Chicken Coop Project with Plans
When we decided to move ahead with getting chickens and bought our first chicks, we knew we’d soon be needing an outdoor home for them. We were looking at several different plans and idea about what we wanted in a coop, but we had some specifics we wanted to make sure we had based on our newly-learned chicken facts.
In hindsight, some of these requirements turned out to be absolutely essential, and others weren’t really necessary. As they say, live and learn! Below are the requirements we now know are essential to having an enjoyable long-term chicken coop.
- Plenty of ventilation to keep things disease-free and non-smelly
- Ability for the coop to protect chickens from blowing snow and wind
- Very easy to clean the coop–as in 5 minutes or less easy
- Simple to fetch eggs from every day
- Lots of room for at least five chickens to stay in their coop comfortably if we are away for a few days
- Safe and enclosed, to keep the raccoons from slaughtering them all
- Must be kept under 120 square feet in order to avoid a building permit requirement in our county
What we ended up with was a mashup of lots of coop ideas we found on Backyard Chickens as well as other sites we stumbled across on the Series of Tubes. We basically took all the ideas we liked the most, threw them in a blender, and hit frappe. So far we’re very happy with it, though there are some things I’d change if I had to build it over again. The plans at the end of the post have those changes incorporated already. I’ll touch on the particular changes made at the end of this post.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
Below is the materials list, with prices taken straight from a major home-goods store. Note that this is probably the worst you can do with prices. It’s very possible to get most or all of this stuff at much cheaper or even for free, if you know where to look. Some excellent places to check are the Free and the Materials sections of Craigslist, as well as your local Habitat for Humanity stores. These places usually have leftovers from larger projects, and you can do pretty well here, especially for the shingles, roofing paper, siding, and perhaps a door. For paint, check out the miss-tints that home-goods stores usually have, where a customer has returned paint that didn’t match. You can usually get these for extremely cheap or free.
- (x2) 4x6x8 – $9.70 ea.
- (x9) 4x4x8 – $6.60 ea.
- (x12) 2x4x10 – $2.90 ea.
- (x9) 2x6x10 – $4.30 ea.
- (x3) 2x12x10 – $11.30 ea. (consider composite or pressure-treated)
- (x1) 2x12x8 – $8.98 ea. (consider composite or pressure-treated)
- (x1) 1x2x6 – $1.90 ea.
- (x5) 4′x8′ x 1/2″ chipboard – $9.67 ea.
- (x4) 4′x8′ siding – $18.90 ea.
- (x8) 12″ x 8″ x 12″ deck blocks – $6.40 ea.
- (x1) old door – Free on craigslist
- (x12) Simpson Strong-tie 4×4 post cap – $3.86 ea.
- (x20) Simpson Strong-tie 2×4 double shear hanger – $0.68 ea.
- (x28) Simpson Strong-tie ridge rafter – $1.51 ea.
- (x2) Simpson Strong-tie saddle rafter tie – $2.28 ea.
- (x1) 6×1″ wood deck screws (250 ct) – $5.90
- (x1) 2.5″ wood deck screws (10o ct) – $7.50 ea.
- (x6) gate hinges – $5.00 ea.
- (x2) gate latches – $2.00 ea.
- (x1) nesting box latch – $4.00 ea.
- (x1) 36′ x 3′ roll roofing (enough for 100 sq. ft. total) – $48.00 ea.
- (x3) shingle pack (enough for 100 sq. ft total) – $28.50 ea.
- (x1) 48″ x 30′ x 1/2″ square welded wire roll – $28.00 ea.
- (x2) 1 gallon paint – $12.00 ea.
Total Cost of Materials: $695.00
- Set concrete blocks and finish foundation: 1 hour
- Build up overall coop framing: 4 hours
- Build up hen house framing and sheeting: 3 hours
- Build up roof framing and sheeting: 2 hours
- Complete coop sheeting and attach hen house doors: 2 hours
- Hang coop door: 1 hour
- Paint coop: 30 minutes
- Attach 1/2″ wire mesh: 1 hour
- Shingle roof and nesting box roof: 2 hours
Total Build Time: A solid weekend, or about 16 hours
1) The Foundation
The first thing you want to do is to clear out about 12′ by 6′ of ground, and level it as well as you can. While the coop itself only takes up 9 1/2′ by 5′, it’s good to have a bit of walking around room around the structure.
First, lay out the deck blocks according to the dimensions in the picture. Don’t worry about sinking them in the ground yet, what you’re after is a simple layout to get started. Also, this is where you want to determine how to orient your coop. Consider prevailing winds, especially in winter, and try to face the hen house-side of the coop (the top of the picture here) on the side where the wind comes from. This will block most of the weather from the hens.
Next dig down about 6″ into the ground and position the deck blocks into the dirt. You’ll also want to dig down 6″ between the deck blocks, where the foundation boards will go. We sink these into the ground a bit to keep predators and chickens from digging underneath.
