Backyard Poultry

Building Chicken Coops

Starting a Flock : Environment

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Purina Animal Nutrition

It is just as desirable to build a chicken house as it is to build a cathedral.
Architect Frank Lloyd Wright said this quote several decades ago. Today, we believe these words still hold meaning. A coop is a home to your birds, providing shelter for your flock and a centerpiece of your backyard.
When we built our 12 coops at the Purina Animal Nutrition Center, we focused on a combination of safety and comfort for our birds and convenience for our flock care team.
 Building Chicken Coops
Here are a few points we kept in mind:
  • Plenty of space: Space for our birds is a key consideration. We follow the rule that each bird should have indoor and outdoor access at all times. Each bird should receive at least 4 square feet of indoor space and 5-10 square feet of outdoor space.
  • Covered room to roam: Each of our coops has a covered outdoor run for the birds to enjoy fresh air. This large, covered area is important for several reasons: One it provides shelter from weather and direct sunlight. Secondly, it provides security from predators. And most importantly, and a factor we normally don’t think about, it provides a measure of biosecurity by not allowing droppings from wild birds to land in the area occupied by chickens We place our feeders and waterers in the covered runs so the coops stay dry and clean.​
  • Predator-proof: We’ve predator-proofed our coops at the Purina Animal Nutrition Center by placing screens on the doors, windows and runs. We used galvanized welded wire instead of chicken wire as chicken wire can stretch and allow predators access to the run. We also buried wire underground to prevent burrowing predators from accessing the coop and run. (We buried galvanized welded wire six inches underground, parallel to the walls of the coop and run and then bent the wire 90 degrees to run the wire out from the coop parallel to the ground, 6 inches.) Then we covered the wire with dirt. If a predator tries to dig under the coop or run, they hit the buried welded wire, and stop digging.
  • Good ventilation: Fresh air is essential during all seasons. On our coops, we added windows on all 4 sides and ventilation holes at the top of the coops to allow fresh air to enter and stale air to exit. Even if you live in a cold climate, don’t seal the coop from fresh air as ammonia buildup can be hazardous to birds.  
  • Electrical outlets: As days get shorter, hens need additional light to continue laying eggs. In order to provide 17 hours of light per day, we added electrical outlets to our coops. This allows us to add one incandescent 40-watt or LED 9 to 13-watt bulb per 100 square feet of coop space. We use an automatic timer to keep light and dark hours consistent so hens stay on a laying and sleeping schedule.
  • Continuous access to clean water and fresh feed: Fresh feed and clean water are essentials in maintaining a happy, healthy flock. When building a coop, be sure to keep these points in mind. Designate areas for feeders and waterers and determine a place for feed storage. If you live in a cold climate, water heaters may be needed to prevent water from freezing.  
Looking for additional tips on coop building or plans for coop design? Get resources and coop plans from our friends at Tractor Supply Company. Visit the Purina Poultry Pinterest page for some coop inspiration.