Chicken Coops

So, you've gotten a few chickens and while they were chicks you kept them indoors under a heat lamp..but now they're grown and you need a new place to keep them.

One or two things to keep in mind when building your chicken coops is to make sure there are at least a few individual boxes (ideally, you should have one box per chicken) in case your hens go broody and want to set on some eggs, especially if you have a rooster. If you don't have a rooster, there's really no point in letting a hen set because, well, she's just not going to have anything come of it. But either way, you should have one box per chicken because chickens want a little privacy while they lay their eggs - wouldn't you? And, you should also consider roosting bars, since chickens roost in trees at night naturally.

Now, you can use a lot of different materials to build a coop - PVC pipe, wood, metal, etc. One of the most common materials used is wood, but buying new lumber can be pretty costly. If you can find a lumber yard that sells used or scrap lumber, that could turn out to be very cost efficient, but PVC pipe, chicken wire and zipties can also work well.
Now, if it were me, I would be using PVC, because it's cost effective, lightweight, movable and I like the way it looks. Also, your chickens can scratch up and fertilize the ground, so it's ideal for if you want to make a chicken tractor to prepare and fertilize your garden in the winter or early spring, depending on your climate. Chicken tractors are also good throughout the year to expand your garden or to work over a completely harvested area to prepare it for another planting. When using PVC, you'll have to build boxes from wood so your chickens can get out of the elements and still have that privacy to lay eggs.

There are lots of different designs you can use, from small square ones with partitions to separate hens from roosters or to separate broody hens from others, to larger walk-in coops, to triangular coops with one wooden end. You can put horizontal bars across part of the coop for roosting, and put boxes below.... The design possibilities are endless, and if your needs change you can modify your coop rather easily.

Another reason coops are good is because chickens are outdoor creatures, and they need airy, light-filled spaces, which is why a lot of shed or barn kept chickens have respiratory issues. You would too, if you were kept inside with all that ammonia all the time.

However, another thing to keep in mind is protection from predatory animals, such as coyotes or stray dogs. If you keep them in a PVC coop, as apposed to just fencing in an area attached to the barn/shed, then this shouldn't be a problem as they will be both fenced and covered at all times.

If you plan to raise laying hens, daily moves will irritate your mature chickens since they will have to relearn the area daily and it may upset egg production. You could always have two or three coops - a stationary one for laying hens, and a couple for your younger hens and your roosters.

You'll also need to consider roofing to keep your chickens dryer when it rains or snows, depending on your climate.

Tarps work well if the top of your coop is close enough to the ground. If you have a higher roof, it will protect them from rainfall unless it's also windy, which would blow the rain sideways into the coop. You can't cover the coop with tarp totally, because in the sun it would get extremely hot inside and completely defeat the purpose of PVC and chicken wire, since it creates an airier environment, and it would also blow away easily in heavy winds. So you'll need to build it so it has a low roof, or build an a-frame roof and put tarp over that, because the edges are closer to the ground and you can still walk in it, which is very helpful in egg collection.

So, the materials you'll need are:

PVC pipe (1/2 inch, 3/4 inch, 1 inch or two inch, depending on your design)
Male and female connectors (connectors are usually female, these include couplers, elbows, 2 ways, 3 ways, 4 ways)
Chicken wire (this comes in different grades and lengths)
Zipties (available in just about any hardware store)
Stakes (to ensure your housing doesn't blow away)

What will work for you and your chickens greatly varies depending on your climate, yard space, how many chickens, etc. But I'm sure you have ideas swirling around in your head.