Oh my gosh you guys. I had no idea it would be the humungous project it turned out to be but, we are finally calling the chicken coop and run finished! (cheers and applause?)
I’m saying “calling it done” because well is any project ever fully complete? I mean you always find something that needs changing, right?
Anyway, after 3 (or 4?) long months we are finished! Want a tour?
(Scroll down for step-by-step tips on building your own!)
Here is the clean out door. Matt built a feeder out of PVC pipe that fits nicely into the door. All we have to do is pour the food into the top.
Here you can see the PVC waterer Matt made. it saves lots of space but is sort of a pain to get in and out.
We covered the ceiling in hardware cloth to keep out mice or other rodents. (Update: the mice just built a house between the hardware cloth and the roof but at least they aren’t inside the coop.)
Sorry about the lousy picture but this one shows our little chicks hanging out in the early days. You can see their Brinsea Heater there in the bottom (the glowing object is just their waterer, it must have reflected the light funny). If you’re scared about using heat lamps for safety reasons (and who wouldn’t be) this brooder is THE BEST alternative. It allows the chicks to regulate their temperature by going under when their cold and coming out when they are warm and since it’s radiant heat it doesn’t pose a fire danger. Definitely worth the investment.
How to build a chicken coop for beginners
If you are thinking about building your own chicken coop here are some suggestions.
Do your research and decide on your family’s needs
What kind of climate are you in?
If you are in a warm climate you may not need a covered run but you may want to build a coop with entire walls that open up (with hardware cloth) to keep the chickens cool.
If you are in a climate similar to mine (cold and snowy) then you may want to consider a fully enclosed, roofed run like ours. Either way, you want to have plenty of shade for your chickens to rest in.
How many chickens will you need?
On average, a young, healthy hen will lay 3 eggs in a 4 day period (in the summer months) but it all depends on breed. Going with this average, our 6 chickens could lay up to 3 dozen eggs a week or more (again, in the summer).
Will you allow your chickens free range?
We were originally going to free range under supervision only but our girls like being out so much and I feel bad having all this space for them and not letting them enjoy it so I leave them out as much as possible. It’s a risk, but so far we haven’t had any problems. Things might change a bit in the winter and spring though.
Do you have local zoning laws to worry about?
We don’t (heck, we live next to a farm!) but if you’re an urban or suburban homesteader you may need to look into your local laws.
We decided that we needed:
- A covered run for our chickens so that they would have a bit of snow-free space in the winter.
- A coop that would keep the chickens warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
- Plenty of shade and tree coverage in the summer and sun in the winter.
- An automatic chicken door.
- Buried chicken wire in the run for added protection.
- Linoleum flooring for easy cleaning.
I searched backyard chickens for free coop plans and came across a few that I got inspiration from. This coop design was the one we used as our primary inspiration. It was built in a place with a similar climate.
Draw up a plan
Space. A good rule of thumb is a minimum of 4 sq ft per hen (24 sq ft for 6 hens) in the coop and 10 sq ft per hen (60 sq ft for 6 chickens) in the run. This should not include any space taken up by feeders, waterers or egg boxes. Because we were planning for 4 but ended up with 6 chickens our coop is 4 sq ft per hen (24 sq ft total) including the space that the egg boxes will take up. We will have to keep an eye on the chickens to gauge whether they are feeling squished or not. If they are we will have to move the egg boxes outside of the coop.
Ventilation. Chickens need lots of ventilation to be happy and healthy. Ventilation removes dampness and humidity from the air. Dampness in the air in winter can be deadly for chickens. They can tolerate very cold temperatures if the air is dry but not so much when it is damp. It also makes chickens more susceptible to respiratory diseases and frostbite.
Though ventilation is good, drafts are not. It’s important that the cool air isn’t blowing directly on your chickens (unless they need a breeze to cool down).
We have ventilation under the roof (the space between the walls and roof is open) and two windows that can be opened when it’s warm. This has worked out great this summer and fall so far.
