Are you planning to build a DIY chicken coop? Last summer we decided to add to our off grid homestead. We ordered 20 Western Rustic chicks, then started planning our new coop. We researched chicken coop painting ideas, how to make a DIY chicken coop door and cute chicken coop building plans. However, we totally missed out on researching DIY chicken coop mistakes.
Here are seven DIY chicken coop mistakes we made (or almost made) when building our first coop.
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
7 DIY Chicken Coop Mistakes We Made
Table of contents
- 7 DIY Chicken Coop Mistakes We Made
- #1. Building the Coop Too Small
- #2. Not Enough Ventilation in The Coop
- #3. Our DIY Chicken Coop is Too Tall!
- #4. The Chicken Run is Too Small
- #5. No Sick Bay in Our Chicken Coop
- #6. Didn’t Allow Space for Rabbits?
- #7. We Need a Bigger DIY Chicken Coop Door
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So last year, in the midst of all the pandemic craziness and potential food shortages, we decided to get chickens. Yes, we’d talked about it the previous year as a means of securing our family’s food supply.
Living in a remote part of Canada’s far north, shipping can be an issue. And food security is a popular topic here. With poor soil quality, and long, cold, dark winters, we needed to be creative as we finally got started homesteading.
Our DIY chicken coop got started “late” due to various issues with our homestead projects. Including the fact that we were also building a new generator shed. So we spent some time pouring over chicken coop plans. In the end, however, we did our own thing.
Anyhow, we got it done. And here are some of the DIY chicken coop mistakes we made.
#1. Building the Coop Too Small
Our plan was to get 20 meat chickens. Then butcher most of the chickens at home. By the fall we could fill our freezer with winter meat. Our chicks arrived in late April, and we kept them in a DIY brooder in our laundry room for a few weeks.
However, what we didn’t anticipate was that we’d get the opportunity to add 10 Barred Plymouth Rock chicks as well in late May. And we decided that we might need those eggs. So our original coop with dimensions of 8 x 12 was a pretty tight fit.
By mid-summer, we decided that given the precarious situation down south, we’d only butcher 12 of our chickens and keep the rest for egg production and breeding for hatching more chicks in the spring. So that took us down to 18 chickens.
By September, we had acquired another six chickens. White Lohmanns are hardy and great egg producers. So we were back up to 24 chickens for the winter.
We have since lost one of the White Lohmans. But we also had a surprise January chick!
And last week we picked up another 13 chickens of various breeds. They include a white Silkie and a couple of Buff Orpingtons. So now we’re at 37 chickens.
#2. Not Enough Ventilation in The Coop
We live off the grid in an extremely cold part of Canada, north of the 60th parallel. Homesteading here is tough. It gets down to -50C and colder (that’s -58F) in the winter.
That’s why Dan was determined to build a well-insulated DIY chicken coop. What we thought was a good idea turned out to be one of several unexpected DIY chicken coop mistakes. The extra insulation makes it too stuffy. And the chickens generate a lot of moisture. So it gets damp.
Now last year, we struggled with our off grid electricity situation. However, we didn’t want our girls to freeze. So although the coop isn’t wired for electricity, we ran an extension cord out from the house to power a heat lamp.
#3. Our DIY Chicken Coop is Too Tall!
I think our coop is so pretty. After looking over pages of chicken coop painting ideas, we settled on navy blue with white trim. There’s a white door (okay, it’s mostly dirty. But it is white under there.) And a white-framed window.
Our chicken coop walls are 8 feet tall. However, the coop has a peaked roof. And it’s 12 feet tall at the peak.
This makes it harder to keep the coop warm.
Now last year, we struggled with our power situation. However, we didn’t want our girls to freeze. And you know how it works. Hot air rises and cold air falls.
So although the coop isn’t wired for electricity, we ran an extension cord out from the house to power a heat lamp whenever the outdoor temperature hit -40. The chicken coop temperature could drop down to about -15 to -18 C (between about 0 and 5 F) and the girls were fine. Any colder though and they weren’t.
A few of them got frostbite on their crowns. And our rooster, O’Brien the Second got frostbite on his crown and his toes.
Now that we have a new Tesla Powerwall 2 and Kubota generator, this winter will be better. We can heat the coop as needed without running a portable gasoline generator like we did last winter.
#4. The Chicken Run is Too Small
Our original run was 8 x 8. But we’re already planning to expand it so the girls can hang out outdoors more often.
We don’t free- range because our lot isn’t fenced. Also, predators such as bears, wolves, pine martens and eagles concern me. Now, this might change in the future. But for now, we’ll just make a DIY chicken run with salvaged bits of wood and chicken wire.
#5. No Sick Bay in Our Chicken Coop
It wasn’t until Dot, one of the smallest chickens began to act sick that we realized our chicken coop didn’t have a sickbay. We made do with a dog crate.
And Dot ended up coming into the house (into our battery room, that is) for what we thought was her last few days. Instead, she hatched an egg in mid-January!
#6. Didn’t Allow Space for Rabbits?
If you follow Justin Rhodes or Joel Salatin, you’re familiar with their methods of homesteading. This past winter I’ve been further studying the basics of permaculture plus raising chickens and rabbits and goats together. But I should have read up more on the whole chicken and rabbits thing last year. As in “before” Dan built the coop.
Then we would have included built-in higher shelves for the rabbits with the chickens down below.
#7. We Need a Bigger DIY Chicken Coop Door
Right now we have four kids living with us at our off grid homestead. My daughter Ava is our main “chicken whisperer” with my nephew Jerod as backup. And it wasn’t until each of them got stuck in the coop that we realized we should have made a bigger chicken door.
The man door sticks sometimes, depending on the temperature and humidity. Ava is a strong eleven-year-old, but sometimes she gets stuck in the coop and has to crawl out through the chicken door. Jerod is 6 foot 4 and there’s no way he’d fit through the chicken door if the man door was truly stuck!
Have you built your own chicken coop? In hindsight, we are so glad we got the lumber last year before the prices went through the roof. Next year we’ll be adapting our plans to include an extra area for our three turkeys, and possibly goats too. Stay tuned!