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Updated: I need help with ideas/plans for a chicken coop please.

After being treated to a wonderful meal at "Nui" and "C's" home a few weekends ago, I was given a dozen of their fresh eggs to take home, which led to the inspiration to get 11 tiny baby chicks. Right now they are in a portable cage that is starting to get cozy. I can look at pictures on Google images of different coops, but I thought I would defer to the DP since posing questions here usually yields some great ideas..

We have a large privacy fenced backyard which is mostly grass with a large deck and a 5' x 30' oval shaped garden out by the fence. I've heard that if you make a chicken run that surrounds your garden, the chickens will eat any of the bugs trying to enter the perimeter.
I would imagine 11 full grown chickens are going to need some space, but I don't want them to have access to the entire back yard and the deck as they poop all over everything.

self edit

So, I'm looking at doing a permanent coop and maybe some sort of separate roll around chicken tractor, or some sort of permanent run around the garden. Either way the chickens need to be protected from feral cats, coons, and possums. I doubt a coyote could get back here but you never know. The other thing is easy access, and easy maintenance. (if there is such a thing)

If you know of any online plans, websites, or other resources that may be helpful, I would certainly appreciate it.

Update 4/27/13: Looks like the consensus is that is the go to resource on the internet for raising chickens. Thanks to all who have responded in typical helpful DP fashion. It's one of the reasons I love this place. I'm still reading through all of the great informative responses and formulating a strategy for the build. Please continue to post suggestions and pics as the build will not start for a couple more weeks. We're going to build a temporary run, and then build something permanent. I will post pics once it is all done. Thanks again for all the great input! There is nothing like learning from others' experiences so you can get it right the first time.

Update 4/29/13: We built a temporary chicken run out of scrap lumber on Saturday. It's roughly 8' x 8' and is just a box, nothing fancy. The chicks seem happy and it also may be useful in detaining small unruly children as well.....J/K

The permanent coop will be started in a couple of weeks. Having trouble deciding between the Ralph's great design, and the colorful mobile "Coup d'Etat" that DP member "kyletownsend" posted here.

Thanks again for all the suggestions. Please keep 'em coming.

Also, thanks to the lovely and talented "photoshopwiz" for pointing me in the right direction to post photos. (and Jon too)

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Joel Salatin is a very good farmer. a chicken expert. another good spot for info on chickens is Paul Wheaton: ~

A nice sign is pretty important too.

Electable Ron Paul is my hero.

Jefferson's picture


always good to see an old school RP sign. It's kind of like the old ways people would communicate with each other by putting certain things in the window. You see a RP sign on someone's property, chances are you can have a meaningful discussion with them.

Big but more importantly portable. wheel it around yard.

Chickens like grass more than grain but 5 chickens will eat a 30 x 30 area down to bare dirt in 2 to 3 weeks. You have 11.

If you don't have much yard, then it can be fixed but you will have to supplement with grain, etc.

Save all of your table scraps they love them including meat and fat.. they eat everything better than a garbage disposal. Some things you will just ned to chop up by hand or in a blender to make it small enough.


Some lessons learned from my

Some lessons learned from my chicken tractor experiment. I built a 3ft by 8ft two story tractor. The nesting area is the second story. We started out with 7 Americauna chickens as everything we read suggested that was plenty of room. Once the chicks were semi grown one started to crow, the impostor was taken back to the store, now we have six.

My feeding and watering is almost automated. I use a 5 gallon bucket with watering nipples. Each is checked and filled if necessary every 3-4 days. We use to use the small vacuum watering do-hickies (lol) but the chickens just kicked dirt onto them until they couldn't get water out.

We started raising meal worms for the chickens but that is not working out so well. The meal worms aren't producing fast enough in the numbers we need.

Moving the tractor around every day is a pain but doable. The chickens will almost wipe out the grass in a day and will eat everything down to the dirt in 1.5 days. I have now moved the tractor into the goat pen and let the chickens out during the day, they are much happier. Let them grow up in the coop and learn that is a safe haven, they will then return to it each night without fuss.

We get 5-6 eggs a day and I end up giving about half away. 5-6 eggs a day is a lot of eggs. You might think carefully on how many eggs you can use or want. One thing I can guarantee; it is a lot of fun and you will learn a lot and feel great from producing your own food.

Don't forget the worm farm...

Chickens pecking the surface should drive the worms deeper into the soil helping to create more airflow and aerobic digestion...

