Our chicken coop has been through all four seasons now and is working out beautifully, so I thought I'd make a new post to walk everyone through it. Let me know if you have suggestions to make things easier or questions on something I missed!
The coop itself is a 7x7 floor plan with a lean-to-style roof. The short size is 3 feet tall inside, and the teller end is 5 feet. The whole coop is raised 2 feet off the ground with the bottom enclosed to not only allow more outside run space but also to make cleaning a breeze(more on that later). We have multiple roosting bars set slightly higher than the four attached nesting boxes, allowing for plenty of room for our flock of twelve to roost.
The outside run is 7 feet wide and 14 feet long, plus the under-coop area, totaling 147 square feet of complete secure run area. It’s 7 feet tall, giving us plenty of headroom to walk around and clean things out, as well.
The entire run is enclosed with ½ inch hardware cloth that is extended out in a 2-foot skirt around the whole run and coop to prevent anything from digging in. The coop's bonus space has the same setup, keeping run as the entire secure from our heavy predator load.
Each window on the coop has hardware cloth installed inside and stapled securely so that the windows can be left open without compromising safety on hot summer nights or latched shut during the freezing winter. All latches have padlocks to prevent the entry of overly dexterous beasts (re: raccoons!) or unscrupulous people.
The boards along the bottom were to keep out the wind over the winter and get removed for the summer. We wanted them to have an extra sheltered area to hang out in during inclement cold weather.
Ventilation and Access
There are multiple windows on three sides of the coop that can be opened to let in fresh air when the weather permits. The coop door can be raised or lowered without having to enter the run by a pull string near the exterior nesting boxes.
Two of the windows are inserts in the clean-out doors, which are located on the backside of the coop, along with a swing-down hatch that opens up the entire end of the coop.
The only access to the run, other than the chicken door, is a screened-in door with a lift latch and padlock. A piece of rope attaches to the door latch and goes inside the coop to prevent us from locking ourselves in.
We used the deep litter method over the winter, adding in more wood chips and sometimes hay or straw and stirring everything around. There was no smell or foulness over the frozen months.
Not only does the composting material give off limited heat, but it acts as insulation as well. Some of our hens preferred to nestle down in the bedding instead of roosting. Now that it’s spring and everything has thawed, the smell of ammonia did come through. Cleaning it out to start fresh, however, was a breeze that took only 10 minutes to complete.
The flooring inside the coop is linoleum. This not only provided some waterproofing for the floor but also aided in the cleanup. Since the bottom of the coop is 2 feet off the ground, it was easy to use a metal rake and pull everything into a wheelbarrow, and cart it to a nearby compost heap. A push broom quickly cleared out any remainder, and fresh bedding was tossed inside. There was no scraping or spraying down needed.
Another feature to note is that the framing is on the outside of the coop, meaning there aren’t a lot of ledges inside to gather grossness that has to be cleaned off.
The exterior run gets fresh wood chips, dry leaves, hay, or straw thrown in whenever it looks moist or too full of chicken poop. Once the floor level gets too high, we rake out a few inches worth and add it to the compost pile.
This part is pretty simple. We have a hanging-style feeder in the bonus area underneath the coop. It’s out of the rain and the weather and is easily fillable by using a scoop (ok, our scoop is an old apple juice bottle cut down).
We toss scratch grains, kitchen scraps, mealworms, and grit around wherever we feel like it in the run, and the chickens handle the rest of it.
Summer watering is easy enough. We have a hanging fountain that holds five gallons of water and only needs to be refilled every few days. I add a tablespoon of raw apple cider vinegar a few times a month to keep everyone healthy.
Winter watering got the same treatment our rabbits get; we have large rubber bowls that can be smashed around to knock out the ice pucks and refilled 1-3 times per day as needed. They still get the vinegar treatment, but it’s a few times a week instead of per month.
There are four nesting boxes attached to the coop's tall side with easy access from the inside. The outside is accessible by a swing-down door with a padlocked latch.
We chose a side entrance rather than a lifting top as it’s less startling to any ladies who are busy when we open it to check. Predators swoop in from above, so popping open a door and reaching in from the top may unnecessarily stress the hens.
Sure, this is a frivolous category, but it’s healthy for them and fun for us. Scratch grain and mealworms offer some excitement, of course, but we also have unconventional forms of fun for our chooks. There are two swings suspended in the run from the 2x4 ceiling beams, and, yes, they do perch on them and swing! There is a small roost bar in one corner, and we also occasionally drag in a rotting log or two for them to peck at in search of bugs.
I have also hung cabbage head cores from twine to give them something to peck at, although this is less interesting to them than just dumping it all on the ground.
We installed a solar panel on the roof, which leads to a box mounted above the nesting boxes inside the coop. There are two deep cycle batteries inside there, holding a charge for the LED string lights strung along the ceiling. These are on a timer and are on from 6 am to 10 am and 7 pm to 11 pm, making sure the chickens had lots of light to encourage winter laying.
We attached a gutter and rain barrel to catch fresh rainwater for use around the homestead. This doesn’t seem like a lot of surface area, but it was enough to fill the barrel, despite having a parched summer. We do have a well, but it’s heavily contaminated with arsenic, and I’d prefer the less tainted rainwater for gardening purposes.
The only maintenance that's been done so far is a once-a-month walk around to make sure everything is staying secure. Sometimes the hardware cloth needs an extra staple put in when one comes loose, or we fill in a hole a predator attempted to dig around the skirt.