Coop Selection Guidelines


Touring unique chicken coops in a backyard setting and fundraising for the community has always been the central focus of the Tour D’Coop, but we also have a mission to educate Tour visitors about proper and humane care of poultry. To this end, we have established minimum standards of housing, care and appearance for all coops participating in the Tour. Our guidelines are based, in part, on our interpretation of the Global Animal Partnership 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating system as noted at and Keeping Garden Chickens in North Carolina (North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service).

Animal Health:


  • Size-Chickens need a warm and dry indoor space to perch at night, as well as outdoor areas for daytime use. References for coop and pen sizes show a wide range of square-foot requirements per chicken, most geared towards commercial production, where economics is the bottom line. We advocate for low-density housing (more space per chicken) because it decreases the likelihood of diseases and negative behaviors (pecking, cannibalism) and increases the well-being of chickens.

    As a general guideline, your coop should be large enough to allow all chickens room to enter, stand, and comfortably move around. Each coop should have a perch or combination of perches long enough to allow each bird a nighttime roost, keeping in mind that standard-size birds require considerably more space than bantams or smaller breeds. All birds should have access to outside spaces where they can enjoy fresh air and sunshine, move about, dust bathe, and demonstrate other normal chicken behaviors.

  • Location-Coop site selection is important to the health and comfort of both urban chickens and surrounding human neighbors.

    Coops should be sited such that: chickens can stay adequately warm and dry in the winter, and cool in the summer, with enough breeze to prevent the build up of objectionable odors and flying insects; and such that the flock, odors, noises etc do not negatively impact nearby properties.

  • Security-The single largest threat to the urban chickens is predators. Raccoons, opossums, coyotes, birds of prey and other rodents and reptiles will kill poultry, and can be quite adept at reaching even the most securely confined birds. Most predators can go through chicken wire with slight effort, and can burrow under welded wire enclosures. As a general rule, excepting birds of prey, predators are most active at night.

    Each Tour site should have a closable or enclosed coop for nighttime roosting (coop can be completely closed at night, or, if not closable, the coop should be enclosed by a welded-wire pen buried 6 inches minimum in the ground, or with welded-wire or landscape netting flared outward 12 inches at the base and secured to the ground with rock, landscape pins or similar to prevent burrowing).

    We also recommend the following:

    • coop and/or pen latches be spring-loaded hook and eye or similar, to prevent raccoon entry
    • daytime use areas be covered with netting to prevent hawks, falcons etc access
    • free-ranging birds have ready access to thick foliage or covered areas to escape birds of prey, and be monitored while free-ranging in non-fenced areas
  • Sanitation– Outdoor pens should be sited to take advantage of natural drainage patterns and should not be placed in low-lying areas. Access to pens should be restricted, or absorbent material laid down, if pens become excessively muddy, to prevent accumulation of odors or parasites.

    Housing and pen areas should be clean and mostly dry to decrease the risk of disease and parasites and ensure no undesirable odors. Soiled bedding should be removed from coops at least weekly or more frequently, based on flock size, and coop areas filled with an acceptable absorbent material such as straw or wood shavings.

Feed and Water:

Chickens are healthiest and happiest with a varied diet containing grains, green matter and natural foods such as insects, worms etc. Most urban chicken owners find that feeding commercial poultry food is the easiest way to meet their chickens’ nutritional requirements. Additionally, we recommend chickens receive additional greens, scratch grains, vegetable scraps etc to ensure they are kept busy and receive all the nutrients required for optimal health.

Chickens on the Tour should be fed a fresh, nutritionally complete diet and should have access to clean water at all times.


One of the goals of the Tour is to be a model for humane care for poultry. All chickens showcased on the day of the Tour must be in good physical health, with no discernable illnesses, wounds or source of treatable pain. Otherwise healthy chickens, with permanent handicaps or deformities, and with good quality of life, are acceptable, but ill or injured chickens should be segregated on Tour day.

Owners of backyard poultry participating in the Tour D’Coop should provide veterinary care and preventive medical care to their flock in such a way as to prevent the spread of contagious diseases and mitigate animal suffering. Adequate healthcare should include: control of internal and external parasites (worms, lice etc), treatment of injuries or illness, and, if necessary, humane euthanasia.


A number of diseases or parasites can be transmitted from wildlife to humans and/or backyard poultry flocks.

Though normally a low risk, all flock owners should be aware of the potential for disease transmission and take appropriate measures to protect their birds and human visitors by:

  • reporting any bird illnesses or deaths that occur just prior to, during, or within 21 days after the Tour’s conclusion, to Tour D’Coop organizers or local veterinary authorities
  • considering the need for disinfectant foot baths, hand sanitizers or other means of sanitation on the day of the Tour or at other times, as advised by local veterinary authorities.


“Enrichment” refers to anything that helps promote animals’ natural behaviors and keeps them mentally stimulated. We recommend the following enrichment activities:

  • Feed different and interesting foods each day, such as greens, fruits, scratch grains etc. This not only ensures a complete diet, but also gives chickens something to do.
  • Ensure access to outdoor areas to scratch and dust bathe, look for insects, flap wings and exercise
  • Interact with your chickens! Most backyard chickens actually seem to enjoy human interaction, including holding, petting and hand-feeding

Owners of backyard chickens should strive to provide enriching activities to improve the health and comfort of their birds.


Though chickens don’t seem to care, visitors to the Tour D’Coop love to see interesting and creative coops each year! We do reserve the right to reject coops that we feel will not interest ticket-holders for any reason, especially disrepair, not meeting the needs of its chicken occupants, being located in such a way as to annoy or negatively impact neighboring properties, not complying with local animal ordinances, duplicity, sanitation or, simply, for geographic location (a single coop, far from others, generally attracts fewer visitors). Additionally, visitors to Tour sites must be able to safely park their car and reach each coop, and each area must be large enough to accommodate the expected number of visitors. Accessibility for all, including wheelchairs, walkers etc, is greatly desired.

Coops on the Tour must be located geographically to fit the needs of the Tour, be clean and in good repair, comply with local ordinances, be sited on each property so as to take into consideration the needs of urban neighbors, and be judged by Tour organizers to be of interest to ticket-holders and safely accessible.

Coop Checklist (PDF)