Building a Chicken Coop:The Most Common Mistakes & How to Fix Them
If you are handy – why not build your own, custom–made, custom-styled chicken coop?
There are so many great ideas for building a new chicken coop. You can choose from a simple and sturdy utility coop to a fancy and ornamental Victorian chicken house. Whatever styles your taste and budget allows (don’t forget salvaging items and construction materials can really help), there are a few pre-construction checklists that need to be considered before grabbing the hammer.
The key to a successful DIY chicken coop is to troubleshoot before you put on the builder’s cap.
Site Considerations: Planning Before the Build
This is where most people drop the ball! Siting your coop amounts to much more consideration than…“here is an extra space with nothing on it!”
- Site the structure on high ground! Do not build on flood prone areas (downhill, low spots, marshy areas). High flood seasons will show you where this watery problem is likely to happen. Just because the ground is dry in August, it may be a swamp in May.
- In cold climates, face the windows to the south and situate the coop where it will be protected from winds. In warm climates orient the coop where it will be shaded and receive cooling winds. Even in cooler climates, summers get hot and you will want some shade to fall over the coop.
- Do not site the coop too far away from human activity. This invites predators. If you live in regions with large carnivores (mountain lion, coyote, fox, fisher cats), you may need to install an electric fence around the coop. If you live in regions with bears – you WILL need an electric fence.
Predator Proofing the Chicken Coop
Never build your coop without a floor. Yup, this sounds silly, but it just needs a bit of clarification. Either raise a wooden, or 3/4 inch plywood floor, up on foundation blocks, or build a suitable, rot proof foundation.
If you simply build the coop without a floor – using the available dirt or even replacing the native dirt you are providing easy access to predators. You will have a constant battle repairing the foundation and trying to stay ahead of burrowing predators (raccoons, skunks, weasels, etc). These predators can quickly gain access and kill every bird in a single night. Always use sound lumber when building the coop to prevent predators from chewing and clawing through thin wood. Rats will chew through metal and thin boards.
When deciding plans and designing materials for your coop always think like a predator. If I were a raccoon, how would I get into this coop?
Be particularly diligent when considering materials for eaves as well. Predators entering through the eaves – pulling, ripping and pealing off the flashing – have decimated many a chicken flock.
You will not notice the damage, (who checks the eaves every day?) until it is too late!
- Windows and screen: Predators will crash through windows. Always screen window areas with heavy guage wire that is securely mounted in a heavy-duty frame.
- Coyotes will chew through wire, even lighter heavy gauge wires. Always check wires for rusting.
- Weasels can and do squeeze through a ¾ inch gap or hole. Even a mink will enter and kill your birds.
Buy household window screen in addition to the heavy gauge wire. Mosquitoes carry EEE and fowl pox, and these insects will be feeding on the chickens as they roost at night.
- Latches: Purchase heavy-duty latches with livestock grade fixation. Predators such as raccoons are very clever and dexterous. Only purchase latches that use clips or padlocks.
- Human predators: If you live in an area where humans are a concern, or if you plan to raise and show valuable birds – this MAY be a concern. Show birds and pet birds have been stolen (even right from show cages). The news has aired several tragic cases of animal cruelty where criminals have killed chickens. Humans are the scariest predator to deal with.
DIY Chicken Coop Safety Tips:
- Sight the coop very near your home.
- Use motion lighting and mount security/game cameras around the coop.
- Use locks on all of the outside gates.
- Set up security camera warning signs on your property.
- It may or may not be wise to lock the coop door. In case of fire you will want to have immediate and fast access to the coop itself.
Safety of Coop Building Materials
Salvaging building boards, windows and doors is a great way to build a beautiful coop. There are a few things to keep in mind before acquiring or purchasing these pieces. Obviously, only use wood or construction materials that are in sound shape – avoid crumbling metal or iron, dry rotted boards or questionably safe boards. You won’t want to have to replace sections of coop a few years after construction (also – refer to the predator section!).
Do not use old pressure treated lumber that was made with chromated copper arsenic (CCA). This type of preservative entered the market in the 1940s and gained popularity in the 1970s and 80s – so use caution if repurposing lumber from this period. Even modern pressure treated lumber has some risks. Clean up all sawdust and do not cut the lumber in areas where your birds will be roaming.
Avoid using any lead painted lumber or iron. Remove all lead paint before using the material in the coop area.
When considering insulation materials ensure the birds will not have access to this as they will pick and eat it!
• A word about chicken wire
Dogs, coyotes and raccoons will tear through chicken wire. They chew holes in it as if it was made of paper! It has no predator barrier applications. Chicken wire only keeps the birds in or out of a secure area – never use it as a predator barrier.
Building a chicken coop can be the best way to get the perfect coop for your birds and your lifestyle. With just a bit of planning, you will be well on your way to creating the coop of your dreams. And if you don’t have your design plans yet, be sure to check out this chicken coop blueprint package with 7 design options to choose from.