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Things To Consider Before You Build a Coop
Before you can begin building your chicken coop, there are some things to think about. Here is a checklist of things to consider before you buy a stack o of lumber.
Check Your City Ordinances
Depending on where you live, you may not be allowed to keep chickens at your house. Some city ordinances don’t allow farm animals of any kind. In some cases, you may be able to get these ordinances reversed (especially if your neighbors are OK with it!) but it’s something to be aware of first.
Pick a Space For Your Chickens
How much space you need for your chickens is somewhat a matter of who you talk to. Some people recommend 2-4 square feet per chicken in the coop, and 8 -10 square feet per chicken in their run.
Ideally, it would also be nice to have space where chickens can roam free in your yard. So far we haven’t allowed our chickens to free roam because we have neighbors, a road near us, and a lot of predators (near the woods!) but we’d soon like to give them a chance to free-range around our yard under our supervision.
If free-ranging isn’t an option for you, a bigger run might be something you would want to invest in.
Decide How Many Chickens You Want
Your next decision is how many chickens you want. This question will determine how big your coop and run are per the section above.
Most people talk about “chicken math” which means if you want to have 2 chickens, you’re probably going to have 8.
When we decided to get chickens, we thought we’d get 4-6 chickens. We’re not trying to raise eggs for a chicken business, we just wanted enough eggs to feed our family and a few to share. We spoke with a chicken farming friend and she recommended getting extra chicks because some don’t survive into adulthood. So now, of course, we have 8 chickens and so far they’re all still very happy and healthy.
Baby chicks are incredibly adorable and very cheap, so it’s easy to pick up a couple more when you go to buy them.
How Much Does it Cost to Get Chickens?
Your cost analysis and ours may be a bit different. By far, the most expensive part of our backyard chicken farm is building the chicken coop. There are ways to build a chicken coop inexpensively, but ours was not cheap.
I’ll give you a break down of the general cost of things for our setup. There are a lot of different ways to raise chickens and many of them would be more or less expensive than what we did. But here’s our cost analysis:
The Cost of the Chicks
Originally we wanted to buy pullets because we wanted eggs sooner. They were not available when we were ready to get chickens, so we got peeps. Since we have children I think getting baby chickens was a good move, and it gave us the experience of raising them from little on up. The cost of a chick is cheaper than an older almost laying chicken, but you can expect to spend money raising up the chicks for six months before they begin to lay eggs.
We bought 4 Easter Eggers and 4 Rhode Island Red chicks. We bought them sexed because we didn’t want a rooster in our lot.
The Easter Eggers were $4 apiece, and the Rhode Island Reds were $3 apiece.
You may find chicks for more or less money than this. Chicks at Tractor Supply sometimes run on sale for as little as $1 a chick. Do keep in mind that it is usually more expensive to get chicks that are sexed as opposed to straight run (mix of male and female).
Total Cost for 8 Chicks: $28
The Cost of Chick Care & Chicken Accessories
To get the chickens from chicks to pullet age, you will need a few special accessories:
- Jar chick feeder
- Jar chick waterer
- Heat lamp for chicks (We bought one at Tractor Supply, but this one from Amazon has a thermostat controller which would be helpful)
- A place to keep chicks while they’re very little (We just used a big plastic tub)
- Medicated starter chick feed
- Industrial hemp bedding
If I remember correctly, the chick feeder and waterer combined cost: $10.
The heat lamp and bulb combined cost: $15
We began feeding our chicks the Purina started feed which as a bit more expensive but shortly moved to the local feed supply place which was much cheaper. The 5lb bag of feed from Tractor Supply was probably $6 or $7 and didn’t last very long. We got a 50 lb bag of feed for around $15 that lasts at this point on average a month for 8 chickens. (At the time of writing this, our chickens are still under 6 months old).
At first, we used wood shaving bedding because it was available locally, but then we switched to hemp bedding because it lasts longer and smells better than wood shavings. (We got this recommendation from Ned’s brother and sister-in-law who have been keeping chickens much longer than we have and said that they only had to change the bedding once or twice in an entire year). The price on Amazon for this varies by supplier, size, and availability. I believe we spent around $80, shipping included.
Total cost for six months of care for 8 chicks ~ $195
Cost of the Chicken Coop
The cost of the chicken coop can range WIDE. Some people say they’re able to build a coop with stuff already lying around their house, and others spend $4000 for theirs (this would be the high end of things for sure).
We estimate that ours cost around $1,200 to build which is what I would consider the higher end of a DIY build. Certainly, you could spend more, but it’s not exactly a “cheap” way to get what you want.
