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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 http://www.backyardchickens.com/ 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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I great website with a lot of info for newbies

They have a lot of coops to look at.

Couple things to keep in mind:
1.Not sure where you live - but my two biggest predators are fox and hawks. Make sure hens are in at night and you solve the fox problem(assuming you have a proper coop with a door). The hawks - not so easy. My brother has had hawks come right down - go under his porch and dig out the hens hiding underneath.

2.While hens cannot "fly" - they can get off the ground - so if you do any sort of "run" - like around the garden - dont go with a 2ft high piece of chicken wire - they will get right over it. Important becuase hens do a lot of scratching and pecking - and they will devour something yummy in your garden in very short order- leaving you with nothing. That being said - once your crop is harvested - it is a good idea to let the hens go into the garden - they will eat a lot of weed seeds and the scratching and the pooping are good in the fall.
3. Stress is bad for you, me, and animals. If the hens are bothered by the dog - back the dog off and introduce them more and more every day. I know it is funny as hell to watch - but ultimately bad for the hens in large doses. PS- even the best trained dogs sometimes find the fun of eating a live chicken too much to pass up.

PS- chickens are also great at tick control - so the dog will like that.

i agree with backyardchickens.com

backyardchickens.com is golden for people raising chickens.
a coop can be very simple.. i have roughly an 8' long, 6' wide, 6-8' tall (slant roof) coop that currently houses 4 hens and a rooster.

the roosts should be at least 4 foot off the ground, the higher the better.. they love to have a "ladder roost" to sleep on. and the ladder style roost makes it real easy to pick up all the poop in there because you can put a flat board under the ladder roost to catch the droppings. then you can just either remove the board and dump it or easily shovel it off.

the nest boxes are roughly 1' x 1'. they will lay eggs whereever the "top hen" lays hers. so you can take the egg from the lead hen and put it in the box you want them to lay in and they all will follow suit.

chickens love to scratch at the ground.. make sure you give them stuff to pick at, scraps, corn "scratch" and other treats.. they will eat just about anything...

also, if you have pine trees, they love to hang out under them eating all the ticks, bugs and whatever else is crawling around..

i started with 6 hens, 1 randomly died after 2 years of seemingly perfect health... and another "disappeared" shortly there after... i think it was from a fox... but since we've got the rooster, we've nad no problems with the flock. our run is roughly 15' x 10' and connects up to their little door that i normally just leave open unless it's supposed to get super cold...

chickens can be super friendly if you want them to be. they are also very smart and have great eyesight... just a fair warning for those who plan on eating them... don't get too buddy buddy :P

I use Blue Wave, but don't expect one of THEIR silly taglines.

Good Luck!

You have two preditors? You're lucky! My biggest predators are Coyote, Bobcat, Raccoon, Skunk, Badger, Chicken Hawks and 'got-loose' farm dogs. Everyone I spoke with in town about chickens had a tale to tell explaining how they were wiped out by one of the above, never to try it again. I'm not your run of the mill chicken keeper. I love all animals. I did a chicken rescue from a farmer for $2 each. The soup truck was coming for them that evening. Those three are now 6 yrs old. My chickens will live far into old age while I starve to death. All my hens are named, love to be held, petted and I talk baby talk to them. Bake what I call chicken bread, a treat for them. At times have sang Some Where Over The Rainbow to them when they roost to put them to sleep. They acted as if they liked it. Judy Garland I'm not. The door was closed so guess you could say it was a captive audience.
After THINKING I had a Fort Knox coop, found I didn't. Lost 12 of the 24 hens before finally getting the Badger who had defied all odds and got in. Needless to say, my coop IS Fort Knox now. Thanks to The Granger telling me about hardware cloth on the floor. Make sure you aren't depending on flimsy chicken wire. It may keep the chicks in but not the predators...out! That takes care of the nights. After laying their eggs in the morning, let them come and go at about One in afternoon to free range. In life, tend to believe more in the quality of life, not quantity. Freedom is worth a little danger. The goats protect them during the day. They leave their protection to come to the front of the house outside the gate to visit often. If working in my flower beds, they fly up on top of a flower wagon out in the front yard comically standing all in a row with their little necks stretched so they can see over the fence and watch me as I work. Or come up to the wooden fence with their head pressed sideways against the spaces in the wood to see. If I have time, will go out and ask if any have a low lovin' level then pick up those in turn who answer the call to be petted. Guess they know none of the above varmits would come around the house or me in daylight. They think of me as a very brave person. They've seen me in action. Little do they know that running zigzag hot on the heels of a coyote to catch it by the tail when it was chasing a zigzagging pet hen, or trying to pet [what I later found out to be] a Bobcat in the run at dusk wasn't bravery, but stupidity. Funny, but stupid.! [It was during the time I was giving it verbal sympathy for the dastardly act of the person who obviously had cut off the tail of this pretty and unusual cat that it dawned on me as my mind took on the function of a Thesaurus... Cut?. .hut OH.... Bobbed!]

