As homesteaders who grow and raise our own food, when my husband and I decided to expand the amount of our poultry and ducks, we needed to build a bigger home for them. Backyard poultry and fowl need plenty of room per bird in order to live healthy and happy, and we wanted the best we could afford while staying within our measly budget. Fortunately for us, my husband used to be a contractor so building one was relatively easy. Most chicken coops are basically a frame, walls, floor, roof, and a wire enclosed run, making it easy enough for just about anyone to build their own. Additional aspects, such as segregated runs and decor can also be easily incorporated into a coop design with little effort, although it does increase cost. Building your own will not only save you a lot of money, but it also allows you to customize it to suit your own needs. Aesthetics can be added later when funds allow, which is what we plan to do as we can afford over time.
Pictured above is our larger second coop that is still a work in progress, built to house both chickens and ducks. The interior has room enough to store extra litter and feed, and is separated into three living areas; one for our breeder hens and rooster, one for our laying hens, and one for our ducks. Each area has its own enclosed and gated run that opens up into our fenced backyard for free-ranging.
Since keeping a tight budget is always an issue for us, we always choose to go the cheapest route possible in most things we do, so for our bigger coop, we decided to convert an inexpensive carport that included a 10'(d)x7'(h)x20'(w) attached storage area into what you see in the photo, placing it on a raised self-poured concrete foundation border in our backyard.
To save even more, my husband salvaged (for free) the lumber for the interior raised floor and exterior run poles from a home demolition site. We then added concrete ground runners along each side of the segregated run to prevent predators from being able to dig under it to gain access, installed ventilation and latchable/lockable doors and ramps for the birds for entry and exit into both the run and the backyard. On the interior walls, we added styrofoam insulation for added winter warmth.
During construction, we chose to also add plumbing and electricity, which isn't necessary but since he used to be a contactor and has the skills to do so, it was affordable enough for us to incorporate it. The added plumbing is convenient for filling water feeders and added electricity makes for ease of heatlamp use when temps dip below freezing in the winter. This coop can house 40 chickens and 10 ducks comfortably and will last many, many years. Total cost for us to build using a combination of salvaged and new materials, about $1,500. To buy something like this already manufactured and/or contracted to build, about $5,000 or more.
Next to their coop, on the right side, are some raised garden beds in which we provide goodies for our backyard poultry and fowl to munch on. They love gobbling up the insects the beds attract, providing them with an additional source of protein. The photo was taken this winter while the beds are bare. Come summer they will be overflowing with leafy vegetables and grains.
Pictured directly above and below is our older first coop, which we began with when we started our homesteading adventure.
As you can see, it is much smaller (please pardon the crooked photo and yes, our handmade country folk-art sign is intentionally misspelled to read "L'il Chik Inn" :^D). My husband also built this 8'(w)x8'(h)x4'(d) coop, completing it over two weekends. A coop this size will house about a dozen chickens comfortably and is a great starter size for a beginning homesteader or one who has limited space yet wants more than a few hens. During the summer, its window flowerbox is filled with brightly colored annuals for a more homey appearance. The roof on the right-side layer box lifts up for ease in egg collecting, and the front window makes for easy, added ventilation. The run is situated to the rear of the coop, with a small entry/exit door and ramp, while the front has a standard size door for human entry/exit to make cleaning a breeze. Materials used and construction are home grade. For a DIY'er to build, cost is around $800. To purchase a similar prebuilt coop would run well over $2000.
For hobbyists or those who only wish to have 3 or 4 chickens, even smaller coops can be had for a lot less, either prefabbed and ready to go at your nearest farm supply store, or custom built by you according to your own design. I have seen some fantastic custom designed coops over the years, both in person and in small farm magazines. With a little creativity and inginuity, a small budget can go a long way!
*When designing a custom coop, always keep in mind that appropriate ventilation is very important. While chickens must always be kept dry and be protected from the wind during cold weather conditions, they must also have adequate ventilation to prevent avian respiratory problems, allow for air circulation to prevent moisture buildup that can lead to winter frostbite, and to lessen the possibility of disease from occurring in your birds. Vents, windows, and large entry/exitways are necessary when housing several birds. Coops should also have easy human access for cleaning purposes, as well as have the ability to be safely secured at night for predator prevention, when you are not around, or when they are not free-ranging.*
Tips for the DIY'er:
- Design your coop on paper first, incorporating everything necessary into your blueprint.
- Allow enough floor space for interior food and water feeders in the design in addition to the floor space needed for the amount of chickens and/or ducks you plan to house.
- Acquire any necessary building permits prior to construction.
- Scavenge, salvage, and repurpose used building materials for use in constructing your coop. The amount saved well makes up for the time spent scavenging.
- Buy new materials during off season and sales when prices are lower.
- Having a raised floor aids in ventilation, keeps your birds dry in wet weather when soil can become damp, and helps keep predators at bay while they are roosting for the night.
- Don't forget to add interior roosting poles and layer boxes.
- Adequate ventilation is key to keeping your backyard poultry and fowl healthy.
- Having some sort of roof over the run provides summer shade and helps keep them dry in wet weather. It also helps keep them safe from hawks and other predatory birds while they are in their run.
- When finishing out your coop, don't forget to add interior floor litter at least an inch deep prior to housing your birds.
- Your coop should be able to withstand at least slightly above average weather conditions for your area in the event of a stronger than normal storm.
- Although optional, providing convenient electricity and plumbing is a great addition if you can afford it.
Got any chicken coop ideas of your own you'd like to share?!
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