We based our coop on a US company called Carolina Coops. Their coops are well built and designed and understandably cost more to purchase than we did to build them. That being said, if you love their style and aren’t into a DIY, you can check out their website and see if it’s something you’d like. At this time they don’t sell plans, but they do seem to be OK with people using their design, re: their FAQ section:
Some of the more expensive parts of the build include:
Hardware cloth is an expense for the coop that not everyone chooses to spend. We spent money on it because it’s supposed to be much stronger to keep our predators than regular chicken wire. We live next to the woods and predators are a real concern (which they can be anywhere). That’s why we chose to spend a little extra $$ on the build to get it.
Total cost for a chicken coop: $50-$4,000 (varies greatly depending on what materials you use, how big your coop is, and what design you choose).
Total 6 Month Cost To Raise Chicks to Chickens: ~ $1,423 (Much Cheaper if You Build or Buy a Cheaper Coop)
Cost of Chickens After 6 Months for 8 Chickens ~ $15-30 a month + Other Unforeseen Expenses
What Does A Chicken Coop Need?
- Chicken run
- Predator protection
- Ramp to the chicken run
A henhouse is the place where chickens live. It’s their chicken home where they sleep.
A chicken run is an enclosed area where the chickens can be outside without running away.
Nest boxes are the place where your chickens will lay their eggs. There should be 1 nest box for every 2-3 chickens.
Ventilation is important in a chicken coop because it helps reduce moisture in the coop. When poultry breathes or produces waste they increase the amount of moisture in the air. Without proper ventilation, the coop can house too much ammonia and it can actually lead to frostbite in the winter.
Predator protection is really important for keeping your chickens safe. You don’t want to leave openings for predators to get in, so when you put in ventilation, it’s a good idea to back it with some kind of chicken wire. We put a roof on our chicken run and installed wiring around the coop to keep critters from crawling under (more on this later).
If possible, put the chicken coop in the shade to help keep your chickens from overheating.
The chickens need a ramp to get from their henhouse down into the chicken run.
Lastly, roost bars are super important for chickens. Chickens love roosting and they love to be up high when they sleep. They’ll start sleeping on a roost bar at a much earlier age than you might expect. Roosting is a natural defense against predators, and being off the coop bedding at night also helps reduce the risk of external parasites, pathogens, and bacteria.
What Supplies Do You Need to Build a Chicken Coop (Like the One We Built)
Not all chicken coops are built the same, but here is a list of things that we used to build our chicken coop.
General Supplies to Build a Chicken Coop
- Lumber. We used 2x4s and plywood to build our coop. How much lumber you need is greatly dependent on the kind of coop you need. If you purchase blueprints for your coop the amount you need should be included in the design.
- Chicken wire. We chose to use hardware cloth rather than traditional chicken wire because it’s more durable and more predator resistant. (It is also more costly). Black hardware cloth is best because it makes it easier to see into the run. If you can’t find it in black, you also have the option of painting it.
- Plexiglass. If you intend on having windows in your coop like the ones we use, we recommend using plexiglass instead of regular glass. It’s stronger and less likely to break than traditional glass.
- Hardware like latches and hinges.
- Sparurathane (or a liner) to keep the floor of the hen house from rotting when the chickens eliminate on the bedding.
Tools Needed to Build a Chicken Coop
- Circular saw
- Contractor table saw(most any of the name brand contractor or job site table saw would be sufficient, but if you think you will be doing more substantial in the future, you might be better off with a more permanent style table saw like a hybrid or a cabinet table saw)
- Miter saw
- Kreg jig
- Pocket hole screws (make sure you know what size you need for the thickness of the material you’re screwing together)
- Regular wood screws
- Tape measurer (We like the Komelon Self-Lock kind)
- Speed square
- Wood glue
Things Needed to Level Place for Chicken Coop
Roofing Material Needed for Chicken Coop
If you install a metal roof here are some of the things you will need:
Step #1 Pick a Design or Design Your Own Using Sketch Up
There are a LOT of free and paid for plans you can use to make your chicken coop.
Sketchup is a 3-D modeling application that you can use to design all sorts of things like woodworking projects, furniture, buildings, video game creation, 3D printing, interior design, landscape architecture, and more.
Ned was able to use the program to design our chicken coop and figure out exact measurements for future cuts. It reduced a lot of our upfront work and made the project go a lot more smoothly.
You can go on YouTube to learn more about how to use Sketchup. We recommend April Wilkerson’s (an amazing woodworker on YouTube) videos explaining how to use it.
Step #2 Find a Location (Level a Spot)
The next step is to find a level spot in your yard for your chicken coop. We spent several weeks trying to find a location. Finally one day our sun said “what about this spot?” and we realized it was just right.
Using normal tools like rakes and shovels, we flattened out the area and used paving gravel, dirt, and sand, to make it a secure location for our chicken coop.
