|Vintage design with attached run.|
1. You can usually find second hand materials that are better quality than the materials used to create ready-made options. Honestly, I've looked at the ready-made coops. You can spend over $400 for a thin bit of nothing to house only 4 chickens comfortably. Then you will still find yourself having to figure out how to predator-proof and weather-proof the thing. Go find a discarded shipping crate and use your imagination.
2. Even if you pay top-dollar for your materials, the same amount of money will produce housing for more chickens than if you spend it on something already constructed.
3. If you've never done construction work, you can learn by using the internet and helpful sites like Ana White or Ron Hazelton. You'll gain confidence AND you'll know where any problem areas might be located in case there is a need for repair. Don't worry, the chickens won't criticize you if things are a bit crooked.
Here are features that we have used (or wish we had):
- Don't place them under roosts where poop lands.
- Do make them dark and private.
- If they are built as nooks in the wall, it preserves floor space.
- We prefer top hatch openings for egg retrieval -- or front retrieval.
- You don't need a walk-in coop. This also helps as a work-around for areas that limit 'permanent' structures.
- An elevated coop helps keep critters out.
- You DO need large doors on two sides of your coop for easy cleaning.
- Position at least one window towards the east and have some upper ventilation for when the weather gets warm. This allows for plenty of sunshine and a cross breeze to keep things healthy.
- Use clear shower curtain liners, cut to size to cover windows during winter. These are easy to clean, waterproof, block the wind, allow in sunshine and can be rolled up during the summer.
- Line the floor of the coop with leftover vinyl flooring. This will be covered with wood chips or hay and will make cleanup SO MUCH easier.
- Removable roosts make cleaning easier and allows for re-arranging as needed.
- Hanging feeders and waterers are simple to use and clean.
- Consider having your coop located outside the chicken run with a chicken exit from the coop into the run. If you have repairs to do later, you'll not have to work around your girls, just close the chicken door. This also makes it possible to retrieve eggs without entering the run.
- If you have a coop located inside the run, any security measures you've taken with the run fencing will also help to secure your coop.Covering a run with netting keeps predators at bay. We attached ours' with zip ties.
- Staking wire mesh along the ground outside the run keeps other animals from digging in.
- Keep hay, yard clippings, shrub prunings, and other organic materials in the chicken run. They will pick bugs off of anything they don't eat. All of it will all be shredded into rich compost for your yard. This will also keep the soil in the run from becoming compacted with manure -- which will keep it from smelling bad after a rain.
- ANYTHING you think of that will make it easier to interact with your birds -- incorporate it in the original plan. You'll think of more later, but ease of cleaning and feeding will be important.