In some ways, the process of building a chicken coop is similar to building a home. Figuring out the size and basic amenities is easy enough, but what comes after that? For many people, the next step is personalization based on their climate, interests, neighborhood, and budget. Believe it or not, building a chicken coop requires these same considerations.
Just like building a house, every coop will be different, and those differences are what make it a home. Here are some things to know before you start to ensure your coop meets the needs of your situation.
1. Climate matters
Whether your climate is hot year-round or sub-zero during the winter months will have a huge impact on your coop’s design. Let’s consider the two separately:
Hot climates limit the materials that can be used for the coop but provide other great advantages. The biggest thing to avoid is using plastic. Plastic gets very hot when the sun is beating down, which can create unsafe temperatures for chickens. In addition, since plastic degrades faster in direct sunlight than other materials, a plastic coop built in a hot climate will not last very long. A great alternative is to use wood; it doesn’t degrade from sunlight or trap heat in the extreme way that plastic does.
Hot climates have some perks that you can maximize with a clever coop design.
Hot climates have some perks that you can maximize with a clever coop design. Especially during the summer months, the sun is up for a longer period of time. This means your flock can get more natural sunlight, and you can spend less money on artificial light. Placing windows on the coop facing the direction of the sunrise is a simple and effective way to save on lighting costs, while still providing the flock with the correct amount of light. Not only that, windows help with ventilation, so the heat and humidity is under control. Vents, of course, will also aid with ventilation.
One last thing to consider in hot climates is elevating the coop. This is a good idea for two reasons. First, warmer regions often have heavy rainy seasons, and elevating the coop will allow for better drainage so that the coop stays dry. Second, the chickens can use the area under the coop for shade.
In cold climates, the name of the game is insulation. When choosing a structural material, consider how well it will trap heat in winter, how well it’ll brave the elements, and if it’s strong enough to support several inches of snow without caving in. When using wood, be sure to treat it with a proper sealant to make it last longer. Consider ways to block drafts, too, like using a heavy tarp.
Unfortunately, colder regions may see increased costs. In summer, windows will still help provide natural light and vents will still help with cooling. Winter months will have less daylight, which means you’ll need to use artificial light instead. Heat lamps will likely be necessary to keep the temperatures up. Though they cost more, heat lamps are worth it to maintain egg production and keep the flock safe.
2. It's okay to automate.
Everyone has busy lives. With work, raising children, and just preparing food to put on the table, it can be exhausting to wake up at daybreak to care for chickens and put them to bed at night. To make the task a little easier, opt for an automated coop. Automating the coop will cost a little more, but it won’t break the bank. Plus, the benefits will be worth it. So, what can be automated?
Automated coop doors allow chickens to let themselves into the run in the morning, and the door will close back up at night. Just like coops, these can be put together in a DIY kit, or they can be preassembled.
When deciding which automated door to buy, ask these questions:
- Is it easy to install?
- Will it be weatherproof?
- Does it have timers that can be set for opening and closing?
- Does it have a safety sensor?
Each automated door will have different features, so take some time to research the options.
Feeders and waterers
Many feeders and waterers are not electric. Instead, they typically involve elevated bowls that flow downwards as the volume dips below a preset level. These can save you trips to the coop and help safeguard the health of your chickens, because they’ll always have access to fresh, clean water.
3. Cost shouldn't limit creativity.
When you build your own coop, it can literally look like anything–even a tiny version of a house! Designing the coop can be loads of fun, and the satisfaction from seeing the finished product of all your hard labor is priceless. Best of all, the coop will meet the exact needs of your flock, from its size to the climate that they live in.
Admittedly, building a coop is an investment. Besides buying the material to build the coop, there must be feeders, waterers, artificial light sources, heating and cooling, bedding, and more. But cost doesn’t have to limit creativity.
By choosing to build a coop instead of purchasing one, you’re already cutting costs significantly. Use these savings to create something you’ll not only find useful, but you’ll enjoy. Of course, some families do not have the time to build a coop and are willing to invest the extra money in a pre-made coop, and that’s totally fine!
4. Coop placement is important.
When it comes to placing the coop, there’s more to it than finding the most aesthetically pleasing part of the yard. Here are some important considerations.
Once the chickens are moved into the coop they may be noisy, which could annoy any neighbors nearby, especially if you include roosters. The chickens may wake up at dawn, but that doesn’t mean that your neighbors have to as well! Not only that, the manure from the coop can become smelly. The neighbors likely don’t want to deal with that either. To be respectful to others living nearby, place the coop on the opposite side of the yard or where the noise and smell won’t have an impact.
Chickens will need their own space away from other pets, especially if they’ve never interacted with other pets before. Animals like dogs can be trained to behave around chickens, but they should still have time to themselves. Consider the separate spaces that chickens and other pets will need in the yard, and whether they will be allowed to interact at all.
The initial placement of the coop does not have to be permanent. Coops can be designed to move around the yard using tires or a dolly. Using a mobile coop (also known as a chicken tractor) is a great way to protect the grass and allow your birds to feed in new areas, while still providing excellent protection against predators. There are several designs available, which means that a mobile coop can be adapted to area- and family-specific needs.
5. Cleanliness is key.
Many people do not realize that the shape and structure of the coop has an impact on cleanliness. There are certain design elements that make it easier to clean and maintain your coop, and other elements that will make it much more difficult.
It’s essential for the safety of your chickens that the coop is kept clean, so here are some of the ways that the process can become easier just by adapting the coop design.
Use a hinged side or roof.
This is a great option if the coop is too small to walk into. When it’s time to clean, just open the hinged side/roof for easy access.
Use a “dropping pit.”
A dropping pit is exactly what it sounds like: an area designed to collect the flock’s feces. These should be placed in roosting and feeding areas.
Make the roof of nesting boxes slick or slanted.
If a bird roosts on the nesting box, the feces could get inside. This will not only soil the box, but could also contaminate the eggs or expose them to bacteria. Using a slanted or slick roof will encourage the hens to roost somewhere else.
DIY chicken coops
No homemade chicken coop will be exactly like another, and that is what makes them so incredible. They can be altered to fit any climate or any lifestyle easily and will save some money in the process.
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