If you don’t have a flat spot in your yard, you may be able to create one with the use of a tractor or a good but of shoveling and leveling.
Step #3 Build the Frame of the Chicken Coop
Once you’re ready to begin building, the first step is to build out your chicken coop frame. You can begin by cutting out the different sections of the coop based on the instructions in your chicken coop plans.
We found that it was really helpful to write notes in pencil so we remembered which section of 2X4 went to which part.
We used pocket holes to make the majority of the chicken coop. Pocket holes are a very basic form of joinery. Using a special jig, you drill an angled hole into your wood and then screw two pieces together using special pocket hole screws. The screws adhere two pieces of wood together at intersecting grain patterns, producing a strong bond.
Although you can join two boards together using this joint only, you should use wood glue as well. We used Titebond Three glue which is waterproof. This is more expensive but will hold up to the weather better than other types of glue.
Step #4 Dry Fit Your Chicken Coop Frame
As you’re working on your chicken coop it’s a good idea to fit the pieces together to make sure everything is working correctly. A few times we had to make some minor adjustments where our original calculations were off.
Here is one of the walls of the chicken coop as we put it together. You can see we’re piecing together the frame and including all sections additional sections like venting and spaces for doors. As we finished more sections we added it to the wall to make sure it all fit correctly.
When we finished all four sides of the henhouse, we clamped them together to make sure that everything pieced together the right way. This did not include doors or windows, but it did include the frames that would house them.
Step #5 Pick Paint Colors for Your Chicken Coop and Paint Sections As You Go
Picking the colors of your coop is one of the really fun parts of doing a DIY chicken coop. You can make it as zany, modern, or traditional as you like. We chose gray and white with a green roof and we really liked how it turned out, but it’s fun seeing all the different possibilities.
I drew a chicken coop using ProCreate and colored it in different colors to give you an idea of how different some paint can make a coop look. (Please don’t mind my drawing as it is obviously not perfect and I’m terrible at drawing perspective :-D)
We found that painting as we went along yielded the best results. It made it a LOT easier when it came to assembly time as well.
Step #6 Build Windows and Henhouse Doors
After building the four walls of the chicken coop and the frame for your chicken run, the next step is to cut out and put together your doors and windows.
We built three short vents at the top of the coop, and two large ones on the doors of the henhouse. We also built a drop-down door that makes it a lot easier to dump the contents of the coop when it needs to be cleaned. Just drop it down and shovel everything easily into a wheelbarrow.
We also left a small opening on one side for a door that leads down a ramp and into the chicken run and an opening for a future nesting box installation.
It’s important to remember that wood expands and contracts when introduced to different amounts of humidity. In higher humidity areas, the wood will expand. Knowing this, you should make sure to cut all of your doors at least 1/4″ smaller than your overall opening. For example, if your opening is 10″x10″ you should make your window 9-3/4″x9-3/4″. This will allow for an 1/8″ reveal around the whole window.
If you are in very high humid areas, you may even want to make your windows and doors 1/2″ less than your opening measurements, giving you a 1/4″ reveal around all of the windows and doors.
Step #7 Build the Nesting Box
The nesting box is where your hens will go to lay eggs. They like a dark quiet place where they can peacefully lay their eggs (and if they’re broody, they’ll also sit on those eggs).
The average nesting box is 12×12 in size, but you may need a slightly bigger one if your chickens are a large breed like a Jersey Giant or a Brahmas.
How many nest boxes you need per flock is highly debated. I’ve seen anywhere from 2-7 hens per box. We chose to have three sections in our nest box for 8 hens (turns out we have 7 hens and one rooster…).
Here’s a picture of the frame we built for the external nesting box. We later attached it to our henhouse (more pictures to come).
Step #8 Build Trusses
We use a Swanson speed square to calculate the pitch of the roof and angles of your cuts.
You can use a speed square for a lot of things. They’re a very versatile tool. Once you learn what all the numbers and tick marks are, there’s a whole lot of things you can do. It has all of the roof pitches on the speed square so you can layout all different kinds of trusses at different pitches by using it. You can design all of your trusses by just using the speed square.
Here’s a video that discusses how to find the pitch of your trusses:
We used a circular saw to cut the birdsmouth notch (the part that rests on the frame of the coop.) Once you have your first one cut out it works as a template for the rest.
Here’s a video explaining how to cut a birdsmouth notch:
Step #9 Install Walls of the Chicken Coop (The plywood)
Once you have the basic frame of the chicken coop put together, you can install the plywood walls and flooring of the henhouse. We cut out several pieces of plywood to match and cover the inside walls of the henhouse. We chose to make the plywood walls a different color than the trim to give it that traditional barn look.
To install the flooring, we drilled 2x4s on the inside of the walls to create space for the flooring to rest.
