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How to Build

Chicken
Coops Everything you need to know

SamantHa JoHnSon and daniEl JoHnSon

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Title:MBI -- How
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Build Chicken Coops
Chicken Coops
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c
First published in 2015 by Voyageur Press, an To find out more about our books, visit us online at
imprint of Quarto Publishing Group USA Inc., www.voyageurpress.com.
400First Avenue North, Suite 400, Minneapolis,
MN 55401 USA ISBN: 978-0-7603-4733-1
Digital edition: 978-1-62788-611-6
2015 Quarto Publishing Group USA Inc. Softcover edition: 978-0-76034-733-1
Text 2015 Samantha Johnson a
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
All photographs are from the authors collection Johnson, Samantha.
in
unless noted otherwise. How to build chicken coops : everything you need
to know / by Samantha Johnson.
All rights reserved. With the exception of quoting
brief passages for the purposes of review, no part of
pages cm C
ISBN 978-0-7603-4733-1 (sc)
this publication may be reproduced without prior
written permission from the Publisher. 1. Chickens--Housing. I. Title.
SF494.5.J64 2015
The information in this book is true and complete 636.5'0831--dc23 C
to the best of our knowledge. All recommendations 2014039439
are made without any guarantee on the part of the
authors or Publisher, who also disclaims any liability
incurred in connection with the use of this data or Acquisitions Editor: Elizabeth Noll C
specific details. Project Manager: Jordan Wiklund
Art Director: James Kegley
FFA and the FFA emblem are registered Cover Designer: Carol Holtz
trademarks of the National FFA Organization and Designer: Mandy Kimlinger C
are used under license. Use of the FFA mark and Layout Designer: Danielle Smith-Boldt
name does not represent an endorsement by the
FFA of this product or an endorsement by FFA of Printed in China
the manufacturer or provider of this product.
C
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
We recognize, further, that some words, model
names, and designations mentioned herein are the
property of the trademark holder. We use them
C
for identification purposes only. This is not an
officialpublication.
r
Voyageur Press titles are also available at discounts
in bulk quantity for industrial or sales-promotional in
use. For details write to Special Sales Manager
at Quarto Publishing Group USA Inc., 400 First a
Avenue North, Suite 400, Minneapolis, MN
55401USA.

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contents
a
aCknowleDgments anD DeDiCation. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
introDuCtion
Lets Build a Chicken Coop . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7

Chapter 1
Why You Need a Coop . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12

Chapter 2
Coop Considerations Before Building . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26

Chapter 3
Designing Your Coop . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52

Chapter 4
Tools and Necessary Skills . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 84

Chapter 5
Building the Coop . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 102

Chapter 6
Adapting and Converting Coops. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 150

resourCes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 170
inDex . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 172
aBout the authors. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 176

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Acknowledgments I
L
W a
riting a book is always an enormous undertaking, and were endlessly
indebted to the many people who share their time, talent, expertise, and
encouragement with us as we navigate the book from start to finish. We
owe an extra special thanks to the following individuals:
Quarto Publishing Group, Voyageur Press, Keeler, Emily, and Annafor everything. You
our editors Elizabeth Noll and Jordan guys are completely awesome!
Wiklund, and everyone who helped us bring Greg and Marie Rippel, for sharing their time,
this book to completionthank you! expertise, and their beautiful coop and chickens
Lorin, for sharing his construction with us.
knowledge and helping craft the Gina Golliher and family, for sharing your lovely
projectcoop. chickens and coops withus.
Paulette, for photo editing, photo shoot Peaches, because she wants to bementioned.
coordination, and endless help. Gracie, because she wants to be mentioned,too.

Dedication

F
or Marie, who
enthusiastically

S
shared her love
ofchickens withus.

p
in
in
h
q
t
y

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introduction
Lets Build
a Chicken Coop!
Raising chickens is a rewarding
experience and is growing in
popularity throughout the country.
A hen and her chicks can provide
endless hours of enjoyment
for their owners. Nothing is
y more endearing than newly
hatchedchicks.

s
o youve decided that chicken in a rural location. Even urban chicken
keeping is something youd like keeping is a hugely popular endeavor,
to try. Youre in good company as it allows city dwellers to move toward
people have been flocking (pun self-sufficiency in a very rewarding
intended) to raising chickens in ever- way. Add in the benefits of chicken
increasing numbers. After all, the idea of manure as garden fertilizer, the delight
having fresh eggs on a daily basis sounds of watching a chickens daily antics, and
quite inviting, and its exciting to think the satisfaction that comes from keeping
that you can raise your own birds even if livestockeven on a small scaleand its
you dont have acres of farmland or live easy to see why chickens are sopopular!

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Chicken trivia
How many eggs can one hen lay? While the
figure varies among breeds, the average hen can
lay approximately 300 eggs per year.
How many chickens are there in the world?
There are more chickens in the world than
peoplesome sources say over 20 billion
chickens worldwide.
Are chickens carnivores, omnivores,
orherbivores? Chickens are omnivores.
Is egg color related to the color of the
hens earlobes? Generally speaking, yes;
butexceptions do occur. (Did you know chickens have earlobes?)
Why did the chicken cross the road? Sorry, we dont know, but we think she was in a hurry to get
home to read this book!
Why do roosters dance? Because they dont know how to sing. Seriously, they perform a little dance for
their hens called tidbitting.
If a rooster lays an egg on the roof of the chicken coop, which direction will it fall? Down. Ha!
(Yes, we know roosters cant layeggs.)
C
Why do chickens like to roll around in the dirt? Chickens take dust baths to clean themselves; the
dust helps to eliminate external parasites.

Whether your coop is small and


charming or large and elaborate,
the basic needs of your flock must
be met. From choosing the right
wire for the runs to making sure
theres enough ventilation, there
are many decisions to make when
constructing your own coop.

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lets Build a Chicken Coop!
Chickens are a great family project, and building a coop together can be very satisfying.

Chicken lingo
Chick: a baby chicken
Hen: an adult female chicken
Rooster or cock: an adult male chicken
Pullet: a young female chicken that hasnt
started laying eggs
Cockerel: a young male chicken
Bantam: a smaller variety of chicken
Broody: the term for a hen that is interested in
hatching a clutch of eggs
Coop: the structure in which chickens are Nest box: the portion of the coop in which the
housed (but you already knew that, right?) hens lay eggs
Flock: a group of chickens Roost: wooden poles on which chickens canrest
Free-range: the term for the act of allowing Run: a large enclosed area where chickens
chickens to roam and forage at will outside of a canexercise
coop or fenced-in run Egg: what baby chicks hatch from and a great
Perch: another term for roost breakfast food

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But if you want to keep chickens, theyre particular needs, or maybe you have materials
going to need a place to live, and thats why youre and supplies on hand and would like to be able to
holding this book in your hands. Providing your incorporate those into your coop. Or maybe you
chickens with a safe, comfortable habitat is your have an existing structuresuch as a playhouse
first priority as a chicken owner. Ideally, youd like that youd like to convert into a chicken coop.
to outfit your birds with a home that will meet all As with so many farming endeavors, there are
of their needs, as well as prove to be an attractive as many answers as there are questions when it
element to your yard or farm. But maybe youre on comes to raising chickens. People have different
a budget and want to keep your costs down. Maybe experiences and varying ideas about the best ways
you like the idea of customizing your coop to your to raise and house chickens, so well be presenting

safety First!
Always exercise caution when beginning a
construction project. Safety must be your #1
priority when working on your coop. Being aware
of your tasks and surroundings and paying
attention to tool and construction safety are vital.
Learn to use your tools in the safest and most
effective ways, and avoid placing yourself in any
situation that could prove dangerous. Remember,
many of the activities described in this book can
be dangerous. Failure to follow safety procedures
may result in serious injury or death. The authors
cannot assume responsibility for any damage to
property or injury to persons as a result of the use
or misuse of the information provided.

y
m

A good coop is a safe and happy place for your w


chickens. Theyll willingly enter their coop to roost at to
the end of the day, keeping them safe from predators. th

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Collecting fresh eggs for your
family and enjoying their
wholesomeness is a big reason that
people start raising chickens. Some
also start a small egg business if
their chickens begin producing
more than they can use.

lets Build a Chicken Coop!


Even the youngest members of the
family will enjoy getting to know
the chickens and will learn about
their care and feeding.

you with a lot of questions and hopefully as building in an effective and straightforward way.
manyanswers. Whether you have extensive carpentry experience or
There are a lot of possibilities to think over are a newbie with a hammer and nails, well take you
when deciding the size and type of coop youd like step-by-step through the process of creating a coop
to have for your own flock, and thats why we wrote that will be your flocks very own coop sweetcoop.
this book: to help you navigate the waters of coop Lets get started!

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Chapter 1
Why You Need a Coop

i
n this chapter, well discuss a major present a few more thoughts and ideas,
question: Why do you need a chicken suggest some advice, and point out
coop? While its likely that you already some of the most exciting advantages of
have a reason or two in mind, well embarking on this type ofproject.

S
lo

o
w
a
T
n
o
a
e
le
n

s
C
o
th
a
b
a
a
fe
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y
The importance of good housing for your chickens cant be overemphasized. The health and safety of your flock d
should be your prime concern. Most chickens enjoy free ranging outside of their coop for periods of time during p
the day. Youll need to do what you can to keep them safe. a

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f

Shelter is one of the most important aspects of providing a coop for your chickens. Chickens benefit from a shady
location if you happen to live in an area where temperatures soar during the summer.

The primary purpose of a chicken coop is, For cold climates, a coop is essential for your
of course, to protect your chickens from adverse chickens during winter. While some breeds are
weather and predators. Secondarily, a coop provides quite hardy and dont seem to be bothered by
a specific place for your hens to lay their eggs. temperatures that are less than balmy, cold winds
The average prefabricated coop will address these can be very hard on livestock of all kinds, including
needs, but building your own coop also provides the chickens. The same is true in the case of snow;
opportunity to save money, customize your design, most chickens can handle snow in moderation,
and have a lot of fun in the process. But before we but it is very important for them to have a dry
explore the benefits of building your own coop, location where they can get out of the cold and wet
lets jump in and learn more about why chickens conditions. Additionally, chickens are susceptible
needcoops. to frostbite on their wattles and combs, and their
feet may also be at risk if they stand for too long in
Shelter deep snow. A chicken coop provides a cozy place for
Chickens require sturdy, well-ventilated housing in chickens to escape the elements.
order to avoid the discomfort and health concerns In warmer seasons, a coop can provide some
that result from exposure to the elements. While much-welcomed shade for your chickens, but if
a little bit of rain generally wont bother your you live in an area with summers that are routinely
birds, heavy rainsespecially cold rainsare quite hot, youll want to consider modifications to
another thing entirely. Most chickens dont mind your coop design to ensure that your birds dont get
a light drizzle or a passing shower, thanks to the overheated while in the coop. These options could
feathers on most chicken breeds that repel water include increased ventilation, window shades, and
quite effectively. But of course you wouldnt want provisions for the temporary use of electric fans
your feathered friends to be forced to weather a during hot weather. Again, these modifications
downpour or a snowstorm, and a sturdy, dry coop wont be necessary for all chicken owners, but in
provides precisely the protection your birds need to very warm climates they may be an essential step in
avoid unpleasant weather. maintaining happy, healthy birds.

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H
ro

A rigorous climatesuch as those found in the northern parts of the countrymeans that youll need to provide a
coop that enables your birds to escape from the snow and bitterly cold temperatures.

preDators Obviously, your chickens are at the highest risk of


Protection from predators is just as important to your a bird attack if they are allowed to free range, and
chickens as shelter isperhaps more so. While you chickens safely tucked in a coop with an attached
would never let a fox guard your henhouse, will one run will face far fewer dangers from other birds.
be able to sneak in? Your coop and its run (and any
additional fencing) act as your chickens primary CANINE THREATs
protection from sneaky critters who would like Foxes, coyotes, and even domestic dogs can pose
nothing better than to grab a quick chicken snack. Lets a significant threat to your flock. Depending on
take a look at some of these potential predators, and the time of year, foxes and coyotes may be feeding
then some ways to prevent their access to the coop. their pups, and theyre often on the lookout for
additional food sources. On the domestic side, an
PREdAToRy BIRds overexuberant pet dog may spell big trouble for
It might seem surprising, but other birds are your chickens at any time of the year. Even a dog
among the greatest threats to your chickens. Its not that is otherwise trustworthy around the farm may
unheard of for predatory birds such as owls, eagles, become a chicken chaser if the opportunity arises.
and hawks (including the red-tailed or chicken Dogs from neighboring homes or farms can be
hawk) to swoop in and make off with a chicken among the worst threats to your birdsso always
or two. These predatory birds are very strong be vigilant about keeping your chickens in the coop Y
and brilliant huntersdont underestimate them. after dark. o

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Why You Need a Coop
Hawks are a common predator of chickens, and theyll think nothing of stealing your hens. Maintaining a good
roof on your coop and runs will deter most large bird predators.

Your neighbors dog might be your flocks worst enemy. Dogs love to chase anything that moves and even your
own dog might make the mistake of chasing one of your hens. Be sure to train your dog to leave your hens alone.

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CATs or ratsthat could be attracted to the feed around
Wild cats (such as bobcats or mountain lions) can your coop.
certainly be another threat to your flock, but these
animals are not as widespread as other predators. WEAsEls, skuNks, ANd RACCooNs
Chicken attacks from wild cats are not as common Even small animals can be troublesome, so be aware
as attacks from canines, but they do happen. of the hunting abilities of sneaky critters such as
Surprisingly, domestic cats can also be a source weasels, skunks, and raccoons. All three are capable
of trouble; some cats simply enjoy the hunting of squeezing, burrowing, climbing, and digging their
process and will stalk other animals (including way inside your coop. Weasels can squeeze through
chickens) for sport. While it might be uncommon very tiny spaces and are unfortunately quite good
for a domestic cat to kill an adult chicken, cats at chewing the heads off of chickens. Raccoons are
are often more than happy to go after chicks or smart, persistent, and very strong for their size, so they
small bantam breeds. The advantage to having a can be one of the biggest challenges for the chicken
domestic cat around your chicken coop is the cats owner; raccoons are also experts at opening latches
ability to hunt and eliminate rodentssuch as mice and gates to get at what they wantso be on your toes.

Although you might not think about cats bothering your chickens, they certainly can be a problem. (But usually R
they are helpful in rodent control around your coop and yard.) o

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y

s.

Why You Need a Coop

Raccoons are some of the cleverest adversaries youll meet when it comes to keeping chickens. They are capable of
opening latches and squeezing into surprisingly smallspaces.

