This 1924 Open-Front Chicken Coop Design Is Fresh Again

Posted by Daphne Cybele
fresh-air coop
Photo: Backyard Chickens member WthrLady 

Check out some modern builds of a chicken coop design from 1924. Best of all, the DIY plans for this open-front chicken coop are free!

In 1912, Dr. Prince T. Woods, the managing editor of The American Poultry Journal, published a book called "Modern Fresh-Air Poultry Houses." Woods advocated for well-ventilated chicken coops (the more common design at the time was a closed-up coop) for improved chicken health and egg production.

His book provides designs for multiple sizes, the how-to for those who want to DIY, and reasons why the fresh-air chicken coop (also called the open-front chicken coop) makes for a healthier poultry flock and more consistent egg production compared to a flock in closed houses. He re-issued the book in 1924 with additional information and designs.

Why Try an Open-Front Coop?

In an open-front chicken coop, the south side of the coop has large windows covered in hardware cloth metal mesh that remain open year-round, even in cold weather. The result? There is an immediate improvement in ventilation and removal of excess moisture from the coop. A series of top and side windows improves interior light and circulation in summer. 

Prince T. Woods coop
Photo: Backyard Chickens member Jeff8482

These open-front chicken coops are deep, with roosts towards the rear. With the open-front chicken coop design, your chickens gain the benefit of plenty of ventilation while being protected from wind and moisture and poor air quality. They have plenty of window area, to provide as much natural light as possible, as darkness is not conducive to good egg production.

The design works equally well for small flocks and larger flocks, and it works in cold winter climates as well as warmer southern climates.

Fresh Air chicken coop
Backyard chickens member Diann88

Ventilation, Ventilation, Ventilation

As we know, ventilation is key to a successful chicken coop or chicken house in order to remove moisture. In fact, proper ventilation is probably one of the single largest contributing factors to a successful chicken coop. Chickens and other poultry produce huge amounts of moisture through breathing and in their poop. In an open and well-ventilated coop, this moisture is carried out of the coop by fresh air exchange.

By comparison, in a closed chicken house, damp conditions can lead to a stinky coop, wet litter, mold, frostbite, respiratory issues, and disease. Proper ventilation alleviates or eliminates many of these problems in your backyard flock.

open-front chicken coop
Photo: Backyard Chickens member Pharmchickrnmom

Dr. Woods was an early advocate for open-front coops in the early 20th century. The open-front coop in Dr. Woods' classic guide worked extremely well for healthier poultry 100 years ago, and more and more chicken keepers are using this style of an open-front chicken coop today due to the well-thought-out design and the excellent ventilation. 

Not only is the increased ventilation of an open-front coop healthier for your backyard flock, this coop is very attractive, well-designed, and within reach of the average handy-person to build for themselves.

fresh air chicken coop
Screenshot from the 1924 edition of Prince T. Woods book

Our Open-Front House

Our own coop borrows some of the open-air chicken coop concepts, and we've had excellent success with our chickens in the cold Vermont winters.

The ten-foot deep shed coop has an inner door made of wire mesh on the south side of the coop.  Roosts are on the back north wall of the coop. We don't ever close the outer wooden shed door over the southern facing mesh door unless rain, wind, or snow is blowing into the coop from the south. So far, we have not had any issues with moisture during cold winters; no frostbite and no illnesses from having a well-ventilated (and cold but dry) coop.

chicken coop
Backyard Chickens

The Plans for These Coops Are Free

Both the 1912 edition and the 1924 edition of Dr. Woods' book are free via online PDF. In addition, you can purchase hard copies on Amazon or through Norton Creek Press.

These amazing, almost century-old books detail the many reasons open-front chicken coops work better than closed up-chicken coops. These books have pretty detailed building plans so you can DIY your own version of the Prince T. Woods chicken coop.

Do you have a favorite chicken coop design? Do you have any poultry keeping tips? Let us know in the comments below!

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This 1924 Open-Front Chicken Coop Design Is Fresh Again