The best chicken coop designs are the simple ones. First and foremost, the coop has to provide healthy and comfortable housing for your birds. Obvious, really, but I continue to be amazed by hen house plans that put human convenience and external appearance before the needs of the intended occupants.
What, then, are the essential features of a chicken coop, from the perspective of the birds that will occupy it?
First and foremost, the hen house must be large enough to house the birds safely and comfortably. Many people use a rule of thumb that allocates 4 square feet per bird. This is probably about right for average sized hens, giving them plenty of room to move around inside the coop. For bantam varieties you could provide less space, and perhaps 5 or 6 square feet for larger breeds.
The coop must be strongly constructed and weather-proof. Most are made of wood. If your climate is usually wet you might want to use treated wood to reduce the threat of rot but remember that this material is poisonous to animals, so paint at least the interior of the coop properly to protect the chickens and thoroughly seal all joins.
You probably want your new coop to look good and be an attractive addition to your garden or yard. The key is finding good chicken coop plans that achieve this without sacrificing any features essential for the hens and their welfare.
The hens’ access door needs to be large enough for them but no more, and it needs to be predator-proof. Remember that racoons are very capable of opening doors with conventional handles! It is a good idea to position this door a few inches above floor level, to stop the chickens kicking bedding out of the coop. Most good chicken house plans can be adapted to allow this.
The other door is for you! This is where you will enter the coop to clean it out, change bedding, refill the water and feed trays, all the usual upkeep and maintenance chores. A good idea is to mount the feeders on the inside of the door, so that they are easy to reach when you open it.
Allow one box for every 4 or 5 hens. These should be mounted lower than the roosting perches, and it makes sense to design them as attachments to the outside of the coop and at a height that makes egg collection easy for you. Check that your hen house plans include, or can be modified for, this feature.
Ventilation and Light
Fresh air is super important for chickens. Don’t worry about them getting cold – they have feathers to keep them warm! But they must have fresh air, otherwise they will get sick and fail to lay those lovely free range eggs that you crave. Many chicken coop designs have wire mesh floors, with the coop mounted a foot to 18 inches above ground, to ensure a flow of air in to the coop.
This is also true for the lighting conditions inside the coop. Hens do not like the dark. They simply fade away and die. Make sure they have plenty of light.
Beware of predators! Although most operate at night, when your hens should be safely shut up in their coop, there are some such as dogs and birds of prey that can attack by day. If possible, place the coop within sight of your kitchen so that you can keep an eye on it.
The chances are that you will decide that your birds would be safer with a pen or hen run attached to the coop. Chicken pens allow them the exercise and foraging that they need without exposing them to danger from predators. Even so, pens need to be able to withstand diggers like rodents, foxes and dogs. Bury the wire mesh sides in at least 12 inches of soil if possible. If raptors are around you will need to cover pens as well.
Best Chicken Coop Design
All of the above features will be included in the best chicken coop design layouts. Get the construction right; make the coop airy, light and comfortable for the hens; keep predators at arm’s length; and give the birds plenty of exercise room during the day.
That way your hens will be healthy and happy. This is a good basis for productive egg laying and smiles all round!