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RATs, oPossums, ANd mINks an eye out for them. Rats and opossums are only
While it is possible for these smaller predators to prevalent in certain parts of the country, so you may
take down an adult chicken (especially smaller or may not be have to deal with them in your area,
bantams), you may find that rats, opossums, and but rats can be hard to eliminate once they become
minks are actually more interested in trying to steal entrenched in a certain location.
your eggs or chicken feed. Minks are semiaquatic
and require a nearby water source, so if you live preDator prevention
far from a lake, river, or pond, you probably wont So, what are the best ways to deal with a predator
be seeing these pests, but they are considered to be problem? While its virtually impossible for you to
one of the more notorious chicken killers, so keep maintain an environment that is 100-percent safe

protect yourself
While you might think it makes sense to take a
defensive strategy against predators that threaten
your chicken coop, think twice before you shoot,
trap, or relocate those troublesome individuals.
States, cities, and towns have varying laws regarding
the protection of predator birds and animals,
and unless you are familiar with the laws and
ordinances applicable in your community, you could
inadvertently and unknowingly break thelaw.
On the federal level, the Migratory Bird Act C
protects many predatory birds (including hawks),
making it illegal to "pursue, hunt, take, capture,
fo
kill, attempt to take, capture or kill, possess, offer st
for sale, sell, offer to purchase, purchase, deliver p
for shipment, ship, cause to be shipped, deliver for
transportation, transport, cause to be transported,
carry, or cause to be carried by any means whatever,
receive for shipment, transportation or carriage, or
export, at any time, or in any manner, any migratory
bird, included in the terms of this Convention . . .
for the protection of migratory birds . . . or any part,
nest, or egg of any suchbird."
There may be other local restrictions regarding other predators, such as raccoons. Some individual
cities prohibit the use of firearms entirely, while other locations may require the possession of a permit
before shooting an animal. The bottom line is, educate yourself before trying to eradicate predator
birds and animals. You do not want to find yourself facing a large fine (or even jail time!) by killing a
protectedpredator.
The use of a live trap and subsequent release of the animal in a new location can be an option in certain
areas, but againget the facts first.

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Why You Need a Coop


Cooping your chickens at night will ensure their safety, as most predators that hunt are nocturnal.

for your chickens all the time, you can take specific can tear chicken wire and rip it down; smaller
steps to help lower and eliminate the danger of predators (especially rats) can weasel their
predator attack. These include the following: way through small openings. Instead, opt for
stronger wire mesh, such as hardware cloth, with
Put your chickens in at night. Many predators smaller openings.
hunt at night; it only makes sense to protect
your flock by putting the coop to use during Keep latches locked. Some predatorsraccoons
the nocturnal hours. Even if free ranging is in particularare extremely clever about
important to you, allowing your chickens to opening gate latches, or working a gate until it
go unprotected through the night will almost gives way. For these reasons, gate integrity is a
always lead to trouble. prime issue for the chicken owner. In addition
to strong hinges, its important to make sure that
Bury the fence several inches. To prevent the gate fits snugly into the frame and that there
animals from gaining unwanted access to your are no gaps. But perhaps most important of all
coop by digging under the run, bury the wire at is to be sure that the gate latches are locked in a
least several inches underground; this can help critter-proof manner. Snaps and padlockseven
keep out domestic dogs, foxes, coyotes, and even something as simple as a piece of twisted wire!
small animals such as weasels and opossums. can go a long way toward preventing your lovely
chickens from falling into the paws of a greedy
Use strong mesh for fencingnot chicken raccoon. Once you have a gate with a sturdy lock,
wire. Chicken wire is best put to use as a method take steps to establish an evening coop-locking
of controlling and maneuvering the chickens schedule and chicken head countdoing this at
themselvesnot as the prime barrier between a regular time each night will help ensure that
the flock and the predators. Larger predators the coop is not inadvertently left open overnight.

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Burying wire is one of the best ways to deter predators from accessing the interior of your coop or runs, but
another terrific idea is to place your coop over brick pavers at a width of about 18 inches. When the predator tries
to dig, they wont find easy access and will typically give up.

This golden laced Polish resides inside a poorly constructed chicken run. The use of chicken wire rather than L
hardware cloth and the large gaps on the bottom leave this chicken vulnerable to attacks from predators. o

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Get a guard dog. While its true that your and near the coop. The predators dont seem to
chicken coop is your number one defense like the objects and it certainly has the advantage
against predators, a guard dog that is properly of being an inexpensive option.
trained can be a great help in deterring predators
as well. If your dog has been introduced to Cover the top of your run with chicken wire/
the idea that chickens are not playthings but mesh. If predatory birds are an issue in your
rather something in need of protection, it can area, you may want to consider protecting your
be another solution for preventing attacks from chickens from aerial attacks by enclosing the top
ground-based animals such as foxes, coyotes, of their run with some sort of wire mesh.
raccoons, weasels, and skunks. In many cases,
simply the presence of a dog on your property Avoid leaving predator-attracting items lying
will be enough to discourage such predators. Be around. Easily accessible garbage, pet food, and
aware, however, that you do not want your dog even potential critter housing (piles of wood or
to actually tangle with any of these animalsin other materials) should be avoided whenever
addition to the potential injuries your dog could possible, as these items attract wild animals.
incur, wild animals potentially carry diseases, Even small predators can cause headaches for
such as rabies. The intimidating presence of the you and your chickens later on, so try not to
dognot physical contact with the predatorsis inadvertently encourage their presence.
what youre after.
Set traps. Rats, of course, can be trapped with
Discourage predatory birds with shiny objects. rattraps, and some of the other smaller predators
Some people have had good success deterring (raccoons, opossums, etc.) can be trapped live

Why You Need a Coop


eagles and hawks by hanging and arranging and perhaps relocated (see the Protect Yourself
shiny objects (have any old CDs around?) on sidebar on page 18).

Livestock guardian dogs such as this great Pyrenees provide protection and added safety for your chickens and
other livestock.

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aDvantages to BuilDing Your own Coop a prefabricated model or hiring a contractor to
While you could go down to the nearest farm supply handle the construction), your expenses can be
store, pick out a prefabricated chicken coop, and set lower, representing a significant cost savings over
up a home for your chickens in a single afternoon, the course of the project. Can you fit the project in
building your own coop from scratch has distinct on weekends or in the evenings? Can you round up
advantages. Youll have the opportunity to advance a few friends who are handy with tools and have a
your carpentry skills while constructing a coop penchant for poultry? Will you have to buy all of
that will become an attractive component of your the materials, or do you have scrap lumber and wire
current landscape. Additionally, building your own already on hand? If you can utilize and repurpose
chicken coop presents many other advantageshere materials that you already own, you can save money
are some of them: while constructing a quality chicken coop that will
be suitable for your flock.
CosT sAvINgs
Depending on the size, scope, and complexity of CusTomIzATIoN oPTIoNs
the coop that you choose to build, your potential The skys the limit when it comes to possible
costs will vary considerably. By choosing to design options because chicken coop styles are
build the coop yourself (as opposed to buying as wide-ranging as home designs. Spend a few

Designing and building your own coop allows you to add as many extras as you wish. Nice accents to the door,
exterior access to nest boxes, and other details are just a few of the embellishments you can consider.

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Beautification: Your coop
as part of the landscape decor
Whats prettier than a colorful flock of hens against a picturesque backdrop of grass on a beautiful sunny
day? Dont let your chicken coop detract from this overall picture of avian bliss. After all, a chicken coop
e doesnt have to be strictly utilitarianit can also be an important element in the existing landscape of your
yard or farm.
y When planning the layout and design of your coop, consider the overall aesthetics of your home and
current outbuildings, then tailor the design of your chicken coop to accentuate and elevate these elements.
By incorporating your chicken coop as a cohesive piece of your landscape, youll increase the overall appeal
of your surroundings. And by building your own coop, you can pursue these beautification ideas without
being restricted by a certain design, layout, or look.

Why You Need a Coop

This is a lovely setup for raising chickens. Two portable coops placed end to end allow space to raise more
birds, including those of varying ages. This coop adds to the beauty of the yard and is a welcome addition.

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A chicken coop can range from fairly easy to very complex, but it can be a fun and challenging project
totackle.

minutes browsing the Internet (try Pinterest or to suit your specific needs and preferences, as
houzz.com for a great selection of ideas), and well as the size of your flock and your plans for
youll be pleasantly overwhelmed by the vast futureexpansion.
array of options that exist for chicken coop
design. Its easy to incorporate your favorite FuN CHAllENgE
elements and make adjustments to meet your Okay, so you probably wouldnt go out and build
particular needs. yourself a house with nothing but a set of plans
Do you want a chicken coop that gives the and some scrap lumber (or maybe you wouldif
appearance of a small house? Do you prefer a coop so, congratulations on your skills and ability!), but
that sits on top of a run? Do you want a coop that you dont have to let a lack of previous construction
is simple and practical, or one that takes a more experience stop you from building your own
whimsical approach? By constructing your own chicken coop. Think of the project as a fun, small- W
coop, youll be able to customize all of its elements scale building challenge that will help you hone to

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your hands-on skills while offering many benefits as you share memorable moments and prepare an
and very few pitfalls. What better way to learn basic accommodating abode for your chicken residents.
building skills than to practice on your very own Everyone in the family will learn practical skills
chicken coop? After all, even if you make a minor involving tools and measurements, as well as
mistake, the solution is likely a simple fix. And even receive practice in following directions and
if your coop isnt 100-percent perfect in every way, making adjustments. Your family will learn the
your chickens will probably withhold judgment and necessary steps to provide a safe and protected
put the coop to good use anyway. haven for your chickens, and important aspects of
livestock husbandry. By involving the entire family
FAmIly PRojECT in the coop-building project, youll not only build
What better way to embark on a fun family project important lifelong skills, you'll develop a feeling
than to work together and build a coop? Use it as of connectivity and togetherness in your new
an opportunity to learn the basics of construction chicken-keeping endeavor.

Why You Need a Coop

Working together on a family projectsuch as a chicken coopoffers a lot of perks, such as spending time
together, practicing new skills, and learning how to handle tools safely.

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Chapter 2
Coop Considerations
Before Building

B
efore you gather up that scrap Haveyouconsidered the presence
lumber and tie on your tool of sun, shade, and wind? Have you
apron, youll want to consider a considered legalities and ordinances
few things. Just where are you going that might be in effect? Have you
to build this chicken coop? Have you figured some ballpark costs? Have
thoroughly evaluated the available you figured out where youll buy your T
locations and chosen a site that will be chickens? And what breed(s) will
the most effective place for your coop? youchoose?
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Youll need to ask yourself a few questions prior to purchasing a flock of chickens or ordering chicks. Where will o
you build your coop, how much do you want to spend, and do you have the necessary skills to accomplish the m
construction of the coop yourself? o

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Think carefully about the costs, time, tools, and skills you'll need to complete this type of project.

The best time to ask these questions is before The price of lumber: This varies regionally,
you begin to build and before you start sketching seasonally, and by type. Pine is generally
plans or buying lumber. So try to establish a clear cheaper; cedar is more expensive. The type
picture in your mind of exactly what your chicken of lumber you choose will have a direct
coop project is going to entail. In this chapter, well and significant effect on the overall cost of
walk you through each of these steps so that you yourcoop.
can proceed with your project confidently and with
the knowledge that youve carefully considered your Your skill level: Can you do most of the work
options and made smart decisions. Lets get going! yourself? Or will you need to hire someone to
handle certain parts of the project? Do you have
Costs friends or relatives with the skills to help you
Okay, admit it, this is the question that youre construct your coop?
wondering about most of all. Just how much is this
chicken coop going to cost, anyway? Its a legitimate The size of your coop and its design: Will you
question, and one that is wise to consider before you choose a metal roof? Or cedar shingles? Do
begin building an elaborate chicken mansion that you need a coop that is large enough to house
you later discover is far out of your price range. At a dozen hens, or will a four-hen coop suffice?
the very least, you need a ballpark figure on which Is the coop going to be moveable or stationary?
to build. Your choices of material and the finished
Theres only one thing: coming up with that size will have a direct impact on the cost of
ballpark figure isnt necessarily easy. The number yourcoop.
of variables involved with this type of project can
make it difficult to establish a basic cost. What kind Existing materials and supplies: Do you have
of variables, you ask? Here are a few: leftover scrap lumber from a previous project

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Preparing a site for your coop might entail some groundwork if your coop is going to be a permanentstructure. h

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that you can repurpose for your chicken coop? place on your property, this is an attractive option to
Or will you have to invest in new lumber for the consider. At this point were going to be discussing
entire project? the coop as a permanent fixture and not a moveable
coop; well go into that possibility later on. To
Existing tools: Is your garage already equipped prevent yourself from traveling down blind alleys or
with a chop saw and a compressor? How about embarking on wild goose (or chicken!) chases, you
a cordless drill? If you already have access to will want to devote a good deal of time to choosing
these vital tools, youll have fewer immediate the ideal location for your coop.
expenses than someone who must go out and One of the first things to look for is the
purchase tools before starting on the project. condition of the ground. It is not advisable to
Or is it possible for you to borrow some of the build your coop on a moist site, as wet conditions
more expensive tools from a family member promote the development of mold. If your coop is
orneighbor? made of untreated wood, moist ground can lead
to the decay of your coop due to rot. Additionally,
Starting from scratch or repurposing another there are many health issues to consider, and a wet
building: Perhaps you have a childs playhouse or damp site is not ideal for your chickens health.
thats no longer being used, an extra shed on So be sure to choose a dry site that will remain free
your property, or an old vehicle that no longer of standing water or general wetness, even after a
serves its original purpose. Or do you like heavy rain.
the idea of designing and building your own In examining ground conditions, you should

Coop Considerations Before Building


coop? Starting with a preexisting building will also look for a level site without slopes (unless
definitely save some dollars, but it may limit your coop is to feature a professionally built, level
some of your other design options. foundation) because building on a sloped surface
will not only make caring for your chickens
So while one person might be able to build an difficult, but it could introduce the possibility of
entire coop for $600, someone else might build the coop tipping over in the right circumstances.
an identical coop at a cost of $1,000. Get out A slight slope can be corrected by propping up the
your pencil and paper, and maybe a calculator, low side of your coop with a sturdy foundation of
and figure out what it might cost you before you concrete blocks, but if the slope seems too steep, you
beginbuilding. might want to choose a different place.

