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How to Build a Chicken Coop | What You Need to Know to Make a Chicken Coop

You’re thinking about getting chickens, you’re about to need a home for your little peeps, or you’re looking for an upgrade. Now you want to know how to build a chicken coop but you’re not sure where to start.

This was where we were at the beginning of last year, so we searched the internet, watched videos, made a plan, and put it into action. In this guide, we’re going to share with you some of the most important things to know about building a chicken coop, and some helpful information to know before you start building.

We hope our knowledge helps you with your own project and you can build a beautiful home for your chickens.

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Table of Contents for Easy Navigation

Things To Consider Before You Build a Coop

Before you can begin building your chicken coop, there are some things to think about. This can give you an idea of problems or considerations so you aren’t puzzling over them halfway through a chicken coop build.

Here is a checklist of things to consider before you buy a stack o of lumber.

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

Baby chicks
Collect ’em all.

How Much Does it Cost to Get Chickens?

Before you get you fully launch into the crazy world of chickens, you may be wondering what your cost investment will be. We’ve broken it down here so you can get an idea of what it cost to buy chickens and build a chicken coop.

Your costs 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 I wouldn’t say ours was cheap.

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 (Update: surprise! We did end up with one rooster! This is not a bad thing if you want to raise your own chickens or if you want a rooster to protect your flock. We ended up not keeping him because he wasn’t kid or people-friendly, but don’t worry, he’s on a farm enjoying life).

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:

  1. Jar chick feeder
  2. Jar chick waterer
  3. Heat lamp for chicks (We bought one at Tractor Supply, but this one from Amazon has a thermostat controller which would be helpful)
  4. A place to keep chicks while they’re very little (We just used a big plastic tub)
  5. Medicated starter chick feed
  6. 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 (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?

  • Henhouse
  • Chicken run 
  • Nestboxes
  • Ventilation
  • Predator protection
  • Shade
  • Ramp to the chicken run
  • Roosts

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.
  • Spar Urathane (or a liner) to keep the floor of the hen house from rotting when the chickens eliminate the bedding.

Tools Needed to Build a Chicken Coop

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.

We made our chicken coop based on the Carolina Coops, and designed it using a really cool program called Sketch Up.

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.

If you’re interested in our plans, here is our version in Sketch Up of this coop. 


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 son 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 bit 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 was 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 the 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 are a whole lot of things you can do. It has all of the roof pitches on the speed square so you can lay out 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 them so you don’t have to move them 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 until later in 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 used 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 which is a 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.

Some people recommend putting the hardware cloth on the outside of the coop so predators can’t lean on the hardware cloth and push their way in. We did not think of that when we built ours, but so far (3 years in) we haven’t had an issue with it either. 

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 several levels of roost bars in the chicken coop, and they started using them immediately.

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!

UPDATE: Here is a link to our Sketch Up model file. The downloadable file is on our google drive. This file is only compatible with Sketch Up. Let me know what you guys think…I’m not sure it reveals all the necessary information such as dimensions. HOWEVER! Note that all lumber is 2×4 material. If you want cut lengths, you will have to use the measure tool in Sketch Up to obtain that!


  • Will Seale

    As a fellow backyard chicken tender (yes, you are now all chicken tenders), I truly enjoy seeing what others do to setup their own space. It is very rewarding to raise chickens and gather eggs even if there are frustrations that go along with it. And there is no comparison to the eggs! The information that you provided is very helpful and valuable so thank you for taking the time to write this blog. It is a nice blend of specifics to your setup and suggestions to alternatives. Enjoy your flock!

    • Ned and Hannah

      LOL Chicken tenders. We *still* don’t have eggs yet, but we eagerly await the day they begin laying. Thank you for the kind words and we’re glad you enjoyed the post.

      Hannah and Ned

    • Ned and Hannah

      Ohh you won’t regret it! I didn’t think I wanted chickens and now they feel like part of the family and my kids love them.

  • Case

    Hey there, was wondering if you are selling your plans on SketchUp or have it available for download? Came across your chicken coop and my parents absolutely love it. They just got SketchUp but even with the video help, still can’t quite get it.

    • Ned and Hannah

      Thank you for your question! I don’t believe that we saved the SketchUp when we made this coop. I wish we had! Ned really likes this video to help teach you how to use the program: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjSE28T3u78&t=1s

      I will double-check with Ned to see if he did keep any of his original plans when we made this coop.

      Thanks again for asking!


        • Ned and Hannah

          We just found the design today! Would you be interested in us sending it to you to your email? We won’t charge anything. Let us know… I haven’t learned how to put the download into the blog post yet.

          Ned and Hannah

      • Deirdre Reid

        Hi! I would love if you could send ne a copy of your plans. We’re in the process of building and tryingbto figure out how to best supposrt the floor of the coop.

    • Ned and Hannah

      Hello again! So Ned was able to find his original design in Sketch Up. Would you be interested in us sending it to you in an email? I haven’t yet learned how to offer it as a download on our blog post.


      • Brandi

        Hi! I just found your blog in my search for designing coops. I would love the plans you found if you’re willing to share! I’ll see if I can send a direct message in case you don’t see my e-mail with this reply. Thanks!

        • Ned and Hannah

          I am working on figuring out how to share this! We did find the plans I just need to find a way to let everyone download them. Thank you!

      • Yvonne Drechsler

        This is amazing, what a good looking coop. My husband has the sketch up program and it would be great if you could share the plans. Planning on getting chickens later this spring.

  • Amanda Lee

    Hi, I just found your chicken coop blog post. I’ve desperately wanted a Carolina coop for several years, but it hasn’t been in the budget. This is by far the best tutorial I’ve seen on how to build a similar coop. Would you be willing to share your SketchUp designs?

    Thank you for sharing your building tutorial!

  • Kelly Charron

    I would love to know the dimensions of your coop plans. You did such a great job! Thank you for taking the time to share this.

    • Ned and Hannah

      We just posted a link that includes the file with the Sketchup model. Let us know if it works for you! Thank you!

  • Darren

    We are in the process of planning and building our first coop. We love the Carolina Coops but of course can’t afford. So trying to DIY something similar. If you wouldn’t mind emailing your Sketchup Plans, we would love to take a look. The link above shows the basic shape, but I was hoping you had figured out some of the dimensions.
    Thank you so much, and we will be referencing your post as we build. You guys did a great job!

    • Ned and Hannah

      Hey there! We found a way to share a downloadable Sketchup file on our blog post. Let us know if it works for you. The link is near the bottom of the post and in the section that talks about Sketchup.

      Thanks for your interest!

  • Deirdre Reid

    Would love to build this coop. Do you havee any measurements to share, even the footprint of your coop?

    I did download the sketchup maybe it’s because I’m using the free version and it does not show any dimensions.

    I think you’d make a ton selling the plans in a pdf format on etsy!!

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