Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Operation: Coop That Chicken!

It's here! We are finished!!! About a month ago I started on this journey with Ana White to design and build a chicken coop. Now, this coop is not actually for me. It is for my sister... that's right, I am such an awesome sibling that I built this for her (I think we worked out a 50/50 egg deal but we'll see if that ends up happening!). I didn't exactly do it alone though. We had the help of both our husbands, a friend, and our daddy. We built this over the course of 4 days and about 30 hours!!! Ana White makes it fairly simple with her step by step plans. So even an intermediate builder and a few helpers can DIY this shed style chicken coop!

Day 1: Boy was it cold. 40 degrees and cloudy and damp, left us wondering how on Earth Ana does it up there in Alaska! But we pushed on and got past the cold fingers and built the entire frame and hung the siding. This was the day that we had the most helpers and it was so fun doing this with family.
After spending an hour and a half in my favorite home imporevment store and getting all of the supplies we were ready to begin!

The first step was to level the ground and build the foundation. In Ana's plans she shows you how to frame the floor. But as you can see we framed the floor with pallets! We used a 2x4 on each side to keep it square while the plywood was laid for the floor. After that was attached we removed those 2x4's making the floor frame a perfect 4' x 8'.

Next you have to build your walls. Follow the directions for the front and back walls exactly. For the side walls you will cut based on your window needs. Ana's plans gives you a design using no windows, but rather operational shutters! Chicken wire inside the opening protects the chicks. We chose to use windows (details on this further down) and made our opening slightly larger than the windows. Once the walls are all built you may now attach them to the floor, carefully keep everything square, and attach the walls to each other as well.

The roof supports was the first tricky part for me. It took me a few minutes and an "ah ha moment" to figure this one out! Cut your boards 49 7/8" long, with both ends 15 degrees off square. Then (the tricky part) measure down 2 5/8" on one end and mark a perpendicular line. Trust me, I was confused! But two minutes later I had it and even took a picture to help you guys with it too! Hope it helps. I cut the first board and then used it as my template for the remaining boards. Then I drilled pocket holes in them and screwed them on! So easy (after an "ah ha moment" of course)!

And a bit of a blooper photo. If you didn't bring enough ladders, make your own! That's my brother-in-law on the roof, myself, and my poor father holding me up.

Time for siding! We chose the most inexpensive T1-11 we could find at Lowes. While I love to save a few bucks, you might want to not get the very cheapest. If you do it will need to be painted on the inside to help protect the walls (something that is being worked on now). Plus, this stuff was messy to cut so make sure you have your eye protection and face mask! You will need to cut a hole for your chickens, windows, nesting box, and your "people door". All of these cuts will be based on where you have decided to locate these openings and their sizes (so measure more than twice and cut once!). We worked from the tall side first and made our cuts as we went. It worked out pretty well. You will need to trim off any excess material (like the edge/lip) so that later on your trim fit snug all the way around.

That is where I ended day 1. The next day my brother-in-law installed the plywood onto the roof. Make sure to account for your trim. He made the sides and back have a 1"overhang and did 6" on the front. These measurement can all be done to suit your taste and needs. My sister and brother-in-law also did the painting and staining on my days off. **Paint color used is Valspar Spa Pool and the stain used is Olympic Eiffel Tower** And yes, paint choice was one of the hardest parts!

Day 2: The slow and steady day! We had a friend come to do the roof (if you have never roofed, check YouTube for some great videos). We chose to use a rubber roof because supposedly they add a layer of insulation. You can of course use whatever roofing materials you can find and are comfortable with installing. We also worked on the trim and nesting box. Things actually went much slower on this day and it seemed like we didn't get too much done. Work one piece at a time in order to get precise cuts. The angles cuts will continue to be 15 degrees off square, just like the roof. We also built the frame for the nesting box, using lots of pocket holes. This box is strong! My camera stayed in the van this whole day :( and I was only able to get this photo on our way out the driveway.

Day 3 aka "let's get this done" day: Well, we didn't get it 100% finished on day 3 but we were close! It was just my sister and I (with a few little helpers and her hubby at the tail end) and we kicked butt! We finished up a few pieces of trim, cut and hung the shutters, constructed the door, had a few photo blooper moments, installed one window, and finished the nesting box.

To make the door you'll need to cut two 1x4's about 1/4" shorter than the height of the door opening and three 1x3's that are the width of the opening minus the width of both 1x4's, minus 1/4". Something important to keep in mind, if your door opening has gotten out of square make sure you cut you boards based on that. We were not perfect and one side was 1/4" shorter. This was not a big deal though, because I knew this and accounted for it. You can also keep your sander handy to help with any tight spots that may happen.

