Since we plan to acquire chickens this Spring I've been working on a design for a chicken coop. I haven't done a great deal of research on the topic myself, so have been relying a lot on input from Andrea. She has taken some workshops on raising chickens, and has read a couple of books on the topic. I have referenced a couple of websites to get some ideas on space requirements. I've also pulled inspiration from other chicken coops we've seen, such as the external cantilever nesting boxes we saw at Homegrown Hideaways.
The most common suggestion I've seen is to provide 4-5 sq ft per chicken. We plan to start with 10 chickens, so were targeting a minimum of 50 square feet for our coop. After talking with my Dad, and doing some rough calculations to try to find the dimensions that would best make use of materials I've decided to go with a coop with exterior dimensions of 10' x 6', which will provide 51 square feet of interior space. This should work well for 10 chickens, and should provide sufficient room for adding a couple more later if we decide to do so.
For designing the chicken coop I used a very different method than I've used before. I used Sketchup, which is a 3d modeling software, to "build" the coop piece by piece. Assembling the virtual structure one 2x4 at a time forced me to really think through what I was doing. I noticed things that I wouldn't have otherwise thought of, and I was able to make slight adjustments that should reduce material waste. I'm not very good with the program, but I think it will be an important tool to have for future building projects.
The design I have settled on is fairly simple. The outside dimensions, as mentioned previously, will be 10' x 6'. This will allow us to buy 12' long 2x6s, which will provide two floor joists, thus reducing costs and waste. The coop will have a solid floor, which we'll cover with some scrap linoleum flooring. The plan is to do a basic shed-style roof, which is much simpler than a gable roof. To support the sloped roof the walls on one side will be 6' tall, with the opposite wall being 7' wall, giving us a 6:1 pitch, which should be sufficient for a metal roof. The roof will overhang the coop by approximately 12" on all sides, allowing us to use 8' rafters and 12' long 2x4s across the ends. This should also allow us to use 8' lengths of metal roofing without the need to cut them.
One end of the coop will have a full sized door through which Andrea and I can enter when we need to replace the litter, etc. The opposite end will have a small door through which the chickens can exit to reach the fenced in run that we will be adding later. A ramp will extend from the door to the ground inside the run. On the side of coop with the 7' walls will be the cantilever nesting boxes. The reason for placing them on this side is so that we can collect eggs when its raining without having water constantly dripping onto us from the roof. On the opposite side will be the roosts, which we plan as a ladder style roost, having roosting poles at two or three different levels.
The nesting boxes will be framed out between the wall studs. The boxes will be 12" deep, and approximately 14.5" inches wide. They will slope from 18" in the back, where they connect to the coop, to 12" tall in the front. I will probably cover the top with some old scraps of shingles, to protect them from the rain, although the roof overhang will help with that as well. The front of each nesting box will have a door that we can open for collecting eggs, so we do not have to enter the coop to do so. I'm planning to build three nesting boxes initially, which should be sufficient for 10-12 hens.
The aforementioned run will be constructed later, as it will not be required most of the time. We plan to let the chickens free range during the day, but want them to have access to a run for days that we aren't going to be home to let them out. The run will be enclosed with chicken wire, including the top. We haven't discussed the dimensions yet, but we'll likely target something close to 120 square feet, which should be more than adequate for our flock.
I am also starting to think of a watering system that will allow us to provide water in multiple locations from a single water source. We will most likely use the Avian Aqua Miser, which is sold by Anna and Mark of The Walden Effect. I'm thinking that we'll use a single bucket or barrel for the water, possibly even using rainwater from the roof, which will then be piped into three separate containers, located inside the coop, inside the run, and outside. I'll probably add valves to each, so that we can keep the water flow to the run shut off except for when we're planning to use it. Water will likely be available inside the coop and outside at all times, so the chickens can drink from either during the day when free-ranging, or from the inside container at night. I still have a lot of details to work out on the water scheme, but I need to at least figure out the basics so I can be sure that the construction of the coop will accommodate it.
I have calculated that constructing the chicken coop using new materials will cost around $600. This does not include things such as the door, hinges, vents, etc, which we hope to pick up at the Restore. I am also hoping that we can pick up some used wooden siding, which will reduce the costs significantly. I haven't priced the materials for the run yet, but we are also hoping that we can pick up many of those materials used, perhaps from an old kennel.
Since this is our first experience with chickens, and obviously our first attempt at building a chicken coop, I suspect that we are going to make some mistakes. I'd love to hear some feedback on our chicken coop plan, especially if anyone sees any obvious flaws or thinks that we're going down the wrong path with our design.