Choosing a LoCation for Your Coop separation vs. ConvenienCe:


Having made the decision to build your own the great DeBate
chicken coop, one of the first things to consider One of your primary considerations when choosing
and indeed, one of the most important things the location for your coop is whether you prefer
to consideris where it should be built. There the convenience of having the coop located close to
are many factors to consider when choosing the your house or the aesthetic and aromatic benefits
location for your chickens happy home. Making of having the coop located further away. If you
the right decision is very important for the well- live on a small lot, you may not have much choice,
being of your chickens, as well as to save you but if you live on a larger parcel, you will soon
from unnecessary expenditures of time and effort. discover that choosing between separation and
After all, you dont want to go to all the trouble of convenience is a multifaceted decision without a
building the worlds greatest chicken coop only to clear-cutanswer.
realize that a poor choice of location has introduced There are obvious benefits and drawbacks to
several unavoidable problems that will seriously both possibilities. If you shudder at the thought of
hinder your quest to raise poultry. And as you awakening every morning to the sight of a chicken
will soon discover, once a chicken coop is fully coop right outside your door and if the meandering
constructed, transporting it to a different location is arrival of fowl odors every time you open your
not always an easy task! windows is not something you desire, then locating
Of course, you could consider a mobile chicken your coop farther away from your house could
coop, sometimes called a chicken tractor. If you be a relief to you and your family. Then again, if
have the room to move your coop from place to occasional odors dont bother you, and if the sight

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of your coop and your chickens gives you a sense of a few days. Locating your coop close to your house
satisfaction and accomplishment, then positioning will shorten the journey from water source to coop,
your coop closer to your house will allow you to saving you time and effort in the long run.
reap the rewards that a more distantly placed coop Along similar lines, locating your coop close
cannot offer. We should mention, though, that a to a source of electricity will enable you to more
clean and well-maintained coop offers little odor, easily include lights and/or a heated water supply in
and an attractive coop can actually be a pleasant your coop, which are especially helpful if you live
addition to your yard. in a location with cold winter months. Even if you
One of the primary benefits to keeping your wont need electricity, you might still want to build
coop near your home is its proximity to water and your coop near a power source, if not just for the
electricity. Obviously, the farther your coop is from convenience of being able to use corded power tools
a water source, the farther you will have to haul while building the coop.
fresh water for your chickensa chore that will If your coop is less than 100 feet away from the
need to be done frequently. Therefore, regardless of nearest electrical outlet, a good extension cord may
whether you locate your coop close to or far away be sufficient to occasionally power a light. However,
from your house, you would not want to place it you should consider some safety concerns, such as
at the top of a steep hill, several hundred feet from the power demands of your equipment (does your
the nearest water faucet. Even the most devoted equipment need more electricity than the extension
chicken enthusiasts may find the trek tiresome after cord can provide?) and the possibility of small

Do you want your coop placed in close proximity to your home for the added convenience, or would you prefer to
have it a bit further away? If your yard is large enough to give you a choice in location, consider all the variables A
prior to building. a

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Coop Considerations Before Building

A solar power panel can eliminate the need for direct access to electricity and can be used to power things such as
an electric fence for a run.

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Choosing a cool and shady location can be beneficial on the hottest days of summer. Your chickens will appreciate
the ability to get out of the sun.

rodents (such as mice or squirrels) chewing through sun, shaDe, anD WinD
the cord. For longer distancesor for peace of mind It is also important to consider the location of your
when powering electricity-guzzling equipmentit coop in regard to the sun. In general, your coop
might be wise to have a professional electrician should be positioned so that the front receives early-
install permanent electrical wiring in the form of a morning sunshine, but also receives some shade
buried or overhead cable to bring electricity directly from the strong heat rays of the afternoon. This
to your coop. However, the farther your coop is way, your coop will receive the drying and warming
from an electrical source, the farther you will have benefits of the early-morning sun, but will also
to run the wiring, and the more expensive your avoid getting too warm. Due to their lack of sweat
project will become. glands, chickens do not tolerate heat very well and
If youll be using a chicken tractor, or moveable can suffer heat stroke if they get too hot. Therefore,
coop, then you can look into solar-powered units making sure that your coop is protected from the
to produce enough electricity for the runs, lights, suns hottest rays will go a long way toward keeping
heaters, and electronic door openers. Of course, your chickens happy and healthy.
its possible to raise chickens in a coop without the On the other hand, if your live in a colder region
benefit of electricity for lights or heat, but when you of the world, your coop should be positioned to face
want eggs all winter long, youll need to provide south, guaranteeing that it receives as much warmth
a light source for fifteen to sixteen hours a day in from the sun as possible. But regardless of whether
order to encourage egg production. your live in a warm or cold climate, you will want to
As you can see, the pros and cons of separation make sure that your chicken coops run offers shade
versus convenience are numerous, and there is no at all times of day, so that your chickens will be able
right or wrong decision. Analyze the possibilities, to find relief from the sun if they so desire. Trees, G
and then choose the option that makes the most bushes, or shrubs can do the job well, but if such y
sense for your particular situation. plants are not to be had, then you can construct th

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a shady region of your run out of wood, concrete a moveable coop or chicken tractor that have the
blocks, or any other sturdy, weather-resistant obvious advantage of being able to travel to the
materials you can find. grass whenever necessary.
On a similar note, your run should offer Wind and ventilation are another important
an ample supply of grass for your chickens to consideration. Obviously, your cooplike a
consume. Not only is grass an important part houseneeds windows or vents to allow the
of your chickens diet, but it also harbors small circulation of fresh air and to thwart the possibility
insects and various seeds that are another major of respiratory diseases, as well as to eliminate odors
component of your feathered friends diets. and gases (such as ammonia). Unfortunately, like
Providing your chickens with an opportunity to some people, chickens are not very fond of wind,
munch on these goodies will help ensure that your and its best to make certain that they receive
chickens are receiving a well-balanced diet with all protection from cold drafts. One way to do this is to
of the nutritional components that they require. position your coop so that the windows are opposite
Many people free range their flocks and only coop of the typical wind direction in your area. For
the chickens at night or in inclement weather. In example, many winds in the Northern Hemisphere
these circumstances, the birds are allowed free blow from west to east, so positioning the windows
access to grass and other vegetation along with of your coop on the east side can help shelter your
all the benefits of being able to feast on lots of chickens from the bitterest of winds. In addition,
bugs and insects. In the case of a permanent coop, you can position your coop in an area where natural
free ranging during the day is a good choice in or man-made windbreakssuch as a line of trees,

Coop Considerations Before Building


many cases. If you dont feel comfortable letting a large building, or other such obstaclespreclude
your chickens run free during the day, consider the wind from reaching your coop.

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Grass is a delight to chickens and being able to provide them with grass in their run is a real treat. In addition, if
you choose to allow your birds to free range during the day, theyll likely find some grassy areas to enjoy, such as
this lovely yard.

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Ventilation in your coop is very important. A window that opens and closes is a nice addition to your coopdesign.

One final aspect to consider when choosing The answer is yes, you did, but in this case, were
a site for your coop is the possibility of having a not talking about where to locate your coopwere
compost pile. If you intend to save your chickens talking about where you should actually embark on
droppings for future use as fertilizeran the process of constructing the coop.
excellent idea if your farming endeavors extend It may seem logical to build the coop in your
to gardening as wellthen it makes sense to site garage, where access to supplies, tools, and climate
your coop near your compost pile. This will save control are easily accessible. (Its not much fun
you from hauling the droppings long distances, building a chicken coop out in the sun on a hot
which can save you a great deal of time and effort summer day.) But in practice, this is not a good
in the long run. Chickens also enjoy getting into idea. Unless you are building an absolutely bare-
the compost pile and do a good job of helping to bones coop with thin walls and little-to-no frills
keep it turned. (or a portable coop), you will soon discover that
In conclusion, choosing the location of your your fully assembled coop is much too heavy to be
chicken coop is an important step in your chicken- easilymoved.
raising venture. But while finding a location with So to avoid back-breaking effort down the road,
every desirable feature is ideal, the reality is that you will want to go about the actual assembly of
your property may not offer every possible attribute. your coop on the site where you wish for it to be
In that case, do your best to find the ideal location, located. If this means hauling tools and supplies
and make do as well as you can. to the location, so be it. If it means working in the
sun a hot day, put on sunscreen or set up a shade-
Where to BuiLD Your Coop creating tent. Believe us when we say it will be
You may be thinking, Wait a minutedidnt I just worth it in the long run, even if it doesnt seem so at
read a whole section about where to build my coop? the time.

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If you can position your coop close
to your compost pile, your chickens
will do an excellent job of turning
the pile and keeping it aerated.

Coop Considerations Before Building


Letting your chickens free range
can have its drawbacks too,
especially if they decide to spend
time at your front door and make
a mess of your entry. You might
consider building a larger chicken
run or creating a yard thats fenced
in to allow the chickens to roam
while keeping them off your porch.

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heY, Do i neeD a permit? to ensure that the plan or design for your chicken
the LegaLities of Coop BuiLDing coop meets the criteria for chicken housing as
When you first think about building a coop, you outlined in your local regulations. You might
probably arent thinking in terms of regulations be surprised at the detailed requirements that
and ordinances. After all, its just a coop, right? But some locales have enacted with regard to chicken
you might be surprised at the amount of red tape coops. Some ordinances detail the size required
involved with your project. Chicken coops dont for a coop, the number of windows that must be
really seem like the type of structure that would included, the minimum height of the structure,
require a permit in order to construct, but the truth specifications with regard to the number of doors,
is that some locations have very specific ordinances and other criteria. Similar regulations might also
and regulations that could come into play. apply to enclosed chicken runs; this portion of
But before you even get to the legalities of your structure may need to be of a specific size and
coop building, youll need to first determine height. There are often additional restrictions with
whether chickens may be kept in your location. regard to chicken butchering, the storage of chicken
Unfortunately, many cities and towns have feed, the regular disposal of manure, and other areas
restrictions on chicken keeping, including of maintenance.
regulations on the number of chickens that can Think you have everything covered? Not so fast.
be kept, the size of the property on which the Ordinances often regulate the location of a chicken
chickens are housed, and other criteria. Some areas coop on your property. Many stipulate a specific
prohibit the keeping of roosters due to the extra setback that defines how far away your coop
noise; others require that all chickens be leg-banded must be from property lines, the street, etc. The
for identification purposes. Even though many size of your parcel of land can play an important
locations have adopted chicken-friendly policies,
you may find that your municipality is quite
restrictive with regard to the keeping of poultry.
Always be sure that you are in accordance with local
ordinances before embarking on your chicken-
keeping endeavor.
Some areas require a permit in order to keep
chickens, and this permit may need to be renewed
on a regular basis. Additionally, some areas require
that you obtain written consent from the owners
of the properties that adjoin yours, giving their
approval for your chicken keeping.
If youve determined that your location is zoned
for chickens (yay!), then your next step will be to
determine whether you will need another kind
of permit: a building permit for your coop. The
In
relatively small size of most coops still puts them
y
under the size criteria that requires a permit, but
coops that are portable (that is, not on a foundation)
are often exempt from permit requirements
altogether. Check with your local zoning p
department for information on specific legalities o
for your area. For example, if your local regulations sm
stipulate that structures over 1010 feet require a
a permit, and your chicken coop is 48 feet, then
your coop doesnt require a permit. However, if your fo
coop is going to be 1012 feet, then you would o
need to pull a permit. o
After youve checked into the permit process You may need to acquire a permit to keep chickens in C
and obtained any necessary permits, youll need your area. h

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Coop Considerations Before Building


In some towns and cities, roosters are not allowed and the ordinances are very specific as to the number of birds
you may house on your property. Check your local ordinances to see if there are any that apply to raising chickens.

part in this; larger lots or acreage parcels obviously regulations, youll ensure that the coop you build is
offer more options for coop placement, whereas in compliance with local ordinances and that your
small urban lots may have limitations in finding an chickens will be a welcome (and legal!) addition to
appropriate and legal place for a coop. your community. If you find yourself located in a
Do you need to know where to find ordinances less-than-chicken-friendly town or city, dont be too
for your area? Contact your local courthouse, quick to despairmany towns are reconsidering the
or do a quick web search for keeping chickens, restrictiveness of their ordinances and codes and
ordinances, [your town and state]. Your local may very well be open to discussion on changing
County Extension Service agent may also have some overly heavy-handed regulations that may
helpful information. By carefully following these currently exist.

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a
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re

Hatching chicks is a rewarding and fascinatingadventure.

getting starteD With ChiCkens its important that you put careful thought into your
Getting started with chicks is a rewarding experience, birds before you buy. There are many websites and
but it can be a little confusing if youve never done it books devoted to chicken breeds and their various
before. Before you purchase your chicks, your first attributes. The information is voluminous and not
step is to settle upon the breed (or breeds) of chicken within the scope of this book, but theres loads of
that youd like to keep. Your decision will depend on terrific information out there, and talking to other Y
a variety of criteria, from size to egg production, and chicken enthusiasts is a great start. tr

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If youre keeping chickens with an eye on those may not achieve the impressive production rate of
farm-fresh eggs, then you might want to consider specialty breeds, but they provide a great option if
one of the well-known egg-producing breeds, such youre looking to keep only a few birds and want to
as a white leghorn. Breeds that are noted for their diversify your focus.
impressive egg-laying ability might produce as Some people find the idea of raising endangered
many as 300 eggs per year, while other breeds might chicken breeds appealing. Check out The Livestock
produce only 100. So if eggs are your aim (and for Conservancy (formerly the American Livestock
many chicken keepers, they are), bear this in mind Breeds Conservancy, www.livestockconservancy.org/)
when selecting a breed. for a list of rare-breed chickens. A few breeds on the
If youd like to raise chickens as meat birds, critical list include the Russian Orloff, the Nankin,
then youre looking for an entirely different set of and the Spanish.
characteristics. In this case, you might want to try You may also want to consider other aspects, such
a hybrid, such as the Cornish rock cross, which is as the hardiness level of the various breeds, their
noted for its ability to gain weight quickly. ability to withstand extremes of temperature. (Do
If eggs and meat are important to you, then a you live in a frigidly cold or swelteringly hot climate?)
dual-purpose breedperhaps the Rhode Island Find out if your breed of choice will be happy and
redcould be a good choice. Dual-purpose breeds healthy in your particular climate before you buy.

Coop Considerations Before Building

You must order a minimum of twenty-five chicks from most mail-order hatcheries, so if you dont need that many,
try teaming up with a friend or two to share the order.

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egg color
While this may seem superficial in comparison to
some of the other more serious criteria upon which
youll select your desired breeds of birds, but egg
color can be an important consideration to lots of
people. The majority of chicken breeds produce eggs
that are white or brown, but some breeds produce
eggs that are blue, green, reddish, or even pink.
So-called Easter Egger chickens produce a range
of colored eggs (hence their name; a nod to the
eggs colored appearance), while Araucanas and
Ameraucanas stay more restricted in the blue and
green shades.
It is said that the color of a chickens earlobes
predicts the color of their eggs; though it doesnt
always hold true, its a guide. Where do you find
those earlobes? On the side of the head, about
Just exactly where are those earlobes? Theyre located
where youd thinklook for either a white or red
just below the circular area that is the chickens ear.
lobe, just below the ear. White lobes will produce
white or lighter colored eggs and red lobes will
typically produce brown eggs.
Colorful eggs boast the fun of novelty (whats
more fun than collecting blue eggs from your very
own hens?), but theres also a practical side: colored
eggs tend to bring a higher price at farmers markets
than their white or brown counterparts. So if youre
looking to bring in a little extra cash from your egg
business, consider the appeal of colored eggs when
selecting yourbreeds.

Eggs come in a variety of colors, including white,


various shades of brown, and shades of blue andgreen. A basket of fresh eggs . . . delightful!

T
q

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Coop Considerations Before Building

There are many breeds of chickens from which to choose, and youll want to consider all the characteristics and
qualities that youre seeking before you making your choice. This is a frizzle Cochin hen.

