Chicken Coop Build Project: Tips & Tricks

Less than 4 months ago my girlfriend and I made the decision to raise chickens. Prior to making that decision we had been on the fence due to concerns about how our 2 dogs might react to chickens and the potential limitations that chickens could have on our freedom (especially traveling). After plenty of research and debate, we purchased 3 chicks (Speckled Sussex, Silver Wyandotte, and Ameraucana) from a local feed store including all the necessary starter supplies. We set up a brooder in my home office to house the chicks until they were old enough to transition to an outdoor coop. Wanting the chickens and the mess out of my office and knowing that the clock was ticking to when they would be too big for their brooder, I began to research chicken coops and come up with a design concept. In this post I’ll share with you my backyard chicken coop build including tips and tricks that I learned during the process.

Baby Chickens

 

Chicken Coop Research & Design

When I started my research on chicken coops I quickly realized that there weren’t many quality blueprints or designs available and that I would have to design my own. I found some inspiration in a couple YouTube videos and photos and began to draw out my design ideas using a ruler to scale. Seeing the designs drawn out helped me to visualize my ideas, plan my build order, and estimate the necessary lumber and supplies that I would need.

The hardest part about designing the coop was the carpentry math that was required for the roof rafters and cupola. It’s been a long time since I’ve had to do that much geometry but I enjoyed the mathematical challenge. Since I designed 100% of the coop and had to do so through the entire build process, this piece took a considerable amount of time as there were a lot of decisions to be made and problems to solve.

 

Chicken Coop & Run Frame

My design called for the footprint of the chicken coop and run to be 4 feet wide by 8 feet in length. I chose that size for 2 main reasons:

1. To provide more than the recommended minimum space for my 3 chickens with room to grow the flock if I choose to.

2. For efficiency in the amount of lumber that would be needed (8′ is a standard exterior board foot length).

I cut and assembled the frame using notching and half laps and glued and screwed all connection points using wood glue and exterior deck screws. I used pressured treated wood for the base frame which included ground contact rated wood for all boards that rested on the ground and above ground rated wood for the rest.

Chicken Coop Base Frame

When I purchased the pressure treated wood it was still fairly wet from the chemical preservatives that were injected in it. Initially I made the mistake of priming some of the pressure treated boards before they had time to fully dry, which caused some of the white primer to turn green from the preservative chemical bleed. I found out that it is recommended to let pressure treated wood dry for about 6 months before painting or staining it. In order to fix the issue and to expedite the drying process, I sanded all the pressure treated boards using an electric sander (80 grit), scrubbed them with a stiff bristle brush and hot soapy water (50/50 mix of dish soap and laundry detergent), and moved all loose boards into a very sunny spot in my yard to dry out for ~2 weeks. This ended up working really well and when I re-primed and painted the boards it eliminated any chemical bleed.

I cut a 4’ x 4’ piece of exterior rated ply-wood to act as the coop floor and glued and screwed it to the base frame. Then I used Douglas fir 2 x 4’s to frame out the coop bottom/sole plate, wall studs, and wall plates.

Chicken Coop Frame

 

Chicken Coop Roof & Functional Cupola

This was that hardest part of the build because of the geometry involved and the precision cuts that were required. The first steps in this part of the process were to decide on a roof type, roof slope (rise/run), and the size of the cupola. Because the coop had a perfectly square footprint, and knowing that I wanted a centered cupola, I selected to go with a square hip roof (also known as a “pyramid roof”). Being conscious of the height of the fence that we share with our neighbors, I chose to go with a common roof slope of 4/12. With the footprint of the coop being 4’ x 4’, I decided that a cupola size of 1 square foot would be perfect.

I then cut and assembled an appropriately sized platform for the cupola to sit on using 2 x 3’s, which also acted as a ridge board for the rafters. The platform had spacing which allows for warm air to flow up through the coop and out of the cupola making the cupola fully functional (not just aesthetic).

Chicken Coop Cupola Platform

I leveraged a free online roof pitch calculator to calculate the correct rafter lengths and angles and then used a speed square and pencil to mark the correct angles for my cuts. Once I finished cutting all of the rafters I glued and screwed them to the cupola platform/ridge board and then the wall plates.

Chicken Coop Frame

Chicken Coop Rafters

With the cupola platform assembled, I measured, cut and assembled the cupola using 2 x 2’s.

Chicken Coop Cupola

Since I wanted the cupola roof to come to a point, I used a square 2 x 2 as the ridge board for the cupola rafters.

Chicken Coop Cupola

Using the same exterior plywood that I used for the coop floor, I measured, cut, and assembled the roof sheathing.

