Building a chicken coop

Having grown up with chickens, I have wanted a backyard flock for years. This spring we finally decided to go for it. After perusing dozens of coops online and in stores and not finding exactly what I wanted, we finally decided to build our own. Since neither of us has much building experience, it turned out to be quite a project. It also cost considerably more than just ordering a pre-made coop, but ours seems much sturdier than the coops we saw at places like Tractor Supply, plus we had the satisfaction (and frustration) of building it ourselves.

We based our design on this plan from The Tangled Nest, but with some modifications due to both our needs and our inexperience.

We covered the floor with a cheap vinyl flooring remnant to protect the floor and make cleanup easier. We did not sink the support 4x4s into the ground, as we wanted to be able to move the coop if necessary.

The framing took a while, but we (well, J mostly) worked on it pretty much every weekend, despite weather conditions.

The plans we used were not very detailed, and there were a few issues. For one, the roof didn’t seem to fit correctly. I’m not sure if this was an error in the plan or in our measurements. It isn’t perfect, but I think it turned out okay. We modified the design by adding a vent over the door for more light and air. We covered it, the bottom of the coop, and the run with 1/2 inch hardware cloth, held in place with u-shaped poultry net staples. The staples were a huge pain to nail in place properly, but they are really secure. With raccoons in the neighborhood, we wanted to be sure to make the coop as predator-proof as possible.

When construction of the coop was pretty much complete, I primed the whole thing white using some primer left in our crawlspace by a previous owner.

Our city ordinances require 6 square feet per chicken. The coop is 18 square feet, perfect for three chickens, plus we made a run measuring a total of 36 square feet, half under the coop and half at the side.  A 12″-square opening leads from the coop into the run and the chickens have access to the run at all times. Since the whole thing is enclosed with sturdy hardware cloth, we don’t need to worry about leaving them for a weekend.

We originally intended to make a plywood door for the coop, but as we were building it we were replacing the windows in our house and noticed that one of the old window panes was almost a perfect fit for the opening. With a little sawing and planing, we had our door. I stapled hardware cloth to the back for extra security. Unfortunately before we hung the door, it blew over in the wind, breaking the glass. We covered the door with clear acrylic instead (probably safer, anyway) and screwed it in place. From the leftover acrylic I cut another piece to cover the vent above the door in case of really inclement weather. I screwed three large washers in place to hold the acrylic in place if necessary.

We secured the coop and run doors with latches closed with carabiners–one for the coop door and two for the larger run door. The carabiners are a bit tricky to remove, but I figure if we have trouble, raccoons will, too.

Before bringing home our chickens, I sealed the cracks and gaps on the floor and lower portions of the coop with caulk. I also installed two roosts and hung a feeder (their water is outside to prevent too much moisture in the coop). Finally, I added some solar LED lights to illuminate the interior of the coop, which is supposed to make them feel safer and encourage them to sleep inside (spoiler: it isn’t working). I originally intended to paint the interior, as it is supposed to discourage mites, but my excitement for chickens was too much and I didn’t want to wait any longer to get them. Perhaps I’ll paint it in the future.

Overall, the project probably took us 5 or 6 weekends, but some of those weekends were rainy or snowy so we weren’t able to do much. Honestly, J did most of the work–he took care of most of the actual construction and I did the planning and finishing. It is still not quite complete–there is some painting and finishing to be done–but we are pretty happy with it and we learned a lot in the process.



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