How to build a hen coop
Hatching chicks is wonderful to do in the early summer. It only takes 21 days and then you should have a new family. But do build a hen coop first!
The design of your hen house will depend on the size of your garden and the number of hens you intend to have. It will also depend on whether you can make their run fox proof so that the hens will put themselves to bed or if you have to shut them in every night. The latter gives you a much easier life than the former, but it does require a fox proof fence (which should be sunk at least 20cm into the ground, with the wire turned outwards to snub a digging fox and the fence should not be too rigid to make it difficult to scale. Foxes hate climbing wobbly fences!).
This type of coop is primarily for a solitary hen that is either broody or unwell. A broody hen will happily sit on her eggs in the nesting box end and leave her nest only for food and water, which is what you want. The coop also provides a safe environment for chicks for their first six weeks.
Before you begin you need to decide how big to make your coop. The larger the better for the hen, but too large makes it cumbersome to move and store. Our coop is only 1.5m long.
1. Begin by building three triangular frames the same size, one for either end and one for the nest box door inside the coop. The frames for either end will need a door fitted into the frame, made out of board or tongue and groove. The doors can be held in place with a baton at the top and bottom on the inside of the door to prevent it falling outwards and a latch on the outside of the door to keep it from falling inwards. The third frame that goes inside the coop should be part covered in board, leaving a hole large enough for a hen to fit through. We have a sliding door on this panel so we can keep the hen or chicks in the nesting box, which is held in place by grooved batons either side of the door. This can be raised and lowered from outside the coop by a piece of string that can be tied onto the wire.
2. The three horizontal pieces for the triangular prism frame should be the most substantial, at least 1x1”, and the top bar should extend 10cm further at either end to make a handle for moving the coop around the garden. Attach these one at a time to each of the 3 triangular frames.
3. The nest box sides should be covered on all three sides with board or tongue and groove. The run should be covered with a chicken wire, but only on the top 2 sides. Some people also cover the base, but we find it much cleaner to leave the base open. That way when you move it around the lawn all the mess is left behind and easy to clear up. You may though need to peg it down though so that foxes or dogs cannot burrow underneath.
That should be it. Check there are no sharp bits from the wire or nails and then find yourself a broody hen and some fertile eggs. If you don’t have a cockerel to fertilise the eggs, it is easy to buy hatching eggs online. They only start hatching once the hen starts sitting and then 21 days later you should be able to sit in your garden deckchair and watch them hatch.