I built one out of a couple of shipping crates I got from a guy off Craig's list. 'bout 4x6 very basic, 3 bay laying box off the back, tag sale shingles, cheapo 1x3 strapping on the corners. Just remember its just a coop. I'll try to get a few pics when I get a chance. Just look at the ones on backyardchickens in the previous post, then modify to fit your yard and available materials.
More importantly (and more expensive) was the 8x8x8 run I built on it so I had wire on all six sides. Nothing is going to get in that sucker even if they dig underneath. I let them free range during the day but they'll put themselves back in the coop at dusk and I lock them backup.
You've got time, even if you buy chicks now they won't be ready to go out in the coop till June or better.
I've got three Ameraucanas and three Rhode Island Reds. They all weathered over this past year with no problems (and it was a cold one!!)
They are good layers and the Ameraucanas will give you blue and green eggs!! We're back up to 5-6 eggs a day after a winter low of 1-2 eggs a day.
Bought another 6 last week at Tractor Supply, 3 black Australorps and 3 black sex linked. We'll see how they work out.
The TSC site has a guide that lists some of the basic features, like egg production, cold weather hardy etc.
There is no "best chicken" like there is no best dog. Each has their benefits and drawbacks. Figuring out your faves is all part of the magic!
Backyardchickens.com is a great resource as mentioned.
Design flaws in my coop-
too small. err on the side of Bigger. Chickens are addicting. Just like a woodstove, it's easier to put less hens in a big coop than more hens in a small coop.
I don't have easy access to every part of the coop.
I have to work to hard to collect eggs. Think small doors and no bending.
Mine are free to roam about the yard so I don't have any pen or fencing.
I had no plans for a rooster and didn't have one for awhile, but now I love my rooster. He does such a great job with the hens.
We used our sons sand box once he stopped using it (plus it kept the neighborhood cats from turning into a dumping ground).
It is 12x8 with grow stop over the dirt and around 2 yds sand. Then a 4x8x3 coop that I built out of some spare lumber I had laying around. Same for the pen; 12x8 w/ 4' wallls and an arched roof using lattice for support and chicken wire around the frame. Does what it is supposed to do, keeps the chickens in and the critters out.
I have 2 roosting poles in the coop, 1 on each side. I do not have laying boxes, they just kind of go where they want to when they want to.
We have one leg horn, road island red and a jersey giant. 2 brown layers and a white.
Our chicken coop is made out of pallets, stripped and reused.
It's surprising what good wood some pallets are made of.
Offcuts come in handy as kindling, so nothing goes to waste!
We originally could not make our mind up what breed to keep, and kept light sussex, marans, and now have a buff orpington as well as some mixtures we raised from out own eggs when a hen went broody last year.
Keeping chickens can be very time consuming, they like human company and our cockerel likes being out and about in the garden.
He has his own separate box with a carpet on the floor which absorbs sound so he cannot be heard at 3am if he decides to have a little crow.
He usually tries to sneak in with the girls though............
I wish I had a picture. I built one for my FIL a couple weekends ago. It has 9 nests on each short end of the coop with a flip up lids to get eggs. Don't have to go inside.
It was 8x12, metal peaked 2x4 raftered roof with 2x6 ridge...one entry door. Roosts on the long sides. We set 6 treated posts to hold it up...and the nests are cantilevered beyond the posts. Roof line extends over the nest lids to keep the rain off. Put some pearling around the posts and used T111 for siding.
We got a screamin' deal on solid core doors that we used for the floor...joists on 24" centers for floor support.
We have the Rhode Island Reds which are fine and also two buff orpingtons which I prefer and since they are much bigger and fluffier I would beleive they are more cold hardy. I don't give them heat until temps go to the teens and even then it is only a 100watt lamp. Chickens are easy. Big feeders and waterers mean minimal maintenance.
I even raised a batch of meat chickens once. Holy smokes they grow fast. The commercial breed is called cornish cross and they are meant to grow to full size in 8 weeks!
We like the chickens, they do have attitudes. For the last year and a half I've had a banty rooster with them for fun. He crows in the morning and does his best to hump the much larger hens. They bend down for him but we don't think he ever quite gets the job done.
You may think you'll move the coop around but in practice, the coop is heavy and too difficult to move. Plan on a permanent sacrificial coop and pen area.
I don't leave them for more than a day or two. They eat and drink a lot. Though I suppose if you could rig a hose or really big waterer, and a really big feeder you could leave them as long as the food holds out.
I have a friend down the street that has chickens (he got me started) and we trade chicken sitting.
We have somebody come by and collect eggs every day when we're gone. They keep the eggs and check that the water and food are still sufficient. If you leave the eggs too long then some hen will start eating them and that's no good.
One egg per bird per day. Except the rooster, he just boinks everything.
Chanteclers were bred in Quebec about 100 years ago specifically for cold Canadian climates. They have virtually no combs or wattles which makes them less prone to frostbite. Orpingtons are a good cold climate breed as well.
Our white chanteclers...they do tend to be fliers.
Rhode Island red and black Australorps for size comparison...
consider: building a chicken tractor, and using chicken nipples to water the chickens. I would disagree with the idea of make it to big to start. I would go with a 4x4 or 5x5 box for 5 or 6 chickens, and a fenced yard for the chickens or free range if you have good protection for them. The key parts of a coup are: cheap, easy to collect the eggs, easy to clean, and easy to ventilate. The chickens I enjoy having are buff orpingtons, and welsummers. Both handle the cold and are excellent foragers. These 2 breeds are trainable and good with kids.