Chicken Coop of My Dreams
I should have been knee deep in the fourth week of the Better Homes and Garden's One Room Challenge - completely wrapped up in the home office disguised guest room. However, we decided to fulfill my husband's long-time dream and brought home some baby chicks instead. I have never been a big fan of getting chickens because I just knew that they would be stinky and I didn't want an eye-sore in my back yard.
So, the big condition of this decision ended up being this: If we were getting chickens, I was going to build them a beautiful coop.
Well, friends, I looked everywhere for cool coop plans. Ana White had some great options, but they were either a little small or not as cute as I had hoped. Then, I found it. The drop dead gorgeous Chez Poulet coop from Heather Bullard's site.
Oh. My. Gosh. I needed it. But plans were only mailed - not ok with my current timeline that featured chicks doubling in size daily it seemed. So, I took a deep breath and decided to build my own WITHOUT ANY PLANS. My first time ever! I've always used plans for major builds. Always.
But this time, I was going to build a huge structure from scratch. So, if the following instructions are vague, please forgive me. I have hopes to draw up some legitimate plans for you with a true materials list, cuts, etc. Just know that with this being my first time going for it on my own, I messed up quite a bit with my cutting and planning! So, with that being said, let's get into it.
For this step, I used 3/4" plywood sheathing and 2x4s, creating four separate panels that would be assembled together just like the cabin bed I built my daughter last spring. In that post, it actually fleshes out a lot of the details on how this portion is structured.
- Panel Leg Height - 75"
- Panel cross brace width (for chicken door and nesting box panels) - 48" (between the legs)
- Rafter length - 34.75"
- Plywood is cut to fit with pocket holes between the legs and cross braces.
- Truss center - 17.5" - it reaches up between the rafters but supports the central ridge 2x4 that spans the entire length.
- Please refer to the Cabin Bed Build for the actual plan reference and specific building instructions for the coop portion!
We planned and marked where the chicken door would go, where the future nesting boxes would be placed, as well as several ventilation windows. Each of those cut-outs were removed using a jig-saw.
Basically modifying the cabin bed plan slightly, I built each panel on the floor, making sure the exterior walls were flush along the back.
We ended up doing this at around 9:30 at night - I was too excited and thought for sure we were going to be wrapping this project up within a week and a half time-frame. I was so wrong.
Either way, We purchased several treated 2x4s @ 12 ft long, primed and painted them with exterior paint. These served as the base of the coop. Our original thought was that maybe this could be hauled around by our tractor.
The four panels sit on top of the treated 2x4 base and are screwed together at each corner with exterior screws. Pocket hole screws secure the legs to the base.
From there, I framed out the run and the "human door". Looking back, I would have framed it out using more rough-in construction techniques, but this was a learning lesson.
Each leg of the coop and run included a set of rafters that led up to a central ridge (2x4 @ 12ft). The central ridge spanned the length of the coop and run. We added additional rafters as needed to support the roof sheathing (1/2" plywood sheets). Again, with 20/20 hindsight, I would have included rafters at a set number of inches - 18-24" probably. The rafters, in addition to being screwed in, were secured with hurricane ties.
The run featured an interior set of support boards (and the 1x2s that would span the length between each support). In addition to the interior set of supports, I included an exterior set of supports. This worked as a sort of "sandwich" for the hardware mesh we installed in later steps.
I was really trying to write down my steps as I was doing them, including small drawings for reference and an eventual sketch up. It was easy to do at the beginning, but as we got into the third week, we were just trying to complete it!
We used 1/2" plywood to save on weight and cut the pieces to accommodate a 4 inch overhang on the sides and front - an eave.
Once the plywood was secured with roofing nails, we attached the drip edge. Using tin snips, we would hold the drip edge up to the eaves and cut as needed. Attach with roofing nails.
Next up is the felt paper - my preference is Rhino Roof, but for this project, we were trying to save a little money!
I have done roofing with my dad and uncle before, so I sort of knew the process. I had never done it alone, though. So - each step included comprehensive package instruction reading and, in a lot of cases, googling (I'm sure that's a real word, right?).
We got two types of shingles - 3-tab and hip/ridge shingles. Both came with really great instructions, so I just followed along with the package and took my time. It actually went fairly quickly!
After nailing in the shingles, there were exposed nails below the plywood. I used reclaimed fence posts from my neighbor (1 x 6) and screwed them along the rafters to create a ceiling.
After all, we didn't want the off-chance of our chickens flying into the nails and killing themselves! We ended up leaving them unpainted because of the character it added.
Since the plywood pieces on the panels were flush with the exterior, there were perfect support boards available for the floor. I added one more with pocket holes across the center and cut several 1x2s to serve as slats to support the floor.
This required some creative measuring and jig-saw cutting. I first cut the major dimensions (length x width) and then started measuring and cutting away each little notch that was needed in order to accommodate the chicken door and each of the four corners. Each corner featured the legs that would jut into the coop space, so the plywood floor needed to fit around them.
