I came up with this simple coop design after two years of caring for chickens in extremely hot summers and very harsh winters here in the central Midwest. The following are explanations on the how and why I designed my chicken coop the way I did.
Deep Litter Method
A mobile chicken coop wasn’t an option not only because of the amount of snow we get but also because of the high winds. A stationary coop with daily or weekly manure cleanup was also not an option because of the below zero temperatures in the winter. It’s difficult to clean a coop when it’s ten below outside. 😨😁 This is why I opted to design a coop that can utilize the “deep litter method.” I’ve used this method after a lot of research even before I ordered my first chick and I’ve never regretted it. In summary, the deep litter method allows you to either layer or till rather than clean the coop. We then remove the litter twice a year (spring and fall).
Nesting Boxes / Roosting Bars
I have tried using both plastic and wood for nesting boxes and plastic definitely came out on top which is both discouraging and a relief. Discouraging because … well … it’s plastic! But a relief because the round shape and different texture helps the chickens to differentiate them from the roosting bars. No matter what level the wooden nesting boxes were at, the chickens would always roost in them and on them causing manure to be all over them too.
In this new coop, there is a three foot empty space between the nesting boxes and the roosting bars. So a clear separation for the chickens to help them not confuse the purpose of each. The roosting bars are made out of wooden 2×2’s to resemble a tree branch and the nesting boxes are five gallon plastic buckets which can be purchased at any major hardware store. The chickens are not able to roost on top of the buckets because the surface is too slippery for them.
I also made sure there was access to the nesting boxes from both inside the coop and out. This was to make it more convenient for my youngest children and so they didn’t accidentally step in manure. The doors were attached using three hinges and locked with metal key rings attached to metal eye hooks. Because of the extreme fluctuation in our weather, the steel bolt latches we used before did not work. If it was a really wet day out, the wood would expand which caused the latch to not line up and so we couldn’t lock the coop door.
Along with making sure there was a space between the nesting boxes and roosting bars, I also made two chicken doors. This is so I can divide the chickens when needed. For example, when we get new baby chicks or a when a chicken is injured or whenever a situation arises where we need to separate the chickens. Before we would set up a temporary space in the garage which was time-consuming, messy and far from the chicken coop which required bringing them back and forth twice a day. Now we can just place a divider inside the coop.
The second reason was for a permaculture design so that the chickens had access to one side of the garden half of the year and the other side the other half of the year. But since we’re taking down our garden this fall to prepare our house for the market, we decided to place the new coop next to the old one and we have since taken the old coop down.
This is another concept, like the deep litter method, in that I researched the type of coop I wanted and the open-air coop made so much sense. My first coop had one half of the east side completely open and my second coop had one half of the south side completely open. The suggestion is to have the open side facing south but because we get weather systems just as much from the south that we do the west, I’ve found that having the east side open is what works best in our area. We don’t get very much weather from the east and what does come through is very mild.
I don’t use artificial light or heat and that open area stays open year round without a problem. It’s right above the nesting boxes and I will be adding a two foot overhang to protect it from rain and snow. The open-air coop benefits the chickens by providing better circulation, less condensation build-up and lower odor. There are many different designs for the open-air coop from really complex to really simple. It should come as no surprise that I prefer the really simple. 😁
Like all my designs, I sketched this coop first and purchased the supplies as I needed them. I don’t have a step-by-step list and made minor modifications along the way so hopefully my videos and photos provide enough for you if you plan on duplicating this coop. If you need more photos of the coop, please let me know and I’ll get more on here.
This coop is 4-feet by 8-feet and fits 20 hens comfortably.
- 1″x4″ / trim
- 2″x4″ / frame
- 4’x8′ / walls, roof
- 2×2 / roosting bars
- 2-inch screws
- 1.25-inch screws
- hinges / main door, nesting box doors
- metal key ring / lock
- metal eye hook / lock
- roof shingles
If I’ve forgotten to include something, please ask me in the comments and I will edit this post. Thank you for your help!