One of the most rewarding ways of creating perfect housing for a small flock of backyard chickens is to build a coop from scratch. Anyone with even modest carpentry experience will find coop construction a pleasant and rewarding challenge.
Coops can be purchased readymade or are easily assembled from kits.
DESIGNING OR CHOOSING COOP PLANS
People skilled at planning a project can create their own coop plans, but for most folks working from existing plans makes the project simpler. Dozens of free plans are posted on websites, and many poultry books include chapters on coop building. They usually have plans for a few coop styles.
When designing a coop or choosing an existing plan make sure the finished coop will be large enough to comfortably house the number of hens planned for the backyard. It should have at least four-square feet of floor space per bird, screening to exclude insects and heavy wiring to repel predators, and easy access to fill feeders and waterers, and retrieve eggs. It should also be easy to clean and look good in the yard.
Because a family may eventually tire of keeping chickens and want to re-purpose the coop, think ahead. A well-designed coop could be used in the future for storing items like a lawn mower, yard tools, or firewood.
Be sure to choose plans that are within the ability of a family to make. Advanced or complex coops are ideal for people with strong carpentry skill and equipment but may be overwhelming for novices. Complex coops may also need special tools that most homeowners don’t have.
This blog is part of a series describing the construction of a small backyard coop by guest blogger Rich Patterson and Bryan Davis of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The finished coop will be given to the Indian Creek Nature Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, which will donate it to someone attending a backyard chicken workshop. The coop plans came from Kevin McElroy and Matthew Wolpe’s book REINVENTING THE CHICKEN COOP.
Bryan and Rich modified the coop plans somewhat to ease construction and because Iowa winters sometimes bring 20 below zero weather. Almost anyone building a coop may want to alter the plans to suit their needs, so plans can be a general guide for construction.
BUILDING THE COOP
Few families can devote large blocks of time to coop construction and tend to devote a couple of hours whenever they can. Construction often takes place over a few months so it’s best to build the coop in a space where it can be left, rather than moving it in and out every time construction happens. If being built inside, be sure the door to the space where the construction happens is large enough to get the coop out!
Bryan and Rich wanted to build an attractive and sturdy coop while also keeping expenses down. Some of the coop’s materials were scrounged from businesses and construction sites that no longer needed or wanted the materials.
Most plans come with a materials’ list that includes all the hardware, lumber, and other items needed to complete the project. There are two ways to round it all up. One is to visit a big box home supply store. They have nearly everything needed but it will be scattered about the store and may take some time to find. The other way is to order the materials from a local lumber yard. Bryan and Rich chose the latter and brought the materials list to the local lumber yard. Although the materials were slightly more expensive than in a big box store the lumber yard employees gathered it all up, put it on a truck, and delivered it to Rich’s home free.
Be sure lumber is of excellent quality. Inexpensive lumber sometimes is not cured well and twists, making it hard for pieces to fit together well.
The tools Bryan and Rich used to construct the coop in the photos include:
- Carpenter’s hammer and deadblow hammer
- Electric drill and various diameter bits and screw driving bits
- Table saw and circular saw. Table saws are more precise than hand held circular saws but most simple coops can be constructed using just a circular saw.
- Hand Saw
- Carpenter’s level
- Pencil and chalk line
- Hearing protection muffs and safety glasses
Anyone visiting a tool store is met with a myriad of tools. Thousands of types are on the market at many price points. Quality tools are delightful to use. They are durable, accurate, and highly effective. Tools are in the midst of a revolution as battery powered cordless drills and saws are replacing corded counterparts.
Always use tools safely. Read the owner’s manual and practice safety. Wear hearing and eye protection when using power tools. Working on a project with children is an outstanding way to help them learn the basics of construction, but make sure kids are well grounded in safety. Encourage children to help by using hand powered tools during coop construction but wait until they are older and strong enough to operate power tools. Excellent instructional videos that help people learn how to safely use tools can be accessed on YouTube.
It will probably take a few months to decide on a coop plan, purchase materials and tools, and build it. It’s wise to begin the building project several months before chick arrival day!