For the door backing you can either use scrap roof plywood, 1x6 boards, or even the siding that had been cut for the opening!  We chose the scrap siding method. To do this we laid the door frame on top of the siding, marked a line to cut the excess, and after cutting we used glue on the seam and screws all the way around. It really turned out beautifully if you ask me. :) You can then install your hinges. To hang you will need a few extra pair of hands. At 9:00PM we hung the door in the dark with only the light of a tiny lantern. And it opened and closed perfect on the first try! That's all thanks to a lot of measuring!

For the windows we used  two shabby old wood windows using a simple lock to close and chain/gravity to open. **Note: We may need to add more ventilation holes. To do this we will use a hole saw to make several evenly spaced holes and then cover them from the inside with hardware cloth.**

To attach the lid to the nesting box use good sized hinges that will be able to stand up to all that egg collection. Then add a closure of some sort.  We used plywood roof scraps for our lid.

Day 4: We finished and hung the second window. Then it was time to focus on the chicken door. We used the scrap from when we cut the opening and 1x12 scrap left from the nesting box cut to fit just smaller than the opening. We connected the two pieces together in order to have a nice strong door. Then I hung hinges and came up with a nice method of opening (simple chain and snap) but still need to think of a better closure before the chicks come.

We also added the rest of the door hardware.

After that all the hard stuff was over! It was time to touch up paint and stain and make her cute! And then time to take 20+ finished photos! We will focus on the run next, add things like roosts to the inside, and then it's time for the girls to come home! Wonder how long my sister will be forking over 50% of her eggs? I hope you all will decide to use these plans to build your own backyard chicken coop! I can't wait to see!


  1. Whitney, thank you for letting me work with you on this project!!! The coop turned out amazing because of your special touches!

  2. Very cute! The color is fantastic!

    Since I have chickens and also live in central Ohio, may I make a few suggestions?

    1. You may want to insulate it. If your sister has a hardy breed of chicken she should be OK with no supplemental heat if you insulate.

    2. You may want to consider putting hardware cloth inside the windows so you can leave them open in the summer. Otherwise it will get very, very hot when you close them in on July and August nights. With no hardware cloth and the windows open, the raccoons and coyotes will kill them easily.

    3. You may want to consider a vent high on the front. Chickens need fresh air and you don't want to have to leave a window open in the winter (what they don't need is drafts).

    4. We have a similar nest box arrangement and water gets in when it rains. You may want to consider your options for if that happens. Honestly, it's easier to just have a nest box inside since you have easily-accessed people-sized door.

    5. Heat rises. You may want to make the roosts moveable so they can be changed based on the time of the year.

    Tell your sister good luck!

    1. Thank you Jessica (we have a sister named Jessica!). Yes, the inside is next. We'll be figuring out all those little details soon. I like the idea of making the roosts moveable. And I had wondered about that with the nesting box. I wonder if drip edge at the top or the lid would help? Thanks. More thinking to do!

  3. I love it! Makes me wish I had chickens. You did a wonderful job and I love, love love the paint color!

    1. Thank you! I may be building a dog house soon and may use these colors!

  4. I love it! Looks like you had great fun building it too. your chickens will have the cutest house on the block now!

  5. It looks great! I wish my coop looked that pretty!

    I agree with Jessica about putting wire over the inside of the windows. I keep mine open all the time (even in the winter) unless it is REALLY cold, or it is raining.

    My coop isn't insulated, and I haven't had a problem. I use the deep litter method, which creates quite a bit of heat, and that keeps them plenty warm in the winter. We live in very south Missouri, though, so I don't know how that compares to where you live.

    My roosts are at two different levels, two high, and two low (staggered so they don't poop on each other), so the chickens can choose which one they want to use. They seem to like it.

    Oh, and I think a matching dog house would be perfect! ;)

    You did a great job, it looks awesome Whitney!! :)

    1. No worries Kara... chicken wire will be in as soon as we do the run. Also, glad to hear deep litter helps keep your chicks warm enough. Our Ohio is much colder than your Missouri (part of the reason I kinda wanted to move there!). I will be sure to ask you if she has any questions about "deep litter". Thanks!

  6. Finished product looks AMAZING !! Did a great job !!

  7. Another great creation! Growing up in cold New England weather, I agree with Pam. Acclimate the chickens to their environment in draft-free, dry quarters! I am loving your construction, color and the placement of rocks and planters for charm!

  8. How many chickens does this coop house?

    1. Hi Kristin, There is room for about 8 chickens in this coop.

  9. Wonderful! I hope those chicks laid wondefully all summer long in their lovely new home.

    We have a tiny garden and no room for hens but I'll revisit this when we move and have more space.

  10. I was wondering what the cost of this and your run cost? We are looking at building a chicken coop, thanks this looks great.

    1. Hi Clarissa, if this coop costs around $350 and the run was an additional $150. If you take some time and search out reclaimed materials you should be able to cut down on some cost. But overall for $500 total you get a very large and sturdy coop.


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