This spring marks our first anniversary of raising backyard chickens! Our DIY cold climate chicken coop and run that we built has provided a safe place for our Girls for the past nine months. Our set up consists of a stationary coop, attached covered run, and hoop house. Can’t believe the Girls are turning one!
Which Style Coop is Best?
We settled on this design after spending many hours researching online. Along with observing backyard chicken coops in our area. If I’m being honest, I became rather obsessed with the idea of having to have the perfect coop for the Girls.
Whenever I passed by a house with a chicken coop I slowed down and tried to see what type of coop they built. Yes, I am that person. I watched way to many YouTube videos and read as many online articles that I could find.
During this process I felt like an expecting mother. One who over analyzed every detail because I wanted what is best for my chicken children.
Through this process I have learned that there is no perfect design. Remember, you can fix issues after the coop is constructed. I have already reworked the roosts, nesting boxes, and added a hoop house for an additional covered run.
What a Coop and Run Provides
- Shelter from the harsh elements
- Place to sleep
- Spot to lay eggs
- Protection from predators
- Room for chickens to scratch and peck
Should You Go with a Mobile or Stationary Coop?
My original plan was to only build a mobile chicken coop. I researched and knew all about the benefits of using manure to fertilize the garden. Eggs are an amazing gift from chickens, but they provide other benefits as well. Chickens can prep and clean up a garden bed due to their desire to scratch and peck.
Abundant Permaculture has many resources and articles. For ideas about using chickens in your garden check out their website. They also use a few different chicken coop set ups including mobile coops.
Cold Climate Chicken Coop Challenges
We get a lot of snow in New England. The downfall to using only a mobile coop is the large amount of snow we get in the winter. This caused me to rethink my mobile chicken operation.
By having them stay in a stationary coop, I did not have to clear snow for a new location. We had on average a foot of snow on the ground in our yard for 7 months.
Adding Deep Liter to Run
A mobile coop gives them access to new ground. However, in the winter, the ground is frozen solid. Since they were stationary, I was able to use the deep liter method in both of their runs to give them an area to dig during the cold months.
How We Constructed Our Cold Climate Chicken Coop
The main coop is built of a mixture of pressure treated and non pressure treated 2 x 4’s. Using pressure treated wood along the base of the coop, ensured that it would not break down as quickly as non pressure treated.
If you are not comfortable using pressure treated, there are other options including cedar which is naturally rot resistant.
Using a Dirt Floor in the Coop
Our coop sits on dry ground, but it is on the edge of wetlands. In the Spring, water drains through our property, right by the coop on its way to the woods. To keep the integrity of the coop, we decided to raise the coop up on cement blocks. Having a dirt floor means that there is not a wooden bottom sitting on wet ground.
Adding Hardware Cloth
To keep predators from accessing the coop from underneath, we attached half inch hardware cloth to the walls of the coop and buried it at least 12 inches into the ground. The hardware cloth is attached using poultry staples (the kind you hammer in).
Adding Siding and Windows
We added 12 inch pine ship-lap planks on the front and both sides. Two large pieces of plywood cover the back. About halfway up the front and sides, I added a decorative 2 x 4 to break up the ship-lap. Above that board, I framed in two windows on the front and one on each of the sides.
Front Yard CHicken COop
We purchased the ship-lap planks from a local discount lumber yard which cut down on the cost while still making the coop visually appealing. This coop sits in our front yard. I think our coop is beautiful in a rustic way. One of our goals when building the coop was to make it visually appealing even on a limited budget.
Ventilation in the Coop
To allow air flow and proper ventilation, my husband helped me build a large hinged window on the back of the coop. A large piece of plywood acts as a window cover. I prop it open during the day and close it at night. I absolutely love this feature! Even in the winter, if the weather is warm and sunny, I open the back window to allow new air to circulate into the coop.
Maximize Air Flow
Our coop is not air tight. There are small gaps along the roof line where the plastic panels overlap with the siding. Keeping windows open allows air to enter and circulate through the coop. Chickens are prone to developing respiratory problems. This is why ventilation is key.
Walk in Style Coop
A wooden screen door allows a person to comfortably enter the coop. I added hardware cloth and a wooden panel to make it secure. During my research, I found that chicken keepers really enjoy the luxury of being able to walk into the coop. I couldn’t agree more! I can clean up poop, and turn the litter without feeling cramped.
Instead of opting for a metal roof, we used clear plastic panels. In the winter, this creates a greenhouse effect and brings in lots of natural light. Even during the short days of winter, the Girls were up with the sun. The chickens started their day bright and early.