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Once youve selected the breed (or breeds) of (dont forget, they will soon grow into full-sized
chickens that you would like to raise, the next step chickens!), you may want to choose a different
is to figure out where to purchase your poultry. One means of purchasing chickensone that will allow
popular and easy option is to buy them through a you to buy only as many as you need. Or you can
mail-order hatchery. What could be simpler than partner up with a friend or two, each taking a share
having a group of day-old chickens delivered right of the twenty-five chicks.
to your front door? To this end, you might consider purchasing
Purchasing through a mail-order hatchery started pullets (young hens that are just about ready
can be particularly useful if youre interested in to start laying) either from a mail-order hatchery
obtaining unusual or heritage breeds. Murray or from a local source. If youre only after a few
McMurray Hatchery, for example, sells rare breeds healthy, mature, and well-bred chickens, this can be
such as Phoenix, buttercups, and golden laced a particularly suitable option.
wyandottes, which can be difficult to find. One If youre unsure of which breeder or hatchery
thing to consider when ordering through a mail- to buy from, consult other chicken enthusiasts in
order hatchery is that the minimum number of your area. Perhaps your next-door neighbor has
chicks you can purchase is often twenty-five, had great success in raising chickens and can offer
so if you dont have room for that many chicks you advice on local sources for purchasing chickens.
continued on page 46

The white leghorn rooster is what many people consider the quintessential American rooster. T

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Coop Considerations Before Building

The barred rock hen is a classic coop favorite.

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The Rhode Island red rooster is a handsome fella. T

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Coop Considerations Before Building

The naked neck chicken is an odd-looking addition to your coop.

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continued from page 42

Orperhaps he has raised seventeen consecutive Best helping you find the perfect poultry. It is essential
of Show chickens at the fair and would be willing to to make sure the chicks or chickens youre
sell you a few examples of his best breeding stock. ordering are the healthiest ones you can find,
If not, local and national poultry organizations so ask about health guarantees and make sure
may have advice on finding a suitable place to buy that you dont inherit someone elses problems.
chicks. You can also consult your County Extension Sometimes getting free chickens from a friend isnt
Service office; they will have good information and the best choice.
sources for you to consider. So in essence, the best way to find a good place
In addition, the next time you attend a to buy chickens is to do some research and ask
poultry show or a county fair, talk to some of the around. There are many, many excellent places to
exhibitors and other knowledgeable people about choose from, and as long as you have some idea of
sources for buying chicks or hens. Members of what youre looking for, finding suitable chickens
your local 4-H or FFA club may be interested in should be no trouble at all. Good luck!

V
A Russian Orloff hen and chick scour for food. si

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Coop Considerations Before Building

Visit your local county fair or poultry show to locate breeders and to see whats available in your local area. This
silkie chicken is a fancy bird!

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Choosing anD BuYing ChiCken suppLies your birds for a time. You may discover that the
Even after youve planned your coop and selected feeder style that you chose is less than efficient,
your preferred breed of chickens, youll still need to or you may love the nest pad that you decided to
outfit your coop with the equipment and accessories try. Before investing significantly in vast quantities
needed to care for your chickens. Feeders, waterers, of supplies, experiment a bit to discover what
nest pads, lights, brooders, feed, containers in which you like and what works best for your situation.
to store feedyour shopping list can quickly grow Again, asking other chicken experts in your area
quite long. You can purchase these items online or what equipment they like best may guide you to
through mail-order catalogs, or you can stock up betterdecisions.
at your local farm supply store. Bear in mind that
while the selection from online retailers might be the BeDDing DiLemma
more extensive, you may incur shipping costs that At this point, youre probably thinking, What does
can add up. In this case, shopping locally might be a choosing bedding materials have to do with building
more cost-effective choice. my chicken coop? The answer isnothing. Well, not
When youre first starting out with chickens, its exactly. But even if you build the nicest coop in the
easy to get caught up in the desire to do everything world, it wont be usable by chickens if it doesnt
heartily and all at onceand that includes buying have a good layer of bedding to absorb moisture
supplies and accessories. But until youve worked and provide a comfy floor for your birdsand
with and around your chickens for a while, it can a soft, clean place to lay their eggs in their nest
be hard to know exactly which items will prove to boxes. So with this in mind, its clear that choosing
be most useful to you. For this reason, you may appropriate bedding material is not only an
want to start small. Buy only what you absolutely important step in preparing your coop for life with
need in order to get started, and then work with chickens, but a critical one as well. C
o
sm
o
co

to
d
d
a
a
c
s

Finding the right chicken feeders, waterers, fencing, wire, and nest boxes is important. Whether you buy locally at
the farm supply store or purchase through catalogs, ask around for advice from other people who raise chickens.

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Coop Considerations Before Building


Choosing the right bedding may take some trial and error on your part. You may try various products and materials
only to end up choosing something straightforward, such as pine shavings. Pine shavings are clean to look at and
smell nice as well. Your bedding will be used in your nest boxes as well as on the floor of your coop. The owner
of this coop also adds in lavender, herbs, and edible flowers to her nest boxes for her hens to enjoyand to help
control mites.

There are many different kinds of bedding chickens or other livestock. Although cedar
to choose from, all with various advantages and shavings have a wonderful, woodsy smell that
disadvantages. Selecting the right one comes can help repel insectsan obvious benefit
down to personal preference and budget as much there is a great debate among chicken keepers
as anything else, although some types of bedding on whether cedar (and, to a much lesser extent,
are definitely superior to others in terms of easy pine) shavings can be toxic to your chickens.
cleaning, absorbing moisture, and such. Here are Some people never have an issue; others have
some of them: found the toxicity levels too high for young
chicks. Unfortunately, little research has been
Wood shavings: Widely available at feed and done on the toxicity of cedar shavings when
pet stores, wood shavings are easy to work with, it comes to chickens, so if you intend to raise
excellent at absorbing moisture, and terrific at baby chicks, pine shavingsor another kind of
creating a soft bed for your chickens. They smell bedding entirelywill prove more suitable.
good and look good and can be a great addition On a similar note, make sure that the wood
to the compost pile after cleaning the coop. shavings you purchase (regardless of the type)
Depending on the number of chickens youll be are free of any chemicals that could be harmful
raising, theyre pretty cost effective. to your birds. Typically pine shavings sold for
In seeking the best possible wood livestock will be safe to use.
shavings for your coop, there are a couple of One thing to definitely avoid is sawdust,
considerations to keep in mind. In general, whichalthough similar to wood shavingsis
shavings made from softwood trees, such as pine comprised of much finer particles (hence the
trees, are the ideal, although some softwoods name saw dust) that can cloud in the air and
such as cedarare not recommended for cause respiratory issues for your chickens. So

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breathe easy (both you and your chickens) and Shredded newspaper offers the advantages
stay clear of sawdust in favor of woodshavings. of being inexpensive (youre already paying
for the newspapers, and you may be paying
Straw: The main questions to consider with to dispose of them as well, so using them as
straw are what kind of straw to use and whether bedding could actually save you money) and
it should be chopped into pieces or left whole. In also somewhat absorbent, helping to keep
general, wheat straw is considered to be the best your chicken coop nice and dry. In addition,
type of straw for chicken bedding, while oat and shredded newspapers disintegrate rapidly and
rye straw can be good choices as well. can be used as compost when their days as
As far as chopping or not chopping, there are chicken bedding are over.
advantages and disadvantages to both. Straw that There are a few disadvantages to shredded
has not been chopped can be difficult to work newspaper that should be considered. For one, if
with, as it tends to tangle itself into large snarls not changed often enough, it does likes to clump
that mix with chicken droppings and become together, which can lead to a soggy and yucky
an icky messyuck! By chopping your straw, pile of paper. This can become rather slippery,
you can avoid this issue, but chopped straw can leading to undesirable side effects such as
be on the dusty side and could potentially lead splayed legs in young birds. Fortunately, careful
to respiratory issues for your chickens. Straw maintenance of the bedding conditions can help
doesnt have the absorbency of wood shavings you avoid this issue.
and so this may also impact your decision. Another concern is the possibility of
shredded newspapers containing toxic ink that
Dried leaves: Dried leaves, gathered after could harm your chickens if they consumed
they have fallen from trees in the fall, offer itand of course, chickens do have a tendency
the advantages of being abundant and very to peck at things, bedding included! If youre
inexpensivein most cases, their only cost is the uncertain whether your newspapers feature
time you spend gathering them. However, dried nontoxic ink, a different choice of bedding may
leaves have the disadvantages of being prone be necessary.
to growing mildew and mold, and they tend
to pack down and lose their fluffiness easily. Sand: Good-quality sand may not be the first
Shredding the leaves can help prevent this. Pine thing that comes to mind when you think of
needles can also make another good natural chicken bedding, but sand can be an excellent
bedding choice. Although unless you live in or bedding choice for your coop. However, unless
near a pine forest, securing enough to use as you happen to possess a top-notch sand pit
chicken bedding could prove challenging. in your backyard (not likely), you will have to
Always be sure that you choose leaves that purchase builders or construction-grade sand.
are not toxic to chickens. The leaves of oak and The advantages of sand are numerous, and you
buckeye trees, for example, contain toxins that may find that the ease and cleanliness of sand is
could harm your chickens, so you will want worth the added cost.
to avoid these while gathering appropriate The primary advantage of sand is that it is
leaves. If youre uncertain on how to identify terrific at absorbing moisture and dries rapidly,
the poisonous leaves from the good ones, or are whichas mentioned previouslyare two very
leery of making a mistake, a different choice of desirable aspects of good chicken bedding.
bedding material may be the best idea. Furthermore, sand is easy to work with and
clean. What could be easier than scooping
Shredded newspaper: If you are fond of reading chicken droppings out of sand?
newspapers, you know how quickly they can pile In essence, many different types of materials
up after youve read them. Fortunately, shredded can be used as chicken bedding, and all can be
newspapers can make excellent bedding for perfectly useable under the right circumstances.
chickens, so if you have a paper shredder, you Basically, as long as your bedding material is
can bid farewell to the ever-growing stack of free of dust, mold, and moisture, you are well
newspapers and give them a new lease on life as on your way to creating a soft, healthy haven for
chicken bedding. your poultry.

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Chicken nest pads Deep litter method
No matter what bedding material you choose, its No matter which kind of bedding material you
bound to get somewhat messy, and if the thought eventually choose to use in your coop, when
of your hens laying eggs in old dried leaves makes it comes to coop cleaning, you might want to
you cringe, perhaps you should consider special consider trying the deep-litter method.
bedding for your nest boxes. Many farming supply When executed properly, the deep-litter
companies offer chicken nest pads, which are method can save you an incredible amount of time
specially-designed, one-piece bedding layers that and effort when it comes to cleaning you coop, in
f are meant to be comfortable for your chickens addition to providing other valuable benefits for
p while at the same time helping keep your eggs your chickens. Basically, the deep-litter method
fresh and clean. involves establishing a deep layer of bedding
Chicken nest pads feature an array of tiny (several inches thick), and then adding to it
tufts, coupled with holes in the center and in rather than subtracting from itwhen cleaning
p between each tuft, that discourage build-up of the coop. For example, instead of scooping chicken
droppings while also keeping your eggs raised droppings out of the bedding, all you have to do is

Coop Considerations Before Building


above the manure, reducing the number of rake them underneath the bedding material (where
contaminated eggs. Hooray! they cant cause you or your chickens any trouble)
Best of all, chicken nest pads are very easy to and add more bedding on top as necessary.
clean, thanks to their easily-removable nature. So Over time, your layer of bedding will get
if cleanliness is a major desire in your nest boxes, deeper and deeper, with the chicken droppings
why not give chicken nest pads a try? and old bedding remaining at the bottom of the
layer, where it naturally decomposes. Furthermore,
the decomposition process releases a bit of heat
as well, which is helpful for keeping your chickens
warm during the winter months. Many people
love this method for its time and convenience.
After a whilea few months, perhaps
you will need to give your coop a complete
cleaning, removing all of the bedding and starting
fresh. But the time spent on this occasional
chore is more than offset by the time you will
Chicken nest pads save throughout the rest of the year. If youre
interested in trying the deep-litter method, talk
to other chicken enthusiasts that have experience
with the system, and ask for advice and tips on
how to create and maintain the bedding layer.
If you do the job right, you will surely find the
process to be time-saving, easy, cleanerand
maybe even fun! Ok, so fun might be stretching it
a bit, but you get the idea!

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Chapter 3
Designing Your Coop

Y
ou could conceivably skip this This chapter will guide you through the major
chapter entirely and just proceed areas you need to consider when designing your
coop, including size, ventilation, and roof types,
on to Chapter 4, especially if as well as many other details that are important
youre planning to construct your coop to understand. Upon reaching the end of this
according to the step-by-step plan chapter, youll have a better idea of what your
coop will need in order to be the perfect abode for
in Chapter 5. But if youre interested yourflock.
in the actual nitty-gritty process of
designing a coop to your own plans The ComplexiTY of Your projeCT
Before proceeding any further, it would be wise to
and specifications, then this chapter is sit down and ask yourself the following question:
foryou. How complex a project can I reasonably undertake? T
th
cl
Designing the perfect home for
your chickens can be a lot of fun.
Your chickens will benefit from the
ability to keep safe from predators c
as well as having protection from y
inclement weather. w
a
s
a
li
y
it
o
a
a

is
fu
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e
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There are many decisions to make when designing your coop. How much room will you need for your birds? In
this case, the hens have plenty of room in their coop and run; theyre also protected by the appropriate hardware
clothwire.

Although it might be great to build a gigantic If you lack the time or experience to build a super-
coop with every bell and whistle you can think of, duper chicken coop, you might want to forego some
you must consider the complexity of your project of the frills that larger coops can offer and stick with
with respect to what you can feasibly achieve. After something simple. This is a perfectly fine decision,
all, if a good gardener has a green thumb, it could be and with this in mind, the chicken coop instructions
said that a poor carpenter may soon have a black- offered in Chapter 5 are geared toward someone with
and-blue thumb! So if your carpentry skills are basic carpentry skills and toolknowledge.
limited or nonexistent, and you will be working on If you have some experience in working with
your coop for only a few hours a day on weekends, lumber or power tools, and have the time to commit
it would be wise to scale down the chicken coop to building an extra-special coop, then feel free to
of your dreams into a project that is more easily consider all the aspects of chicken coop design and
achievable. Instead of ten nest boxes, maybe three is customize your coop so that it is exactly the way you
a more realistic goal. want it.
On the other hand, if a family member or friend
is a carpenter by trade and possesses a garage The Size of your Coop
full of power tools that would be the envy of any What size will you make your coop? This is an
construction company, and if you already have important decision as it will determine the number
experience in working with such tools, then, by all of chickens that youll be able to comfortably house.
means, create a chicken coop that is as elaborate as Do you need a large coop? Will a small coop suffice?
you desire. Something in between?

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In this case, the hens are vulnerable to predators due to the use of the flimsier chicken wire on their run. Theyre
also overcrowded with too many birds in too little space. This can cause health problems as well as problems with
birds pecking each other.

