Make It Your Own: Lisa’s High-Altitude Garden Coop

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Lisa built her Garden Coop atop a 7,000 foot mountain in Colorado.

OMG. In case you were wondering just how extreme of conditions chickens can thrive in (with human help, of course), check out Lisa’s Garden Coop high in the mountains of Colorado. The rest of this post comes from her:

Extreme weather conditions didn't stop Lisa from building a coop and keeping chickens.I thought you might like to see what we have done with your design for The Garden Coop. We bought your plans last summer and built a modified version to suit our climate.

We live in the mountains of Colorado at an altitude of over 7,000 feet, within 15 miles of Steamboat Springs Ski Area, a major ski resort. Our winter starts in November and doesn’t really end until May, when what we call “mud season” arrives.

We receive at our house well over 200 inches of snowfall annually, and as you can see from the photos, typically accumulate between three to five feet throughout the winter (sometimes more!). Last week, temperatures dropped to less than 40 degrees below zero for three days, not including windchill. Thank goodness we don’t get a lot of wind!

As you can imagine, this presented a challenge for us to build a coop that would handle the snowload and accomodate our chickens to survive and to continue to lay eggs through the winter.

Modifying The Garden Coop (for truly extreme conditions)

With the right preparation, chickens will continue to lay throughout the winter.We modified The Garden Coop design by building the rafters closer together, using larger structural lumber and thick siding, and using corrugated metal sheeting for the roof material.

We enclosed the bottom under the henhouse completely instead of using hardware cloth, but left it open everywhere else. Then, when winter started we covered the back and side of the coop with a sheet of plywood which can be removed when the weather gets warmer.

The walls of the henhouse on this Colorado chicken coop are insulated with rigid insulation.The henhouse is completely insulated with 2″ foam insulation on all six sides and we added a window on the south-facing wall for maximizing light. We also added a heat light inside the henhouse and white light outside, both on timers, and of course we have to have a heated water pan. This means we had to run an electric line.

It has worked really, really well. Our chickens continued to lay once we figured out the best timing for the lights. I don’t know if you’ve had anyone build with your plans in this kind of climate, but thought you might get a chuckle out it!

Lisa created a home for her hens that is secure against predators and the elements.

Unbelievable. That’s some serious dedication to chicken keeping. Many thanks to Lisa for sharing her photos and experience. Got a message for Lisa or an interesting story to share? Leave a reply in the comments below.

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19 Responses to “Make It Your Own: Lisa’s High-Altitude Garden Coop”

  1. Melissa says:

    Very cool…. I live at 1200′ (almost seaside compared to you) in Tasmania and would love 6 black astronauts aka astralorps. My first choookens……. how do I make a perfect house for them

  2. Marianne Gardner says:

    I’m just planning my flock in Leadville, CO at about 10,000′ and I’m so glad to see that others are having success with high altitude birds! I’ve never lived anywhere cold before and have also never had chickens so I’m learning everything from scratch. Thanks for sharing and giving the rest of us hope.

  3. Jason says:

    Just moved to Fairplay, CO and bought a house at 10,200 feet overlooking the south park valley. The heavy storms usually miss us, but we get brutal temps sometimes and the wind is always an issue (50-100 mph).

    I hope to raise a brood of 3-6 chickens, a quail or two, and a duck or two for eggs (not meat), and with time a few goats for milk and soap.

    I’d like advice for what breeds of chicken to pair-up, and whether multiple fowl together has worked.

    I feel confident about building a secure and livable environment for them.

    Open to any and all suggestions or resources you can think of.


    • Jackie says:

      Hi Jason
      I live in Florissant, not too far from you. My son built an awesome coop for me. We have it raised about 18 inches from the ground so the hens can go under when it’s raining or snowing. We insulated the floor with 1 inch sheet insulation. The sides are also insulated. The inside is covered in vinyl sheeting. It is very easy to clean. In the winter we hang a heat lamp and we made a heater for under the water so it doesn’t freeze (we learned a lot from our first year!) Our fence is made of hardware cloth, also covered in it as hawks are numerous and will fly in if given a chance. We have Buff Orpingtons. They are amazing! Very hardy, friendly, calm and very good layers. The eggs are large and very tasty. I feed a good amount of healthy treats like greens, oatmeal (cooked in the winter), berries, etc. We just have one type of chicken as it seemed easier for us and the eggs are consistent. We just got ducklings a couple weeks ago so another house is going up soon! My suggestion is to build something that keeps the drafts out but has a window that you can open for ventilation in the summer but covered in hardware cloth. I read a lot about adding a vent but I haven’t seen the need since we crack the window and the chicken door is open during the day. I don’t want the snow blowing in in the winter through the vent. Be sure to get at least 2 ducks as they are social and get lonely :) We have 5 chickens and now 7 ducklings. Hope this helps….