You'll love having chickens but as Jb.kibs said, if you intend to eat them, watch out, they can tear at your heart strings. Being a city/suburbs gal, think chickens flying or scampering out of the way when a car comes up the drive is fantastic Farm Ambiance. It's a choreographed feathered flash dance and the rooster's crow, is morning music. I'm enjoying life on a farm, striving to be the person my chickens think I am.
Enjoy your feathered friends!


Anyone here watch "Alaska last frontier"?

It's a Disco show, but I don't watch it on Cable. Amazon Instant Video!

Anyway, it's a decent show about homesteaders. There is an episode with a chicken coop build. But not to many details about the coop itself.

Those guys are hardcore in a way. They prep massive for 3 months to endure 8 months of winter.... pretty impressive actually.

Put 4 doors on it. Then it won't be a chicken coop anymore...

...it'll be a chicken sedan.


Chris Indeedski!

Daily Paul cured my abibliophobia.

I got a kids playhouse at

I got a kids playhouse at costco and then put chicken wire on the windows. Sealed it with caulking and flashing on the roof. The chickens already had a run so I put their new castle in the run and they are happy.

I love it

My chickens are jealous!

Here is the one I built

http://www.thegardencoop.com/ I use 1/2" hardware cloth.

This was my vision: Mine didn't turn out this good, but my chickens like theirs just fine. Keep scrolling down:

But turned out looking more like this, except I added length to it:

Here are some free plans for a good backyard coop: http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/littlefeats-the-feather-fa...

Turns out looking like this:

That's pretty awesome!

Great job! I used siding board designed for sheds to build mine that I bought from home depot for less than $15 for a 4 x 8' sheet And used the corrugated metal for the roof. We have been very happy with it though it's nothing fancy.

Ron Paul convert from the Heart of Dixie



Mine looks more like the second pic above

I like the plans because you can change up the measurements.
A small version or tractor you can roll around and it keeps about 3 hens:

Thats a nice one!

I don't have the space for that one but I like how accessible it is


If insect control is a concern... you may want to consider getting a couple of guineas, too. You have to buy them as keets so they don't try to fly home and they are more noisy than chickens, but they are excellent at pest control.

Ron Paul convert from the Heart of Dixie

Joel Salatin "Pasture pens"

might be what you are looking for. I have had "free range" and a coop, but the little buggers just get out of everything. I wanted them to have an acre, they want the world. It would not be so bad, but they won't even stay on my land, they have to cross the road... WHY???? lol!



Love or fear? Choose again with every breath.

our yard

is around 2.5 acres and is surrounded by pines and that seems to work out great.. they rarely venture past them...

i have a shirt that has a silhouette of a rooster and reads, "i dream of a day when a chicken can cross the road without being question about its motives."


I use Blue Wave, but don't expect one of THEIR silly taglines.

one of my favorite utopian fantasies, too.

I saw it on a bumper sticker, cracked me up.

Love or fear? Choose again with every breath.


Fishy...had a good laugh with "Why did the chicken cross the road" reference...!!!

I designed my coop

It's permanent... no tractor. My chickens free range most all day and yes, they do poop on the steps and porch but we just hose it off because it's not all the time. We have 11 acres for them to roam and they seem to be content.

