I'm pretty sure that for most "Chicken Farmers", the coop came first. At least it probably should. We made our best effort and had the greatest intentions, but were only moderately successful in erecting our "Chicken Mansion" before the arrival of our chicks. Luckily, the chicks will be living in our spare bathroom until they are fully feathered, so we have a few more weeks to finish the coop.
I started by researching coop designs in books and online to find the one that I liked the best. There is a very basic design in the book How to Build Animal Housing. I think it was quite large, 10'x12', which is larger than we would need. I really, really loved the design of this coop posted on the community website Backyard Chickens. It has a separate area closed off for food storage, vents that lift up for easy cleaning, and lots of windows. I took these two designs and sketched what I wanted for our coop.
I wanted a door so I could walk in, a window for light, vents at the top for ventilation, and I wanted it to be insulated since we live in Montana and I want to promote egg laying in the cold winter months. The final design is an 8'x8' coop that is 6' high in front and 4' high in back. We found a 5' used door and used window that opens. We are going to seal the floor so that it doesn't rot and instead of having a separate closed off area for feed I'm going to get some lidded garbage cans to leave in the coop with feed and first aid supplies.
The coop is going to be placed in the front of our property where we can see it from the house and they will be close to the garden so they can work their magic on our soil. It's between two trees to provide wind protection in the winter and sun protection in the summer. The last piece we need is the fencing to protect them from our dogs.