Grit Blogs > One Acre Lott

How To Build A Good Chicken Coop: Part 1

Nathan Lott

img_20160606_212029783
It all starts with a plan.

I love raising chickens!

And what's not to love? I mean, they poop all over the place, they churn up a bunch of dust, and they force you to go outside into the cold and wet. Every. Single. Day.

In actuality, though, I really do love keeping chickens. Sure, they come with their share of inconveniences, but the pros definitely outweigh the cons.

The fresh eggs and meat that they provide are so much better than their store-bought counterparts. The yokes are a rich, deep orange. The meat is juicier, tastier, and ... well ... meatier

. And then there's the fact that you had a hand in raising it, because let's face it, everything tastes better when you've invested some time into it.

On top of all that, chickens are a hoot to be around! Granted, I don't often have a lot of free time to just sit and watch the chickens "doin' their thing" ('cuz I'm usually too busy doin' my thing), but I tell ya, the entertainment those silly old birds provide is well worth the cost and effort of raising them.

I've even learned some incredibly valuable life lessons from our chickens, like this one.

So, now that we've established that you need chickens, let's get into the nitty gritty details, shall we?

One of the first things to consider is the coop.

Chances are, your chickens are gonna spend a whole lot of time in the coop (especially during the winter), but what you might not realize is that you are gonna be interacting with the coop quite a bit, too. You'll be collecting eggs (hopefully) every day. You'll be feeding and watering the chickens. You'll be scrubbing the whole thing out every once in awhile ...

What I'm trying to say is that it's important to optimize the chicken coop not only for your birds, but also for yourself.

Sounds like a daunting task, doesn't it?

Well, I'd like to share a few key factors (along with some personal experience) to help you design and build the best possible coop for your situation. The topic of this post is:

Size.

img_20150714_063209807
32 square feet was perfectly adequate for our little flock — until we decided to hatch 18 more of 'em!

How big should you make your chicken coop? Well, that depends on how many chickens you plan on keeping.

Whatever you do, don't try cramming a whole bunch of chickens into a teeny tiny coop! Believe me, that's asking for trouble. Everything from disease and parasites to beat-up birds and bullying. Kinda like what happened last year with our roosters ...

Most experts would agree that you ought to provide a minimum of 4 square feet per bird, plus 1 foot of roosting space. And I have to say, that's worked out pretty well for us. I will throw out one word of caution:

Chickens have a way of "multiplying." (And I'm not talking about the birds and the bees!) You get a few chickens initially, and you find yourself falling in love with them. They weasel their way into your life and into your heart, and before long, you find yourself keeping twice as many as you started out with!

Take us, for example. We started out with five chickens (and never thought we'd keep more than eight at a time), but we actually ended up having to build a second coop last year to accommodate our growing flock.

Just before butchering day, we were the proud owners of 24 of those silly old featherbags!

If you want my advice, build your coop a little bigger than you think you'll need. You'll probably be glad you did.


About the Author: Nathan and his family work and play and live on a 1.17 acre microfarm (a.k.a. "The One Acre Lott"), in a frigid Rocky Mountain valley at the end of a long dirt road. He has been raising chickens for years, grows nearly all of his family's meat and produce, and loves every minute of it! For more of his exciting adventures, check out his personal website, www.oneacrelott.com.