Questions... what breed did you get? All pullets or straight run? Do you plan to keep about that many or are you waiting to make that decision? Will you be raising chicks for meat or do you just want eggs? Are you ok with certain areas of your yard looking like a barren wasteland?

Chickens aren't very difficult to keep happy but how much space you need and where you should keep them will depend on your answers to the above questions.

Ron Paul convert from the Heart of Dixie

Jefferson's picture


I think. (even though we've joked about naming them "cacciatore" and other tasty names....;)

We mainly want eggs, but are not opposed to raising meat as well. I'm guessing the two can coexist in the same coop/area or do they need to be segregated?

I'm starting to think we overbought for the space we have. Unfortunately we don't have acreage they can free range on. And yes, we'd like to preserve some of the grass as my little nieces come to visit and play.

That's why I was thinking maybe some sort of mobile coop/tractor would allow them to thatch the grass but not tear it up too badly, but I also don't want to see them all cooped up in a tight space. It's either let them have run of the backyard and block off the access points to the deck, or maybe build some sort of run along the fence.

Good questions. Looks like I've got a bit more homework to do before we build. Thanks Angie!

They will coexist just fine

The only problem you would have to take into consideration is mating if you plan to raise meat chickens, too. If you want both I would suggest barred or white rocks. They are great layers (I get 5 large eggs a week from my hens at least) and they get nice and plump in a reasonable amount of time, too.

For 11 hens who won't have a whole lot of free range space I would say a 4 x 8' coop would be the minimum. If space is a concern build 2 layers. Bury chicken wire a few inches deep at least 12 inches out from your coop/run if it's a permanent one to keep predators out.

11 hens is going to give you lots of eggs. Depending on the breed (do you know what they are?) anywhere from 30-60 a week. That many will also destroy a smaller lawn fairly quickly... even with a mobile chicken tractor. I'll add more to this when I have a little more time tomorrow.

Ron Paul convert from the Heart of Dixie

Actually they won't. Chickens

Actually they won't.

Chickens are extremely "racist". In setting up their dominance hierarchy they will preferentially attempt to dominate any other chicken to the extent it differs in appearance or behavior from themselves. Their temperment is genetically determined and varies drastically by breed. If you raise a mixed flock with even slightly different-temperment birds, the more aggressive and/or energetic breeds will beat up on the less. (This is true even among the least aggressive breeds - as we observed with barred rocks and black star hybrids.)

A classic mismatch is virtually any egg-layer or utility bird vs. a meat hybrid. The meat birds are very sedentary, devoting their metabolism to quickly putting on muscle and NOT USING IT. They're the ultimate couch potatoes. The other birds, being more mobile, will literally peck them to death.

If you want to raise meat birds and other types you need to pen them separately. (Fortunately this is very easy, as the meat birds literally sit in one place and eat, and are ready for you to eat them in just a couple months or so.)

= = = =
"Obama’s Economists: ‘Stimulus’ Has Cost $278,000 per Job."

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

I agree to an extent

but it depends on the particular situation... if you are talking about putting very young cornish x's or rangers with older and larger breeds like plymouth rocks, then yes, you are absolutely right, it will lead to fighting and chickens higher in the pecking order pecking the new ones to death, but I was referring to those he would breed himself and raise (for meat) together as they grow, as opposed to buying hybrids chicks from a hatchery. I have a mix of welsummers, black copper marans, buff orpingtons, white and barred rocks, white leghorns, easter eggers, silver laced wyandottes, California whites, a few red stars, my 3 silkies, and a few that are x's of the ones listed, all of whom coexist just fine. Of course, I don't keep roosters of all those varieties mixed in with the hens at all times to avoid fighting... I let them spend time with the ladies I want them to mate with as needed.

For me, the key to adding new chickens to my flock has been to divide my coop and let them stay in the same coop out of reach for a week or two (depending on how it goes) and free range together during that time before mixing them when they are in the more confined space. That may not work for Jefferson because I have a lot more land for them to roam and avoid each other if need be.