Generally speaking (and remember, the more to cannibalism. Avoid these potential problems by
space per bird, the better), youll want a minimum providing plenty of space for your chickens and
of 3 to 4 square feet of interior space for each hen in dont overcrowd them.
your coop. This means that a coop with 12 square You should also consider the future size of your
feet of interior floor space will have enough room flock. Maybe you only have four hens right now,
for three to four birds. but how about next year? Do you foresee yourself
Now, obviously three to four birds is by no significantly expanding your flock, or are you happy
means a sizeable flock, but for the novice chicken with a smaller group of birds? If you anticipate an
enthusiast, this can be the perfect number with uptick in your chicken population, then it might
which to get started. But what if you already have be wise to accommodate for that possibility when
extensive experience with chickens and are ready you sketch your design. You dont want to go to all
to establish a more populated flock? A larger coop the trouble of constructing a custom coop only to
with more extensive areas of enclosed space will decide that four chickens really isnt enough and
provide room for an increased number of birds. eight would be so much better. Do enough research
Simply calculate the projected square footage of the ahead of time so that you can build the coop you
enclosed area of the coop and calculate the number want in the size you need.
of potential birds that could inhabit the coop.
Remember, you dont want to overcrowd your rooSTS
coop in an attempt to squeeze in more birds; Like most birds, chickens prefer sleeping off
insufficient elbowroom can cause serious problems the ground, either in trees, on top of their coop,
for your flock, beginning with pecking at each other or on roosts. Because sleeping outdoors makes H
and fighting, and possibly escalating all the way your chickens far too vulnerable to predators, st

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Chickens love to roost and even free-range chickens will find places to perch. This flock is passing the time in lilacs.

y Designing Your Coop

Having enough roost space is important. Each chicken needs between 8 and 12 inches of roost space, and
staggering the roosts (as shown here) gives each bird plenty of comfortable roost space.

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youllundoubtedly want to keep them in the coop at Another thing to consider is the height of c
night, and thats where roosts come in. your roosts in relation to the nest boxes. Roosts w
Wooden roosts, whether poles or boards, are should be about 1 to 2 feet off of the floor, and e
most desirable. This is especially true if the wood they should not be placed above your nest boxes. w
isnt sanded to perfection and has a little roughness Otherwise when the hens roost there, they will add th
to it, as that makes it easier for the chickens to a mess just where you dont want one. The roosts n
grip. Rounded corners can be helpful, but its also can also be staggered in grandstand fashion for
very important that the roosts be wide enough for cleanlinesspurposes. o
the birds to perch comfortablya minimum of ro
2 inches. Never use metal roosts; chickens have NeST BoxeS
trouble gripping metal, and if it becomes too cold, It would seem logical to think that each hen needs
your chickens could get frostbite. a nest box all to herself, but the truth is that one
In addition to making sure that your roosts are box will do nicely for three to four hens. (However,
of the appropriate size to suit your chickens feet, some say that it doesnt matter how many nest boxes
youll also want to make sure that you provide you have; all the hens will want to use the same
enough roost space to accommodate all your nestbox.)
chickens; each bird will need a minimum of 8 But for the purposes of designing your coop,
inches of length to avoid crowdingand more is the number, size, and location of your nest boxes
better. Consider 1 foot per bird the minimum and does mattera lot. Many of the concerns about
your chickens will thank you. nest boxes have to do with keeping the eggs

There are many different ways to go about providing nest boxes for your hens. Youll need to make sure your
nest boxes are big enough and that you provide an adequate number for your flock. These nest boxes are being
wellused.

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cleanin fact, thats actually the main reason you paraphernalia, but this kind of box will need a very
will want nest boxes. Nobody wants to eat a dirty good roof to prevent rainwater from leaking into
egg, much less a cracked one, and thats exactly thenests.
what you may get if your hens lay their eggs on As for size, ideally your boxes should have
the floor or anywhere but in a designated, clean 1square foot of floor space (1212 inches), and
nestbox. be 12 to 14 inches high or thereabouts. The roof or
Obviously, if your nest boxes are bumped out ceiling of your boxes needs to be slanted, like a shed
on the exterior of your coop, there will be more roof, to discourage birds from roosting on top of
room inside the coop for all your other chicken them and (yes) making a mess.

s
Brooders
There are plenty of confusing terms related to
chickens and chicken-keeping, and youve stumbled
onto one of them! A brooder is specifically for
the raising of young chicks youve purchased.
These chicks wont have a hen to keep them
warm, and they cant be allowed to be in the
same coop as your older chickens until they grow
big enough to defend themselves; that is where
the brooder comes in. A brooding area in your
coop is for chicks that are still with their mother
and is usually just a separate portion of the coop.
Another confusing thing is that the heat source

Designing Your Coop


inside your brooder may also be called a brooder
in some cases, be it a heat lamp or some other
type of heating system. In this book, whenever
you see the word brooder, we will be referring
to the place where you are going to raise your
motherlesschicks.
Brooders have been constructed out of pretty
much everything under the sun; cardboard boxes,
rubber tubs, plastic childrens wading pools, and of
course wood, although a cardboard or wooden box
is most often recommended. One kind of brooder
is called a battery and is actually several tiers
of brooders stacked up, each with its own heat
The brooder doesnt have to be elaborate, but it
source, but unless you intend to be raising dozens does need to be warm and clean. Your chicks are
of chicks, you probably wont need anything so going to need lots of TLC during those first days
elaborate. A single box will do nicely for one batch athome.
of chicks. (continued on next page)

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Brooders (continued)
Now that your brain is reeling from all this
information and youre vulnerable to a surprise
attack, were going to throw another mind-boggling
fact of chicken life at you: your brooder is probably
not going to be in your coop.
What? you exclaim. This is a book about
building chicken coops, and brooders dont usually
even go in chicken coops? What gives?
But in a way, you could actually consider a
brooder as a mini-coop. You need to provide your
brooder with many of the same things as your coop:
feeders, waterers, adequate bedding and ventilation,
and predator protection, depending on where you
want to keep your brooder. But you also have to
provide special amenities for the chicksthe most
important being a heat source.
Without a heat source, your chicks couldnt
survive. Warmth is vital to their well-being, and
they must have 24/7 access to either an infrared
heat lamp or a special heater specifically for young
poultry. Most heat sources are suspended above the
brooder; others go inside it.
Chick feeders are a convenient way to provide
food in your brooders, but you have to be careful
how you supply your youngsters with water. Wet
litter can bring on coccidiosis, which is potentially
fatal to young chicks, so if you use a traditional
waterer be sure to change out any wet litter as
quickly as you find it. Another option is to use a
waterer fitted with poultry nippleskind of like the
A spare room in your barn or home can be an ideal
water bottles used in rabbithutches. place for your brooder. This tack room works perfectly;
Then theres the great bedding debate. What it keeps out predators and allows the chicks to stay
should you use for litter in your brooder? Some of toasty warm.

STaTioNarY CoopS vS. porTaBle CoopS chicken coop requires careful consideration S
As youve probably gathered, designing a chicken and evaluation. Thats why were presenting you T
coop requires a lot of decision making. Like with another decision to ponder: stationary li
most aspects of farming, there isnt just one coops versus portable coops. Whats best for n
cut-and-dried way to do it. Each aspect of your yoursetup? ro

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the options are the same as for your regular chicken unless their brooder has a roof or high-enough walls,
coop, such as wood shavings, sand, or chopped they can escape. But being in the house certainly
straw, but there are a few kinds of litter you need to does cut down on the threat of predators, barring
avoid in your brooder. For instance, shredded paper overly curious house pets. Oftentimes a warm utility
is not a good choice for chicks, because they have room or a small spare room can work well. Many
trouble maneuvering through it; the same goes for people use an extra room in their barn or in a small
whole straw. At the beginning, you will want to heated shed.
cover the litter with paper towels so your chicks If you keep your brooder inside your home
dont peck at it, but after a couple of days, once the and you have pets such as dogs or cats, you will
chicks are eating well and using their feeders, you definitely want to cover your brooder with a roof
can take the towels out. made of hardware cloth. This will provide sufficient
As for the location of your brooder, many people ventilation and predator protection at the same time
keep their brooders inside their homes until the (yes, Poochy and Meowzers can be predators, sad
chicks reach a certain, too-big-to-be-in-the-house to say). For some fun and to learn what not to do,
age, and you may or may not want to follow suit. For watch the old I Love Lucy episode entitled Lucy
one thing, chicks kick up a lot of dust. For another, Raises Chickens.

These rare Russian Orloff


chicks are thriving in
their brooder. Make sure
you keep your brooder
at a temperature of at
least 90 to 95 degrees
to ensure the health
and well-being of your

Designing Your Coop


tinycharges.

Stationary CoopS materials and install permanent predator protection,


The best attribute of a stationary coop is that, in all such as laying brick pavers around the perimeter of
likelihood, it will live up to its name and you will your run or burying wire. To top it off, you will be
never have to move it. So feel free to make it big, able to keep more chickens because a bigger coop
roomy, and robust. You can use heavier, more durable naturally means more space for morechickens!

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A stationary (or permanent) coop is one that is built and stays in one location rather than being easily
moved around. Larger coops are typically permanent, and they have the ability to be wired for electricitya
niceconvenience.

This large coop is an exception as it was placed on a wagon bed and is easily moved around via the farm tractor.
This is a nice way to take advantage of new grass every few days, but a great deal of room is required to maneuver T
this type of coop. n

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The best attribute of a stationary coop, however, portability can vary depending on how you design
can also be its worst attribute, as you probably your coop. You might want it to be hand-portable
wont be able to move it easily if you decide you easily moved by a few people. But a portable coop
want it somewhere else. You wont be able to change can also mean one that is built on wheels or on the
your mind about its location in two months or six bed of a wagon, a tractor, a truck, or (if its small
years, unless you want to go to extensive effort to enough) an ATV can pull it.
move the coop. This can be a serious drawback for In any case, a portable coop must be smaller and
somepeople. more lightweight than a stationary coop. You may
However, if youre of the mind-set to let not be able to have as many chickens in a portable
your chickens free range during the day, then coop because you may not have as much space. An
a permanent location for your coop can make even greater concern, perhaps, is that you might not
lots of sense. You can add landscaping around be able to provide a level of predator protection that
it and beautify it so that it actually adds to the is quite as high as that of a permanent, stationary
attractiveness of your yard or property. coop. This is a more serious disadvantage than most.
The best aspect of a portable coop is that you
portable CoopS will be able to move the coop whenever you wish,
The word portable can be a little misleading when it allowing your chickens to enjoy new grass and
comes to chicken coops because the actual degree of places to forage.

Designing Your Coop

r This coop is sized for about fifteen hens, but it is still portable due to its wheels. The owners move this coop to a
new location once a week.

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Chicken tractors N
Are you looking for an extremely easy setup for your chickens? Do you want a safe place for your chickens c
that doesnt require much actual construction? If so, and if your flock of chickens is relatively small, then a c
c
chicken tractor may be just the kind of chicken coop youve been looking for.
y
A chicken tractor is a portable chicken coop in which the actual coop and the run are securely connected
together in an all-in-one unit. To facilitate frequent moving, chicken tractors have wheels or handles that
allow you to move the coop around your yard to give your chickens continual access to fresh grass. Because
chicken tractors must be easily moveable, they are somewhat limited in terms of size, meaning that they are
not suited to someone who needs a coop for a large flock of birds.
At the same time, a chicken tractor must include the same features of its more traditional relatives,
including a secure roof and durable walls to keep your chickens safe from predators. However, because
chicken tractors are not tethered to the groundand are frequently moved around your yardthey cannot
offer the same cold-weather protection as a stationary coop, so if you live in a region where the temperature
frequently drops below freezing, a chicken tractor might not be suitable for your circumstances.
In addition to being an excellent option for small-scale chicken raising, chicken tractors can also be used
for quarantining new or ill birds in your flock (more about that later in this chapter.)
As mentioned previously, chicken tractorsdue in part to their small sizemay not require as much
construction and are relatively simple to build. In some cases, you might even be able to repurpose a small
structures, such as a doghouse or large rabbit hutch, into a top-notch chicken tractor. In short, a chicken
tractor can be a great solution for those who cant commit the necessary time to building a large coop but
would still like a versatile and easy-to-maintain shelter for a small flock of chickens.

Cathleen Abers-Kimball / Shutterstock

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DeSigNiNg Your Coop Heres an irrefutable fact about poultry: theyre
wiTh effiCieNCY iN miND messy. Bedding, feathers, sand, droppings, spilled
Now its time to get down to brass tacks in your food and wateryour pristine new coop wont be
coop design. Just how efficient do you want your pristine for long and it must be cleaned regularly.
chicken keeping to be? Good maintenance of your But when you keep efficiency in mind during the
chickens and coop is essential, and its nice to make design stages, it doesnt have to be difficult to restore
your day-to-day care to be as efficient as possible. cleanliness to your hens abode.

Designing Your Coop

Smaller coop kits have the advantage of being lightweight and easily moved around by hand. Their main
disadvantage is that they are not as predator-proof as a permanent coop.

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For the most efficient setup, youll want a special special door that opens to the outside of the coop.
cleaning door on the side of your coop, which can For extra simplicity, you can angle the floor of your
be opened when you need to clean up droppings nest boxes with a slight slant so the nesting material
or change the bedding. As youll see in Chapter 5, will slide out more easily when cleaning.
our project coop has not one but two ways to access One option to consider during your design
the coop for cleaningtheres a small door on the process is adding a linoleum floor for your coop.
side for quick tidying jobs, and the entire front of This can significantly increase your coops ease of
the coop is easily removable for major cleanings. cleaning. Your choice of bedding goes on top so the
Removing the front of the coop isnt something slippery surface isnt an issue. You just lay it loose in
youre going to do regularlymost jobs can be your coop and it lifts out to make cleaning a breeze.
accomplished via the small door on the outside
but when you really want to get in and do a effiCieNT egg ColleCTiNg
thorough job, youll appreciate the removable front Eggs are definitely one of the perks of chicken
wall. Some coops are designed with large doors; keeping. Hatching eggs and watching as the
basically an entire side of the coop is on hinges and adorable chicks emerge is an amazing experience,
opens for thorough cleaning. This is super handy. of course, but its a wonderful thing to be
As for the nest boxes, you can clean them the endlessly supplied with a multitude of eggs for
same way you collect eggs from them, through the culinary purposes too. The satisfying feeling of

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The large cleanout door on this coop makes accessing its interior easy, which makes cleanup less of a chore. y

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l

n
.

Designing Your Coop


Being able to access your nest boxes and collect the eggs without having to enter your coop makes it super easy and
quick to bring in each days eggs.

self-sustainable living is felt most when producing iNCorporaTiNg SeparaTioN


food, especially eggs from your very own chickens. aND QuaraNTiNe areaS iNTo Your Coop
But all of those good feelings can be dampened As happy as your flock probably is, there will
if gathering the eggs is frustrating for you. If definitely be the occasional time when one or more
your chickens are laying anywhere they want, if of your chickens will need to be separated and/
theyre leaving you broken or messy eggs, youll or isolated from the rest of the flock. Whether this
want to think about eliminating as many of these occurs as a result of quarantine, sick birds, or simply
issues as you can. Make it easy to collect eggs by a broody hen, youll want to make things easy on
incorporating an outside access door to your nest yourself by incorporating a quarantine area into
boxes. A simple flip-down door with a latch, located your coop design.
on the outside of your coop, will make it possible to One way to prepare is to construct a divided
easily gather eggs without having to enter the coop, coop. It is just as the name impliesa coop divided
which makes this job quicker, easier, and cleaner into two or three sections for the purpose of
foryou. separating groups of chickens, including for health-
Having the forethought to plan for egg- related issues. The walls can be made out of various
collecting days will come in handy when mapping materials, usually types of wood and/or hardware
out your chicken coops floor plan. Youll be glad cloth, or even chicken wire. Some divided coops
you gave the issue the attention it deserves when have walls with doors in them, but its up to you.
youre ready to collect your first eggs. Doors in the coop are more convenient, but it can
continued on page 68

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Using a special egg basket makes gathering your eggs a little more fun. This English wire egg basket adds a lovely It
accent to egg collecting. ca

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This owner is using a smaller extra coop to separate birds of different ages. The older birds use the outdoor runs
and the larger coop.

