Our chicken coop had to be attractive since we look directly at it out the back door. Neighbors can also see it over the block wall if they tried. In designing our coop, I tried to make it blend in with all the other arbors, fences, and other decorative elements I had created in the yard and garden over the years.
Most things around our home have to either do double duty or be small scale, especially in the garden. Due to my love of gardening, I incorporated the design of the run into a gardening potting table. I converted an old garage workbench into the covered run/ potting table.
The coop has approximately a 4′ x 4′ footprint and 6′ center roof peak. It is made primarily of recycled and reclaimed materials. All of the framing wood came from either our other projects’ scraps, my neighbors discarded pile from a remodel, or a demolished a redwood pergola. A large number of other construction materials were purchased at Habitat For Humanity’s “ReStore.” More details, a cut list, diagrams, etc. were published along with 16 other coops, summer 2011, in the chicken coop construction book Backyard Chickens’ Guide to Coops and Tractors: Planning, Building, and Real-Life Advice
I designed a storage compartment under the nest box area that is accessible from the outside. I determined the size of the storage compartment based on the containers I needed to put in it.
Cow shaped handles on the doors were brought out of storage to bring a bit of whimsy to the outside of the coop; the handles were originally a decorative element in my kids’ farm themed nursery when they were little.
Below the roost level, the nesting area was sealed off with a big piece of cardboard until the pullets were around 17 weeks. The nest boxes are kitty litter boxes filled with bedding.
The pop door to the run is a light weight plexi-glass panel, primed and painted to match the coop. I installed a homemade automatic opener made from an “Add a Motor” drapery motor and digital timer that opens early each morning and closes after dusk each night.
The roof is enclosed using ½ inch hardware cloth and covered with aluminum screening in the eaves and over also all the window openings. I fastened it in place with screws and washers. The coop has 3 windows and large openings under the eaves. Ventilation was an important consideration in the design, but not really insulation since we live on the coast. Our summer temps rarely go over the mid to upper 80′s in the summer, and the winter temps don’t often fall much below the low 40′s. I located the coop next to an outlet to accommodate a automatic pop door opener and also a heat lamp if necessary. It gets afternoon shade from a large Chinese Elm tree in the center of the yard.
There is 2 x 4 for a lip on the floor in front of the door and the pop door is raised off the floor. This is to prevent the bedding from spilling out whenever the door opened.
I built the coop in generally the location it would stay. We only moved it back a couple of feet to the wall once it was complete. It is very heavy and would take 4 people to move any real distance. Building it in the permanent spot seemed like the best option.
My daughter is artistic, and when she was 8 she helped with the project by painting murals in the coop and run before the chickens moved in. Each chicken that she painted was a representation of one of ours at the time, including one science project chick that ended up being a rooster. I’m still unsure why the interior mural has cats, but my son named the painting “chicken nightmares.”
The food and water are kept outside in the enclosed run. The first few years I put sand about 2 to 3 inches deep on top of the cement in the run. It was easy on the chicken feet and fun for them to scratch in. However, when we got Cochins, I switched to shavings to reduce the damage to the hens’ feathers on their feet.
Thoughts on what I would change after using it for more than two years:
1. The exterior yellow paint was left over from when I painted our stucco house 3 years ago. It is a flat paint. If I was purchasing new paint, instead of using leftovers, I would probably have chosen a semi gloss paint for the easier cleaning. The interior is semi gloss and wipes off nicely.
2. I would not have purchased or used OSB (oriented strand board) in the project. I don’t like the chemicals used in the manufacturing of it. It is also very difficult to prime and paint. I was okay with using it in the coop because my neighbors were throwing it out. Using it kept it out of a land fill. I only have OSB in on the roof area.
3. We started out with 6 large fowl chickens in it when I built it in 2009. Eventually we scaled back to 3 and it was a better fit. However, the hens were not happy when confined all day long to just the run and instead had lots of free range time. We currently keep 4 bantam Cochins and they have enough space that they are happy whether or not they get out to free range each day.
4. I made canvas covers for the windows to help cut down on early morning sunlight in the summer and add a little bit of a wind break for cold winter nights.
5. When we started keeping Cochins, we switched from sand to shavings in the run.
Construction Material and Expenses
- door handles
- framing wood
- 3 latches
- wooden grooved curtain rods (roosts)
- supports under roosts – they were feet from a discarded trellis
- vinyl floor adhesive
- roof underlayment
- some trim
- some of the screws and washers
- cans of paint
- acrylic paints
- locking cup hook
- plant hooks
- and the decorative chicken in window.
Materials from Habitat for Humanity for $42
- siding (actually beadboard turned around
- 2 cabinet doors
- A 3rd cabinet door turned into a shutter for the south facing window.
Materials purchased new for $144.54:
- 3 boxes of screws
- 2 latches
- ½” hardware cloth
- aluminum screening
- plexiglass panel for pop door
- vinyl flooring
- additional primer
Coop Automatic Door Opener (appox. $70 total to get up and running)
- Extension cord
- Timer with multiple on off settings per day
- Add a motor Curtain Motor (I bought it broken on ebay and fixed it myself!)