I wanted to expand our flock of chickens and to do so required a larger coop and run. Here’s the thing about chickens that you need to know before you decide to bring them into your home. You can free range chickens or keep them in a run, the chickens don’t really care which option you choose so it’s really up to you.
Letting your chickens free range is a good idea but you have to accept that chickens eat everything… bugs, weeds, flowers, and yes, your garden. You can use portable fencing but at some point the effort required to manage them exceeds the benefit, to them or you. Free ranging chickens are also at risk of predators, to a lesser extent if you have a rooster but in many urban areas roosters are illegal to own.
Our garden areas simply can’t co-exist with free ranging chickens so we keep them in a run (the run is where they forage around, the coop is where they sleep). The run should provide sufficient area for foraging (pecking and scratching) while also providing shelter from sun and rain. The coop needs access doors for the nest box(es) and cleaning out, while also providing sufficient height for the chickens to roost on poles or sticks.
Here were my design requirements:
- Space: Sized for 6 chickens, I calculated that 32 square feet of space would be my minimum.
- Height: I wanted to be able to walk into the run for easy cleanup and flock management tasks.
- Aesthetic: Fit well with our overall decor and be a feature on the property.
- Covered: Open and airy but in rainy season offer protection and on hot days relief from direct sun.
- Position: Built on a fence line, so access is primarily on three sides.
For a foundation, I went with a simple approach and used 4×6″ pressure treated lumber with half-lap joints to create a sturdy rectangle. We do not have a risk of predators digging underneath the foundation so I didn’t worry about adding wire that would extend below the foundation. If you have aggressive predators, you may consider that extra precaution.
I built most of the coop and run in my shop in a manner that could be broken down and reassembled on site. I eventually moved the project to my driveway to give me more space to work. This approach worked well and minimized the disruption to my hens as the new coop was installed in the location of their existing coop. The design itself is a basic box-within-a-box approach where I built the four sides and top section, then built the coop inside the outer box.
With the basic shell complete, I moved it to the targeted location to finish out the coop, add trim and details, and install the roof section.
To achieve some weather proofing but still allow natural ventilation, I wrapped the entire structure in building fabric and then installed the siding. I added a couple of windows to let in light and on hot days, open for more ventilation. The nest box is not partitioned off, I have found that the hens don’t care as long as the nest box provides them a feeling of privacy and security. They also tend to want to lay eggs wherever the other hens are laying, so you could have a dozen nest boxes all the hens want to go to a single one.
Here are some pictures of the build process and design details.