This is the first of a series of articles I plan to write about building a chicken coop.  I need to build a new chicken coop here at the yardstead, so I have a bit of research to do anyway.  We currently have an open coop with 3 walls and the roof enclosed, but open in the front.  I built it from scrap lumber and leftover pieces of metal roofing, in compliance with our Reuse/Recycle policy here at the yardstead.  It has worked just fine to shelter our chickens for the last 5 or 6 years .  The open coop sits at one end  of the chicken yard which is enclosed with poultry netting(which most people around the yardstead call 'chicken wire').  It has 4 built in nesting boxes and a hanging feeder.  I plan to move it and retrofit it for our ducks to use as a nesting shelter.
One of the first things you will need to know when planning to build a chicken coop is how many chickens you plan to house.  Here at the yardstead we plan to keep about a dozen laying hens.  We have Araucanas, Buff Orpingtons, Leghorns, Rhode Island Reds, and Silver laced Wyandottes, which are all heavy breeds.  According to The Chicken Health Handbook by Gail Damerow, heavy breeds require ........

.........a minimum of of 4 sq ft per bird for Open Housing (where birds have access to a yard) and 10 sq ft per bird in confined housing.  Well our birds have a large fenced in run, so I probably will not go much larger than the minimum requirement for 12 birds which is 48 sq ft.  Eight  by six sounds good to me, but I may go with 8x8 so I don't have to cut boards or plywood. 
Well I'm going to visiting some of my neighbors who are fellow yardsteaders over the next few days and I plan to take some pictures of their coops.   I will put some of the chicken coop pictures in the upcoming articles and post the rest in the gallery.  The chicken space requirements of 4 sg ft and 10 sq ft listed above are on the high side compared to the other space requirements listed online.  I plan to go with the higher numbers though.  Its obvious to me by watching our chickens over the years that they are always more content (and lay better) when they have more space.  If you have smaller birds or larger birds adjust the minimum space requirements up or down accordingly.  Just remember that your chickens will be happier and healthier if they have easy access to fresh air and sunshine.   Check back for more chicken coop articles soon and as always feel free to post any questions or comments you might have about this article, chickens, or anything else related to yardsteading, in the forum.