Chris Indeedski!

Daily Paul cured my abibliophobia.

you might want to check this link out

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Motion Detector

We have had coops both in Kentucky and in Colorado with fenced-in runs. We let them free-range sometimes here in Colorado because of our acreage. One thing to remember is that a predator can get in if it tries long and hard enough. Motion detectors have come in handy before to get rid of a pesky raccoon or the neighbors cat.

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How to Handle POLICE STATE Encounters

Jefferson's picture


like this?

We fell for that "ultrasonic" gadget that supposedly emits a high frequency that repels squirrels etc.. It was either set up improperly or was just a gimmick. It doesn't seem to keep the squirrels out of the peach tree.
It was something similar to this:

More like this

This isn't exactly what we had, but it was something like this. We had a separate wireless receiver that he had plugged into the kitchen. It was nice having the audible alarm.

My Political Awakening: I Wanted to Change the World...
I am NOT Anti-America. America is Anti-Me - Lowkey
How to Handle POLICE STATE Encounters

Jefferson's picture


you suggest that.

I used to have one of those (something similar)

I bought it to catch some nighttime car burglars which ended up with me discharging five .45 ACP rounds toward them. The first round was in defense of my safety, the other 4 were a "you're not welcome here" message.

The device mysteriously disappeared after that event, even though the neighborhood was grateful. I honestly don't know what happened to it. (I have my suspicions that it ended up in the trash)

Those things are very handy. Good suggestion.

Chicken Tractor

For free range chickens (or rabbits), you can make a pen that you can move to a grassy area in your yard, and then drag the tractor to a fresh area, where there is more grass.

Chickens are Canibals, K.I.S.S. designed coops....

I once tossed left-over chicken bones to some chickens, and they competitively pecked at the bits of meat off of the bones :) They like pecking around in cow patties too.
I haven't looked very hard, but I haven't seen any modern family coops with roosts built inside. Chickens like perching on roosts and sleeping on roosts. My guess is that their feet are more comfortable while sleeping on a round pole roost like most birds.
You don't have to spend a small fortune on a coop, you can build one out of scrap lumber you can pick up for free off of Craigslist or even Home Depot.
My Grandma's chicken coop is a rustic, unpainted, wooden building circa 1920's that's still standing. It has a slanted roof, with a duck-your-head doorway and a 1x1' glass pane window for daylight. It was built out of cedar, which is termite resistant. It's about 10'x12' but she raised several chickens.
The coop's walls were constructed out of irregularly cut, wooden slat boards. There were gaps left in between for ventilation. Maybe chicken guano is flammable-combustible? There was a simple lock for the door, a wooden block nailed that pivoted on that single nail to hold the door shut. Nothing painted, No chicken wire.
Inside is a dirt floor. The nesting trays are mounted side by side along two walls at about waist high. What took up most of the space inside this coop were the wooden roosts. They are round, 2" diameter poles with the ends mounted horizontally onto one wall, and held on the opposite end with a board angled floor to ceiling, in a graduating series of tiers of roosts about 2 feet apart. The chickens were really agitated to be disturbed while sitting on the roosts. When anyone entered the coop with chickens on the roosts, those chickens reacted like a bunch of libertarians reacting to a warrant-less home invasion by the gov, no exaggerating. They got hostile and went into offense mode.
The eggs were collected throughout the day to reduce breakage. Best to Keep It Simple. Hope this helps <3

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ConstitutionHugger's picture

I'm going to use a wooden children's playhouse

There are cheap used ones on Craigslist. I'm getting silkies so they don't need to roost up high. I'm just going to put nesting boxes on the floor. I'm going to put chicken wire over all the windows. That's my inexpensive solution.

My silkies

Do not roost at all because they can not fly due to the texture of their feathers. I only have 3. 2 hens and a roo, and my hens seem to always (ALWAYS) be broody. They make good moms so whenever I want to hatch some eggs the old fashioned way, I stick them under a silkie.

Ron Paul convert from the Heart of Dixie

Silkies are noted for the

Silkies are noted for the constantly-extremely-broody trait. It's classic to use them to raise chicks of breeds that DON'T go broody or otherwise don't care for their own offspring.

They're also great if you're breeding something else and want to raise more chicks than their own mothers can handle.

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That means: For each job "created or saved" about five were destroyed.


This is exactly what we sometimes do and it has worked well for us.