During the heat of summer, the tall trees near our coop cast shade on the roof. This keeps the temperature down in the coop. If you live in a hot climate and your coop is placed in full sun, you might want to choose a different type of roofing material.
Along the back wall of the coop, in the area farthest from the front door, I built wooden roosts for the Girls. Instead of rounded wooden dowels, I selected flat faced boards. This allows the chickens to properly sit on their feet while they sleep. The boards that I used are roughly 3 ½ inches wide by 1 inch thick.
Flat LEvel Roosts
Instead of staggering the roosts at different heights, I opted to have them all at one height. I originally did this with convenience for myself in mind. Having them be the same height, means I can easily clean out the litter under the roosts without hitting my head on a piece of wood. In the end, I think the chickens really enjoy having them all at the same height.
Below the roosts I did add a jump board that the chickens use to get up to their roost each evening. I also added additional supports. A full grown chickens is very heavy. I don’t want the roosts to collapse due to their weight.
A COMFORTABLE Spot to Sit
Under one of the windows, I added an additional perch for them to use as a daytime sitting area. Almost every night when I tuck the Girls into bed, one of them has chosen that spot to sleep for the night.
Open Air Chicken Coop
In ways, our coop could be classified as an open air chicken coop. The front of our cold climate chicken coop has large amount of uncovered open space. Most coops in my area look like a shed. These coops have a solid door with a few small windows.
Doing Something Different
Going against the norm can be scary, especially when the lives of livestock are at risk. In the end, I’m glad we added so many windows and openings to the coop. In the depths of winter, I did close off both of the two front windows when we had severe winds. Then I added a glass windowpane to the screen door. However, plenty of air still was able to enter because I purposely left gaps.
Chicken Breeds Matter
If you select cold hardy breeds, they can withstand cold temperatures. Chickens are hardy animals who will become acclimated to the cold. Sometimes we forget that chickens are not people. However, not all breeds are suitable for cold climates. Before picking up your chicks, make sure they are a good fit for your location.
Setting Up the Nesting Boxes
Every chicken coop built to house laying hens will have nesting boxes. For our eight Girls, I built two wooden nesting boxes. I line them with fresh straw and pine shavings. This allows them to make a nest to lay their eggs inside. If I really want to get fancy, I add dried herbs such as lavender.
A Secluded Place to Lay Eggs
To offer privacy and protection from the cold and wind, I draped a piece of fabric over the opening of the nesting boxes. Two bricks placed on top of the fabric hold it in place and allow me to remove it and wash it when cleaning the coop.
Next to the coop we built a covered run out of rough cut Hemlock. Half inch hardware cloth is stapled to the frame. Open sides allow air to flow freely through the run. Due to our cold snowy climate, we put a clear plastic roof on the run. Clear plastic allows the sun to enter the run while keeping the chickens protected from rain and snow.
Benefits to an Attached Covered Run
At night, I lock up the chickens in the coop. However, they have access to their enclosed run when they wake. At night, I leave the pop door open even in the winter. Due to extreme cold winds I did close it this winter, but only two or three times. Having a covered run attached to our cold climate chicken coop made the winter more bearable for our Girls.
Inexpensive Chicken Run Made out of Cattle Panels
Before winter we added another run to the other side of the coop. The additional run is set up in a hoop house style. It is constructed of cattle panels attached to a wooden frame. This run also has a dirt floor covered in chopped up leaves, wood chips, straw, and hay.
To keep the chickens in and birds out, I covered the cattle panels with chicken wire and bird netting. When it started to snow, I covered the cattle panels with a large tarp. The tarp helped trap heat and keep the area mostly snow free.
What Do Chickens Do All Day?
A busy chicken is a happy chicken. My goal in building this space for my chickens is to create a safe area where they can engage in their natural chicken behavior. By putting down wood chips, chopped leaves, and dried grass on the ground in the run, chickens can scratch and peck all day.
I love when I go outside to check on them and they have dug large holes in the litter to reach the compost below. Providing a stimulating environment is important. Chickens will pick on each other if they are bored.
Do What Works for You
Every climate, yard, and family has different needs. At this time, this setup is working for us and our Girls. While it is important to research and gather information, sometimes you just have to jump in and try something. This chicken coop build has taught me the value of just going for it. I am no expert, but that is okay. Sometimes the best learning comes by trial and error.
Video Cold Climate DIY Chicken Coop & Run Full Tour