Now we roughly know what breed of chickens we want, we can start planning the coop. We had a rough idea of making a henhouse for (nightly) cover and laying nests, with a huge run around it so the chickens have lots of space to roam. The run would be used mostly when we only just got the chickens, to help them get used to the area. Or when we don’t want them roaming around the garden for one reason or another.
We already thought where we want the coop: near the kitchen. That way, the chickens are always nearby, and we can see them roaming around from the dining table : ) In winter they’re also closeby so we can keep an eye on them. The place is also shady and sheltered, with lots of vegetation and bushes to look for insects.
Okay, so we already know we have to make the henhouse spacy with a relative big entrance because we chose a big breed. We also know where we want to place it. But what about other influences? Ofcourse there’s also features of the area we live in to take into account.
As we live in a rural area one of the things to take into account are the predators that live around here. Now we don’t have anything exciting around like lions or snakes, but we do have all kinds of predatory birds and mammals that like their easy picking fresh meat. Buzzards, hawks, foxes and martens are a common presence in the area.
To protect the the chickens against predatory birds, we will make sure there are bushes and other places of shelter in and near the coop and run. When the rooster spots a dangerous bird, they can hide in safety until the danger has passed. It’s not 100% guaranteed safe, but safe enough that we’re confident we won’t loose too many birds. We also want to give the chickens when they’re old enough free roam of the garden and we can’t possibly cover the whole garden with netting : )
We also have to be able to close off the coop at night, so foxes and martens can’t reach the chickens. An entrance that’s big enough for the chickens to enter and exit through, and is easy to open and close for humans, but hard to crack for predators would be ideal. I’m thinking a sliding door that can be pulled up in the morning and let down in the evening would be fine : )
One thing I like to do when I’m planning to build something, is to draw it. That way I can visualize the construction, and see difficulties before we order the materials we need.
First things first, we need some information to begin with!
- Size: chickens (especially big ones) need about 0,5 – 0,75 square meter of space in the coop (excl. run). We want 4-5 chickens to begin with, so our coop should be around 3 square meters big.
- Perch: big chickens need a big perch! the perch itself should be about 7cm x 7cm, not too high positioned since the chickens can’t fly, and every chicken needs about 30cm.
- Cleaning: we should be able to clean the coop, so it needs a “human door” in addition to the chicken door : ) The coop should also be high enough so you have enough space to maneuver and reach every corner that needs cleaning.
- Ventilation: the coop needs ventilation (but shouldn’t catch wind)
- Laying nests: 4-5 chickens means 2 – 3 laying nests (which should be approximately 30cm x 30cm)
Time to sketch : )
As you can see, we decided on a coop on legs. That way the chickens have also some room to shelter or take dust baths below it, and we have easier access to clean. We also decided we wanted to be able to access the laying nests with a separate door, to have easy access to the eggs : )
We also figured we would use a board of 2.5m x 1.25m as the base. That’s the biggest, regular sold board size around here. It translate to a little over 3 quare meter of space, which should house 4-6 chickens. Just enough for our purpose : )
For the second version – and also the kinda-final version, we decided to create extended laying nests for easier access. We also decided on some sizes, like the height. I’ve drawn only the support beams, and not things like the perch. Which will, by the way, still be at the same place as on the first sketch : )
With just a few (mostly structural) changes, I drew up the third and final version. This time on scale, so we could also figure out how much wood we would need to order.
I have to say, I’m quite proud of how the drawings turned out. Especially if you know that I used an old (not accurate) geo-triangle to try and make things straight and square : )
We will create the run later, but It’ll cover at least 50 square meters of the garden. We want it to be big enough so there will be some grass left (maybe that’s hope in vain, but we’ll see) and may house more chickens if we decide to expand. Ofcourse in that case we would have to expand on the coop as well, but I think it shouldn’t be too hard to remove the roof to create a second floor. But that’s a problem for another time. : )
Now the only thing we have to do, is to order the wood and build this thing… : )