I am right in the middle of building a mobile chicken coop called a "chicken tractor," for my 11 pullets. I suggest you investigate this type of shelter. Just Google on 'chicken tractor.' There are LOTS of helpful (and funny) photos of different designs on various sites. Also, go to the Mother Earth News web site and search on chicken tractor/coops. It's fun to see pix of the 'deluxe' coops where people went all out. There's also a helpful book by that name, which I have, which has a lot of useful practical advice (I'm no carpenter). This goes along with grass-fed chickens, 'pastured poultry,' 'free range' and other unregulated, non-standard labels. The idea is that you have a relatively lightweight, moveable BOTTOMLESS coop that has both a shelter part and enough space for them to scratch around. The book 'Chicken Tractor' details a lot of coop/sheltering/pasturing variations. Also, Google on Joel Salatin, who has actually made a living on free-range/pastured poultry. He has written a lot of articles on how to make it work.
The advantages of a mobile coop are 1) no smelly, nasty build-up of manure in a stationary coop; 2) no coop cleaning, and you save on the cost of bedding; 3) the chickens eat weed seeds, bugs--I'm told they keep the tick population down and lessen weeds; 4) better diet for the chickens since they have access to grass, seeds--you still have to give them grain feed but there is some saving because they are foraging; 5) A BIG advantage is that the chickens fertilize your garden (or lawn) progressively as you move the tractor along. 6) You can have grass-fed/pastured poultry without worrying about predators. I can't do pure "free range" because we have lots of red-tailed hawks, and foxes, coyotes, raccoons, and I don't trust my Black Lab around the chickens. (She already got one of my Barred Rock chicks who got out in the yard
Oh--I have 6 Barred Plymouth Rocks (beautiful but flightier than I expected) and 5 Buff Orpingtons (beautiful and also amazingly sweet, docile, and friendly
--I highly recommend this breed). They should start laying around September.
Here's how mine will work: it's 10 feet long, 4' wide, 3' high (except for a peaked roof shelter part that has nests and roosts--this 'coop' section has taken me forever to make because, hey, I'm no carpenter).
My goal was to build it without spending any money, using the scrap lumber and hardware that came with the farm. I haven't quite made that goal, but the cost is going to be under $25.
I had to buy some small braces and machine screws, and 2 Tuftex corrugated white vinyl panels (best thing since sliced bread!!)--$7 each at my local Bargain Lots--for the roof. I also decided to break down and buy a new roll of galvanized chicken wire; the wire that came with the barn is pretty old.
I'm going to set it in the garden and move it along each day. There are various ways people build it so it can be pulled along: scoots, old skis, old lawnmower wheels. I haven't finished that part yet.
You have to make sure there's not a big gap at the bottom so vermin can't sneak under. Some folks DO use their tractor to move it, especially if they made it out of heavy lumber, but they don't tend to move it every day.
TO BE CONTINUED.... I will post pictures of the finished product. It's taking me forever 'cause I am designing it as I go along and have to figure out from scratch how to put together a wood frame, etc. etc. But yesterday I put on the roofing panels and it was a cinch, for a change
Cheers, The Farm Lady