Presenting: the Red Hook Chicken Guy coop, basic model. My basic design, based on 20 years of raising chickens in urban areas, rests on several key features. (Don’t mind our kids’ black paint experiment and graffiti art–yours will be spic-and-span.)
First, hens need 10 square feet of space, per bird. Smaller square footage makes living space egregiously cramped, which causes the hens to become antsy, aggressive, and, thus, less likely to lay productively and more likely to peck each other to death or gross injury. Trust me: I’ve tried to cut back on space, and the results are plain ugly.
Furthermore, allocating 10 square feet per hen means less maintenance for you. If you pack hens in more tightly, you’ll have to clean out the coop poop as much as once a week; with my design, cleaning is cut to once a month.
The second key feature to the Red Hook Chicken Guy Coop is design that allows for plenty of sheltered area for the hens–as well as for their food and water.
Hens–and their sustenance–need protection from winter snow and ice as well as blistering summer sun, which means coops need flat roofs and actual walls. I like the look of chicken coops with A-line, or “chalet”-style, roofs, but in my experience, they just don’t offer the necessary coverage: Snow and ice blow right into the feeding area, blocking the hens’ access to it (and compelling you to go out and shovel the snow out), and in the summer, the birds have very little escape from the sun.
Finally, the hens have a cozy laying box in which to nest up and lay their eggs, directly connected to their protected house. As you can see, I attach a hinged door to the top, so all you have to do is open it to collect your eggs.