Chicken Coop Rafters

Chicken Coop Cupola Vent

Chicken Coop Cupola

 

Chicken Coop Siding

I used tongue and groove pine siding for the coop. The big box home improvement store that I purchased the pine siding at had a very limited inventory and many of the boards were damaged. By pointing out the quality defects and percentage of waste to the lumber department manager, I was able to get a significant discount on all of the siding that I needed (I paid $1 for each 8’ board!). The most difficult part of the siding installation was the area below the roof of the egg box which had challenging cut outs and angles. I didn’t have or use a table saw or router for the siding, both of which would have made this part of the project much easier.

Chicken Coop Pine Siding

Chicken Coop Nesting Box Siding

 

Chicken Coop Nesting Box

It’s generally recommended to provide 1 egg box for every 4 chickens, but I decided to build 2 nesting boxes to allow for my chickens to choose which box they preferred and for flock expansion. The door that I designed for the nesting boxes opens down versus opening up like many chicken coop designs do. As creatures of prey, chickens are easily startled from above so having a door that drops down helps to not scare the hens that may be laying when you are opening the egg box door to collect eggs. The nesting box openings are roughly 16” from the inside of the coop to 12” to the edge of the box. This scale aligns closely with the roof slope of 4/12 and is both functional and aesthetically pleasing.

Chicken Coop Nesting Box

Chicken Coop Egg Box

 

Chicken Coop Windows

I wanted a lot of natural light in the coop and the ability to easily look into the coop to check on the chickens. For these reasons I decided to go with three 16” x 16″ flush mount safety glass windows from Shed Windows and More. The windows were exactly what I was looking for, shipped quickly, and were inexpensive. I framed out the windows using 2 x 3’s and 2 x 2’s.

16" x 16" Coop Windows

 

Chicken Coop Electric Door

As I mentioned previously, one of the big hesitations that we had prior to deciding to get chickens was the potential limitation that Chickens would have on our freedom. We didn’t want to worry about having to be home by dark to secure the chickens in their coop for the night to protect them from predators. I was able to relieve this concern by purchasing a VSB electric door sold by Cheeper Keeper. The opener is battery operated and has a light sensor that opens the door when the sun comes up and closes the door when the sun goes down. The VSB is manufactured in Germany and is very high quality. It’s a little pricey, but in my opinion it’s worth every penny.

VSB Automatic Chicken Coop Door

 

Chicken Coop Doors & Hardware

I used 4″ zinc-plated t-hinges for all of the door hinges on the build. The latch types that I used varied but all are predator proof. Because I chose to use a deep litter method with the chicken coop, the door system that I chose for the main access area on the back of the coop has a lower access door that has a height of the deep bedding (7 inches) and can only opened if the two upper doors are opened. The upper doors have windows that have removable doors with lift-off hinges. The door windows allow for extra air flow during the hot summer months and can be shut during the fall and winter month to keep out the wind and moisture.

Chicken Coop Door Hardware

 

Chicken Coop Other

I sealed all the cracks and gaps on the coop with paintable silicone and then primed and painted using exterior latex paint for the top coat. To ensure that the coop and run was predator proof, I used ½ inch 19 gauge hardware cloth to enclose the run and cover the door windows and vents. I secured the hardware cloth using a staple gun and then sandwiched it using 1¼” trim board and brad nails. Sandwiching the hardware cloth keeps predators from pulling it back and it looks much cleaner. I still need to shingle the roof of the coop but I have a few months before it starts to rain. I was able to get free roofing paper from a neighbor and plan to find free shingles left over from a different neighbors roofing job.

 

Tips & Tricks and Lessons Learned

  1. If you plan to paint pressure treated wood on a build, make sure to buy the wood in advance in order to give it ample time to dry.
  2. Don’t let power be a bottleneck. Make sure to have enough power strips, extension cords, and power tool battery chargers and batteries.
  3. Organize your work area to be efficient. The fewer steps you have to take the better.
  4. Invest in the right tools. Not having the right tools will make a project much harder and require more time.

Chicken Coop

Chicken Coop

Chicken Coop Run

Chicken Coop

Chicken Coop Back

Chicken Coop Vent

Chicken Coop Inside

Chicken Coop Roost


Speed Square: HERE

Chicken Coop Windows: HERE

Chicken Coop Electric Door: HERE

Chicken Coop Hardware Cloth: HERE

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2 Comments

  1. August 1, 2017 / 12:16 am

    Love it Matt! Great design and detailed instructions. So glad you are growing organic food and raising chickens.

    • Matt
      August 1, 2017 / 3:46 am

      Thanks Mary! It was definitely a fun project. I’m looking forward to fresh eggs soon!

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