Designing Your Coop

Its helpful to have the ability to separate birds for various reasons. If one bird is being pecked on by the others, it
can be helpful to isolate her for a time until theyre used to having her around.

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continued from page 65

be safer to simply have two outside doors leading to suffice for your broody hena miniature coop just
each section of your coop. for the hen and her soon-to-be chicks.
Another option is to build a secondary coop. And of course, what if one or more of your
This can be identical to your primary coop, or it can chickens should become sick? Ill chickens need
be something smaller and simpler, such as a chicken to be kept away from their healthy compatriots in
tractor. The latter option is particularly sensible, order to prevent the further spread of the disease.
for even if you possess a large flock of chickens, it is Utilizing another coopor using isolated space in
highly unlikely that you will need to separate more your divided coopis a helpful solution.
than a handful of them at any given time. Any time you purchase new chickens, its wise
So why might you need to separate to quarantine them for a time, just in case they are
your chickens from each other? Well, many carrying any diseases that could be spread to the
circumstances could lead to the rearrangement of rest of your flock. Two to four weeks is the standard
your flock. For example, a broody hen (see below) length of time that new chickens should be under
needs a private home while she incubates her eggs. quarantine. Chickens should also be quarantined
This location needs to be safe from predators and for a few days after attending a poultry show, in case
from other hens who may be interested in claiming they managed to pick up an undesirable ailment
the nest for their own. A simple brooding pen will while out and about.

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In this case, the separation is being done inside the coop run underneath the raised main coop. Here is where o
chicken wire comes in handy; it effectively provides an easy place to keep a hen and her chicks until theyre old
enough to join the main flock. c

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Designing Your Coop


Hens that are sitting on a clutch of eggs are said to be brooding. Sometimes you can use a crate to house your
broody hen. This provides her with everything she needs while giving her the ability to remain isolated from the
other hens.

SeparaTiNg BrooDY heNS confined to her nest for a three-week period.


A broody hen is a marvelous example of maternal Aside from a daily jaunt to take care of important
magnificence. Just think of all those innate activities such as eating and drinking, shell remain
instinctive qualities that suddenly manifest on her nest nearly without ceasing.
themselves when a hen decides to raise a clutch of For this reason, its easy to see why you wouldnt
eggsits amazing! want her to establish her brooding project in one
But exactly what happens when a hen goes of the nest boxes in your coop. In a busy coop with
broody? And what does it mean for your chicken multiple hens utilizing the same nest boxes on a daily
coop project? Well, as your hens go about their basis, a broody hen just doesnt have the privacy that
daily routine, they lay eggs that you collect. When a she wants and needs in order to properly raise her
hen goes broody, she wants to sit on a nest of eggs. eggs; nor will you want one of your nest boxes taken
Whether or not she carries this project out long up by a long-term occupant. Additionally, youll want
enough to raise chicks will vary from one individual a safe and isolated location for the hen and chicks, so
to the next, but regardless of the end result, a plan to accommodate any broody hens separately.
broody hen becomes somewhat territorial and Youll soon discover that only some hens go
obsessively focused on her nest. broodyothers never seem to think about it. But
If a hen does stick with her nest and raise a youll likely notice the same hens repeatedly going
clutch of eggs to chickhood, she will be essentially broody over time.

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The broody hen can be housed in her coop, but she will benefit from the extra safety and seclusion of her crate.

The safety of your hen and her eggs (and later move from their nest when broody, so expansive
on, chicks) is paramount, so make it a priority to amounts of space are usually unnecessary until
ensure that the accommodations for your broody the eggs hatch, and you can place the crate inside
hen are 100 percent predator-proof. Your hen will your run, if desired. This allows your broody hen
be sittingvulnerablyon her nest for a minimum to benefit from the protection of the coop while
of 21 days. Keep her stress levels low by protecting allowing her to remain isolated from the other hens.
her from predators and providing a safe, enclosed One important key: Keep the brooding area
area that is outfitted with a nest box, an area for her very close to or on the ground. This is for the safety
to use when relieving herself, and an area with food of the chicks after they hatch. When they begin
and water. toddling out of the nest, you dont want them to
The location and appearance of your brooding fall any distance to the ground, which they could if
area can vary according to your situation and hatched in a higher nest.
specific needs. You could convert an existing
structure into a brooding areaperhaps a fully ruNS
enclosed, empty box stall in your barn could be Unless you choose to free range your chickens (and
converted. Or simply amend your coop design to maybe even if you do), you will want your coop to
include a separate brooding area that will allow the have a run. A run is a fenced-in area attached to
broody hen to stay in proximity to her friends while the coop that gives your hens safe and easy access
still maintaining her privacy and need for peace and to the outdoors, allowing them to go in and out as
quiet. (More on this in Chapter 6.) Large dog crates they please. Of course, free-range chickens dont
are sometimes used as brooding areas; hens hardly necessarily need a run on a day-to-day basis, but T

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its a good idea to have one available if you cant be just yet. If somebody held a contest to find the
around to supervise your chickens during the day. type of fencing with the worst misnomer, chicken
One of the main things to consider when wire would take the grand prize. Yes, its been used
designing your run isas you have probably for chicken runs foreverbut if youd like to have
guessedsize. It is important to provide enough chickens for any length of time and keep them safe
space for your chickens to prevent them from from predators, youll want to find a better option.
getting testy with each other. Overcrowded The truth is chicken wire is just not going to
chickens are unhappy chickens, so its best to avoid serve as a strong enough barrier between your
the situation from the get-go by making your chickens and a predators claws or talons. Chicken
chicken run large enough to provide approximately wire is extremely flexible because of the large gauge
10square feet of space per bird. The height of your of the mesh. Smaller predators, such as weasels, can
fence depends on whether you want to put a roof simply crawl through to snatch your chickens, while
on it. If you go without a roof, your fence needs larger ones, such as dogs, could even tear it apart.
to be at least 6 or 8feet tall to prevent predators The best choice for your run is hardware cloth.
from jumping insidebut this leaves your chickens Hardware cloth has a smaller gauge of mesh, so
exposed to hawks and other birds of prey, who arent its stronger than chicken wire. Galvanized - or
deterred by any height of fence if it doesnt have -inch hardware cloth is recommended for chicken
some sort of roof on it. coops, but -inch is more generally used, as it is
As for the fencing itself, most runs are somewhat stronger. When it comes to protecting
constructed from some type of wire fencing, but your hens, you want the strongest fence available
dont go out and buy yourself a roll of chicken wire toyou.

s. Designing Your Coop

These portable coops have an electrified run that does a great job of keeping the chickens in and predators out.

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Dust bathing
Just as pigs need to wallow, chickens need to dust-bathe. Its beneficial to both their health and their
happiness, helping to keep them cool and free of parasites. Its also part of their how they socialize with each
other, sort of a poultry beach party. If your chickens are allowed to free range they will probably shoulder the
responsibility of finding dry, sandy areas to roll in themselves, but you can certainly provide a designated dust
box or an area for them if you so wish or if your coop/run situation makes it necessary. This can be as simple
as digging up a bit of grass in the yard or providing a box filled with sand or soil. To be perfectly honest,
good old sand cant be beat for your dust bathing area. Chickens enjoy dust bathing and its imperative to
supply an area for this activity to promote the health of your chickens. Your hens will thank you!

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every day. c
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Chickens and the garden
If you enjoy gardening, you might wish to consider giving your chickens access to your garden. Your chickens
will enjoy the opportunity to browse your plants and youll gain the benefits of natural pest control. Besides
ridding your garden of pests, you may find that the chickens provide valuable assistance with weeding and,
to a lesser extent, mowing!
So, if this sounds like a good option for you and your feathered farm hands, youll want to make sure
your garden has a selection of chicken-friendly plants. Some of the most popular choices for chickens are
nasturtium, broccoli, sunflowers, many kinds of berries, and leafy vegetables such as kale or cabbage. If youd
prefer not to have chickens in your garden but still want to grow food for your chickens to enjoy, consider
container gardening some special plants just for them!

Growing food in your garden for your chickens to enjoy means double the fun. Gardening is a wonderful
Designing Your Coop
pursuit, and whats better than combining it with your love for chickens?

lighT the interior of your coop and keep your chickens


Lighting is another aspect that youll want to healthy. In addition, windows are very helpful
consider when planning your coop. Windows are for ventilation, as we will discuss in further detail
an obvious means of letting light into your coop, lateron.
and certainly the easiest as well. Natural sunlight However, natural lighting has two disadvantages.
is not only free (saving you the cost of electricity), The first is that you cant control it. When the sun
it also serves as a disease killer, helping to sanitize goes down for the night, so too does your ability to
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Adequate lighting is a real plus in the coop, especially if you wish to maintain your hens ability to lay eggs during A
the winter. Theyll need around fifteen to sixteen hours of light per day during the winter months, so an additional
light source will obviously be necessary.

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Designing Your Coop

An exterior electric light on your coop is beneficial when doing chores in the early morning or afterdark.
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continued from page 73

work in your coop. This can be a major problem By installing electric lighting in your coop, and
if you live in an area with relatively few daylight using a timer, you can turn on the lights during
hours during the winter. For example, if the sun the night to effectively increase the length of each
sets at 5 p.m. but you dont get home to tend to your day, causing your chickens to continue laying
chickens until 6:30, youre going to have to do so by eggs even as winter sets in. To make certain your
way of a flashlight, which certainly makes things chickens continue laying eggs year-round, make
more complicated. sure your coop is liteither by the sun alone or by
The other disadvantage to natural lightingand a combination of the sun and your electric lights
its related to the firstis that, during the winter, for at least fifteen, maybe even sixteen, hours per
the light can be insufficient for promoting year- day. Be consistent and provide lighting each and
round egg laying by your hens. Naturally, chickens everyday.
lay eggs during the warmer months when the days Although it may seem like a good idea to have
are long and cease laying eggs as winter approaches your lights turn on in the evening, it may prove
and the days get shorter. Think about it: If you were better for your chickens if you set the timer to turn
a chicken, would you want to be raising a flock of the lights on in the morning, before the sun has
chicks in the winter? But if a steady stream of eggs risen. This way, you allow your chickens to settle in
for the breakfast table is something you desire, then on their roosts before darkness arrives. Replacing
youll wish to encourage your chickens to lay eggs this gradual sunset with electric lightingwhich
during the winter. Fortunately for you, chickens can goes from light to dark at the flick of a switch
be easily convinced to continue laying eggs even would leave your chickens in the dark and unable to
during winter. You accomplish this by lengthening see where they are before they are settled down for
their days by means of electric lighting. the night, so avoid this if possible. By turning the

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If your coop is large enough for a window, its a wonderful addition for your birds. It allows natural daylight as well
as warmth into your coop. c

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Using hardware cloth on the gable ends of your coop adds lots of great cross ventilation during the summer.
Wooden inserts can be made to cover the ends when colder weather demands it.

Designing Your Coop


lights on in the morning, while they are still settled prevent the buildup of gases such as ammonia
in sleep, you shouldnt have anyissues. and carbon dioxide. Ammonia is a foul-smelling
And of course, in addition to encouraging your alkaline gas that is released by chicken droppings.
hens to lay eggs all year-round, artificial lighting In small amounts, ammonia will not pose any
will enable you to tend to your chickens after dark if problems to you or your chickens, but in large
neededhooray! amounts, ammonia can be toxic and could even kill
yourchickens.
veNTilaTioN Fortunately for you, ammonialike the friendly
Ventilation is a highly important aspect of coop helium gas used in birthday balloonsis lighter
design. Without proper and appropriate ventilation, than air, which means that it will naturally drift
your flock is at increased risk of developing upward. As a result, if you build your coop with a
respiratory disease. So for the health of your large ridge vent or another type of opening in the
birds, youll want to be sure that your coop has ceiling, you are providing an exit through which
ampleventilation. ammonia gas can float up and drift harmlessly into
But how do you go about this? The amount of the atmosphere. Yay!
ventilation is directly correlated to the size of your Carbon dioxide is the gas that is released during
coop; some experts feel that ventilation should the breathing process by humans, chickens, and
comprise a minimum of one-fifth of the wall space many, many other animals. It is completely natural
in your coop area. Others cite figures of 1 square for it to be present in the atmosphere in small
foot of ventilation per bird. amounts, and it is not harmful in and of itself.
ll In establishing good ventilation for your However, if your coop does not have adequate
coop, one of your main goals should be to try to ventilation, carbon dioxide levels will increase as

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The ability to open a window in your coop on hot days will aid in keeping your flock cool. Always add hardware
cloth to the inside of the window to prevent access from other animals or birds.

your chickens exhale. As a result, carbon dioxide use of windows. Whats better than a nice summer
will slowly crowd out the oxygen, potentially breeze wafting through your coop, eliminating
reaching dangerous levels. undesirable gases and bringing a nice supply of
Furthermore, the air in your coop can grow fresh air to your poultry?
stale if it isnt frequently refreshed, and stale air But there are several things to consider when
is detrimental to the health of your chickens. So designing windows for your coop. Ideally, you will
as you can see, proper coop ventilation can go a want windows that can be opened and closed, so
long way toward maintaining the well-being of that you can control ventilation on cold days when
yourflock. you want to keep your coop warm. Also, youll
There are many options available for creating want to have your windows covered with hardware
and optimizing ventilation in your coop. One cloth, so that predators cannot gain access to A
obvious way to establish ventilation is through the yourchickens. u

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Another good way to ventilate your coop is You can also remove moist air from your coop
through the use of vents or openingsscreened or by establishing cross ventilationin other words,
protected in some other fashion, of courselocated opening the vents or windows on opposite sides
close to the ceiling, preferably on the north and of the coop so that air can flow in the coop at one
south ends of your coop. These vents, thanks to end and exit at the other. You can always add fans
their positioning at the top of the coop, will allow to your coop and use them on those hot days of
the release of warm air, whichlike ammonia gas summer when your chickens need extra ventilation.
naturally rises upward. It is an interesting fact of In addition to windows and vents, it might be
science that warm air can hold more moisture than wise to have at least one of the walls in your coop
cold air, so by providing an opening through which feature a large area of hardware cloth for maximum
warm air can exit the coop, you are also providing ventilation. In other words, rather than building a
an excellent means for the removal of moisture from wall out of wood and leaving a window opening,
the coop, which can minimize the spread of mold you might forego the wall entirely and just cover
and disease. that side of the coop with hardware cloth. After

Designing Your Coop

Adding a simple vent to your coop allows additional ventilation. Vents are easy to install and effectively keep out
unwelcome guests.

