If you’re planning to raise chickens, first you’ll need a chicken coop! Here’s how to build your own basic chicken coop…
Ready to get started with raising your own chickens? The first thing you’ll need (once they’re past 6 weeks of age) is a good place for them to live. There are dozens (if not hundreds) of chicken coop designs to choose from – ranging from basic to fancy, but if you’re planning to build it yourself, you will likely want to start off with a basic chicken coop design.
Even a basic chicken coop can be made in a variety of different configurations, but they will all need two main components: An enclosed area where your chickens will sleep and lay eggs, and an outdoor space or “chicken run” where they can peck, scratch, roam, eat bugs, etc. (For free-range or pastured chickens, you may want to have a small enclosed area for safety, and then let them roam free in a larger grassy space when you are able.)
Here are 4 steps to building your own basic chicken coop:
Step 1: Plan for Size and Location
The first thing to consider is size. The accepted minimum sizes are 2 to 3 square feet per bird inside the coop and 4 to 5 square feet per bird in the run. However, extra space is always better—just like humans, chickens are prone to squabbling when they’re packed in tight quarters at all times…
Step 2: Build the Frame
As with most outbuildings, the simplest approach is to begin with a rectangular frame and then add on the various components that are needed. Use naturally rot-resistant lumber—such as cedar or redwood—rather than pressure treated lumber which contains heavy metals, like arsenic, that may be harmful to your chicken’s health. The open-air run should be covered with chicken wire (metal mesh) on all sides to prevent predators from entering.
- Set four 4×4 vertical posts in concrete in a rectangular shape based on the size of the coop you need (4 feet by 8 feet or 6 feet by 12 feet or 8 by 16 feet, for example). Cut the posts so the front ones are 8 feet tall and the back ones are 6 feet tall in preparation for installing a pitched roof over the enclosed portion.
- Add a 4×4 post 2 feet from the right front corner of the rectangle. This post is to support a gate that will serve as an entryway to the run and should be 8 feet in height.
- Nail or screw a 2×4 in a horizontal position between the aforementioned posts on the right front corner of the run at a height of 6 feet.
- Build a gate frame to fit the space of the entryway (a 2- by 6-foot rectangle) using 2×2 lumber. This needs to be nothing more than a rectangle of 2×2s screwed or nailed together. Use an anti-sag gate kit to prevent the 2×2 frame from sagging. Attach the gate frame to the corner post with galvanized gate hinges.
- Add a pair of parallel 4×4 posts approximately one-third of the distance from the left side of the rectangle. (For example, if the coop was 12 feet wide, these posts would be 4 feet from the posts on the left side corner posts.) These posts are to support the frame of the enclosed portion of the coop. They should correspond to the height of the other front and rear posts.
- Attach a frame of horizontal 2×4s between the tops of all the posts along the front and back sides of the structure, and add three more at an angle between the three pairs of taller front posts and the shorter rear posts as rafters.
- Attach a frame of horizontal 2×4s to the four posts on the left side of the rectangle 24 inches above ground level. These will support the floor of the enclosed area.
- Add floor planks on top of the 2×4 frame across the front two-thirds of the structure, attaching them with galvanized nails or decking screws.
- Cover the back one-third of the floor with chicken wire. The chickens will be roosting above this part of the floor and the hardware cloth will allow the droppings to fall through so they can be collected from below.
- Dig a 12-inch trench around the perimeter of the run.
- Stretch chicken wire between the posts for the run area on the right two-thirds of the rectangle, vertically between the posts (as walls) and horizontally (as a ceiling), using poultry staples to attach it to the wooden frame. Install the chicken wire so it goes to the bottom of the trenches for protection against digging animals and re-fill the trenches with soil to hold it in place. Cover the gate frame with chicken wire, as well…
Step 3: Outfit the Interior
The interior of the run needs nothing more than a thick layer of straw over the ground to absorb chicken droppings and moisture when it rains. …If the run does not receive shade during the hottest hours of the day, add a layer of shade cloth on top of the chicken wire ceiling. Build a gently sloping ramp at least 8 inches wide from the ground level up to the platform for the enclosed area. Before this area is enclosed, outfit it with the following items:
- A roosting bar made with 2×2 lumber along the back wall over the chicken wire floor (at least 8 inches in length per bird)
- Nest boxes (at least one 12 inch square box for every 4 birds)
- A watering device and a feeder (hang them 6 to 8 inches above the floor of the coop with bailing wire attached to nails that are pounded into one the roof rafters)
Step 4: Finish the Exterior
Now is the time to add a roof and walls to enclose the nesting and roosting area. Any weatherproof material may be used, but tin is an easy, yet fashionable, choice for the roof, and wood siding makes a quaint exterior for the walls…
Get more details as well as diagrams of this basic chicken coop model at ModernFarmer.com…