Building a chicken coop may be tough. However, the pros greatly outweigh the cons! The building process is actually much easier than you think. All you have to do is ensure that you build the coop in a systematic manner and you’ll be on your way to collecting fresh organic eggs and meat in no time!
Through many rounds of trial and error, I have finally identified the essential steps on how to build a chicken coop that works well and looks great, and I’m pleased to share it with you below. I hope you find it useful!
Step #1: Decide on the size of your flock
The size of your flock determines the size of your coop and run. The coop is basically the “house” where your chickens nest and sleep whereas the run is the outer part of the coop surrounded by a fence where your chickens are free to roam, peck at grit and scratch the soil.
Start with 3 – 4 chickens if you are unsure of how many chickens you initially want to have. I would however recommend building a bigger coop with space for an additional 2 – 3 chickens, if possible.
The extra cost is minimal and you will save precious time and effort should you wish to expand in the future.
Step #2: Get a good set of coop plans
Once you have decided on the size of your coop, you should start looking for a detailed building plan. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of getting a good set of plans. I have attempted constructing many coops from scratch without referring to a proper guide and they have all resulted in coops that didn’t work.
I would recommend purchasing some ready-made plans (more on this at the end) that has clear step-by-step instructions to ensure that you’re on the right track as you progress.
Most coop plans should already cover these but here are a few things you should consider for your coop:
- Protection from predators– Chicken wire is popular and often used as a fence running along the outer section of the coop which makes up the run. I would however urge you to use hardware cloth instead. Chicken wire is not entirely predator proof and can easily be chewed through or torn apart by dogs, foxes and raccoons. You will do better by investing in a high quality hardware cloth. They are extremely tough and will effectively protect your chickens from predators.
- Bedding Material
Bedding is important to absorb moisture, odor and droppings in the coop. Many people use straw because they’re much cheaper. However, we do not recommend using straw as they do not absorb moisture very well and the entire coop can get very messy as a result of this. You’ll probably have to change the straw bedding a lot more often too.
Pine shavings or pine chips are our preferred choices since they make great bedding due to their superior absorbent qualities.
A large bag of pine shavings or pine chips should cost less than $10 if you get them from Walmart or any pet stores near you. A lot of other owners of small pets will use these as bedding for their pets’ homes so pet stores will usually have these handy all the time.
Just make sure you let the store assistant know that you’ll be using these for your chicken coop and they’ll be able to estimate the amount you need. If in doubt, just get a couple of extra bags because you’ll have to replace the bedding from time to time.
Whichever material you choose to use, be generous and lay down at least 4 inches of bedding. This is because the bedding will flatten a little over time.
- Nesting Boxes
These boxes are where your hen goes to lay her eggs. A warm and comfortable nest encourages a hen to lay her eggs inside as opposed to outside on the ground where the eggs are susceptible to predators and trampling by other chickens.
Nests should be placed inside the coop backed-up against a door or flap for easy access when collecting eggs. The more nests you can fit in the coop, the better, as you would want to encourage your hens to lay as many eggs as they possibly can without having to fight over space. As a rule of thumb, you should build at least one nest every 2-3 hens.
- Roosting Bar / Perching Area
It might not be known to many but chickens sleep best when they are perched high off the ground. A chicken will usually seek out the highest point in the coop to sleep as they deem it the safest place far from the reach of predators.
A roosting bar should therefore be installed in the upper sections of your coop so that your chickens can sleep soundly at night.
By roosting on a perch, chickens also avoid mites, lice and bacteria found mostly on the ground or floor of the coop.
Chickens poop in their sleep, so the roosting bar should not be placed above the feeders, waterers and nesting boxes. Remember to also place the bar where it will be easy to shovel the droppings out of the coop.
Alternatively, you could place a tray or two directly underneath the roosting bar so that you can remove the trays, clean them and put them back easily.
- Food and Water – The feeder and waterer should be installed in a place where it is visible to you so that you can easily monitor and refill the resources when needed. I would suggest placing them outside in the chicken run area. You should also build multiple feeding areas so that your chickens have enough space to feed themselves without having to fight over food and water.
- Insulation– If you stay in a place where the weather can be extremely hot or cold, proper insulation is necessary, especially if your coop is located outdoors. Your chickens will not be able to live a long and healthy life without adequate insulation to guard against the elements. The better coop designs would suggest that different materials are used when building the coop depending on the weather conditions.
- Ventilation– Air ventilation is just as important as insulation in the construction of your coop. In the summer when it’s hot, it can get extremely stuffy in the coop if there is no place for the hot air to exit. Little windows or vents should be cut out near the top of the coop but be sure to reinforce these openings with hardware cloth.
- Easy Access – When building your coop, ensure that there is an access door to make periodical cleaning easy.
This will save you from the overpowering smell that you will have to endure if you have to enter or lean into the coop to clean the inside area. An access door allows you to reach in with both hands and do the cleaning from the outside.
Step #3 Get the required tools and materials
Once you have decided on the design of your coop, make a trip to the hardware store to acquire the necessary tools and material. These include saws, drills, nails, hammers, wood and hardware cloth. Do not forget to get protection like gloves, face masks and boots for yourself too. To save you from making multiple trips to the store, I would advise making a checklist of all items needed. The best coop plans would have this checklist ready for you.
You’re all set to build your coop! Choose a warm sunny day and start constructing your coop in a systematic manner. Follow the step-by-step instructions in your coop plans if you have them.
Start from the bottom by building the foundation and slowly work your way up. Install the roof, doors and windows last. Finish it off with a coat of paint which serves to both protect and beautify your coop.
That’s it! This is precisely how to build a coop!
p.s. You shouldn’t attempt a project like this without any proper guidance because it’s more likely than not that you’d end up with a half-built project with hundreds of dollars invested with nothing to show for it. If you’re new to this or you’ve had several failed attempts before, I personally recommend checking out this guide here as the steps and plans laid down in it are really easy to follow, especially for beginners. Good luck!