square feet in the house per bird in your flock, if they will also have access to the outdoors. If the coop will be their primary home, they need more like 5-7 square feet per bird, ideally. Obviously, commercial chicken operations give their hens far less space, but that’s not necessarily humane or ideal, and it doesn’t make sense for a small backyard flock.
Given the obvious benefits of a well-designed chicken coop and outdoor enclosure, virtually all backyard chicken owners provide their flocks with a house-like structure. Most ensure that the birds also have indoor nesting boxes and an outdoor scratch yard or free range enclosure, giving their birds the benefits of both outdoor time and protection from danger.
If you're interested in any of the coop plans for the houses pictured here, see Building a Chicken Coop to purchase them.
Go back to Chicken Coop Plans, home to Egg Laying Chickens, or check out other chicken-related resources online:
Best Coop Plans:
How to Build a Chicken Coop - detailed plans and construction guide for making backyard coops.
These chicken coop plans and building guide are the best I've found, and purchased them myself to build our first coops. There are five different chicken coops included, beginning with the most basic double-story ark and culminating with the largest design, the Chicken Barn with attached screened-in chicken yard. I want to use their plans again for their largest chicken coop, the chicken barn, when we are ready to upsize our chicken flock's habitat. The coop pictured here is a medium-sized all-in-one design.
Recommended Chicken Books:
- Homemade Living - Keeping Chickens: All You Need to Know to Care for a Happy, Healthy Flock by Ashley English
- Storey's Guide - Raising Chickens by Gail Damerow
- Barnyard in Your Backyard - A Beginner's Guide to Raising Chickens, Ducks, Geese, Rabbits, Goats, Sheep, and Cattle
Favorite Chicken Quotes
“ A chicken you eat only once — eggs a hundred times." ~ Tajikistani Proverb
“ You cannot cook one half of the chicken and leave the other to lay eggs." ~ Sanskrit Proverb
“ You don’t have to kill the chicken to get eggs." ~ French Proverb