I used a simple Kreg Jig Pocket Hole system to make shaker-style cabinet doors. The process for this step will have to be in a separate post, because it took some time. Long story short, I measured the width of the opening and subtracted 3/16" from the height and width of the opening to help determine the size of the door. There needs to be a uniform gap around all of the edges so that the cabinet door will fit nicely inside of the opening while also being able to swing unencumbered. This was another first, so my doors were not perfect. However, quick use of my hand planer saved the day.
After I secured the T-hinges to the cabinet doors, it was time to hang them on the frame. Again, first time hanging my own inset cabinet doors! After watching several videos on how to properly hang these types of doors, I approached it in my own, novice way. I bundled two credit cards together, which approximated the spacing I needed.
I started with the side of the cabinet door closest to the frame and rested it on the card bundle. I made sure there was approximately the same space between the door and the frame and drilled my first pilot hole. Securing the hinge with one screw and supporting the door simultaneously, I drilled the remaining pilot holes and attached with the provided screws. Then, I slid the card bundle to the bottom corner further away from the frame, which brought up that interior corner a bit. This got that second, bottom hinge in the right place. Securing that, I repeated on both sides.
Another Google moment - I looked up how to build a simple door and framed it out using 2x4s and pocket holes. I squared off the corners with right triangle cut outs made from a 2x8 scrap wood.
We attached hardware mesh to the inside of the door using the same narrow crown staples and a pneumatic staple gun.
We also placed the hinges according to the proper human door hinge placement - I cut several cuts along the hinge locations with my circular saw and chiseled out those pieces of wood so that the hinges would lay flush with the door's wood.
Hanging this door was something else - I fashioned my own shims by cutting 1/4" pieces of wood. I had to hang it on my own, so I rested it on the shims and marked the top and bottom of both hinges on the frame. Using the same circular saw technique, I notched and chiseled away the frame to make way for the flush-mount hinges once the door was in place.
Getting the door back onto the shims, holding it with one hand and drilling pilot holes with the other was probably one of the hardest things I've done. But it worked somehow!
Speaking of the chicken door - this was a pretty simple part of the build. By this time, though, I was exhausted. It was coming up on week three of this build and we were outside working on it for 10 hours a day in the heat of Texas. Nooooot my favorite time of year.
This is just a simple piece of plywood, cut to be slightly larger than the chicken door. 1x2s serve as the rails and a metal wire goes through a very simple pulley system. At the cabinet door opening, there are two nails which we loop the wire around to keep it in place.
Chicken wire will keep chickens in, but it will NOT keep all predators out (snakes, anyone?). So, we opted for a 1/2" hardware mesh. Ok... when I said that the worst part was hanging the door, I take it back. Hardware mesh is the worst part. Hands down.
We ran the 48" hardware mesh underneath the structure by digging little ditches and propping the structure up using levers and 2x4s as jacks. You have to unroll it, cut it to length and try not to cut yourself and bleed all over the place.
Then, you had to hold it in place (while it wanted to roll back up) and staple it in place using narrow crown staples and a pneumatic staple gun.
We said so many choice words during this portion.
Anywhere the chickens could have a predator visit them got locked up tight. Eaves, windows, doors, floor of the run, etc.
In the image above you can see what I meant about "sandwiching" the hardware mesh between the two support boards.
We are finally nearing the end, I promise. I primed and painted everything using a paint sprayer. I didn't care if I painted the hardware mesh at this point - I was just so exhausted and ready for this to be done.
Some extra features that are easy to overlook but are very important:
- I built a little coop ladder for the ladies - just a simple strip of plywood, same width as the door, featuring 1x2 rungs every so often.
- I also installed a roosting bar. Since the girls are still young, they can't reach it yet, so I will be adding a lower one so they can hop from that one to the higher roosting bar. The one rule of thumb I read was to built it higher than the nesting box location so they don't sleep on their eggs and leave you with poopy surprises to pick up in the morning.
- Security - I use several different types of latches and locks for this contraption. Barrel locks for the cabinet doors in addition to the padlock hasp latches. The hasp latches are secured with carabiners so the raccoons can't make their way in. I will be adding self-closing hinges for the nesting box when I build that addition (closer to September) as well as the hasp latches for additional reinforcement.
The only thing I did a little bit differently was the floor. I primed and painted it, yes. I also added several coats of polyurethane to help cleaning up. Chicken poop is nasty and sticks to everything!
Finally, it was eviction day for the girls!
If you've made it this far - thanks for reading! I know this DIY run down wasn't as comprehensive as most of my others. This project was just so massive and new to me. I have every building experience saved under my highlights over on Instagram - and feel free to ask me anything! I will try my very best to answer you as soon as I can.
Hopefully those saved highlights can show you a bit more about the way I approached this project and (fingers crossed) I can come back in a month or two with a solid, detailed plan. It will probably be longer than this post, though, so beware!
In the near future, I will be adding the nesting box, a nesting perch an additional roosting bar and a small drain to help with cleanup! A true work in progress.