Breeding chickens is a lucrative business for anyone who wants to earn from produce. Just like in any business, you may need to invest on breeds and anything needed to take care of the chickens. That includes chicken coops.
Chickens need a permanent place to stay in especially while the hens are waiting for their eggs to hatch. A coop becomes more important once the baby chicks have come out of their shells. By the sixth week, the chicks shouldn’t be living in a cardboard box as a makeshift home.
This DIY project will definitely help you build a chicken coop for free. After all, building your own coop is much cheaper than buying chicken coops.
Making your own chicken coop saves you tons of money. This is especially useful if you plan to have a big number of chickens in your backyard. You should at least provide the chickens a place to breed, feed, and rest. The coops must also be comfortable for the hens to incubate or nest when they are hatching their eggs.
Coops also protect the chickens from unwanted elements and predators. A simple coop won’t do – it may be easily overturned by a dog or a fox. You need sturdy lumber for the posts and chicken wire for the covers.
Basic Types of Chicken Coop
Depending on factors such as the size and number of your chickens, you may build these basic chicken coops.
- Tractor. The tractor coop is portable and should be built with wheels so you can easily move it from one location to another. The tractor coop is pulled or pushed to areas where chickens can work the soil.
- Walk-in. You can refashion a playhouse or toolshed for the walk-in coop. It should be huge enough for you to enter. The walk-in chicken coop allows bigger flocks to stay and for you to store big chicken breeding and feeding equipment.
- All-in-one. This features a small shelter for chickens. It also has an incorporated run under a single roof. It can accommodate humans but like the tractor coop, it can be easily moved.
- A-frame. This is the smallest among all the basic chicken coop styles, and thus the easiest to make. It’s a great option for chicken owners on a budget. You need minimum materials and a design that allows bigger space for chickens to roam around. The compact shelter is attached to a run in a triangular structure.
What You Need
You need basic carpentry skills to make a simple (not necessarily crude) chicken coop. For the more elaborate kind, you should have advanced carpentry skills.
There are two purposes of chicken coops. The first one is to provide a place for chickens to sleep in. The second is for chickens to have space to run around. The enclosed space could direct the chickens to the spot where they could roam around, but should be elevated so there’s space to collect the chickens’ droppings.
For a basic chicken coop, you need the following materials:
- Lumber of different sizes for the interior and exterior of the chicken coop
- Aluminum paint
- ¾ inch plywood sheets for the exterior
- Nest boxes and supports
- Hardware, Perspex, or acrylic sheeting (for the windows)
- Wire mesh
- Tar paper
- Sliding windows (optional)
- Framing square
- Measuring tape
- Nails and hammer
For the framing lumber, you could measure the coop at 2x3s or 2x4s. Use heavier lumber for the support. 4x4s will do. You may use plywood for the floors. It’s up to you how thick the wood should be.
As for the nails and screws, choose those that suit the weather in your place (leaving them to humidity and rain could make them rusty). If you plan on making shingled roofs, buy special roofing nails. Roofing shingles protect your coop. If shingles aren’t available, you may opt for corrugated roofs made of fiberglass or metal.
It might also be better to use heavy-gauge wire mesh not just for the windows, but also to cover any gap to protect the chickens from predators.
A Closer Look at the Materials
You might want to know what you are getting these materials for. Here’s a detailed guide on the materials and equipment before you proceed to building the chicken coop.
- Personal Safety Gear. The most important facet of this gear is a pair of gloves to protect your hands from sharp points of the chicken wire mesh. Use a protective pair of goggles for your eyes, too.
- Measuring tape. Use one that is at least 10 feet long. The tape measure should have an incremental measurement of inches (every eight of an inch).
- Hammer. Choose a hammer that isn’t too heavy or too light for you. Check if you can easily and comfortably swing the hammer. You may consider using a pneumatic nailer for bigger nails and thicker lumber.
- Circular saw. An indispensable tool for building chicken coops, the circular saw is a must-have for preparing lumber of various sizes and measurements. If the circular saw isn’t available, you may opt for the table saw, handsaw, or miter saw.
- Level. Keep more than one level. You should have at least a carpenter’s level (4 feet), a torpedo level (pocket-sized), and a model (2 feet).
- Drill. A cordless drill is convenient but you’ll have to keep a spare battery, fully-charged.
- Tin snips. Use these to cut the chicken wire mesh.
- Speed square. You need this for marking straight lines, and for checking and laying out the angles.
- Plywood. The best choices for plywood are T1-11 or the oriented strand board. The plywood is used for building floors, roofs, and walls.
- Framing lumber. The usual size of framing lumber is 2x3s or 2x4s. Large coops call for lumber as heavy as 4x4s. It is rare for coops to have 2x6s or 2x8s framing lumber, but it is possible.
