Chicken Coop Basics

Backyard chickens

There are so many designs to choose from when it comes to chicken coops.  When we built our coop, we didn’t follow a particular design.  We were trying to use up all of our leftover building supplies from rebuilding our garage as well as fit it into our small backyard.  Chickens aren’t particular when it comes to coop design and their needs are simple, too.  Chickens need to be kept warm (or cool, depending on the season), safe, and dry.  All are equally important but if you’re like me, you’ll want your coop to look good, too.  To keep chickens warm, safe and dry, they need protection from the elements.  They need to be able to get out of the rain and wind in the winter and have shade or protection from the sun in the summer.

Chicken Coop Basics

We don’t have a heated or lighted coop.  Mild winters where we live mean we don’t have to worry about extreme temperatures.  Chickens feathers keep them warm in the winter but if you have concerns, make sure to check with experts in your area to see what’s best.

The biggest problem that occurs with cold weather is that their drinking water freezes.  You can purchase water heaters for coops or you can simply bring the water inside at night and replace in the morning.  Or, you can sew a little slip-cover like I did.

Slip-cover for chickens

Keeping backyard chickens safe is tricky because they’re very skittish creatures. Everything seems to startle them including big slugs!  When it comes to building a  coop, the most important factors are keeping your chickens in the coop and run area and keeping other creatures out of the coop and run area.  Latches and padlocks are necessary.

That little red door doesn’t work because it’s nailed shut.  It just looks cute.

Chicken Coop Basics

Use hardware cloth (pictured below) not “chicken wire” for sides and bottom of run areas.  Rats and mice are always trying to dig up from the bottom of the coop/run area, too, so don’t forget about below ground threats.

Chicken Coop Basics

Do not use chicken wire (pictured below) which everyone associates, understandably, with chickens.  It’s called chicken wire but it’s not good for keeping raccoon claws from reaching into a run area and killing a chicken.  That’s what happened to one of our chickens.

Chicken Coop Basics

Use latches and locks that can be only be opened by human hands.  Raccoons are sneaky creatures and they’ve got plenty of time on their hands to figure things out.

Keep Backyard Chickens Safe

Keeping chickens dry and out of the rain helps keep them warm.  Feathers don’t work properly if they’re wet.  Our chicken coop roof has leftover shingles from our garage DIY project but you can easily find leftover roofing tiles on Craig’s List, Habitat for Humanity ReStore Stores, and locally at the ReBuilding Center.  I’d check at Home Depot also in case they have an opened package they’d be willing to sell at a discount.

Chicken Coop Roof

After making sure your backyard chickens are going to be warm, safe, and dry, in their coop, then you can make it look good.  Safe first, then cute.

What do-it-yourself project are you working on these days?  Do you use your DIY project leftovers?

Go Gingham related links:

Our roofing project – DIY we won’t do again!
Are backyard chickens right for you?  Good and bad points and what about baby chicks?
How to set up a brooder for baby chicks and how to hold them
Fall in love with backyard chickens and a chicken diva!

4 thoughts on “Chicken Coop Basics

  1. Thanks, Heidi! It does work for keeping the water from freezing mostly because it’s lined with an insulating fabric leftover from another project – old houses, drafty windows!

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  2. Love your coop. It has so much character!! DIY is not in my vocab these days. When I return from out west we will be painting my daughter’s room and making her some curtains ; )

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    1. Ah, thanks, Sheila! DIY projects definitely take time. Good luck with the painting and curtains – can’t wait to see you next week at BlogHer Food!

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