Chicken Coops for Backyard Chickens

Melissa Witherell, DVM
By Melissa Witherell, DVM on Nov. 30, 2022

Raising chickens in urban and suburban areas has become very popular in the last 18 years. Chickens are great companions and can provide you and your family with eggs and natural fertilizer for your garden. Chickens require a shelter or a coop that provides adequate space, protection from the elements and predators, and good ventilation.

Chicken Coop Essentials

Once your chicks have grown to about six weeks, they can be moved from their brooder to a coop. Ideally, this shelter is in an area protected from heavy wind, sun, loud noises, and predators. It should be placed in a flat area with good drainage. After you have picked your location, you can decide on a structure:

  • Chicken tractors are good for small flocks in big yards. They have wheels and handles so you can move them to new areas letting your birds explore. You can even utilize them to control insects and fertilize the lawn.

  • Chicken wagons are also moveable but are larger than tractors.

  • Coops are stationary and typically have runs attached to provide your chickens with outdoor access. You can modify a barn, shed, or stable into a stationary coop.

Whichever structure you choose, there should be windows on each side, outlets for lighting and fans as needed, and air inlets or ventilation holes on the roof. Fresh air all year round is needed for your chickens because ammonia can build up and be hazardous to your flock.

Space and Enrichment

Inside the shelter, you should have a minimum of 2.5-3 square feet of indoor space and 5-10 square feet of outdoor space per bird for medium-sized birds.

At 20 weeks of age, one nest box measuring 1 square foot should be provided for every 4-5 hens in a dark corner, raised off the floor, with bedding inside. The hens will take turns using the nest boxes.

Chickens should also have perches or roosts in the coop that are not too far off the ground. Chickens do not like to sleep on the ground. Each bird should have a foot-long wooden board for roosting with 14 inches separation between birds. You can also include branches and dowels as extra perches.

Lighting and Temperature

Artificial light at 5 lux should be provided to your chickens. Lights that are too bright can cause aggression between birds. At around 27 weeks, you can provide 14-16 hours of artificial light to chickens to help with egg production.

Adult chickens should be kept at 70-75 F. Excessive heat in adults can cause decreased egg production, decreased appetite, stress, and even death. The coop must be insulated for the winter with heaters if needed and, in the summer, have good ventilation and fans.

Food and Water

Clean water and food should be placed in proper waterers and feeders. This prevents birds from pooping in their food or water, keeps pests away, and prevents drowning.

Adult feeders should be 3 inches in length per chicken, and the waterers should be 0.75 inches in length per chicken to prevent aggression and help each bird get adequate nutrition.

Chicken Coop Run

A coop or shelter that allows continuous outdoor access for your chickens is ideal in the form of a run. When chickens are let outside of the shelter and into their run, always supervise them and do not leave them unattended.

Chickens are very curious animals and love to explore. They can be trained to return to the coop with treats and vocal queues. Outdoor access provides mental and physical stimulation for your chickens, which is very helpful for their wellbeing. Your chickens will provide insect and weed control, as well as natural fertilizer.

Categories for outdoor chicken space include:

  • Free-range: letting chickens wander outside of the safety of their coop and run

  • Pastured: this is typically a term for the production of chickens; each hen has 35-108 square feet of outdoor space, which is typically more space than free-range chickens

  • Run: an outdoor enclosed area attached to the primary indoor shelter, ideally 5-10 square feet of outdoor space per bird for medium-sized birds

The more space you can provide chickens safely, the better.

Chicken Coop Safety

It is important to design a coop to prevent predators from accessing your chickens. Natural predators include:

  • Raccoons

  • Opossums

  • Minks

  • Skunks

  • Foxes

  • Coyotes

  • Weasels

  • Dogs

Predators can access chickens by entering the coop or pulling chickens through wire and holes.

The coop and outdoor access should be enclosed on all sides and on top. You can use a mesh cover on top or more wire. Bury a wire fence 6-8 inches deep to prevent predators from digging under the fence to enter the chicken yard. Ideally, you should use galvanized wire or hardware cloth instead of chicken wire that can stretch and allow predators access. Ensure all holes or other access into the coop is secured and use locks on the entrances. You can also consult with animal control on how to best deal with a predator attack on your flock.

To prevent rodents and other pests from being attracted to the coop, store only two months of food at a time and keep it in rodent-proof containers.

Chicken Coops for Sale

You can modify an existing shed, barn, or stable into a chicken coop. You can purchase already-made coops or make a DIY coop.

You can purchase chicken coops locally at stores like Home Depot, Lowes, Tractor Supply, Walmart, and other retailers. There are also many online options like Chewy, Wayfair, and chicken-specific sites.

Ware Little Hen Big Red Barn Chicken Coop: can house 3-4 chickens:

Chicken coops can cost anywhere from $300-$15,000.

Coop upkeep tools include:

  1. Galvanized replacement wire

  2. Hardware cloth replacement wire

  3. Coop bedding

    1. Frisco Pine Shavings

    2. Kaytee Pine Bedding

  4. Cleaning supplies 

DIY Chicken Coop

Keep in mind that some modern trendy chicken coops provide limited space and poor ventilation. This DIY coop is 18 square feet and can comfortably house 3-5 laying hens. It is important to research and modify the following instructions to fit your needs. Chicken coop plans can also be purchased online as well.


  1. Spot S.  How to Build a Chicken Coop. Survival Spot.

  2. ‌Greenacre CB, Morishita TY. Backyard Poultry Medicine and Surgery: A Guide for Veterinary Practitioners. Wiley-Blackwell; 2021.

  3. ‌My First Year with Chickens guide. Purina Animal Nutrition. 2020.

Featured Image:


Melissa Witherell, DVM


Melissa Witherell, DVM


Dr. Melissa Witherell is originally from Connecticut. She attended undergrad at Fordham University to study Biological Sciences. After that...

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