How To Build a Chicken Coop: Your Complete Guide

red and white chicken coop

Building a chicken coop is about as straightforward and complicated as any other carpentry project, with the added concern that this structure is intended to house living things. As such, the stakes are higher to get things right. The perfect chicken coop should be spacious and well-outfitted, keeping your hens happy and preventing infighting. It should also be protected from predators, like hawks, weasels, and snakes, and well-ventilated, dry, and easy to clean, which will help prevent disease and parasites. Fortunately, all these things are easy to meet if you follow the right steps and work thoughtfully on your coop.

What are the Key Components of a Chicken Coop?

A well-designed chicken coop includes several essential components to ensure the health and safety of your hens. Here are the critical elements:

  1. Shelter: The main coop provides shelter from weather and predators, ensuring your hens have a safe place to rest and lay eggs. A sturdy roof and solid walls protect the birds from rain, wind, and extreme temperatures, making them comfortable year-round.
  2. Ventilation: Proper ventilation helps prevent respiratory issues and keeps the coop dry, reducing disease risk. Adequate air flow also helps dissipate ammonia fumes from droppings, which can harm your chickens’ health if allowed to accumulate.
  3. Nesting Boxes: These provide a comfortable and secure place for hens to lay their eggs. Each box should be easily accessible and well-padded with clean bedding to encourage hens to use them and keep the eggs clean and safe from damage.
  4. Roosting Bars: Hens prefer to sleep off the ground on perches. Providing roosting bars ensures they have a comfortable and natural resting place, which helps to prevent behavioral issues and allows hens to feel secure at night.
  5. Predator Protection: Using materials like hardware cloth to cover openings helps protect hens from predators like weasels, snakes, and hawks. Ensuring that doors and windows are securely latched and that the coop is built to prevent burrowing predators from gaining access is also essential.
  6. Easy Access for Cleaning: A well-designed coop includes features that make cleaning easy, such as removable trays or doors that allow quick waste removal. Regular cleaning is crucial to maintaining a healthy environment, reducing the risk of parasites, and keeping your hens happy and productive.

10 Simplified Steps to Building a Chicken Coop

Follow these steps to create a safe and functional home for your chickens:

1. Find The Perfect Plan

Finding the perfect chicken coop plan is probably easier and cheaper than you think, as there is an endless variety of online plans. When you are searching for plans, you should consider the needs of your flock, as well as the materials and landscape you have to work with. Another thing to look out for is how well it will withstand the weather in your area.

2. Choose Your Materials

If you’re building your chicken coop, you are probably planning to use wood, but choosing what kind of wood and where to get it are important decisions. Regarding what type of wood you want to avoid, pressure-treated lumber can release arsenic and toxic copper compounds into the environment, harming your chickens. Instead, a tropical hardwood or treated softwood will give you the best durability without the harmful chemicals. What is really great for a chicken coop is second-hand or scrap wood. Leftovers from old carpentry projects, wood pallets, bookshelves, and cabinets can all make great (and cheap!) components for a chicken coop.

3. Determine Your Ideal Location

The ideal location for your coop will be on high ground, so it doesn’t get flooded or swamped, and in a level, sturdy place where it won’t tilt or sink into the earth as the years go by. The other major consideration is shade, which gets a little bit trickier. Chickens do not do well in hot weather, so ideally, your coop would be under a large tree to get at least partial shade. However, building a coop directly under overhanging tree branches can be an invitation to hawks and owls. To combat this, you can build a wooden roof or shelter over part of your run (which will also add more shade), or use shade cloth to help your hens beat the heat.

4. Build The Frame of The Coop

Building a coop frame is, thankfully, not much more complicated than building the frame for the house you made in middle school shop class. It should be a cube, with all straight lines, and right angles. You will have to make sure you have the proportions correct for the number of hens you plan to keep. Standard hens will need four square feet each; bantam breeds can get by with two, although they will need more vertical space. Giant breeds should have at least eight square feet apiece of floor space. Once you add the floor to your coop, cover the bottom of the floor with a layer of hardware cloth to keep predators out.

5. Build The Run Frame

The run frame is, if anything, even easier than the coop frame since it doesn’t even have to be strong enough to support exterior walls, just wire fencing. For the run, you should plan for each bird to have about 10 square feet of space, though again, this varies by breed size.

6. Add Your Interior Features

These are things like perches and nesting boxes. Perches can be as simple as a 2x4 nailed up near the top of the coop, as long as each hen will have about 12 inches of space. Nesting boxes can be a shelf with a small lip on the front to keep the bedding in, a few milk crates, or a pre-purchased product. Whatever you choose, you should plan for one for every three hens and ensure not to put them higher than the roosts. Chickens like to sleep on the highest surface available, and hens sleeping in nesting boxes is a recipe for a big mess.

7. Build The Exterior of The Coop

Two important things to consider when building your coop exterior are weatherproofing and ventilation. In terms of weatherproofing, your coop should stay warm in the winter, (more importantly) cool in the summer, and dry all year round. Watch out for gaps that could let in drafts or predators. As for ventilation, good air circulation is key for preventing the respiratory diseases that can plague even the smallest flocks. Having a few vents up near the ceiling, above the roosting perch, will help keep clean, healthy air flowing without causing a draft to blow right on your hens and give them a chill.

8. Enclose The Run

The immediate product that comes to mind when you think about enclosing a chicken run is probably chicken wire. This is understandable, but chicken wire is actually a pretty poor choice. Chicken wire is an excellent deterrent to keeping chickens inside a run but pretty terrible when it comes to keeping predators out; the gaps in the wire are too wide to stop snakes, weasels, and other predators. Instead, hardware cloth or chicken mesh is the way to go for at least the bottom three feet of the run fencing. If you have already bought the chicken wire, it really does shine in keeping chickens out of your garden or neighbors’ yards.

9. Double-Check The Structure

While you should check the quality of your construction as you go, now is the time to do a final, thorough quality control check before you move your girls in. Look for holes or gaps wider than half an inch, which could let predators into the coop. Give the whole structure a thorough once-over with a hose or buckets of water, looking for any leaks that might let in rain, moisture, or a draft. Triple-check your hardware cloth and fence joints for any looseness or gaps.

10. Add Your Finishing Touches

You might think this means adding cutesy details or making your coop look lovely, and while that certainly is an option, there are also a few finishing touches necessary to keep your hens as safe as possible. You can buy or make a wide variety of predator deterrents to scare off birds of prey and other predators – anything shiny, sparkly, and likely to move around a lot will work. This is also the time to add an automatic coop door opener or exterior lights to the structure.

By following these steps and paying attention to the details, you can build a chicken coop that is safe, functional, and comfortable for your hens. Whether you’re a first-time builder or an experienced carpenter, creating the perfect home for your flock can be a rewarding and enjoyable project. If you have any questions or need further assistance, please contact us at Kalmach Feeds®–we’re always here to help you and your chickens thrive.


Chris Lesley

Chris has been raising backyard chickens for over 20 years. She has a flock of 11 chickens and is currently teaching people all around the world how to care for healthy chickens.