Southern Agrarianism and the culture of the Old South

Chicken Coops

Designing and building various types of chicken coops has become something of a hobby of mine. Each design is an experiment, and each one shows flaws that need to be corrected in the next design. Here are the basic criteria that I have developed:

  • It must be predator-proof.
  • It must be durable and long-lasting. I will gladly sacrifice weight and cost in order to have something that I know will be in service many years from now.
  • It must be semi-portable. Two average men should be able to move it if needed. It is not designed to be moved regularly.
  • It must be easy to maintain.
  • It must hold enough hens to supply eggs for a small family.
  • I have settled on a length and width size of 4′ x 6′. This makes good use of standard material sizes and will meet the other criteria.
  • Given the choice of a single large coop or several smaller ones, go with several smaller ones. If a predator or disease or other problem affects one coop, it doesn’t wipe out your entire flock.


  1. Denis Ellinger


    Do you have any plans available for your chicken coop? It looks like a great idea.



  2. Stephen Clay McGehee

    Not at the moment. One of this Winter’s projects is to build another one using my last one as a base and making a number of improvements to it that I have found. When I do, I will be thoroughly documenting the building of it and will include drawings in PDF format. These will be free for use by anyone who wants them. I keep trying to make it as easy to build and maintain as possible, and I’ve gotten some good ideas over the past year or two.

    Please feel free to check back with me to see if I’ve got a better timetable for that project. Thanks for writing!

  3. Billy

    I like the design of the chicken ark, very compact and neat looking. If you moved this ark every day, how much land would you need to keep the chickens (perhaps 5-6 hens) in good pasture? Would this be a good fit for a medium sized back yard in a small county neighborhood?

  4. Stephen Clay McGehee

    Billy, that was my plan when I first designed it. Unfortunately, after I built it, I found that it was just too heavy to move regularly. If I were going to have a system where the chickens were moved from place to place in a yard, I would be looking at a design like this one – . It probably isn’t big enough to hold that many hens though, so you might want to have two of them and move them together so that they can share a single watering system.

    When it comes to sitting down and planning, it’s easy to tell yourself that you will move it around every day. If it is not light enough so that it will move easily, chances are that it won’t be done as regularly as you intended. At least that’s the way it works out for me.

  5. Amy Christensen

    Have you tried either of Justin Rhoades from ‘s ideas? He has both a chicken tractor and a chicksaw idea that I was thinking about trying as Joel Saltin’s send to big for just me to move.

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      Building a chicken tractor too big to move – “Been there, done that!” It became a very nice, but stationary, chicken coop that I eventually gave to some friends at church.

      One of the big lessons that I’ve learned is that everything is local. What works well in one area is not such a good idea in another. Example: most chicken coop designed are meant to protect the chickens from the bitter Winter cold. Down here, I’ve lost chickens from the heat, but no damage from the cold. Lesson learned.

      I’ve also tried free ranging my chickens, and that works just fine if that’s all you’re doing. Reality is that they end up flying over fences and destroying the garden (I’m not interested in having to keep all the wings clipped and then having them unable to fly up to their perch at night. What I have now (and I’ll need to remember to do a post on it) is a fenced pen with netting over the top and a coop where they are locked in at night. The original idea was to just have a couple chickens to stir up the compost pile and get all the eggs from the ducks. I might end up there, but right now, I’ve got 14 hens and they’re giving us between 14 and 16 eggs per day. I know they’re not supposed to be able to do more than one a day, but that’s OK with me.

      Thanks for writing.

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