Egg boxes. Chickens like their privacy when they are laying (or so I’ve heard). Egg boxes provide a safe, private space for them to lay and also are a convenient spot for you to find and collect the eggs. Some boxes are on the floor of the coop with a door on the outside. Others are inside a coop that you can walk into to collect the eggs. Others are outside the coop itself but attached. The general rule is one egg box for every 4-5 chickens. They really like to use the same one if they can. Our two egg boxes sit on the floor of the coop in front of a door that we will use to retrieve eggs.
I drew out plans for how I wanted the coop to look and function but since I’m not a carpenter a few of my design details needed to be changed to accommodate for small things like, oh you know, the laws of physics.
Get input from someone who knows more than you do
Matt was able to collaborate with my dad and brother-in-law to come up with the best way to build the coop, the tools we would need and materials. It was really helpful. We were also able to borrow almost every tool that we needed and didn’t already own.
Estimate the cost. Once I had a plan drawn up I researched all of the materials I knew we would need and made a list of supplies. Then I checked on Home Depot’s website to get an idea of what the materials would cost. We budgeted $700 and ended up spending about $900. I forgot to include things like screws, washers, wire snips, paint etc. I also forgot to include the linoleum flooring in the estimate. A good rule of thumb is to estimate the cost and then add 20% for a cushion.
Find free or reduced materials where you can. We were lucky enough to get some leftover shingles and some other free materials for our chicken coop and run. Ask around, you never know what someone else has leftover and needs to unload.
The paint we bought for the coop was on the clearance rack. It is not the color I would have picked out but it works and we saved some money by not being too finicky about the color.
Give yourself extra time to build. Like I said, it took us all summer to finish the coop and run. We started by securing the coop so that our fast growing chicks could have some more space. Then we created about 3 different temporary runs while we built the final run. We didn’t stress ourselves too much about getting it done (although there were a few times when we needed to push through) so we could enjoy the project instead of resent it. Oh, and when I say we I really mean Matt because I did very little actual building (but the building I did do I totally rocked!).
A few other things:
- Don’t worry about the way it looks! If you are new to construction the important thing is created a safe, stable structure, not a beautiful piece of architecture. Your chickens won’t care if it’s not perfect, I promise!
- Speaking of perfection, don’t worry if there are gaps where you didn’t intend them. Just think of it as extra ventilation!
- Hardware cloth is infinitely better than chicken wire at keeping predators out. We used hardware cloth for all opening in the coop but just used chicken wire for the run.
- Secure the wire with screws and washers!
How to build a chicken coop: step by step
We started by building the base. The legs are made of pressure treated lumber so that the won’t rot. We buried the base and the chicken wire a foot underground. Then we built the frame of the two long walls and put them up. Next went the short walls.
And then the roof slats.
The roof slats were covered by plywood. Then we tar papered the plywood and put on the shingles.
Next the walls went up.
We painted the coop and put hardware on all of the doors and windows. Actually, we put the hardware on first then took it off to paint and then put it back on (did I mention we are beginners?). We caulked the edges and repainted the coop. Some edges didn’t match up so we filled them with caulk and painted again.
Next we started to build the run. We buried the posts and chicken wire. Then we cut a hole for a door (which we built out of 2×3’s). Finally we built the roof frame and screwed in the roofing material.
I can’t say that we saved a ton of money building the coop ourselves but we did save some. Ours isn’t as nice looking as one we could have bought but we were able to build the coop and run for the cost of a prebuilt coop alone.
It’s definitely not perfect (have I said that yet?). As you can see the legs aren’t 100% straight but it works.
It’s also a wonderful feeling knowing that we built our chicken coop ourselves (with some help from our family of course!). There’s a sense of pride that comes with tackling such a large project that’s seemed somewhat outside of our abilities.
Leave your questions in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them.
This post is shared at Clever Chicks