If you’re wanting to start building a chicken coop and keeping your own chickens, you’ll first need to know what makes up a chicken coop. There are lots of different designs you can choose from but the standard coop will have; a run, some nesting area, a perch, insulation, food and some protection.

Stage 1: Understanding the Coop

chicken-coop-diagram

Original photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/furtwangl/4339138950/in/album-72157617242650652/

Chicken run

When people refer to the ‘run’ they are talking about an open area where the chickens can run about and stretch their legs! Generally, this area is open to the environment except for some sort of protection such as chicken wire. We will get to that later!

Nesting

Within the house you will need to have a nesting area. This is where the chickens will lay their eggs and it must be warm and protected. It’s common to make the nest out of straw or other soft materials like cotton, in a bowl shape that will collect the eggs.

Perch

Chickens really like to perch, you’ll see this once you’ve got your own. So most coops will have a branch or beam across the housing, where the birds can rest and perch.

Insulation

The insulation of the coop has two major parts. Firstly the bedding material and secondly the material of the housing. The level of insulation required will obviously differ from state to state so use some common sense when it comes to building the coop. People often use straw as a bedding material because it is absorbent, cheap and provides warmth. Another alternative that is used is wood chips, although some people believe that this can cause damage to chickens feet. I would suggest using straw although you will have to change it sometimes.

Food and Water

Just like any other animal, these birds will need a good supply of food and water. It’s advised that you keep the food and water in the run rather than in the house because it makes it easier to replace and also allows you to monitor them more easily.

I also believe that its better to keep their water raised from the floor. This can prevent spillages and accidents. One example is to hang a plastic dish from the coop roof with a chain, which allows them to drink. If you’re feeling confident you can then hook a hose up directly to the dish.

 

Stage 2: Getting Some Good Quality Plans!

If you’ve never made a DIY chicken coop then I would highly, highly suggest that you buy some good chicken coop plans. Skimping on the plans isn’t going to do you any good. The last thing you want is to get halfway through the build only to get stuck because the plans aren’t detailed enough. Buy some good quality plans!

I would recommend these plans: ChickenCoopGuides.com

They are the best in the business. These plans are extremely detailed, with simple and understandable diagrams that will allow you to quickly assemble your coop without any issues. Free coop plans really can’t come close, these blueprints are what you want. Trust me on this, I’ve heard of enough issues with free plans for one lifetime. Buy these plans and forget about it, they’ll do the job better than any others.

Once you’ve got those plans you’ll want to look through them and pick out a coop design or idea that you like, that fits well with the space you have and is within your skill level.

No matter which design you choose, you’ll need some form of protection to keep predators away from your birds. The most common form of protection is chicken wire, which is just a thin metal mesh that you can place across the outside of your coop to keep attackers away. Unfortunately, depending on where you live this might not be enough. That’s why a lot of coops are also raised from the ground, with a ramp going up to them. This will help keep larger predators at bay as they will struggle to climb the small ramp.

Another thing to consider in your plans is the ventilation. You’ll want to ensure that you have some air flow through the coop otherwise the smell will become very strong. You can solve this by simply adding some small windows covered with chicken wire.

Lastly, you’ll need some way to get into the housing and get the eggs. This is normally solved by having a removable side the coop, although different plans may have different ways to solve the problem.Coop infographic

Stage 3: Make Sure You Have All The Materials!

Most of the materials which your coop require should be easy to find. Things like wood, nails and screws can be bought from a hardware store like Home Depot or Sears.

Other things like straw and the chickens themselves can be found at local farms. You should be able to buy straw from garden centers if you don’t have any local farms.

 

Stage 4: Building!

Actually getting down and building your project is one of the most exciting and frustrating times. If you have a good set of blueprints then you’ve got a significant advantage, if not you should be prepared to spend much longer (and more money!) on the actual build. This is because you’re likely to make more mistakes which are costly in terms of time and money.

The build itself isn’t always easy, so we’ve added some extra information and tips down below.

 

Types of chicken coop

While there are as many chicken coop designs as your brain can imagine, only a handful are regularly used. Each of the popular designs has their own advantages and disadvantages, so it’s up to you to decide which design fits your needs and capabilities best.

A-Frame

The A-Frame is one of the simplest and most common homemade designs. It’s simply a triangular prism, generally with a raised housing section, causing the ‘A’ shape. This is probably the easiest design to build, so if you are worried about the building process and aren’t the best carpenter then you might consider choosing the A-Frame. The main disadvantage to this style is that it isn’t very space efficient, meaning that it won’t be home to very many chickens – often only 2 or 3.

The House

That’s sort of a name I’ve come up with myself because there aren’t many clear cut names for different styles of coop. ‘The House’ is basically the standard chicken coop that you see in nice magazines, with a housing area for the birds to rest and lay their eggs and then a  ramp down to a run which is protected with wire mesh. The reason I refer to this as a house is because it has everything that the birds need within one enclosed area, and the housing areas are often decorated to look like real homes.

The Shed

Lastly, we have the shed which is mainly used by people who let their chickens roam freely during the day. The shed is simply a large box shape with a small ramp up, keeping the building raised from the wet ground. This is another simple design and is often home to a large amount of chickens.

Tips for Building a Chicken Coop Yourself

Be Patient

One of the best things you can do is to take your time, especially if this is your first time building something of this size. Most people will make a mistake at some point, so recognize that it’s common and try not to let it overwhelm you. Sometimes, taking an extra minute here or there can make all the difference to the final product.

Plan Everything Out

Even if you are using the plans I suggested above, I think it’s a good idea to plan everything out with regards to materials. You may consider laying the wood and parts out on your lawn in their correct positions to picture the final design. You should make sure that all the wood is the right length and you have the correct screws and drill bits before starting.

Lightweight

I would personally advise that you try and make the coop as lightweight and portable as possible. This means that if you do need to move it, you can do so easily. Some people even install wheels on one side of the coop so that they can simply lift it and roll it to a new location.

Don’t Use Pressure Treated Wood

If you have the option then you shouldn’t use pressure treated wood. This is because this wood has been treated with chemicals, which as you can imagine is not good for your chickens who will peck at the wood.

 

Resources

BackyardChickens
Almanac – Raising Chickens
The Future of Chicken Keeping?