- Screws/nails. Have both in your tool box, as there are jobs that screws can’t deal with. Regardless whether they are nails or screws, they should withstand extreme conditions so you don’t have to replace them every time they become rusty. Use fencing staples, a special kind of nails, to keep the chicken wire mesh in place.
- Wire mesh. It is used to cover windows and protect the coop from predators so use those with thick wiring.
- Roofing shingles. While fiberglass or corrugated roofing panels may do, you may opt to level it up with a layer of asphalt, just to make the roof breakage-proof.
Basic Carpentry Skills
To effectively do this DIY project, make sure you are capable of the following:
Marking and measuring materials. You should know how to read the tape measure accurately, lest you end up with lumber of weird sizes. Focus on how you mark the lumber for cutting. Accurate markings will make the putting together of lumber easier and faster.
Lumber-cutting. Using your saw, follow the steps needed for cutting the lumber. Most chicken coops require you to cut at straight 90-degree angles, but there are also angled, more complicated cuts that you need to practice on, especially if this is your first time to build a chicken coop.
Driving the screws into the lumber. Get to know how your drill works. Compared to other carpentry skills, this one is intuitive.
Hammering. With the right technique, hammering down nails shouldn’t be difficult. What might prove tricky for a first-timer, though, are toe-nailing boards together and removing nails from the lumber.
Leveling. Know how to read a level so you can monitor the progress of your work. Remember these words: square, level, and plumb.
1. Plan the location and size of your chicken coop.
The number of materials you’ll buy depends on the size that you want for your coop. As much as possible, allow extra space for the chickens to roam inside (Note: Keeping the chickens too close to one another could lead to quarreling).
The best location for the coop is a cool and shaded place, so putting the coops under a tree is ideal. If this is not possible, cover the run or the coop with cloth.
2. Build the frame for your coop.
Start with a rectangular frame, as this is the basic shape of most chicken coops. The extra ornaments and components can be added later. Redwood and/or cedar are good choices for lumber, as they are resistant to rotting. Using pressure treated lumber may be harmful to the chickens’ health, so stick to rot-resistant and natural lumber.
3. Set four posts in a rectangular shape.
The posts should measure at 4x4. Cut the posts (the front ones) so they are 8 feet tall; the back posts should be at 6 feet. The difference in the measurement is in preparation for the pitched roof.
Add the 4x4 post – this should be 2 feet from the right front of the coop. This post is supposedly an entryway for the chickens and should thus stand at 8 feet. Next, nail the 2x4 lumber horizontally in front of the two posts.
Build a gate frame for the entryway with a piece of 2x2 lumber. You can use a kit with an anti-sag property to prevent this frame from sagging or giving way. This gate frame can be attached together with galvanized gate hinges.
4. Prepare a pair of 4x4 posts and set them parallel to each other.
If your chicken coop is 12 feet wide, the posts should be set 4 feet from the left side corner of the posts. The 4x4 posts will act as support to the frame of the enclosed area of the chicken coop. Next, attach the horizontal 2x4s between the tops of the posts. There should be posts at the front and back, and there should also be three pairs of posts for the front and rear.
In addition, there should also be 2x4s attached to the four posts on the left side of the rectangular frame; the posts should be 24 inches above ground as they will support the flooring of the enclosed space.
5. Attach the floor planks with galvanized nails.
Add them across the front 2/3 of the whole structure. Next, cover the back (1/3 of the structure) with chicken wire. The cloth that you use will collect any chicken dropping.
6. Provide a trench around the structure.
The trench could measure about 12 inches deep.
7. Stretch the chicken wire vertically and horizontally between the posts.
Use poultry staples to attach the chicken wire to the wooden frame. The chicken wire should be at the bottom of the 12-inch trench you dug. The wire will serve as protection against animals that dig (i.e. dogs). Should this happen, you can always refill this trench with soil. Use the chicken wire to cover the gate frame as well.
8. Put a layer of straw in the interior of the chicken coop.
This straw will absorb any moisture from the rain. Likewise, hang a watering device and a feeder from the rafters. These should be about 8 inches above the ground. Meanwhile, you could add a roosting bar (use 2x2 lumber) and an incandescent bulb.
9. Add the walls and roof to enclose the roosting area.
Tin is the usual material used because it is easily accessible. You may add wood sidings for a quaint look. As you build the walls, provide a gap so you could easily access the eggs from the coop. If you plan to put access on three sides, you may build: a) a 2x5 foot door on the left to access the feeder and the water; b) a 12x12 inch door near the ramp; and c) another 12x12 inch door near the front wall.
Building a chicken coop is easy if you have the skills and the materials needed. The next best thing to think about is keeping the chickens inside the coop and ensuring the coop won’t