Suburban Backyard Chicken Coop

A while back, we announced out new additions here at the NtJS ranch - 4 large breed hens. (In our township, 4 is the limit to qualify as "pets" - 5 or more constitutes livestock) Well, for some time now, the Mrs has been after me to write a post about how we designed and built our chicken coop. At first, I resisted, but we've gotten so many compliments from friends and interest in it that I had to give in.

Now, I can't claim to of really known what I was doing, and there are certainly some things I would do differently on the next one. But, overall it turned out pretty hot - for a chicken coop.

First, we started with - you guessed it - research. God bless the internet. The Mrs. came up with several coop designs that she liked for one reason or another. Here are the ones that were the most influential to our final design.

Next, I had to put pen to paper, and start sorting out the dimensions. Chickens In Your Backyard has been our main reference manual for all things chicken including coop dimensions. First, I laid out the floor plan. Each chicken needs 2 square feet floor space. I gave them that, plus a little extra. 4 chickens can share one nesting box, so that was simple enough. Then came the roost. Each hen needs nine inches of roost, I doubled that just to give them some room to move around.

For us, this is what made the most sense - sort of a chicken split-level. It took a bit of planning, discussing, and revising to get to where we ended up.
The roost is two feet off the coop floor with the nesting box below (see dashed line). Food and water are hanging containers.

Finally, with dimensioned drawings in hand, I could start rounding up materials. Some we had left over from other projects. We were also fortunate enough to score some building materials at a couple garage sales. The Mrs had her heart set on having large picture windows for the chicks. The Habitat ReStore provided a couple old storm windows that were darn near perfect in size. But the pre-owned goodness didn't end there. The Mrs spied another nice little addition - a doggie-door. We'll show you that one later.

At this point I was out of excuses - I had to start construction. From here I'll let the pictures do most of the talking.

I knew I needed the base to be very solid and integral to the overall structure. Also, It needed to be mobile, so the cedar 4x4s worked our perfect for skids - strong, beefy, and naturally rot resistant. The main supports are treated pine 4x4s.

Sides up, the floor ties the two halves together. Who says sustainable flooring was just for humans? Our Marmoleum samples and scraps (from the bathroom remodel) make for quite the attractive floor.

Before too much else gets in the way, the roost and nesting box goes in. The Mrs wanted a tray that could be pulled out for cleaning.

Fresh from a garage sale - you sir, are about to become chicken coop. This outdoor sign was already weather-proofed. Perfect material for walls as it is likely that we'll wash it out once a year.

Walls, vents, doors. Trimmed in treated 1x4 pine. The roof, well, I kinda winged it. So far, so good. The chicken door and access ramp we the last details. The sticks were a nice touch that I like to think the chickens totally appreciate.

Moving the coop into place was a bit of an afterthought. The coup weighs a ton, but the farm boy in me had a plan. All else fails, hook it to the tractor!

Windows in-place last. Done? Not so fast.... Vinyl siding a la Menards bargain bin.

A few added amenities (food, water, and bedding) and we're in service. Yes, I mounted the sign-board upside-down on purpose - gotta keep them chickens dumb.

So coming out the other side of this project, here's a few key lessons.

Things I'd do differently:
  • It's a tad overbuilt. Lack of detailed planning and carpentry skills really. Only issue is that it made it pretty darn heavy.
  • Wheels. There just wasn't time, but it seemed like it wouldn't be too far fetched to devise a way to put this guy on wheels to move into place or between locations. Would be neat to build one on an old wagon gear.
  • I had hoped to incorporate an integrated feeder. Again, no time to solve.
  • It may be a bit picky, but the front vents should have been aligned with the front window. Hindsight, ya know.

Things were super-pleased with:
  • The storm windows provide lots of light and visibility. Also, they came with screens so we can keep them open and vent via the breeze.
  • The chickens took to the roost almost immediately, and 90% of the poo ends up in the pull-out tray. That tray then goes straight to the compost.
  • The siding had shocked everyone. But it really finishes it off, and was so easy.
  • The doggie-door access to the nesting box saved a ton of construction time and effort and works without fail.
  • And one more thing....
... the front access door for cleaning out the coop and refilling the food and water.....
is also the entire front wall. Nowhere to hide, nowhere to run.

A few more shots of the finished product.

Overall, it's really not a bad project. With a few power tools (drill, miter saw, circular saw) and a few specialized tools (square, spirit level, tin snips), you can pull this off. With all the scrap materials, the total cost came out to $110. A lot of which was pine lumber and hardware.

Clearly I'm no expert, but what questions do you have?

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LobotoME said...

that's great!!!

stefanie said...

that turned out soooooooo cute, and the chickens look happy

Jennifer Juniper said...

Those chickens are living in style, I think this is nicer than my first apartment :)

Ashley @ AshleysBusy said...

Awesome. I've been wanting some chicks but I don't think we're allowed to have them in our neighborhood. :(

Mr. (not) the Jet Set said...

Thanks for all the compliments!

@Ashley - We had no idea about any of this when we moved into our neighborhood. Tho with no HOA, we weren't too worried.

@Jennifer - in some college towns, this may pass a loft or studio apartment.

~Sara said...

Wow, great job. I have bookmarked your site. I am going to be getting chicks in the Spring and my husband is going to be working on building me a coop this Fall. I will be looking back at your site for sure.

You did a wonderful job!

Rina the Mama Bear said...

Fantastic idea, thank you for this!

Rachel R. said...

I love it! I've been wanting to get a handful of chickens, but I wasn't sure what to do about about a coop. Needs to be big enough, but not too big so it overwhelms the yard. Thanks for doing my thinking for me! lol

bugbear said...

I love your coop! However the thought did cross my mind that if there is a large wind load on the long side of it it could topple because of its height.

Mr. (not) the Jet Set said...

Thanks all for the feedback!

@bugbear - I was nervous about this to, and originally planned to put it where the prevailing winds would hit the short side, but in the end, we did the opposite!

We've had some very strong winds that did make me nervous this fall, but I think that is where my overbuilding has played to my advantage - it's too heavy to tip!

Joe weber said...

Wow, did you really did this on your own. I am amazed. Even the coop has enough space for the chickens to have some walking, thus having some sort of exercise. The chickens are no doubt enjoying their coop and laying fresh eggs at regular intervals.

Joe weber said...

Wow, Very nice coops, i am amazed. Did you built all those coops on your own. The coops have enough space for the chickens to walk around and have some sort of exercise. No doubt that the chickens are laying fresh eggs at regular intervals.

Mr. (not) the Jet Set said...


Thanks for the kind words. Yep, all built by us. Mostly by me, but I did have a couple helping hands from time to time.

I tend not to ask for help in general, so I naturally plan my projects out to be done by one person. This one looks big, but it's really not that tough.

Emily@remodelingthislife said...

thanks for the link to this and the other resource links! i showed it to hubby and it's good inspiration for what he's planning to build for ours.

Mrs. (not) the Jet Set said...

Your welcome! I'm glad I could help.

Leserlee said...

Could you give me some more info on how you did the vents on the front. We want to do something similar for our coop, but are unsure how to do the vents with the vinyl siding we are planning to use. Thanks!

Mr. (not) the Jet Set said...

Leserlee -

sorry for the delayed response. The vents on the front were just off-the-shelf register vents from the Re-Store. Cut a hole in the wood panels and attach with screws. As for the siding, once they are attached, just run J-channel around them and apply the siding.

On the back it was made from scratch. I cut a long slot in the beam running across the top, and then backed it up with hardware cloth (mesh).

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