In my limited experience (but still first hand experience) I find that poultry housing is the single most important part of keeping chickens. Without strong housing predators will quickly decimate your flock. What predators don’t get the weather will. Chickens can stand cold, but not if they are wet.
Personally I have build several different types of houses, cages, and coops, and find that tried and true historical methods trump any neat modern experiments (and that is from a guy that loves neat modern experiments).
The document below comes from an agriculture extension office, as such it contains practical accepted methods to raise livestock. The USDA and its extension offices don’t have a lot of imagination when it comes to the information they provide – they simple give the best information available on traditional farming to those that want to farm traditionally. In my experience Extension office information is always safe and practical, and is a great start for new farmers, canners, and others interested in food production.
Of course if you still want to experiment, you can look at my living roof coop (great idea, but too small), my geodesic dome coop (too small and complicated), or my shipping crate coop (worked the best, but was too ugly for my neighborhood).
However you build your coop and poultry housing, keep it strong so dogs and other animals can’t eat your chickens. It needs to be large enough that raccoons can’t reach in and pull the chicken heads off while they are sleeping.
Your poultry housing needs to be water and wind tight, and you will thank me later if you build it so collecting chickens and eggs are easy. I have build many designs that allow me to easily get the eggs, but few actually are easy to catch the chickens in the event I want breasts not omelets.
I cannot wait for the day when I can build a large walk in coop that has fenced in gardens on either side so I can rotate my crops and allow my chickens to till the soil and compost waste each year by natural pecking and scratching.
The link below opens a PDF from University of Mass Agriculture Extension Office. This document is on Poultry Housing.Poultry Housing UMAS Extention 08-04