Chicken Coop Construction for the Home Builder

We have engaged in chicken coop construction a number of times during our tenure here at New Terra Farm. We have constructed a variety of portable coops, 'chicken tractors', and have also retrofitted existing buildings with chicken coops for our egg laying flock.

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Before we get to specific chicken coop plans we thought we would pass along a few pointers about chicken coop construction.

If you have read our chicken coop ideas page you know that any structure you build for chickens has to fulfill 3 basic needs:

  1. Confinement and control of the chickens

  2. Shelter from the elements

  3. Protection against predators

Beyond the basics, here are some more guidelines to help make your chicken coop construction project successful.

For Further Reading . . .

Gardner's Secret HandbookFree Gardener's Secret Handbook

Work at Home Masters CourseFree Work at Home Masters Course

Bootstrap Market GardeningBootstrap Market Gardening

Raise Meat ChickensPastured Poultry

Raise Pigs on Pasture Raise Pigs on Pasture

Food4Wealth Book and VideosFood4Wealth Book and Videos

Retrofitting a chicken coop in an existing structure

Retrofitting a chicken coop in an existing structure may be the easiest and cheapest solution for a small flock, especially laying hens.

Light framing and chicken wire is all that is usually required to close in a coop in an existing structure. Build a simple door out of 2"x2" lumber, cut a hatch for the chickens to access their yard, and you are good to go!

A couple of points to consider before fitting up a coop in an existing building:

1 - is the floor constructed of something that can be readily cleaned i.e. concrete; and,

2 - what other uses in the building may be affected by the presence of the chickens i.e. chickens create dust, and loose feathers, and of course, chicken poop.

Note that other animals may be affected by the presence of chickens e.g. horses sometimes react poorly to dust in the air.

The space you need will depend on the number of birds you have, and their access to an outdoor yard. I would suggest allowing 4 square feet per bird.

Laying hens will also need nest boxes. Rule of thumb says 1 nest box for each 4-5 hens. While I have read sources that suggest the nest boxes can be about 1-foot square (30 cm x 30 cm), we find our hens like a little more room. Our nest boxes are about 14" x 14" (36 cm x 36 cm).

Your laying birds will also want to roost at night. Allow about 6 inches of roost pole space per birds. Be aware that a dozen or so birds on a roost exert a significant weight, so make sure the roost pole is securely attached.

Finally, (and you may see this point repeated) build everything with screws not nails! You will almost, pretty near certain, just about guaranteed, want to change your chicken coop construction sooner or later.

I base this point on sad experience, I have redesigned the interior of one of my barns about 4 times in 10 years; only the first time did I use nails!

Building a stand-alone permanent coop

Building a stand-alone permanent coop has the same points of consideration as the retrofitted coop with respect to size requirements, and 'furniture' for the chickens i.e. nest boxes and roosts.

Some additional points to consider if you are building a permanent chicken coop structure:

1. You will need a way to secure and level the structure to the ground. You don't need a full foundation, but at least the structure should be built on deck blocks that can be leveled by excavating or adding ground (or preferably gravel) beneath them.

2. Local zoning restrictions. Depending on the size of your chicken coop construction, you may need a building permit, or be subject to other building restrictions. Check with your local building inspector before your start banging boards together.

A final point: building even a small permanent structure can be VERY expensive, easily costing several hundred or even thousands of dollars; do your cost-benefit to decide if the eggs are worth it.

Got a question or comment about raising chickens for meat? Visit our Raising Meat Chickens Forum

See also:

What the heck is a Chicken Tractor?

The Movable Coop from New Terra Farm

The How to Raise Meat Chickens handbook

Free Chicken Coop Plans

More FREE STUFF from New Terra Farm

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