How much room should I leave around my chicken coop when I build it?

Narrow Garden Loft chicken coop modified from plans

If you have the space in your yard to build a walk-in chicken coop, I’d leave at least two to three feet of working room on all sides of it. This will make construction easier, particularly when it comes to attaching hardware cloth and siding. And after the coop is built, having that space will make it easier for you to access the entire exterior of the coop should you need to. But what if you don’t have that much space to spare? Read on for some ideas. . .

What if I can’t leave that much space around my chicken coop?

Not everyone has the space in their backyard to build the size coop they want while leaving a few feet of clearance on every side. Local codes might also factor into this, limiting where you can even put a coop in your yard — for instance, requiring that you keep it a certain distance from your neighbors’ homes, bedroom windows, or property line. In some cases, you might find that the best place for you to build is right up against a fence, garage, or wall of your home.

Bright pink backyard chicken coop with exterior nest boxes and clear roof built using The Garden Coop plans

Depending on which of our coop designs (or others) you’re building, here are some possible ways to get by with less space around the coop:

  • On the side of the coop that’s tight on space, attach the hardware cloth to the inside of the walls (applies to The Garden Coop, which normally has you attach the wire mesh to the outside). And set the pier blocks there to be flush to the inner face of the wall rather than the outer. This will make it much easier to trench the wire straight down on the inside of the coop.
  • Use siding instead of hardware cloth on the side of the coop that’s tight on space. You can even pre-attach it to the wall before framing up the rest of the coop.
  • Instead of securing the perimeter of the coop at the base, wire the entire bottom of the coop/run. Again, it would help to reorient the pier blocks so that they protrude to the outside of the coop and are flush to the inside walls. Otherwise, you have to work the hardware cloth around those. This is the default design for The Garden Run, but I don’t love this method for our walk-in coops (The Garden Loft and The Garden Coop) because of the pier blocks — and because you lose the advantage of the open ground for the chickens to scratch in. You also have to be careful when shoveling out litter that you don’t damage the wire.
  • Set up the foundation on the tight side as a solid chain-wall or retaining wall with blocks set 18″ to 24″ below grade. That’s a lot of work, but I’ve seen customers do this for their entire coop when building on a slope or when they don’t want to bury hardware cloth. 
  • Compromise on the size of your coop and build it a little smaller. I know, you don’t want to hear that. Forget I mentioned it.
Rob and Tansy's Australian Garden Coop chicken coop from metric instructions

A few more tips for space around your backyard chicken coop. . .

  • If you’re planning to add rain barrels or tool storage or anything else behind or to the sides of your coop, make sure to leave enough space to accommodate those functions as well.
  • If your coop backs right up against another structure, either add a gutter or reverse the slope of the roof so that it drains forward. You don’t want rainwater pooling at the foundation of the other building.
  • There are always smaller coop designs, like The Garden Ark and The Basic Coop, if you really need to tuck into a limited space.
Garden Coop with reversed roof and exterior nest boxes

To see how others are incorporating their DIY chicken coops into the nooks and corners of their backyards, browse all of our chicken coop profiles.

Questions? Other ideas? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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