The Fundamental Backyard Chicken Coop

Roosting is an instinctive and vital practice performed by chickens in order to avoid nocturnal predators.

| August 2017

  • Nesting boxes are used by every hen in the flock and as a result it is important that the nesting boxes are well built and easy to clean.
    Photo by © 2017 Chris Cone
  • Higher ranked hens will attempt to bully lesser ranked hens from favorite nesting boxes.
    Photo by © 2017 Chris Cone
  • Roosting branches will need to be well spaced apart to maintain cleanliness while the flock fills the branches throughout the night.
    Photo by © 2017 Chris Cone
  • Straw is a popular option for chicken coop bedding as it is both affordable and widely available.
    Photo by © 2017 Chris Cone
  • According to Pam Freeman’s “Backyard Chickens Beyond the Basics”, every chicken coop is different and should be built in consideration of both the flock's needs and the needs of the flock's caretaker.
    Cover courtesy Voyageur Press

Learn all about raising backyard chickens from small beginnings with chicks and eggs to identifying problems within backyard flocks and how to fix them in Pam Freeman’s Backyard Chickens Beyond the Basics (Voyageur Press, 2017). Freeman’s practical advice makes chicken keeping easier with these guidelines. The following excerpt is from Chapter 9, “Coop Truth.”

You can purchase this book from our Capper's Farmer store: Backyard Chickens Beyond the Basics.

Make Sure Your Coop Fits Your Needs

For me, family vacation and getaway time is important. So everything in my coop is oriented toward everyday ease and convenience as well as the convenience of potential caretakers. Even if vacation is only once a year, I want to know that I can get away and my chickens will be safe and comfortable. But vacation wasn’t my only thought when designing my coop. I work from home, so my chickens free range in fenced areas during the day (I do check on them and visit often) and put themselves away at night. After they’ve perched and settled in, I shut the coop door so they can rest safely. This works well when I’m around all day though it may be different if you work outside the home. Regardless of work schedules, what about nights out for dinner and a movie? What about times when you may want to take a day trip and won’t be back before dark? How about nights when you’re at sporting events for the kids or other school activities? Those are times you may not be able to get home to do a final check and shut the door after your chickens have roosted. For those times, in addition to a large coop, I’ve got an attached fully-enclosed run. It’s predator safe. That way my chickens have room to safely roam outdoors and indoors, and I don’t have to worry about getting back at a certain time. On days when I’m going to be gone, I’ll let them stay in their coop and run instead of free ranging. If I’m just leaving to go out for the night, I’ll round everyone up into the coop and run before I leave. That way they’re safe, happy, and have access to fresh air and outdoors. So, as your chicken keeping progresses, it’s good to take a look at your coop and see if it’s meeting your needs and make adjustments accordingly. You’ll be thankful you did.

Inside the Ideal Coop

Chicken coops these days come in all shapes and sizes. There are coops that cost thousands of dollars and are designer in every way. There are adorable backyard coops meant to grace the lawns of suburban backyard chicken owners. There are converted garden sheds. And there are creative coops, made out of pallets and recycled materials.

No matter what coop you choose, to be honest, the chickens really don’t care what it looks like on the outside. They’re much more concerned about whether everything they need to roost at night, get out of the elements, and lay eggs is inside. The ideal coop for chickens is much more utilitarian.

Space Requirements

Starting out, most people figure out a general space requirement and go from there. But as you expand your flock and possibly add birds of different sizes, such as bantams and heavies, you need to consider the varying size minimums. Remember guidelines are just guidelines and most people, including me, believe that more room is better, up to a point. However, sometimes too big is just too big! This comes into play during the winter. Body heat equals warmth, so too few bodies in too big a space won’t help the flock stay warm. For instance, 10 bantams in a 10 foot × 12 foot coop can’t keep it warm. You’ve got a lot of dead air space in there!



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