1) The coop must have ventilation, which is where chicken wire or surplus windows come in handy.
2) Chickens will poop on anything they can stand on. If you don't want your chickens to poop on it, make it so they can't stand on it by adding a very slanted top.
3) Chicken nesting boxes should be just small enough for one chicken to fit in and should be easily accessible (otherwise they will lay their eggs on the ground).
4) Chicken food and water should be elevated enough so they can't kick the shavings into the water (learned this the hard way).
5) Make the coop so it can stay as dry as possible. Dry chicken poop is tolerable, wet chicken poop is stinky!
6) You will need 4 square feet per chicken if they stay in the coop all day (either due to you locking them in or weather keeping them inside). If they are free range they require less space so long as they have free access to outside.
7) The roosts should be higher than the nesting boxes so the chickens roost and don't sleep in the nesting boxes. The roosts should also be flat (not round) so they balance easily and far enough away from the wall that they don't hit the wall when they fly up to it.
A search on Craigslist is a good way to get an idea for how much chicken coops cost. Based on my searches, the coop we built could sell for anywhere between $400-$800. The cost for us to build the coop was considerably less (so long as you don't add any value for our time spent building it). We were able to keep our costs down by building our coop around the materials we found at the Millwork Outlet. Additionally, we spent some time searching through our scrap wood pile at home. Below is a breakdown of the costs.
- Millwork Outlet Shipping Container: $150 (we have others that are only $75)
- Millwork Outlet Surplus Interior 18" Doors: $35 each = $70
- Chicken Wire and staples: $19
- Nesting Box: Free (found in a burn pile and just added dividers from scrap plywood)
- Roof rafters: Free (found in our scrap wood pile)
- Millwork Outlet Metal Roof: $2 per lineal foot = $28
- Millwork Outlet Door hinges: $3 each = $12
- Paint: Free (we used leftover paint)
- Roosts: Free (found in our scrap wood pile)
- Door Hardware: Free (taken from a tree in our yard)
- TOTAL COST = $279
If you would like to see more pictures of our coop, the chickens and the rest of my farm animals or read more posts about our lessons learned raising chickens visit my other blog The Dairy Queens.