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You can winterize your coop by adding wooden inserts to your run. They provide wind and rain protection to your c
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Designing Your Coop
By placing clear panels on your coop during the winter, light still filters in and warms up the coop, while offering a
measure of protection from the elements.

all, what could provide better ventilation than an drafts if the overall temperature of your coop is too
openwall? low, but drafts will definitely increase the chances of
If you live in a region with cold winters, you can your chickens developing these issues.
seasonally cover the areas of hardware cloth with There are many ways to protect your chickens
an insulating material such as wood or metal in from drafts, and you can use some or all depending
order to keep out drafts. As beneficial as ventilation on your circumstances and coop design. The
can be for your birds, drafts of cold air during the simplest way is to close the windows or vents that
winter months are not desirable. Thanks to all are letting in drafts, locking the cold wind outside
their feathers, chickens can tolerate rather cold and relying on the remainder of your ventilation
temperatures fairly well, but significantly cold openings to provide fresh air. However, if you are
temperatures (compounded by cold drafts) can experiencing winds from more than one direction,
cause frostbite or frozen combs. Of course, your or continuously shifting wind directions, this may
chickens can suffer these ailments even without not be feasible.

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Another option is to place your ventilation However, even with ventilation openings near
openings high in the coop, where any cold drafts the ceiling of your coop, you may still wish to take
that enter will not be blowing directly on your extra precautions to prevent drafts from entering.
chickens. You may have already considered this as Having some form of protective covers for your
an option for letting warm air and ammonia gas out windows and vents, to shade them from the most
of your coop, and if so, then congratulationsyou direct winds, is one logical option. If your coop
have already taken a major step toward establishing has glass windows that open outward, rather than
draft-free winter ventilation! sliding upward, this may be sufficient. For vents, a

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A shed roof on this large coop works well and is very attractive too. (p

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A gable roof is a common roof style for most houses and many chicken coops.

Designing Your Coop


similarly designed cover made out of wood or metal suitable for adding ventilation. From an ease of
should suffice. construction standpoint, a shed roof is certainly
simpler, so if your construction skills are limited
roofiNg CoNSiDeraTioNS and you want to keep things a bit easier, a shed roof
Your chicken coop will need a roofof coursebut just might be the way to go.
exactly what type of roof will you choose? Most Roofing material is another consideration.
chicken coops are built using one of two roof styles: Will you choose a metal roof? Or opt for shingles?
gable or shed. (You may see the occasional coop Sometimes your choice will simply be a matter of
with a gazebo-type roof or some other unusual which materials you happen to have handy. If you
choice, but the vast majority of coop roofs are gable have a stack of leftover shingles cluttering up a shelf
or shed.) in the garage, why not give them a purpose on the
Not sure what the difference is? No worriesits roof of your coop? Or if you have leftover scrap
easy. A gable roof consists of two sides that come metal that could be recycled for a coop roof, go
together to form a peakthis is the type of roof forit!
commonly seen on houseswhile a shed roof is Another option is to purchase polycarbonate
flat and slightly slanted to allow rain and snow to corrugated roof panels; these are available at home
glide off. You might also see flat roofs, which are improvement centers and can be a viable option.
similar to a shed roof, except that the flat roofs are Please note, however, that these panels may not be
notslanted. as predator-proof as a metal or shingled roof; they
From a ventilation standpoint, the gable simply dont have quite the same level of security as
(pitched) roof offers areas under the eaves that are the more traditional roof options.

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Chapter 4
Tools and
Necessary Skills

B
y now, youve made a lot of you want to include. But before
decisions about the coop youre you grab a hammer and nails, lets
going to build. Youve picked take a look at a few other tools and
your location, figured out the size, skills you need to build the coop of
and chosen most of the features yourdreams.
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Its important to learn how to use the tools needed to build your coop. Youll also need to follow all the a
safety instructions that come with your tools. Doing so will help make your coop-building project a happy and
funexperience. b

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Power toolssuch as a skill saw and a drillwill make your entire project go a lot faster and easier. Its important
to learn how to use these tools correctly so you can lessen any possible danger to yourself or others.

In this chapter, well talk about different kinds tools can roar through tasks that would tax your
of tools, how to handle them safely, and why arms and patience; in the right hands, they can be
youll probably want to use power tools. Well also extremely precise and often do better a job.
discuss necessary safety gear to keep your project The solution for you might be a combination,
runningsmoothly. leaving certain difficult or time-consuming tasks to
the machines and handling the more delicate work
Tools yourself. Cost and your own experience level will
Here are a few things to consider when choosing the also play a role in the choice.
tools to work with on your project:
Tools You Will Need
Why you NEED PoWEr tools ElEctric Drill
Okay, well be honest. Its possible to build your One piece of valuable equipment is an electric drill.
chicken coop using only hand tools, but we dont While you may find the drill useful on occasion for
recommend it. Sure, in some ways there is a certain actually, well, drilling, were going to hazard to guess
charm to hand tools and a certain nostalgia of doing that youll actually use it far more for a different
things the way they were always done. Hand tools purpose: driving and removing screws. Like a power
are cheaper, quieter, less expensive. Youll work at saw, its just one of those tools that can make life so
a slower pace and your work may, perhaps, benefit much easier.
for it. Especially if youre planning to build a small Ideally youll have access to a portable drill that
coop, working entirely with hand tools could be an runs on rechargeable batteries. Even if youre going
achievable option. to be doing most of your coop construction near
On the other hand, power tools have obvious an electrical source, we cant tell you how much
benefits. Youll save time and plenty of effort. Power more convenient it is to use a battery-powered drill

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The cordless drill and 6-inch screws will become your friends during this project.

rather than constantly fussing with extension cords. drill will probably give you plenty of strength, but
Ideally you should have two batteries. Many electric it is big and heavy. Explore these and also the in-
drill kits come with two, but some only come with between sizes of 16 and 18 volts.
oneif this is the case, we recommend buying an Another thing to consider when choosing a drill
extra battery right from the start. This way, you can is the capacity of the batteriesthis is measured in
always have one battery charging while the other is mAh (milliamp hours), and it helps you know how
in usevery convenient for those times when your much electricity the battery can holdthe larger
drill starts to fade o-f-f-f-f-f as the battery dies right the mAh, the longer your battery will work before
in the middle of a task. needing recharging.
One problem with cordless drills is that they can Whats another great use for an electric drill?
be heavy. The more powerful the drill, the heavier Predrilling nail holes. Weve all had it happen
it will be (partly because the batteries get heavier as youre hammering along, happy and carefree, when
they become more powerful). While not conclusive, suddenly, your nail turns sideways, or bends in half,
the voltage of the drill will give you a basic idea of or splits the wood, or just plain wont go in. One
how powerful it is; a 20-volt drill is more powerful way to avoid these problems is to use your drill and
than a 14-volt drill. While a heavy voltage can make a narrow bit prior to nailing and drill tiny holes in
a big difference when youre working all day long the places where you want to nail. Not only will
or using the drill for very hard work, for smaller your nails go in easier, but theyll go in straight and
carpentry projects such as a chicken coop, a lighter limit wood splitting. How great is that?
voltage is probably okay. If you have smaller hands
or dont want to struggle with a drill that is too level
heavy for you, try beginning your search for one Its a good idea to own at least a one small (24 inches
around 14 volts. This is a great lightweight size, but is a handy size) level, as it will help you keep things, A
it might be a little weak for a coop project. A 20-volt well, level. And plumb. Just to set the terms straight A

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Tools and Necessary Skills
l

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, A quality level of sufficient length will be used frequently during the construction of any coop you decide to build.
A long level can also double as a ruler for drawing straight pencil lines.

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in your mind now, remember that level means that high-quality tape that will stand up to plenty of use.
something is perfectly flat horizontally, while Tape measures that are 16 feet and 25 feet long are
plumb refers to an object being perfectly straight common lengths; either one will probably do fine
vertically. Its the same idea both ways, and your for your coop project.
level helps you accomplish both these jobs. Keep In addition to helping you get your cuts right,
those bubbles centered! a tape measure can help your math skills. Theres
nothing like carpentry work to help you hone your
TaPe Measure fractions. The tape measures used for carpentry
Theres no doubt about it: carpentry is a task of work break inches into sixteenths, which can be a
precision. Even tiny errors in measurement can little difficult to work with at first if you arent used
throw off your building project and cause things to to dealing with small fractions on a daily basis.
not fit or become crooked. A good tape measure Take a few minutes to examine your tape measure
helps you avoid these troubles. Theres a famous and really look at the divisions between inches.
bit of carpentry advice that youve probably heard, They have different height markings to help you
but that well throw in here anyway: Measure twice, keep track of different fractions. For instance, the
cut once. The point, of course, is that a little extra half-inch mark is easy to findits halfway (of
time spent in preparation is easier and less time- course) between 0 and 1 inch. It also has the longest
consuming than redoing a task later. However, while mark of any fraction. Next are the two quarter-
youre learning, you may find yourself measuring inch (- and -inch) marks on either side. Their
three times, and still goofing up. markings are a bit shorter on the tape measure than
Since youll be using your tape measure often, the half-inch mark, but still longer than the others.
dont be afraid to spend a little bit extra and get a There are four eighth-inch marks (-, -, -, and

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A few tools you wont want to be without during this project: a hammer, safety glasses, a nail apron, and a handy th
carpentry pencil. Take your time and be careful! fo

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.

A 16-ounce claw hammer is a great choice for the types of jobs youll need to do on this project. This hammer is a
good weight and can get the work done without being so heavy that it tires your arm.

Tools and Necessary Skills


-inch) stuck in between the quarters and half, with haMMer
shorter marks still, and last of all are a sprinkling Nothing says carpenter like a hammer.
of sixteenth markseight of themwhich are the Technically, the type of hammer people have
smallest marks of all. in mind (and the kind you want) when they
What can sometimes be confusing is keeping the say hammer is a claw hammer. This is type
equivalents straight in your mind; a half inch is the of hammer where the big blunt end is used for
same as 816ths, etc. But with a little practiceand pounding nails; the split back end can be used for
plenty of measurementsyoull be sure to get the removing misplaced or otherwise wayward nails.
hang of it. You want a hammer heavy enough to do its
job well, but not so heavy that you cant handle it.
PeNcil Sixteen- and 20-ounce hammers are common and
Say, after you get those perfect measurements, how popular, and the 16-ounce would probably be a
will you remember them? And how will you mark good choice for you.
them? Youll need something to write with, and
something to mark the places you need to cut. For square
these jobs, youll want a carpentry pencil. When building a structure such as a chicken
Carpentry pencils are tougher and thicker than coop, carpentry is all about keeping things square.
normal pencilsthey have to be, to stand up to Basically this means making sure that your
heavy use in a construction environment. And say, 90-degree (right angle) angles are truly 90 degrees
why are carpentry pencils flat and not round? Its so and not something slightly crooked such as 88 or
they cant roll away and also to provide thicker lead 93. If things are square, the walls and roof of your
for bolder marks on lumber. coop will stand straight and proud, and everything

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Make sure that the corners of your coop frame are square and strong by using a framing square. Youll use it (or a
similar tool) frequently during the framingprocess.

will assemble correctly. If things arent square, youre haNd saWs


going to be in trouble (the Leaning Coop of Pisa?). There are always timeseven for professionals
Luckily the tool you need exists. Its calledget when a hand saw is simply the quickest method for
thisa square. (Who said carpentry was difficult?) making a particular cut. In these cases, its likely
There are two common kinds of squares: framing because getting out and setting up a particular
squares, which are basically large L-shaped rulers, power saw would take more time than grabbing
and speed squares, which are quite a bit smaller and your trusty hand saw and taking care of the task
triangular shaped. byhand.
A small (6-inch) speed square is great to keep
in your pocket while you work; you can use it for PoWer saWs
marking cuts and all sorts of jobs. The larger size More often, though, youll find yourself facing a
of a framing square makes it easy to check the cutor a series of cutsthat will be very tiring,
squareness of your corners. time consuming, or require fine precision. In these
cases, it will usually be worth your while to consider
razor KNife a power saw for the job.
A razor knife is an item that finds its way into most A common type of household sawone you
carpenters toolkits. Youll use it for all sorts of little probably already have access tois the well-known
jobs, from trimming shingles and roofing paper to circular saw. As its name implies, this small saw
fine-tuning a cut to even sharpening pencils. Take has a round blade (usually around 6 to 8 inches in
care with itdont rushits very sharp. diameter7-inch saws are most common), and Y

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it is very versatile, able to handle many of the tasks A jigsaw is another very useful tool. You dont
you throw at it. In fact, its possible to make all the have to have one, but for those times when youre
necessary cuts for the coop outline in this book with making very small cuts in awkward places, they can
just a circular saw, so we heartily recommend you be a real time and labor saver. A jigsaw has a blade
obtain one. that moves up and down vertically very quickly,
Lots of circular saws run off power from their allowing it to be quite maneuverable, albeit slow.
cords, but there are also battery-powered circular Chop saws are another great time saver. You
saws available. As with a battery-powered drill, dont have to have one, but theyre nice. A chop saw
the advantage here is being able to move around lets you make very accurate cuts more quickly than
anywhere, free of cords. While battery-powered a circular saw, and its also a snap to make cuts of
saws arent usually as strong as the plug-in variety, various angles.
the convenience is valuable, and you dont have to
worry about where your cord is all the time. They saWhorses
are, however, greedy for power, and a cordless If youre going to be sawingand you willyoure
circular saw can drain a battery rather quickly. going to need somewhere to make your cuts. And
For a chicken coop project (in which you most if you want to do it rightand you doyoure
likely wont be sawing huge pieces of lumber), the going to need a pair of sawhorses. Sawhorses
lower powers of battery saws are probably okay, dont need to be fancy, just strong enough to do
but be aware that battery saws are generally more the job. You can find wooden or metal sawhorses,
expensive than corded versions. and even sawhorses made of plastic. Surprisingly,
continued on page 95

Tools and Necessary Skills

You might find it useful to keep a hand saw around the jobsitetheyre fast, simple, and useful for certain jobs.

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For the majority of the cuts for your chicken coop project, youll want to use power saws. The circular saw is one of A
the most common, versatile, and easy-to-use power saws available. a

A jigsaw is capable of making precise cuts and will come in handy many times during your coop project, such as A
when preparing the end of this rafter. b

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f A chop saw is another tool that can greatly speed up your work by allowing you to make precise straight and
angled cuts very quickly.

Tools and Necessary Skills

A good pair of sawhorses will be your friendyoull use them constantly while building your coop. In addition to
being helpful for making cuts, a pair of sawhorses can be easily turned into a temporary table.

