How to Build a Chicken Coop
Time Required: Over 1 day
Keeping chickens in the backyard can give you easy access to fresher, tastier eggs. If you want to raise chickens, you’ll need to provide them with a cozy, well-sheltered place to roost. You can buy a ready-made coop or make your own. Building a chicken coop can be both fun and budget friendly. It takes a moderate amount of skill and good planning. Read on for the plans and steps for how to make a chicken coop.
Building a chicken coop is a pretty involved project. Start by picking a size and a location for your DIY chicken coop. You don’t want your birds to get too hot, too cold or feel overcrowded. You’ll need a spot that can be shady in the hotter months but allow sun in the winter months. Consider the size of the coop. Chickens need a minimum 2 feet per bird inside a coop and 4 feet outside the coop.
You’ll find chicken coop plans here: front panel, back panel, side panels and nest box dividers. Review them carefully so you’ll be ready when it’s time to cut and organize the pieces. The basic tools you’ll need are a jig, miter or circular saw, cordless drill, carpenter square, tape measure and framing hammer.
Consider breaking the project up over three weekends, depending on your schedule. Focus one weekend on gathering tools and buying supplies. Spend a second weekend measuring and cutting all the parts of the coop. Make sure to label each one. Use the third weekend to build, add roofing and paint the coop.
Your new chicken coop will have to stand up to all kinds of weather. Choose plywood that's rated for exterior use such as those labeled BCX, CDX or T-111 siding. Exterior-rated plywood is made using adhesives that can withstand intermittent wet conditions. It does require exterior paint or sealant and will last longer than interior-rated plywood.
Make sure any screws, fasteners or building materials are rated for outdoor construction. Any boards that come into contact with the ground should be pressure-treated. Or consider placing a brick or paver under each leg of the chicken coop. This will help the wood last longer and prevent water damage.
Here are the lumber and materials you’ll need:
- Three 1 x 2 x 8-foot pine furring strips
- Two 2 x 2 x 8-foot boards
- Eight 2 x 4 x 8-foot boards
- Two 4 x 8-foot plywood sheets (11/32-inch thick)
- Three pieces of 12-foot cedar lap siding
- Nine 1/4 x 1 5/8 x 8-foot lattice trim
- One 1 pound box 2 1/2-inch exterior screws
- One 1 pound box 1 5/8-inch exterior screws
- One 1 pound box #18 5/8-inch brad nails
- One 1 pound box 1 1/2-inch roofing nails
- Two 4-inch plastic drain gates
- One 2-inch narrow utility hinge
- Three 2 1/2-inch narrow utility hinges
- Two window bolts
- Wood glue
- Chicken wire
You’ll use the boards and the 12-foot cedar siding boards to create the frame, legs and roof of the chicken coop.
- Cut three 31-inch length pieces from the 2 x 4 x 8-foot boards.
- Cut two 48-inch length pieces from the 2 x 4 x 8-foot boards.
Legs and Supports:
- Cut seven 48-inch lengths from the 2 x 4 x 8-foot boards.
- Cut two 39 1/2-inch lengths from the 2 x 4 x 8-foot boards.
- Cut three 32 3/4-inch length pieces from the 2 x 2 x 8-foot board.
- Cut the 12-foot siding into six 55-inch length pieces.
Tip: Label and bundle the wood pieces as you cut them. It will be easier to assemble them later.
Use a circular saw to cut plywood sheets to make the walls, floor, ramp and nest boxes of the coop. Refer to the plans linked in Step 1 for visual guidance. Label each piece for easier assembly.
First, cut the plywood into:
- One front panel: 33 inches x 48 inches
- One rear panel: 24 inches x 48 inches
- Two side panels: 32 1/4 inches x 27 inches each
- One floor panel: 34 inches x 48 inches
- Three nest box dividers: 11 1/2 inches x 10 inches each
- One nesting box sub-roof for inside the coop: 10 inches x 48 inches
Cut the front panel into five pieces:
- A 26-inch x 12-inch door/ramp
- A 2 1/2-inch x 12-inch bottom panel
- A 4 1/2-inch x 12-inch top panel
Cut the rear panel into three pieces:
- A 3 1/2-inch x 48-inch bottom panel
- An 11-inch x 48-inch nest box back door
- A 9 3/8-inch x 48-inch upper panel
Once you cut the side pieces, cut an angle in each:
- Mark a point 24 1/4 inches on one side of the panel.