When we buy and grow cornish x's (which we will probably never do again because I HATE raising them) we will keep them with chicks of the same age (if we have them) for the first few weeks (maybe a month) or so, then segregate them when they get to the point they are bigger than the others and still active enough to possibly hurt them. I've never had any issues doing this except for losing one very small wyandotte chick who never grew as fast as the others (and I'm not certain he didn't die of some defect anyway, I should have culled him but I didn't because my kids got attached to him due to his size).

I have friends who have no problem raising standard and bantam breeds together, too, though they have been together since they were only a week or 2 old. I would never add new young chickens of of any breed, especially a very small/docile breed, directly into my established flock of standard size birds with an established pecking order without taking some precautions, because I know that would be asking for trouble.

Are there specific breeds you have had problems with? I would be interested to know some history of your flock because it's possible I just don't have experience with some of the more aggressive breeds.

Ron Paul convert from the Heart of Dixie

I would imagine you've already

thought of this but one of the most important things I tell people is to use the small holed rectangular wire as oppose to the larger chicken wire. We have a problem with raccoons, the people who live behind us had two golden pheasants and the raccoons were able to get a hold of the birds through the holes in the chicken wire and that was the end of the pheasants.

The type of cages you can roll around are great as long as you remember to roll them out of the hot sun. We're only allowed to have four hens in the neighborhood where we live and we have the chickens in a type of side by side double condo cage which is permanent. We use wood shavings for their flooring which is changed at least once a week. We have hawks in the neighborhood and they will swoop down and try to get the chickens occasionally so each day when we let them out to run around we make sure to be there with them.

You will find they all have their own personalities just like people. One of ours loves to be held, two are very independent and don't want to be bothered and the other one is somewhere in the middle. They are so entertaining, lots of fun to watch like when they chase our pomeranian down the driveway.

We eat a LOT of eggs but also share the eggs with neighbors who always reciprocate with fruit from their trees or homemade bread, it's great. Enjoy your new friends, they are well worth having.


On the hardware cloth instead of chicken wire. Along the bottom 3 ft or so of my run, which is where any of my younger chicks which are big enough to come out of the brooder but not big enough to free range without someone around stay, I actually have a layer of both. We have all kinds of predators here so I don't take any chances.

Ron Paul convert from the Heart of Dixie

this site has lots of stuff

this site has lots of stuff you would like, including chicken coop blue prints...


Jefferson's picture


thank you! That's a good start. Your post reminded me of another post I did a while back.
After looking through that, I found a link "fishyculture" provided which is pretty good as well. IDK if it has blueprints yet though.

Did anyone think to ask the chickens?

I've developed a short survey you can have your chickens take home and fill out. Really helps understand that they want from life.

Most of those who think so actually don't and most of those who think sew actually rip.

Jefferson's picture


a chicken whisperer, but I would certainly take their feelings into consideration. Any human input would be appreciated though. Am I missing something here?

I've been considering building a coop myself

I was considering getting a few chickens and started looking in to different types of coops.

There is the issue that my town has an ordnance against raising chickens. It's interesting that there is no problem with a family having 3 huge dogs or 3 huge rototillers that bark and cause a commotion but if you have 3 quiet little chickens the town is liable to go into spasms and fits of freakout.

I still want to try and have my own chickens though and then try to change the ordinance by arguing the case if I'm confronted. In the mean time I think it best (if I go ahead with this) that I make a low profile coop. Also it would be best to make one that not only promotes the health, safety, and happiness of the birds, but also to make the coop easily cleaned. Coops can get pretty filthy and it's the least liked job of owning chickens I believe.

So I started looking at as many designs as possible to get ideas. There are so many coops that fit different peoples needs that you really have to look for one that works best for you.

Things to consider
- protects against predators like racoons, skunks, possums etc
- insulated for cold winter temps possibly have light bulb heaters
- have hanging feeders and water troughs
- have enough nesting boxes that are easily accessible through lifting a door.
- bars to roost on
- big enough to allow you to walk in, sweep out, and spray out
- or if small, be able to remove roof or have modules that disassemble quickly for cleaning.
- possibly plastic removable nesting boxes for easy cleaning
- possibly removable trays that catch droppings

I don't know, I'm still working on my own plans. But if you get any, post them here. I'd be interested too.