Small Coop Design

Chickens can survive in basic housing. A small flock needs only few simple and easy to provide conditions for it to thrive. Sadly, these are not met by many of the prefab coops currently on the market.

SPACE: Provide a minimum of 4 square feet per standard-sized hen. Less than that and there will be pecking and health issues. Don’t believe what the manufacturer says. Ask for dimensions, don’t include the nesting boxes, and do the math yourself.

VENTILATION: Chicken manure is 75% water and high in nitrogen. As it breaks down it gives off ammonia fumes and makes the surrounding air humid. Chickens breathing this in will develop respiratory diseases. It is essential that there is air flow up and out of the coop. In a well-designed coop, fresh air comes in the pop-door and flows up to the roof where it leaves through vents along the eaves or, even better, through a cupola. Chickens poop a lot in their sleep. They should be sleeping up and away from their droppings. They need ROOSTS.

LIGHT: A coop should let in light. Chickens have terrible night vision. If hens are kept in a coop without windows, then even if it’s sunny outside, it will be dark inside. A sliver of light coming in the pop-door is not enough for them and they’ll stay on their roosts. They won’t eat or exercise. This will affect their laying productivity and their health. Too many prefab coops have no windows, or openings that must be shut during inclement weather. Avoid those and get coops with real windows!

Those are the big three. There are other details, like a dry place to hang food and water, nesting box design, and predator control, which I’ll cover in other posts. I’ve started a board on Pinterest where I pin examples of what I think are good coop design. Take a look.

A HenCam reader sent a photo of her coop to me, which is worth sharing with you. She has only .18 acre, but her hens are well-cared for in this design. I like that there’s a people-sized door to access the run. A local carpenter built this for her, and he added touches of whimsy. Take a look at the moon carving on the circle window and the star on the screen door!

Do you have any charming accents on your coop?


  1. That is a beautiful coop! We have an ark design-wouldn’t be my first choice if we were building again, but lesson learned. Our coop has a little squirrel weather vane on top that my husband found-my favorite bit of whimsy!

  2. That is a beautiful little coop. I love the details.
    We found a little plastic army man when we were digging the ground to bury the skirt of our coop so he guards the coop now. We’ve lived here for almost 30 years and have 2 girls so I’m not sure how old that little guy is but I smile whenever I see him on the ledge of the coop. Not quite the buried treasure I was hoping to find but I’ll take what I can get.

  3. Very nice coop! When we expanded our flock, we bought a prefab 8 x 10 shed with double doors that open in the front. Because our chickens free range during the day, the doors stay open. But when it rain hard, we close them and installed a pet door so they can still go inside if they choose. We also had a window installed to allow air flow at night. We have 2×4’s criss crossing for roosts and a 2-level rabbit hutch when I need to separate someone from the others. Our chickens have a second smaller “day coop” which was used for the chicks, the donkey shelter with straw bales, and occasionally my horse trailer with the doors open to provide shelter from the storm. They are a lucky bunch. Nothing fancy, but functional.

  4. Sweet coop. Ours is a ‘echo’ of our home
    and includes a stained glass ‘no raccoons’

  5. My. Chicken house is built into my old garage, we no longer park the cars in. So it has turned into a chicken house/ work shop. Above the garage door is a wire sculpted rooster with a large red ball that glows at night

  6. Very pleased that you have got Pinterest going after the great excitement of being invited to join! Could you come and tell Bibby, Pixie, Dixie, Solo and man-about-town Mopesden White Deceiver (I thought he was a girl for ages) that they should be perching? They absolutely refuse to…..

  7. Love that coop, perfect for smaller urban/suburban yard.
    A tornado destroyed my old coop and with the insurance money I was able to have a great coop built. With 4 windows, human and pop door and the best thing and I highly recommend if possible a dropping board under the roosts.

  8. The chicken coop that stood here thirty years ago was very plain, pretty much a big beige box. Once, in an artistic mood I used egg yolk to paint a crude hen and rooster on the side of the coop. What surprised me was that the egg yolk paint lasted for years! Strong stuff, egg yolks.

  9. I am in the deep south – on the gulf – so it hardly ever gets freezing here. Maybe 10 nights where the temps dip below freezing in the middle of the night and everyone freaks out about how cold it is, and kids are late for school because their pipes froze. I am thinking about a covered but coopless run – maybe with a 3-sided coop at one end. I am debating between spending the money for hardware cloth for the entire coop or using it at the bottom and by any roosting areas, and using 1×2 wire for the rest.

    Maybe you can include some advice for those of us in warmer climates.

    • Unless you spend the dollars on dog run fencing or hardware cloth to enclose and cover the run, you’ll have a predator attack. Closing the chickens into a coop at night is the alternative. In any event, chickens like to have a safe, enclosed house to roost in at night. They also need a sheltered space for the nesting boxes. In hot areas you balance that against the need to keep the hens cool. Think about the coolest, windiest and wettest days. Plan a shelter that will keep your hens out of that (wet drafts can kill.) Think about the hottest days and plan for shade and air flow. Then you’ll have your perfect coop :)

  10. We only have a rooster weathervane. That is the closest a rooster is going to get to our ladies. I think you wrote, Terry, something to the effect that since your hens can’t free range you don’t keep a rooster because the ladies would not have their “personal space.” Exactly that reason no rooster here!
    I so love the pictured coop!!! That would be the style I’d choose if we were in a different environment. Mine is plain and boxy, really.