      • Jason says:


        This is great, just the advice I was looking for. Our HOA is currently going through a process of removing the ‘no chickens’ rule in our neighborhood. Despite this folks have been having them for years, but I’d rather support the HOA until the vote in my favor. I hope they get this done soon.

        I’ll reach out again as the process unfolds and perhaps ask another question or two. Thanks!


        • Jackie says:

          Hi Jason,

          I’m so glad I could help! I went in blindly when I got my hens but we made it! I hope you are able to get your flock soon. They are very rewarding once you get through the brooding stage :) I must say they were easier than these ducklings who make an incredible mess but I love em anyway.

          Good luck and hope to hear how things go for you!


          • Melissa says:

            Hi Jackie, Im planning my coop at aprx 1200ft in Tasmania Australia. Our predators are quoll, tiger cats, Devils and other ferals. The choooks will hopefully be day time free rangers and come in on dark with a little encouragement. A chicken tractor…….Woohoo didn’t know they could drive?.?!? Obviously I know nothing can u pls help?

  4. Lee says:

    I’m getting 15 pullets ? in May and still need to build the coop. My issue is that I have very, very little flat ground on the side of the mountain where I live. We have a lot of predators like fox, raccoon, coyotes, possum, bear, not to mention dogs from surrounding farms and homes. (SW Virginia) along the Appalachians. Elevation isn’t a problem.

    I’d like to let them run free when possible and don’t want them on bare ground like in a pen. Thinking about a main coop and a chicken tractor or two. Any thoughts on that?

    • Lee, with that collection of predators, you’re going to have a challenge no matter what, but what you’re thinking about sounds like a good plan. You may also want to secure the bottom of the tractors, especially if they’re always on a slope (making them easier to lift and tip) and fox and bear are around. And don’t rule out a permanent secure pen. Ours are in such a setup, and we simply bring the greens, grains, and bugs to them so they’re never bored.

  5. Sharon says:

    I tend to 7 chickens at 8500 ft in Colorado. I have 3 Easter Eggers, 2 black Australorps, and a buff bantam…plus a Barred Rock Roo to harass, I mean protect, the ladies. Any breed with pea combs should thrive at elevation. My Easter Eggers are very flighty which are great for escaping predators (or the Roo). I was really surprised that they all made it through one of the coldest, bitterest, and snowiest winters w no casualties. They’re tough birds! Good luck!

  6. deby williams says:

    I am in Divide Colorado and starting to build my chicken coop and wonder if any have encountered issues with foxes, bears, raccoon, coyotes.

    Also are there types of chickens that do better at altitude?

    I appreciate any help you might be able to offer.

    Thank you

  7. Thomas says:

    I’m planning to raise laying hens at 8000 feet in Southern Colorado and have been studying feed supplements to enhance their oxygen carrying ability and other high altitude considerations. However, I would like to find a breeder of hens raised at high altitudes but haven’t found any as yet. Do you know of any?

  8. Tracy says:

    We’re at 10,500 ft and have 6 chickens so far so good! But we haven’t had a winter with them yet-so I can’t quite give ya a full report. Our neighbors down the road have had chickens for a couple of years and they seem to do fine. So I’m pretty sure you can have them anywhere! I’ve heard chickens with rose combs are good for cold weather because other combs can get frost bitten more easliy. Although I haven’t had any experience one way or the other myself.

  9. Todd says:

    You guys are dedicated to attempt raising chickens at 7,000 feet, I’m impressed. Makes me feel better about attempting this we the extremes we have here in Minnesota. We don’t get anywhere near as much snow as you guys do but to have 2 to 3 feet isn’t unthinkable. Makes me wonder if we would need to make some structural upgrades to take the potential loads. Adding a window at the top of the hen house in the winter is a great idea I might have to steal that one from you.

  10. Clyde says:

    Given our location in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan we experience winters that are close to what you have described. The 2″ insulation is a great idea but how do your hens deal with the heat of summer days when they are inside?

  11. Alan says:

    You’ve given me great hope that my new chicks will survive this winter here in Reno, NV. Do you have any kind of wire or hardware cloth as a ceiling between the top of your coop and the rafters? Or is it just open to the outside. I’m thinking about cats and weasles getting into the coop between the rafters. Good luck with your chickencicles!

  12. Emily Maker says:

    Wow, I really want to talk to you! We are looking into starting a homestead above 7000 ft altitude in CO as well, and would LOVE some good friends to chat with about what to expect or share ideas.

  13. Susan says:

    Wow! And I was worried as a first time chicken owner in Vermont!

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