So you decided you want chickens, and they are safely in your brooder, now its time to build them a coop.  I have to say, of my many chicken projects, I think I enjoyed this one the most.  This is the project that taught me I like working with wood and working with my hands.  I am certainly not going to say that its perfect, in fact I am going to outline my mistakes, and offer some suggestions for you to improve upon.  Yet for someone who had shunned project all his life, I have to say it was a valiant first effort.

First, for some definitions.  There are two main ways to keep your chickens, and there are two main types of structures for them.  First, you can choose to either free range your chickens, or keep them in the coop at all times.  We chose to allow ours to free range much of the time, since its good for them, allows them to supplement their own food, and spreads their soil benefiting qualities over they yard.  My coop is made with that in mind.  If you do not want to free range, you will want the nesting boxes and food and water to be accessible from the outside.  The two main types of chicken structures are a coop versus a chicken tractor.  A coop is a stationary structure of one sort or another, and a chicken tractor is on wheels.  Although a tractor would be great in a setting with a lot of land, our yard was too small to bother with.  When we move to our farm, I will build a chicken tractor and outline it for you then.

I think overall our coop has been very successful, and the easiest way to show it off is with some pictures.

Chicken Coop framed

Here is our coop from the front.  The overall dimensions of the structure are 8 X 8, or basically the length that I could use and make the fewest cuts possible on my boards.  The run structure in the front is just made from 2X4s, and the building structure at the back is particle board pieces cut into 4X4 sections, and reinforced with 2X4s.  If I had it to do over again, I wouldn’t have cut the roof into two 4X4 sections.  It creates a seem in the middle for water to get in.  However, a 4X4 sheet fit in the back of my vehicle.  A 4X8 wouldn’t have.

Chicken coop inside

Here you can see my framing a little bit better of the structure.  The post in the center that holds all of the weight is a 4X4 , its very strong.  You can see the 2X4 supports running up the side of the wooden panels, as well as on the edge of the ceiling.  Their purpose was to give me a surface to screw into, since obviously screwing into the end of a piece of particle board is a bad idea.  The pieces on the top run right to the edge, and the pieces on the wall are inset the wide of a 2X4.  This means that I was able to stand the walls up, screw them together, then just set the roof onto its braces.  At that point its already secure, bolting it in just makes it better.

Chicken Coop side

The next step is to add a working door.  This is one of those two areas I would do better next time.  My door is essentially a piece of particle board, hung onto the coop with 3 heavy duty hinges.  It works ok, but it drags downward.  It digs a furrow into the yard in from of the coop, and you kind of have to lift it up to reach its latch.  It works, and its secure, but its kind of a pain.  The other mistake I made was not sloping the roof, or using any kind of shingles or tar paper.  When it only rains for a few weeks a year, its easy to forget these things.  When it does rain, the water just pools on the roof instead of flowing to the sides.  It will last us longer than we will live here, but when you build your own, don’t forget to angle and protect the roof.

Chicken coop wire

Now that your coop is built, its time to secure it from predators, and keep in the chickens.  That involves a barrier.  Classically folks use chicken wire for this, but we chose not to.  Chicken wire still allows a hens head through, and a coyote in the yard could bite it off or hurt them.  So we used hardware cloth with a 1/4 inch opening.  It is more expensive, but a hell of a lot more secure.  At first we secured the hardware cloth to the posts with zip ties, which did work well at first.  Unfortunately, the harsh desert sun weakened them after a few weeks, so we attach it with those nails that look like staples now.  Also, all of your girls pressing up against the side in one place will bust the ties.  Amazing what a hungry cluck can do.

Chicken Coop Internals

Lastly, you just have to add your food, water, and clucks.  Pooping in the food was still an issue, so we hung a cat little pan from the ceiling, and put a cinder block in front of it so they could reach.  For the water, we just moved our cat waterer from the brooder out here with them.  When they got bigger, we used the litter pan for water, and a shoe box for food.  Throw a few buckets in their and a board to perch on, and you have some happy healthy little birds.  When they got older, we did add a roosting shelf and some nest boxes to the coop, but I will detail those later today, as you won’t need them for the first months anyway.

We broke with conventional wisdom a little bit when putting our clucks in the coop.  We put ours out at a month old, and ran an extension cord out for their heat lamp if they needed it.  Everywhere we looked told us they had to stay in the brooder for two months.  Maybe we just found the wrong sources, but there was no way they would all fit in the brooder at two months old.  Plus our house would have smelled like chicken poop.  We turned on their heat lamp for about a week till we saw they weren’t even using it.  After that, they grew up happy and healthy.

I knew nothing about working with wood when I built this, and I built it in an afternoon.  So no matter what your skill level, you can built this yourself.  By using my AAR, you should be able to build it even better than me.  Good luck, and enjoy!