Building Chicken Coops For Dummies
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Chicken owners are a particularly self-reliant bunch. Chicken-keeping is meant to make you just a little more self-sufficient; why spend gobs of cash to do it? Maybe that helps explain why so many chicken folks build their own coops. To get started, you should familiarize yourself with chicken coop styles, the tools and building materials you need, and the carpentry skills to master.

Choosing from basic chicken coop styles

The style of chicken coop you build depends on many factors, including the size of your flock and the space limitations of your property. Chicken coops come in many shapes and sizes, but most fall under one of these popular categories:

  • A-frame: Generally among the smallest coops, the A-frame uses a minimum of materials and a space-saving design to house a flock of just a few birds. A compact shelter is attached to a protected run in a long, triangular structure. (A “hoop” coop follows the same basic plan but with an arched shape instead.)

  • Tractor: A tractor coop is unique in that it’s meant to be moved from one location to another. Most often built with wheels or on skids, a tractor is pulled to areas where the chickens work the soil in the attached, open-floor run.

  • All-in-one: An all-in-one coop features a small shelter for a modest-sized flock and an incorporated run under a single roof, with one or both large enough for human entry, yet it’s small enough to be relocated easily.

  • Walk-in: Often a repurposed toolshed or playhouse, a walk-in coop is large enough to accommodate humans inside the shelter. The walk-in’s size allows for bigger flocks and often provides storage for chicken feed and equipment. Many are built with an adjacent run.

Tools you need to build a chicken coop

The tools you need to construct a chicken coop depend on the kind of coop you choose to build and the materials you decide to utilize, but you’ll almost certainly need these building basics:

  • Personal safety gear: Don’t forget work gloves, protective goggles, and hearing protection. They’re the most important items in your toolkit.

  • Tape measure: Use a tape measure that’s at least 10 feet long and shows an incremental measurement at least every eighth of an inch.

  • Circular saw: This portable power tool is essential to coop construction. You may choose to also use a miter saw, a table saw, a jigsaw, and a handsaw for various steps, but a circular saw is almost a must-have.

  • Hammer: Select a hammer that you can swing comfortably. Even if you plan on predominantly using screws, you’ll need a hammer for knocking boards into position. For large jobs, consider a pneumatic nailer.

  • Drill: You’ll use a drill most often as a screw gun. If your drill is cordless, have a spare battery charged and ready to go to keep the job moving.

  • Level: You’ll likely find it handy to have more than one level: a pocket-sized torpedo level; a medium, 2-foot model; and a long, 4-foot carpenter’s level.

  • Speed square: You’ll find a speed square indispensable for marking straight lines, laying out and checking angles, and using as a cutting straightedge.

  • Tin snips: Just about every chicken coop on the planet uses some sort of wire mesh somewhere in its design. Tin snips are the best way to cut it.

Typical building materials for chicken coops

Building materials can vary widely when it comes to chicken coops because many people simply reuse materials they already have on-hand. But if you’re making out a shopping list for your chicken coop, these items will probably be on it:

  • Framing lumber: The skeleton of the coop is most often made up of 2x4s or 2x3s. For a large walk-in coop’s structural floor joists and/or roof rafters, you may need to upgrade to 2x6s or 2x8s. Skids or support posts may call for heavy 4x4s.

  • Plywood: For creating floors, cladding walls, and sheathing roofs, sheet lumber like plywood is typically used. Depending on the application, oriented strand board (OSB) or T1-11 paneling may be a good alternative. Different thicknesses are available.

  • Nails/screws: In all likelihood, you’ll need both nails and screws for various steps of your coop build; you’ll find times and applications where a nail simply won’t do a screw’s job, and vice versa. Choose fasteners that suit your building application and your coop’s weather conditions. Shingled roofs require special roofing nails.

  • Roofing shingles: Protect your finished coop with a layer of asphalt roofing shingles, just like the ones on a typical home. Alternatively, corrugated roofing panels of metal or fiberglass can be used.

  • Wire mesh: Most coops feature runs wrapped in heavy-gauge wire mesh. It can also be used to cover windows, vents, or other gaps in the shelter and make them predator-proof.

  • Fencing staples: Use special U-shaped nails to fasten wire mesh in place.

Carpentry skills to master before you build your chicken coop

To put the pieces together on any chicken coop you choose to build, you need to feel comfortable performing the following basic actions before you start:

  • Measuring and marking materials: Be sure that you know how to read your tape measure accurately. You’ll also want to pay attention to how you mark a piece of lumber for cutting because an inaccurate or sloppy mark can make a big difference as you put pieces together.

  • Cutting lumber: Follow the necessary steps for cutting board or sheet lumber with your particular saw. Nothing is more important than making a cut safely, but making an accurate cut is a close second. Most coops require not only straight 90-degree cuts but also long rip cuts and more complex angled cuts.

  • Hammering: Pounding nails should be easy with the right hammer and the proper technique. Also, know how to toe-nail two boards together at tricky angles and how to remove nails with the claw end of a hammer.

  • Driving screws: Using a drill to drive (or remove) screws is a pretty intuitive skill for most (even novice) builders, but take some time to get to know your drill’s features and torque settings and how to use them to achieve the best results.

  • Leveling: Understand how to read a level to check your work as you build, ensuring that everything is level, plumb, and square.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

Todd Brock is a television writer and producer whose work includes PBS's Growing a Greener World, DIY Network's Fresh From the Garden, and HGTV's Ground Breakers. He is the coauthor of Building Chicken Coops For Dummies.

Todd Brock is a television writer and producer whose work includes PBS's Growing a Greener World, DIY Network's Fresh From the Garden, and HGTV's Ground Breakers. He is the coauthor of Building Chicken Coops For Dummies.

Kimberley Willis has raised numerous breeds of chickens and other poultry for eggs, meat, and showing for more than 40 years.

Robert T. Ludlow owns and manages, the largest and fastest-growing community of chicken enthusiasts in the world.

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