You can read about chicken coop design in a lot of places, but what does everyone fail to mention? Here are three chicken coop design concepts that have been pretty much forgotten:
1. Accessibility: If the chicken coop not tall enough to walk around in, it needs to be small enough that you can reach everything from outside
Many chicken coops violate this rule. In some of them, such as the pasture pen designs of Joel Salatin, you end up crawling across chicken poop on your hands and knees if you need to get at things in the back corners. In others, there’s simply no access at all!
The same rules apply for chicken runs: if you can’t walk around inside them, they need to be get-at-able in some other convenient way.
So, unless you make your chicken coops and chicken runs tall enough to walk around in, they need to have:
- A hinged or removable roof.
- Be no more than two feet tall.
- Be no more than two feet wide.
All our houses are now tall enough to stand up in. In fact, my wife Karen’s cattle-panel hoop-coop concept has been widely copied and is now a standard design.
We used to use low houses, but they were too hard to work with, in spite of being based on the widely promoted designs of the day. These were either too tall for us to reach down into (Andy Lee’s “chicken tractors”) or too wide (Joel Salatin’s pasture pens). Most small store-bought chicken coops also lack easy access.
2. Built your chicken houses to accommodate at least six inches of litter.
Deep litter that you keep around for a year or more works better than thin litter, but the house has to be built with deep litter in mind:
- Put the bottom of the door 6-12 inches above floor level. (This also helps keep the chickens from instantly escaping when you open the door.)
- Use some kind of rot-resistant materials or sheathing for the bottom foot or more. Both our brooder houses have a concrete floor and concrete “pony walls” to create a rot-proof, rat-proof house. But a wooden house with metal or plastic sheathing at the bottom of the walls will also prevent rot.
3. Don’t let the coop become a tumbleweed!
Most coops use lightweight construction and can be blown over in heavy winds. This is especially true of portable coops. We’ve had at least half a dozen coops blow over at one time or another. This always causes serious damage and usually destroys the coop, injuring and killing chickens at the same time.
To prevent this, staking the coop down down works best, and weighting them down is second-best. We’ve had excellent results from staking down just a single corner. For portable houses, pounding a T-post outside a corner of the house and tying them together with rope works fine.