So, you want to get chickens and the first thing you are doing is building the coop. There is no substitute for a properly laid out coop. Taking the time to do the research will make your flock healthy and owning chickens simple and enjoyable.
Before you decide how many birds, you will need to decide where you will build the coop and how much space you have to build it. This writing will focus on stationary coops. You will need 7 square feet of floor space per bird plus the space needed for your nesting boxes and the roost. A minimum of 2 – 3 sq ft per bird can be used. However, this can cause overcrowding and lead to fighting and generally unhealthy birds. It is normal to start with 4 to 6 nesting boxes which will be enough for 10-30 birds. There are many nesting box designs but a general rule will be 1 square foot per nesting box. For the roost you will need to plan for 10” spacing per bird and each roost 18” apart in a stair step design starting 18” off the floor. This will allow the birds to use their body heat for warmth and enough spacing to separate them in warmer climate. If you have electricity available then you will want to build where the power will come into the coop at the best location. (DO NOT USE an EXTENSION CORD for permanent wiring). If you do not have access to electricity then you will be committed to a 12v battery and solar charger. The solar panel will need full sun and face the southern sky. It is normally mounted on the roof at 23 degrees.
Your coop will need ventilation. This is critical for poultry health. The amount of ventilation will have to be determined based on the weather conditions. In southern areas where the temperatures rarely gets below freezing, cross ventilation is important. In the colder climates cross ventilation is still needed for solid healthy birds however you may have to put in shutters that you can open/close as needed.
A few suggestions will be to put ½” x 1” welded wire over your ventilation areas. Some of us will put the same wire below the roost instead of plywood. So the droppings will fall through and simply rake it out from underneath the coop. (this will require you to build your coop 24” above the ground). This will help keep harmful ammonia from building up inside the coop. When installing the walk-in door, use a 36” exterior door. This will make it easy to get you and some tools in and out of the coop. If you intend to install lights, or any kind of wiring, you will want to run the wire in conduit. Since conduit can be pricey, some of us run our wiring in an old garden hose. This will keep mice and squirrels from chewing on the wiring.
A few nice features to add to any coop will be the Pullet Shut Automatic Door system along with the coop light kit with 15w solar panel. If you like to go away for a few days at a time the automatic feeder is also another nice addition to any coop. Take time to look over our web site and see some of the other products we sell.
I like to tell hard working folks to always listen to the voices inside of their tackle box. In this case it will be wise to listen to the way our flock responds to us. Chickens will speak to us by the quality of their eggs.