- Use a straight edge to connect this mark to the corner of the 32 1/4-inch side.
- Cut along this line to create the top angle of the side panel.
The first step in learning how to make a chicken coop is building the foundation or floor frame. This floor frame consists of the three 31-inch boards and two 48-inch boards. Here’s how to make it:
- Into the narrow side of each of the 48-inch boards, drill pilot vertical holes 3/4-inch from each end. Drill a third pilot hole dead center at 24 inches.
- Arrange 48-inch boards parallel to one another.
- Place the 31-inch boards perpendicular between them.
- Align each end with the corresponding holes.
- Using 2 1/2-inch screws, secure the boards together.
You will use two 48-inch boards for the front legs and the two 39 1/2-inch boards for the back legs. Here’s how to attach the legs to the frame made in Step 5.
- Trim the legs to make the roof pitch correctly. Make a 15-degree cut at one end of each of the 48-inch front legs and the end of each 39 1/2-inch rear legs.
- Draw a straight line 15 inches up from the flat end of each leg.
- Make another mark at 44 1/8 inches as well.
- Lay one front and rear leg on the floor. Make sure the marked sides face up and the mitered sides are both facing backward.
- Tilt the floor frame onto its narrow side. Place it on top of the legs aligning the bottom edge of the frame with the 15-inch mark.
- Using a cordless drill, screw 2 1/2-inch screws through the frame and the legs.
- Repeat the steps above for the other two.
Building a chicken coop properly means making sure it's sturdy. You will need to reinforce the structure with braces.
- Stand the frame on its legs.
- Position and clamp a 48-inch board between the front legs. This board should line up at the 44 1/8-inch marks made in Step 6.
- Drive two 2 1/2-inch screws through the legs and into these braces.
- Add two additional screws through the legs and frame.
- Repeat this for the back legs as well. Make sure the rear brace is flush with the back edge of the rear legs.
- Set your miter saw to 15 degrees or use a miter box. Make parallel cuts at either end of each of the three 32 1/2-inch boards. This will allow the boards to fit together tightly.
- Using 2 1/2-inch screws, attach two of the rafters to the inside of the front legs. Make sure they are flush with the pitch of the roof.
- Mark both the front and rear braces at the center. The center will be 24 inches from the edge.
- Drill pilot holes. Drive more 2 1/2-inch screws through the center line of each board into the frame.
- Repeat the process with the rear legs.
The center of the floor panel should align with the center board in your floor frame.
- To find the center of the floor panel, measure and mark 24 inches from each edge. Where the lines cross is the center.
- Drive screws through the floor panel into the center board and at even intervals along the perimeter.
- Clamp the left front panel to the front left side of the frame.
- Attach it to the frame by driving 1 5/8-inch screws at each corner of the border. Drive several more screws evenly down each side of the panel to strengthen the frame.
- Align the door panels flush against the right side of the newly attached front panels. Attach them at the top and bottom of the frame.
- Secure the final panel to the front right side of the frame.
- Clamp the back uppermost and back lowest panels horizontally to the back of the coop. Make sure their edges are flush with the outer edge of the frame.
- Drive the screws into the upper and lower back panels at the corners.
- Draw a border 3 inches around all the panels. This will be where the trim will go.
When learning how to build a chicken coop, remember to keep your birds in mind. A good rule of thumb is to have no more than four birds sharing a nest box. Each nest box should be a minimum of 12 inches square.
How to make the nest boxes:
- Place the nesting box roof 10 inches up from the floor of the coop and flush with the back. Secure it with 1 5/8-inch screws.
- Clamp together the 11 1/2-inch x 10-inch divider panels with the edges flush. Mark one edge 3 1/2 inches from one corner. Cut at the mark to a depth of 1 1/2 inches along from the adjacent side to remove a rectangular section from the corner.
