Pic by Tom Ungerer

You and tools don’t see eye to eye. In fact, the last time you so much as glanced at a hammer the damn thing nearly killed you_ Okay, smashed your thumb but aren’t those two one and the same thing? 

You have decided that you should keep a couple chicken though. In fact, just last week you went ahead and purchased a rooster and a layer. They have been living in your kitchen, under the tables, on top of the TV set, on your couch… Hey, no one can accuse you of not being hospitable. But now, after landing on their fresh pile of droppings for the fifth time in a row, you have decided that enough is enough. They gotta move.  To a chicken coop.

The problem is that constructing chicken coops comes with tools. And all factors you and tools considered, erm… You figure that the next best available option is hiring an expert or someone who knows how to work them tools.

Here is the MISTAKE that most of us make when dealing with experts/professionals. We leave it all up to them. We sit back, and let them handle EVERYTHING. This is more so in matters that we are not quite familiar with. Doesn’t matter if the expert in this situation is an ex girlfriend or an ex boyfriend who once framed holiday pictures on your walls, we still leave it all up to them. Buy hey, you argue that they did handle a hammer, and nails. That should count for something, right? No.

Even if you decide on hiring an expert or getting a friend to help you out, you should still ensure that you are engaged in the coop construction process. You should be the one informing the most important decisions as regards the coop. In this situation, the role of the expert should be to help you execute / implement your ideas or tell you whether your ideas are sound or not.

That means that in addition to having an expert do the job, you should also be an active participant in the process. In this case, as a key information in the decision making process. So, how will you know the kind of decisions that you should be making if you’ve never built a chicken coop before? Or a nail for that matter. In fact, by your own confession you have better chances of nailing dates than nailing nails into anything.

One of the best ways to get answers on this is to do a little bit of research. Research furnishes you with the kind of information that you need as far as chicken coops are concerned, and it also helps you notice the kind of questions that you should be asking. You could always ask the professional what a saw does, but even on a good day the guy or lady is not very likely to give a friendly response.

Research can be done online (I see you reading this article😉). You can also check the local library to see if there is any material on the subject, or, you could just tour around the neighborhood and check to see if there are any random chickens walking around. Follow those chicken and they will definitely lead you to where they live. Talk to their owners, check to see if they have any chicken coops, and if they do, ask them questions and also look at the designs and materials that they have used on their coops. If you have friendly neighbors, then they can end up being very helpful, even to the extent of offering to help out with the construction itself, or lending you construction tools and equipment that you might not already have in your possession.

So, what kind of things should you be looking out for when you start undertaking your research? Here are a couple of suggestions:

1. The main components of a chicken coop, and the functions of these components.

Knowing the functions of these components makes it easy for us to decide where we want them to be suitably placed. One of the components for instance is an egg laying box. In the image below, the boxes had been placed way too far inside the coop and getting to the eggs would have been a hustle. A rake might even have been necessary to drag them out. Eventually, the owner had to bar those boxes as soon as the chicken moved in, and he had to figure out where to place the egg laying boxes long after the construction work had been completed. This extra work would have been averted if he had been aware of the components of a chicken coop, one of them being the egg laying box. That way she would have told the person doing the work to place them in a more suitable position.

Sample wrongly placed egg laying boxes

2. The possibility of cutting down costs by using recyclables.

I know that just because it is a chicken coop, it does not give you the excuse to use all the crap you have lying in your store. But precisely because it is a chicken coop, it might also just be the perfect excuse for you to use all the crap that you have lying around in your store. Some of the coolest chicken coops that I have seen around are made of all recycled materials. Tires, roofing materials, old wood… Things that don’t exactly match, but when used on the coop, they create such a beautiful piece. So take out all your waste, and ask your professional if they can use any of it.

3. The local weather conditions (Are you located in an area that is usually cold for the larger part of the year or are you located in an area that is always hot, or in an area that is too windy etc.)

Take weather conditions into account when settling on the overall structural design of the coop, and also when deciding where the coop is to be located. For instance, if your area has high temperatures for the larger part of the year, your coop will need more aeration. If it is always wet and windy, you will have to ensure that the coop is warm especially at night. Not to the point of suffocating the chicken, but safe enough from windy rains and harsh cold weather.

You also want to locate your coop in a location that receives a lot of sunshine or some kind of sunshine. Chicken love to sunbathe. So if they are going to be inside for long hours, knowing which side receives the most sun for the larger part of the day can help you decide on the best location to place the coop.

4. Which kind of chicken coops appeal to you?

Here, look at a bunch of different photos. See what about those photos appeals to you. Is it their color, their design or their size? Note all these different things and show them to your professional. 

5. Will your chickens be free ranging or will they be stuck in the coop all day and night and day and night and day and night (Okay, you can probably already tell that I am not a fan of chickens being cooped up all the time. A little running around and bathing in dirt and fresh air is really healthy for your birds. I can also understand why some people might prefer to enclose them, especially for safety reasons and for lack of adequate space etc. But still…).

If they are going to be spending most of their days in, build them a mesh enclosure where they can gym around and dust bathe. Some people also choose to lift the coop from the ground. This gives the chicken some space to roam around beneath the coop. But definitely do more research on this to find out the best kinds of coops for indoor chicken.

6. Should the structure be permanent or semi-permanent? Do you want it to be portable, or not portable?

Let the professional know and research further to find out the best designs for whichever option you choose. I saw a chicken coop that had wheels beneath it, that way the owner could move it around to different locations. Researching will give you such and more ideas.

7. Are wild cats, foxes or ants an issue in your area? If so, what can be done?

Casts, foxes and ants can be so problematic. Certain wood for instance is a magnet for wood eating ants. I know of “mukima” tree as one example. So if ants are an issue in your area, it would be advisable to steer away from using ant prone wood. This kind of wood can still work, but you’d need to paint over it. If cats and other pests are an issue, research on designs that can keep them away. I know of someone who lost fifty of her young chicken to some kind of animal that just bit their head off and drank the blood leaving the rest of the body parts. We are suspecting vampires. No kidding. But to say that the site was horrific is an understatement. Key message here is, steer on the side of caution and do adequate research on the best ways to keep the coop safe.

Ultimately, I know that we are not building a spaceship, well, at least not in this scenario. But still, even if we were building a spaceship, the same message would still stand; don’t make the mistake of letting the professional handle everything, be engaged in key decision making, do some research, and hey, even take part in the construction process, fear of tools notwithstanding. This way, you will be clued in on what the expert/professional is doing, and also, you will be able to ensure that your needs and the needs of your chicken will be met by the coop in construction.

All the best and above all, have fun. It’s a chicken coop!!! Go all wild and creative. Heck, give it some curtains.

PS. Do you know of other mistakes that should be avoided? Do share.