Backyard Poultry

Chicken Coop Ideas: How to Build a Chicken Coop for You and Your Flock

Starting a Flock : Environment

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Purina Animal Nutrition

Looking for chicken coop ideas or need chicken coop designs? When planning how to build a chicken coop, keep six points in mind: space, protection, access, air, light and nutrition. The best chicken coop will provide shelter and protection for your chickens, along with convenience for you and your family. 
“It is just as desirable to build a chicken house as it is to build a cathedral.” – Architect Frank Lloyd Wright
Many decades after he said it, we believe Wright’s words still ring true. The best chicken coop is a home to your birds, providing shelter for your flock and a visual centerpiece for your backyard.
That’s certainly the case for the 12 chicken coops we built at the Purina Animal Nutrition Center in Gray Summit, Missouri, where we raise backyard chickens just like our customers.
All Purina® chicken feeds are created at the farm. We have an amazing team of Ph.D. nutritionists, feed formulators and flock caregivers who work with our backyard chickens each day, assuring every Purina® feed is formulated specifically to help backyard birds stay strong and lay strong.
When we were brainstorming chicken coop ideas, our focus was on a combination of safety and comfort features for our birds and convenience for our flock care team. Whether you’re learning how to build a chicken coop, what should be inside a coop or how big to make your run, keep these chicken coop ideas and tips in mind.  

How much space do chickens need?

Coop space for chickens is a key consideration. We follow the rule that each bird should always have indoor and outdoor access. Think of the coop as the bird’s bedroom, and the run and outdoor area as their playground. Chicks can be moved to the coop around 6 weeks of age, but this really depends on whether there are older hens already out there. If the coop is already occupied by adult birds, then you need to wait until 16 weeks of age before combining the flocks. Chickens need at least 2-3 square feet of indoor space and 7-8 square feet of outdoor space. 

Chicken run ideas 

Each chicken coop at the Purina farm has a covered outdoor area for the birds to enjoy fresh air. This is called the run. The run is important for several reasons: one, it provides shelter from weather and direct sunlight, and two, it provides security from predators. But most importantly, and something many chicken raisers don’t think about, it provides a measure of biosecurity. A covered run helps prevent droppings from wild birds landing in the area occupied by chickens. Another tip: Place chicken feeders and waterers in the covered runs to help keep your coop dry and clean. ​ 

How to predator proof a chicken coop 

Having a predator-proof chicken coop is very important. We predator-proofed the coops at Purina Farms by placing screens on the doors, windows and runs. We used galvanized welded wire – instead of chicken wire – because chicken wire can stretch and allow predators access to the run. To prevent burrowing predators from accessing the coop and run, we buried galvanized welded wire 6 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, 12 inches. To finish, 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. Watch this video for more predator-proofing tips.

Chicken coop ventilation 

Fresh air is essential during all seasons. For our chicken coops, we added windows on all four 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 during cold temperatures. Ammonia buildup can be hazardous to birds. Good ventilation will help keep your flock healthy and your coop smelling fresh and dry. 

Do chickens need a light in their coop? 

As days get shorter, hens need additional light to continue laying eggs. To provide 16 hours of light per day, we added electrical outlets to our chicken 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. 

Chicken feeders and waterers 

Fresh complete feed and clean water are essentials for maintaining a strong, healthy flock. When building a chicken coop, designate areas for feeders and waterers and determine a place for feed storage. If you live in a cold climate, you may need a heated chicken waterer to prevent water from freezing during winter temperatures. But do not add heat lamps to your coop. It should be built to keep out drafts, while still allowing good ventilation. Chickens, especially cold-tolerant breeds like Araucana, Australorp, Rhode Island Red, New Hampshire Red or Delaware, can withstand winter temperatures without supplemental heat. Your chickens’ thick feathers are a natural protective coat, so most breeds are well-equipped for winter weather.   
You can find hundreds of fun and inspiring chicken coop designs on the Purina Coopitecture™ Pinterest page!

Ready to get started with backyard chickens? Visit our Baby Chick Resource Center for everything you need to start chicks strong.