Step #10 Install Doors and Windows on the Chicken Coop
Step #11 Assemble the Chicken Coop Walls
After you’ve made a level spot for your chicken coop and finished building all four walls, it’s time to put them together. We suggest putting the four walls together where you’re planning on keeping it so you don’t have to move it after it’s assembled.
Along with the four walls of the chicken coop, we also used treated lumber at the base of the henhouse and run.
In this picture, you can see the henhouse (with the first set of trusses), and the treated lumber that serves as the foundation of the entire thing. We added on the run after we set up this part of the chicken coop.
Step #14 Build and Install the Chicken Run
Once we established the site for our chicken coop and build the henhouse, we were ready to add the framing for the chicken run. Our chicken run was the same width as our henhouse and added X feet to the project.
This is what the chicken run looked like all framed out:
We left a section in the front so we could later install a full-sized door that we made out of 2x4s and hardware cloth.
Step #13 Install Trusses on top of the Chicken Coop
We chose to put a roof across our chicken run, so Ned built trusses that ran the whole length of the henhouse and run. Each of the trusses was screwed into the frame of the henhouse and chicken run.
We installed the trusses and built cross beams for better support and to have something to attach a metal roof to later.
Step #14 Install Chicken Run Door (and Handy Escape Latch)
We installed a full-size door to our chicken coop. One really important addition to your chicken coop is a way to get out if the door closes. We used self-closing hinges which means it would be extremely easy to get locked into your own chicken coop. To fix this issue, we drilled a small hole in the door frame and inserted a metal wire. The wire is attached to the metal door latch on the other side. If you get locked inside the coop you can pull the wire and it’ll release the latch so you can open the door.
Here’s what that looks like on the outside of the door:
Here’s what it looks like on the inside of the coop:
Step #15 Install the Nesting Box on the Chicken Coop
You could choose to install the nesting box at this point or wait later into your build. It was close to one of the last things we did, but after your frame and walls are put together, you can screw your nesting box to the side that has an opening designed for your nesting box.
Step #16 Put Roofing on the Trusses and Nesting Box
Once your frame, walls, nesting box, and trusses are in place, you can add your roofing. We chose to use metal roofing which we screwed into the trusses and cross beams using self-tapping screws. Unless you have the proper tools, it’s advisable to have someone cut your metal roofing to size.
A metal roof also needs a ridge cap with is the long piece of metal that rests on the top of the roof. It finished the roofing and keeps rain from falling between the gap created by the two sides of the roof. When you install the ridge cap you will screw it to your trusses and then bend the three metal pieces at the end of the ridge cap to finish it up.
You can also use regular shingle roofing if that’s your preference.
Step # 17 Staple in the Hardware Cloth (or Chicken Wire)
At this point, it’s time to staple in the hardware cloth in your hen house and coop. You can staple in the hardware cloth to keep it in place, and a pneumatic stapler makes the job go much more quickly than a manual stapler.
We installed the hardware cloth between all around the chicken run and behind each one of our henhouse vents. That way the vent windows can be popped open without letting the chickens out.
Step #18 Protect the Floor of the Henhouse
The floor of the henhouse is vulnerable to rot because the chickens will be routinely soiling the bedding. To protect the floor from rotting, we used three or four coats of Spar Urethane on the floor and several feet up the walls. This extra step will really help your chicken coop last longer.
Other options are painting the floor, installing linoleum or vinyl, or putting in a rubber mat.
Step #19 Install Roosting Bars
Chickens LOVE roosting bars. They start using them at a very young age and they’ll continue using them as they grow into full-sized chickens. We built in several levels of roost bars in the chicken coop and they started using them right away.
You can also build roosting bars for the chicken run. Your chickens will enjoy them!
Step #20 Build the Henhouse Ramp
Chickens could technically fly out of their henhouse, but they much prefer using a ramp. If your coop is higher than 18-24 inches, you’ll need to install a ramp.
Adding rungs to the ramp makes it much easier for chickens to travel up and down, especially if your ramp has a steep grade. You can space the rungs about 3-6 inches apart. We used a piece of wood between each rung to make it easier to separate them evenly and then glued them and nail gunned them in place.
Step #21 Add Predator Protection
One of the last things needed for a chicken coop is proper predator protection. On our coop, we installed a roof over the whole thing, but predators can also find a way under the coop. That’s why we installed an apron of wire fencing two feet wide all around the coop. The wire fencing is stapled to the coop and laid flat all around it.
Some people recommend burying the barrier underground, but we laid ours on top of the ground surrounding the coop.
Now Enjoy Your Coop!
And that’s it! Now it’s time to enjoy your chicken coop and get yourself some little chickies to live in their new home!