A handy trick to get all of the blocks level is to take one of your 2 x 12 boards, and set it on top of the blocks in the slots. This lets you set a level on the board and you can instantly see how your leveling out. It also lets you get all the blocks at pretty much the same height–which is important for later structuring.
Now, cut the 2″ x 12″ foundation boards so that they fit in between the deck blocks snugly. You want a pretty good fit here, to keep critters out, and to keep the chickens from thinking they can scratch their way out. Depending on your blocks, you might need to cut various angles at the ends of your foundation boards. Here’s what our foundation boards looked like after cutting:
Complete all of the foundation boards, set them into the ground, sliding them between the deck blocks. Don’t forget to include the one that’s inside the perimeter. Back fill the dirt you dug out so that the ground is again level, and you should be good to go for step 2!
A quick note: Placing bare wood into the ground is asking for trouble in short time. Depending on how much moisture your area gets, and how much problem termites are, this wood will rot quite soon, requiring you to replace the boards.
You have a few of options here. One, use pressure-treated wood, which withstands the moisture and bugs pretty well. However, you now have several chemical-laden chunks of wood buried in the dirt where your chickens scratch. This may or may not bother you if you’re of the organic persuasion.
Another option is to paint the boards with an exterior paint before setting them into the ground. This should protect the boards for a reasonable amount of time.
Lastly, consider a composite board instead of wood. Composites are made of plastic, and won’t rot at all. It’s a great choice for the wettest of areas.
2) Framing the Coop
This is the fun part, where you get to actually see the coop come together!
First, take 6 4″ x 4″ x 8′ boards, and cut them so they’re 6′ long. Save the 2′ scraps for later. While you have the saw out, also cut 4 2″ x 4″s to 5′ 3″ long, take the leftover from these four cuts, and cut those to 1′ 10 1/2″ long. You should now have 6 4″ x 4″ x 6′ boards, 4 2″ x 4″ x 5′ 3″ boards, and 4 2″ x 4″ x 1′ 10 1/2″ boards.
Next, it’s easiest to attach the 2 x 4 double-shear Simpson Strong-ties to the 4″ x 4″ x 6′ vertical posts you just cut, while they’re on the ground. It also lets you get the measurements right so everything is level. The photo to the right is what the Simpson Strong-tie looks like that you’ll use.
Lay the 4″ x 4″s down on the ground, measure up on each of them to the correct distance, and attach the strong-ties with the 1″ screws. Note that there is one set of shorter 2″ x 4″ boards that are laid flat instead of vertical (shown in the upper left of the photo below). Make sure you do this as this is where a roosting board will go later.
Once you have them all attached, take the 8 2″ x 4″s you cut above, slide them into the strong-ties to make the side walls. When both walls are completed, set a wall vertical resting in the deck blocks, and ask for some help to hold it while you set the other wall up on the other side.
Here’s what your walls should look like (shown here already on their deck blocks).
Now take another 2″ x 4″ x 10′ and cut it into two boards 4′ 5″ long each. Attach them across to make the hen house floor, and also to hold your walls upright so they don’t fall over. It should now look like this:
Now add the 4 x 4 post cap Simpson Strong-ties to the top of the six vertical posts. You’ll want to align them so that you can set the 4″ x 6″ x 8′ headers onto the top of each wall. The 4 x 4 post cap strong-ties look like the photo to the right.
On top of the 4″ x 6″ headers, you’ll then set two 4″ x 4″ cross beams at the ends of each wall. These are 5′ long each, so cut two of the 8′ boards and save the left-overs. You’ll need these for the roof. Use the same post cap strong-ties to attach these cross beams to the 4″ x 6″ headers. Screw everything down and your structure should be nice and solid.
Lastly, take a 2″ x 4″ and cut a 5′ long board. Attach it to the top of the 4″ x 6″ headers, and line it up above the center posts in each wall. This forms the top of the hen house door. You can just screw this board down through the 2″ x 4″ into the header with the 2″ screws. No strong-ties necessary. Your coop should now look something like this.
Good! Now on to the hen house.
3) The Hen House
The magic number for the hen house is 30 degrees. This is the slope of the nesting box roof, and so you’ll need to make a couple of 30 degree cuts. If you have a protractor, or another way of cutting angles accurately, you’re good to go. If not, not to worry, you can do it without a protractor, you’ll just need to measure both sides of the board, and draw lines between them.
First, cut the two remaining 4″ x 4″ vertical posts for the nesting box. They are 3′ 4 5/8″ long on the longest side, with a 30 degree cut at one end. Another way to measure it is the following.
Cut 2 4″ x 4″ vertical posts 3′ 4 5/8″ long. On one side of each post, measure down 2″ and mark it. Then draw a line from that mark up to the top edge of the post. The picture to the right might make more sense.