- Mark the floor at 12-inch intervals. Use a carpenter square to draw guidelines at a 90-degree angle from each mark.
- Slide the dividers into place under the nesting box roof. Align and straighten them.
- Add furring strip rails so dividers can slide out for easy cleaning. Align 10-inch pieces of 1 x 2 furring strip down each side of the dividers. Leave 1/16-inch of space between the furring strip and the divider. Screw the strips into the floor.
How to install the hinged back door to the nest box:
- Screw in the back door panel using three 2 1/2-inch utility hinges. Evenly space them along the bottom panel. The door will swing down.
- Secure the 2-inch window bolt vertically. Make sure it is at the center of the top edge of the door and overlaps the top back panel.
Keeping fresh air circulating inside a chicken coop is important. Provide airflow by adding holes to the side panels. You’ll fill these holes with plastic drain grates.
- Use a pencil to trace the perimeter of a 4-inch plastic drain grate toward the top of a side panel.
- Using a jigsaw, cut 1/2 inch inside the circle you drew.
- Once one side is cut, use it to align the hole on the opposite panel and repeat cutting instructions.
- Clamp the panels to the side of the frame. Secure side panels using 1 5/8-inch screws. Make sure that the top edge of the panel does not extend above the slope of the roof support.
Painting the coop and the lattice trim is one of the last steps in building a chicken coop. Let everything dry completely before going to the next step.
- Choose an exterior paint. Make sure to apply a minimum of two coats. Cover the entire surface, even the parts where you will be applying trim. This will help prevent water from getting behind the trim and rotting the board.
- Cut 1/4-inch x 1 5/8-inch lattice to fit the perimeter of the coop. Miter the edges so they all fit seamlessly together.
- Paint the trim in a contrasting color with two coats of exterior paint. Use exterior finishing nails to attach the trim to the coop.
- Use construction adhesive to glue the drain grates over the side panel airflow holes.
Chickens need a way to get in and out of the coop. In this DIY chicken coop, the door and the ramp are the same. The coop door will drop down for a ramp and close up to lock the chickens in for the night.
- Screw furring strips on the back of the floor/ramp wood panel to make cleats or steps for the chickens to walk on. Space them 3 to 4 inches apart.
- Attach the front door/ramp panel to the trim using two 2-inch utility hinges and one 2-inch window bolt.
- Using the enclosed screws, secure the hinges into the bottom center front panel 1 1/2-inch from either side.
- Place the window bolt at the center and top of the door/ramp. Make sure it’s vertically aligned.
Make your chickens comfortable by adding an inch or so bedding to the floor of the coop. Good choices are dry straw, hay or shredded leaves or paper. Install water and feeding devices about 7 inches above the coop floor.
Installing the roof is the final part of learning how to build a chicken coop.
- Measure and mark a 1 1/2-inch border along the long, thin edge of the bevel. The slats should hang over the edge on each side.
- Using roofing nails, secure the first slat to the rafter. Start at the bottom or lower end of the coop.
- Overlap the second slat over the first. Repeat for each slat until you reach the top.
Tip: Cedar slats are naturally weather resistant. If you use another type of siding, make sure to paint or stain it with an exterior-rated product.
Chickens are easily stressed and need time to get accustomed to new surroundings. Remain calm and be as quiet as possible. Remove each bird from its travel crate of box gently. With its head towards you, place one hand under and the other over the bird, holding its wings. Carefully place each chicken into the coop. Lock them in for about 12 to 15 hours or overnight. Release them in the morning.
Tip: Consider building a chicken run for your new coop. A chicken run is an enclosed area where birds can roam free and safe. You can make one with chicken wire and a few posts.
Congratulations on learning how to build a chicken coop. Building a chicken coop from scratch takes planning and preparation. It’s a very involved project, so it’s best to spread it out over a few days or weekends. Remember to add decorative lattice trim to give your new coop style. Once the paint and adhesives are thoroughly dry, you can introduce your chickens. If you want to start raising your chickens sooner than later, look into pre-built chicken coops. The Home Depot delivers online orders when and where you need them.