I've even added some day old chicks I hatched in an incubator to a very small brood one of my silkies had (a few of her eggs did not hatch), and she had no problem taking them on to raise. If you want to do it the old fashoined way... silkie hens are the way to go. The only problem is that due to their smaller size they are more limited in the number of chicks they can hatch/care for.

There's not much, if anything (animal wise, specifically) that is more adorable than little chick heads poking out from a fuzzy silkie wing. :)

Ron Paul convert from the Heart of Dixie


I'm still looking at your design

I really like it.. and here's what I think..

I'd like to see pictures (I loves all the pictures.. you are very talented, THANK YOU for sharing your talents.. awesome pictures, si I laugh at myself for wanting more, but when something is good, one wants more.. ) Do you have pictures of the coop with birds?

Here's what I think I would do.. have a liner for the inside coop so I can easily remove litter.

The lip of the nesting boxes is about 6".. yours appears to be flush with the floor of the nesting box.. mine is raised about 6".. and I really do like using cardboard boxes, so if there was no circle cut outs (which looks cool), and a person could place four boxes, then it would make cleaning nests easier.

I think under the nesting boxes extending from the back you could put additional storage for a tarp (when they need weather protection), wisk broom, gloves, bungees, buckets for feed water?

I think I would like my coop painted in local camo


Thanks for the kind comments.

I like your idea about the coop liner. Would definitely make things easier to clean. Ditto for the idea of cardboard boxes in the nesting boxes.

I am also with you on the lip of the nesting boxes being higher. I actually designed it that way, then had a screw-up in construction (whoops).

I do have some storage in the front end for the removable panels, etc. But more would be better.

I will have to talk to my 5 yo daughter about the paint scheme. She was in charge of that.

I will have to take some pictures with birds in.

What ever you have to do

God bless you and your beautiful family!

Phxarcher87's picture


that is awesome strong work!

James Madison

dog, house

Aside from killing them directly, the dog can give them a heart attack. (They're not called chicken for nothing.) But they should be fine after they get used to each other, at least as long as they are separated. And unless the dog gets a habit of killing chickens, they are usually fine just running around free. Though I don't like the chickens to be free because their favorite place is the porch of a house, and I don't like chicken poop all over the porch.

As far as house designs, a lot of things will work pretty well.

I would say two things that are pluses are

1. The ability to walk inside (i.e., to have it tall enough to walk in).

2. An external access to laying boxes to gather eggs.

If you can swing it, something like this might be nice:

with the addition of externalized laying facilities along these lines:

I've tried an A-frame house-run design roughly along the lines of this

though I used aluminum angle and sheet plastic bathroom/shower liner (a big higher tech). The top was screened and hinged, and insulation (like cardboard) and a tarp could be thrown over the top. Worked OK, but I find it difficult to have anything that is easy to move by hand (i.e., small enough and light enough) that is large enough to hold a dozen birds. And we never did seem to get many eggs with that kind of set up, though 3 to 6 birds, on a 4 X 10 foot run can do a pretty respectable job of clearing a garden bed.

Backyard Chickens

Our family has had chickens for four years now, and have no regrets.

By far, the best internet resource we have found is

They have tons of photos of coops and runs, plus many helpful subscribers who can answer your questions.

For us chickens provide daily fresh food, entertainment, and compost for our garden. Everybody loves chickens. Good luck!

It somewhat depends on how

It somewhat depends on how cold it gets in your neck of the woods.

Also if birds of prey are present you may need to wire (cover) the top of the run.

find a place discarding pallets (skids)...

Free wood!

here is a good link on

At the library...

You can get "Chicken coops for dummies".

Be careful with your lab, my dog was nice to them when I was around, but as soon as I turned went inside one time he ate one!

Just a few things to note

Get a chicken book at Tractor Supply or your local feed store.
Keep in mind, it only takes two or three laying boxes for that many hens.
They will go in at dusk on their own as long as they are allowed a week or so to become used to the coop.
Just be sure to go out and shut the door shortly after that so predators can't get in at night.
I would just cover that small of a garden with some sort of chicken wire cover.
You can fence off a portion of your yard with three to four foot high chicken fence. Just clip the wings feathers short on one side and they will not be able to fly over the fence.
Make sure they always have fresh water and some kind of cover they can run under if a hawk goes over.
Fresh dry straw in laying boxes keeps the eggs clean.
Saw dust makes good scratch for the floor of the coop and absorbs a lot of moisture. Chicken poop is rather wet.
Good luck. Have fun. And get that book.