Next you need to cut the angled 2″ x 4″ braces to connect the nesting box posts to the main walls. Same process as for the posts for cutting. The measurements are 1′ 8 3/4″ on a side, with a 1″ angled cut on either side. Like the photo to the left. Once cut, use the 2″ screws to attach these to the nesting box vertical posts.
Now place the two posts into the remaining deck blocks, and attach a 2″ x 4″ x 5′ brace between the posts. Again, use the 2 x 4 double shear strong-ties to attach these. Then use the 2″ screws to attach the angled 2″ x 4″ boards to the main coop walls. Once everything’s attached, it should look like this:
Now we finish off the nesting box floor framing. Cut two 2″ x 4″ boards 1′ 4 1/4″ long. Cut a third 2″ x 4″ 4′ 5″ long. Use the double shear strong-ties to attach them as outlined in blue in the following picture. The distance from the 4″ x 4″ vertical wall post to each short brace is 1′ 2″. There’s a last vertical 2″ x 4″ by 2′ 6″ post that acts as the storage area door frame. Attach it lined up under the right hand short brace, down to the 2″ x 12″ foundation board.
Now we attach the hen house floor sheeting and the nesting box dividers. Take one sheet of 4′ x 8′ chipboard and cut one piece 2′ 5 1/2″ x 5′. Notch out the corners so that there is room for the vertical posts according to the following dimensions. The smaller notches at the top of the picture below are inserted towards the nesting boxes, where the slanted braces are. Screw this down with the 1″ screws to finish the hen house floor.
Now to make the nesting box dividers. These look complicated, but they’re not really. Remember, that angle is 30 degrees. You don’t need a protractor though if you start with a square chipboard sheet of about 2′ x 2′, and measure all of the cuts from one corner. Make two of these dividers.
Attach each of these to the side of the short brackets closest to the center. With both added, you should now have three nesting boxes, separated by two dividers. Add the horiztonal 2″ x 4″ x 4′ 5″ board resting on top of the nesting box dividers, and attach to the vertical posts using two more double shear strong-ties like such.
Next, cut and screw in the nesting box sheeting. Cut three 1/2″ chipboard sheets according to the measurements below and attach to the braces with 1″ screws. The right and left hand side are identical, so only one set of measurements is shown.
Cut the 1″ x 2″ board to fit at the inside edge of the nesting boxes. This helps keep the wood chips inside the nesting boxes. Active hens often end up kicking out the wood chips otherwise.
And now that the flooring is in, add the 2″ x 4″ x 4′ 1″ vertical hen house door brace, and the 2″ x 4″ x 5′ horizontal roost. These remaining items are shown in blue below, along with measurements.
Nice work! The most difficult parts of the project are behind you now.
4) The Roof
Now we’ll tackle the roof. This part goes pretty fast because there are so many similar pieces, that you can make all your cuts at once and cruise through this step.
First, the vertical braces are cut from leftover 4″ x 4″ board. Make two of them, each of them 1′ 2″ long. Attach them to the center of the joists spanning across the walls, using the remaining two Simpson strong-tie 4×4 post caps.
Next, cut three 2″ x 6″ boards 9′ long each, and set one of them on top of the vertical braces. This part of the roof is called the ridge, and will act as support for the rafters. Attach the ridge board to the vertical braces using the two Simpson strong-tie saddle rafter tie. They look like the photo to the right.
Once you have everything in place, your roof should look like this:
Now take more 2″ x 6″ boards, and cut 16 rafters using the following measurements:
Now attach two rafters, butted up against the inside of the 4″ x 4″ cross joist connecting the walls. Attach the top of the rafter against the ridge board using the Simpson ridge rafter connector. Use a second ridge rafter connector to attach the bottom of the rafter to the 4″ x 6″ top of wall board.
Note that you’ll need to bend the lower ridge rafter connector, but it’s pretty easy if you attach the connector to the rafter first, then use a hammer to pound the connector flat with the 4″ x 6″. Then attach with the 1″ screws. It should look like this:
Now add four more rafters between the outer two, spaced 1′ 4″ apart, as shown below.
Now take the two other 2″ x 6″ x 9′ long boards and attach them to the ends of the rafters. Use the 2.5″ screws and drill directly into the ends of the rafters. Make sure that both sides have 9 1/2″ hanging over on each side, as shown here:
Next, attach the two outside rafters to the ends of each side of the roof using the same method; Simpson strong-tie ridge rafter at the top, 2 1/2″ screw through the eave at the bottom, like such:
Now repeat this process for the other half of the roof.
Rest of the build coming soon!
5) Covering the Sides
6) Hanging the Door
8) Attaching Welded Wire Mesh
9) Shingling the Roof
If you’re familiar with GitHub, you can fork our plans, modify them to your heart’s content, and even request we merge your changes back into our plans if you so desire. Win-win all around!
If you’re not sure what all that crazytalk was just about, you can download the plans directly from here:
To view or edit these plans, you’ll need the free Google SketchUp.