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Youll need a ladder for the over-your-head portions of your project. But be sure to use a strong ladder in good u
condition and follow the ladders safety instructions. It only takes a few more minutes to do things carefully. w

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continued from page 91

these plastic sawhorses are pretty tough and stable. sides, as flying bits and stray slivers of wood can
Theyre also super light, which makes them easy otherwise easily shoot up while youre working and
to move around; plus they can also fold up, which find their way inside. Dont plan on simply using
takes up less storage space. So we recommend your ordinary glasses or sunglasses; the glass isnt
them. Problems? Plastic sawhorses cant hold a very designed to protect against impacts, and they dont
large load and are somewhat prone to cracking provide protection on the sides. Remember too
andbreaking. especially if you find safety glasses annoyingthat
So, what can you do with sawhorses? Plenty. For you dont have to wear them all the time. Certain
one thing, obviously, you can make cuts on them. jobs (measuring, painting, etc.) dont require glasses,
Dont fall for the (easy to make) mistake of cutting and for the jobs that do, you can always slip your
your wood in between the sawhorsesyoull bind pair on and off between tasks.
your saw and the whole setup will just fight you.
Instead, be sure to use your sawhorses as supports ear ProTecTioN
for the piece of lumber that you want (usually the During the loud portions of your project, such
longer piece), and let the piece youre cutting away as during the use of power tools or hammering,
hang off the edge of the sawhorses. In other words, protecting your ears is also important. Sound is
make all of your cuts outside the sawhorses. If its measured with the decibel (dB) system, with 0
a long, heavy piece you're cutting, get someone to to 5 representing the faintest flicker of sound a
hold the end so it doesnt fall with a big crash. human can hear; 60 decibels represents a normal
Another great thing you can do with sawhorses conservation, and 8090 represents the level at
is to create your own temporary worktable. Just use which hearing damage can occur with prolonged
a few thick, sturdy boards, or a sheet of plywood or exposure. Since many of the tools used for carpentry
similar item on top of your sawhorses to make a big, are capable of producing noise in excess of 90 dB,
flat area for you to set tools, make measurements ear protection must be used for your safety. There
and marks, and work on pieces of your project. are a few options to choose from, including tight-
fitting foam ear plugs or larger headphone-style sets
ladders with an emphasis on comfort. The important thing
A ladder is essential for this project during the is be sure to use your ear protection during the
roofing stage. Be sure to use a strong, safe ladder loudest portions of your project.

Tools and Necessary Skills


that is in good repair. Safety is the most important
thing while using a ladderespecially while working Gloves
with tools at the same time. Follow the directions Gloves are always a tradeoff in situations like this.
carefully (such as which steps you can or cannot On one hand (pun intended!), you need protection
climb above) and dont use it on a slope of any kind. from rough wood, and the general bangs, bumps,
wears, and tears that come with any building
safeTY iTems project. On the other hand, there will be times
eye ProTecTioN during the project where youll need dexterity
Ask any conscientious woodworker about safety, and the ability to manipulate small objects. The
and the topic of eye protection will surely enter ideal gloves for you will depend on whats most
the conversation. Any time youre working with comfortable to youyou may want a thick pair of
nails and hammers, drills and screws, and tools in very protective gloves for moving wood, digging,
general, eye protection should be at the front of and raking, while keeping a smaller, more tight-
your thoughts. fitting pair around for handling screws and nails
A wide range of safety glasses is available, and or making cuts. Wells Lamont makes a pair of knit
you can choose a style as elaborate or simple as you gloves with a layer of latex rubber on the palms and
like. You can choose from scratch-resistant lenses, fingers, which provides a lot of dexterity while still
lenses that provide UV protection, or even colorful maintaining excellent protection.
styles. You can even get safety glasses that fit over
your ordinary glasses if needed. The style is really dusT MasK
up to you. The main thing is to select a pair, and For people who do a lot of carpentry work,
use them. We recommend a pair of safety glasses protection from breathing in the sawdust cast up
with protection that goes all the way down the by constant woodcutting is essential. For your

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chicken coop project, you probably wont be making GeT Help
a large amount of cuts, but youre still going to be Well be honest: you might want some in-person
creating your fair share of sawdust. Once bits of dust guidance while you build your coop. In the scheme
become loose in the air, they can be inhaled and of construction projects, of course, a chicken coop
potentially cause health problems. For this reason, isnt a major undertaking, but dont let the small
a simple dust mask can offer inexpensive but size fool you into thinking theres nothing to it.
effectiveprotection. Unless you already have a carpentry background
Some very inexpensive dust masks are only and experience in building similar projects, we cant
designed to protect against ordinary household stress enough that you should find someone who is
dust you might encounter while vacuuming or experienced and can give you advice and hopefully
cleaning a home. For your chicken coop project, we lend you a hand with the actual construction:
recommend spending a little extra and choosing a someone to show you the safe way to make a cut;
sturdy mask. someone to show you why this or that is the best
A lot of people find dust masks uncomfortable, way to do somethingsomeone to lend a helping
but again, remember that you only have to wear it hand. Well do all we can in this book, but due to
during the times when youre actually exposed to space limitationsnot to mention the limitations
dusty situationsyou dont have to wear it during of the written wordits always better to have
the whole project. someone with you.

There will be times during your coops construction when it will be a good idea to have someone with carpentry B
experience help you out with the more difficult or challenging aspects of the project. g

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t

Tools and Necessary Skills

Becoming skilled and comfortable with your hammer simply takes practice. Luckily, your chicken coop project will
give you ample opportunity to do so.

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skills very unpleasant thing because its unattractive and
If you were born with a hammer in your hand and weakens your wood.
could shingle roofs before you could walk, then you Youll also want to avoid nailing into knots in the
can skip this part of the book. If not, read on. wood. Knots are those circular, darker areas of the
Seriously though, even if youve done wood (they were actually the locations of branches
carpentry work before, its never a bad idea to in the tree) and they are very hardmuch harder
review the basics again before starting such an than the surrounding wood. Ask any carpenter:
importantproject. trying to drive a nail through a knot is just asking
for trouble.
NailiNG If you have access to an air nailer (and,
Nailing can be tricky, but youll probably have hopefully, someone experienced in using it to help
various reasons to do it during your coop project. you use it safely and effectively), youll be amazed
To gain practice, why not experiment with at how fast you can fly through your project,
pounding some nails into scrap wood first? Youll especially when shingling or constructing a nest
gain some skill and confidence without risking box. Youll be able to almost effortlessly fasten one
expensive lumber. Once youve got the hang of it, nail after another, even in tricky situations. Air
there are a few pointers to keep in mind. nailers can be somewhat expensive and do require
First, always be careful not to insert a nail too an air compressor to work, and as with all power
close to the edge of a piece of wood. Depending tools, safety must be a top priority at all times. So
on the type of wood and the style of nail, nailing even though you can rely on a hand hammer and
too close to an edge can cause the wood to splita your trusty power drill for screws, if you have the

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An air nailer isnt an essential tool, but its one that can really save you a lot of time and effortespecially th
whenshingling. s

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Screwing is a skill that you can learn pretty fast. Take your time in the beginning while you get the hang of it, and

Tools and Necessary Skills


youll be sailing through that box of screws before long.

opportunity to use an air nailer on your project, it nailespecially for beginners who may not have
might not be a bad idea. a lot of experience with extensive hammer use.
We would even propose that screwing (again, for
PulliNG Nails beginners) is more accurate and faster than nailing.
It happens to everyone: youve put a nail somewhere Using screws and power drills is generally safe,
you didnt need it, and now it needs to come out. but there are some tips and safety suggestions that
Or, youre in the process of pounding a nail and it will make your job easier. When starting a screw
bends or twists beyond saving. Use the back end of into the wood, use a very slow speed on the drill
your claw hammer to help leverage the nail back until the screw has worked its way into the wood
out; using a side-to-side motion is usually more a short distance; you can easily adjust the speed
successful the pulling straight out. You might also of the drill with the trigger. Once your screw is in
need a block of scrap wood to use as a fulcrum. And far enough for it to stand on its own, release it and
wear those safety glasses! use both hands to hold the drillthis will give you
more control of the tool and also keeps both your
screWiNG hands out of the way in case your drill slips off the
In this book, we recommend that you use screws screw. Then you can feel free to speed up and finish
and a power drill to fasten your coops basic frame. the screw at a more rapid pace. Dont worry if your
There are a number of reasons why. For one first attempts arent too fastyoull quickly get the
thing, screwing with a power drill (especially long hang of this and be inserting screw after screw in
screws) is generally easier than pounding nail after notime.

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It takes some experience to rip wood properly and safely, so this is a great area to get some help and advice if
youre unsure. You wont have to make very many rip cuts during this project.

riPPiNG could become cumbersome as soon as you start


Ripping is the term used for cutting a piece of wood having to move lumber back and forth. Luckily,
along with the grainthat is, parallel to the grain. your trusty circular saw can make a rip cut, but you
This is in contrast to a cross cut (the kind you may need to fashion a guide to help you keep the
likely think of when you imagine someone sawing cut straight, or at least proceed quite slowly and
wood), which goes sideways across the grain carefully. Another saw that can make rip cuts is a
perpendicular to it. Ripping comes in hand plenty band saw, but again, its not usually a stock piece of
of times, and youll use it for a few different cuts most home tool kits.
during your coop project.
The problem is that ripping can be a little GluiNG
more challenging than your regular cross cut. The Sure, youre going to fasten everything with screws
easiest way to accomplish this is to use a table saw. or nails, but applying a little bit of wood glue to
A table saw works and looks a bit like a miniature each joint will help keep things tight and sealed
sawmilllong pieces of wood can easily slide across for years to come. Its just a little backup plan. You
the blade and be ripped with ease and accuracy. dont even have to wait for the glue to dryyou
Unfortunately, table saws are big and expensive, just apply it to the surfaces youre about to join and
and usually not part of the average persons tool then immediately fasten them with your screws or
inventory. But you might know someone with a nails. You dont have to go crazy with wood glue,
table sawmaybe Uncle Joe has a woodworking but use it liberallyenough of it to get the job
hobby and lots of cool toolsbut then again, it doneright.

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Get used to fastening everything
with screws or nails, but a handy
bottle of wood glue can help
keep joints snug and tight. Glue is
easy to apply and only adds a few
extraminutes.

Load up your tools, get your


materials, and lets get going! The

Tools and Necessary Skills


coop awaits.

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Chapter 5
Building the Coop

A
t last! The time has come! Youve In this chapter, well get started on building
a coop. Weve provided a plan to build a basic
considered the advantages, youve 48-foot coop that is suitable for four chickens.
chosen a location, youve decided Well show youstep by stephow to build the
coop, and weve included plans, a materials list, and
which type of coop you need, and
a cut list so that youll have everything you need to
youve gathered the necessary tools for get going on your coop-building project.
the job. Now its time to get started. The coop well build in this chapter is an
attractive, strong, durable structure, yet one that is
still small enough for a home project. Weve used
heavy-duty, high-quality materials, including cedar
on all exposed elements for durability and resistance
to rot. Because we live in a northern region with
very cold winters, this coop is designed with thick
walls to help insulate against cold and wind. All
in all, the materials for this coop cost $680 at our
location at the time of thiswriting.
For easy everyday cleanout, there is a small
exterior access door that allows you to reach into
the coop for cleaning without actually having to go
inside through the main door. There is also another
small exterior door that allows access to the nest
boxesagain, with the idea in mind that you wont
have to go in with your chickens every time you
want to collect eggs (this is a great convenience
and time saver). The spacious run will give your
chickens room to move around and scratch.
For complete access to coops interior, there is a
removable coop wall, and while its not something
youll be removing on a daily basis, it is still simple
enough to remove for times during the year when
you want to easily access your coops interior for
Your door will use four L braces on the joints to help thorough cleanings. Finally, there is a large main
give it strength. Its helpful if you hold the bracket in door allowing your chickens to have convenient It
the correct position first and make marks for your screw access to the run. e
holes with a pencil. Lets go! a

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Its building time! By following the directions in this chapter, youll be able to build a high-quality coop that is large
enough for four chickens. The coop is equipped with doors for easy cleanout and egg collecting, a built-in run, and
an attractive design.

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How to
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Build Chicken Coops
Chicken Coops
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96"

59" 66"

41"

30"

25" 3038"

28"

T
p

S
C


59 "
66" H


24 " th
d
fo
th
2
2
6
45" 45 "
w

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Your coops door will see a lot of use and
wearover time, so for additional strength, add a
4-inch Lbrace at each corner to further anchor
thejoints.

Step 2: the Front pAnel FrAme


Cut list for the front panel frame:
2 45" cedar 24s
4 59" cedar 24s

Hardware:
1 pair of 3" hinges with removable pins

Your coops front panel consists of a basic frame


constructed of two 59-inch 24s for the sides and
two 45-inch 24s for the top and bottom. Youll
also need an additional pair of 59-inch 24s,
located just inside the outer 59-inch 24s. Make
a 1-inch gap between the two, for a total span of
8 inches from the outer edges of both. Fasten all
joints with 6-inch screws and wood glue.
Now is as good a time as any to actually attach
the door to its frame, so use your two 3-inch hinges
to perform this task.

The completed door, with L braces installed. At this


point, we havent installed hardware cloth on the door.

Step 1: the Door


Cut list for the door:
3 21" cedar 24s
2 5938" cedar 24s Building the Coop

Hardware:
4 4" L braces
1 handle
1 latch

Lets start out by building something fun:


the door of the coop. Its pretty simple. The
door is constructed out of two 59-inch 24s
for the long sides and two 21-inch 24s for
the top andbottom. Theres also an additional
21-inch 24 set in the middle of the doorframe, When working on your coops frame, its helpful to use
24716inches from the bottom of the door. Use a framing square to help make sure your corners are
6-inch screws to fasten, along with a bit of straight. Here, were using a framing square on the
woodglue. front panel frame.

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Another useful tip when squaring the
frames is to measure the diagonals
and make adjustments to the frame
until both diagonal measurements
match. Leave one corner unfastened
until you are square; this will
give you enough flexibility to
makeadjustments.

Step 3: the BACk pAnel


Cut list for the back panel:
2 45" cedar 24s
2 59" cedar 24s

The back panel couldnt be


any simpler: use the two 59-
inch 24s to create the sides,
and tie that together with the
pair of 45-inch 24s for the top
and bottom. Fasten with 6-inch
screws and woodglue.

When positioning and attaching the door to the front panel, try using nails at each corner as spacers. This will keep
the door from binding against the frame. T

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e With your spacers in place, go
ahead and screw in the hinges to
attach the door.

Building the Coop

p
The front panel (with the door) and the back panel are now complete.

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Step 4: the SiDe pAnelS (x2) with the top of the lower 30-inch 24 spaced
Cut list for the side panels: 30inches above the top of the lower 96-inch 24.
2 96" cedar 24s The second 30-inch 24 should be placed
4 59" cedar 24s above the first 30-inch 24, so that there is an
2 3038" cedar 24s 11-inch gap between them.
Repeat the above steps to create a second side
Things get slightly more complicated with the panel that is identical to the first.
larger side panels, but its still very manageable. Use
the two 96-inch 24s to create the top and bottom, Step 5: hArDwAre Cloth
along with a pair of 59-inch 24s for the sides. Hardware:
A third 59-inch 24 should be placed parallel Hardware cloth
to the left side of the panel, with a 25-inch gap Roofing nails
separating this third 59-inch 24 from the side
board. The fourth 59-inch 24 is placed (again) You now have the frames for all four sides of
25 inches from the third 24this will leave your coop. A good thing to do nowwhile theyre
a gap of 30 inches between the fourth 24 and still separate from one another and easier to
the right edge of the side panel. This 30-inch area handleis to add the hardware cloth.
will be the location of the actual coop portion of For the door, you will need to cut a piece of
yourproject. rectangular hardware cloth that is about 56 inches
Within this 30-inch gap is where those two on the long side and 24 inches on the short side.
30-inch 24s should be located. They should be These numbers do not need to be exact, but youll
placed parallel to the top and bottom of the frame, want to be close. W
si
C

A completed side panel with hardware cloth already in place. Youll need two of these side panels T
(theyreidentical). is

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With someone to help you, carefully roll out the hardware cloth to cover the door and the required sections on the
side panels. Gloves and glasses are essential here, along with a pair of tin snips to cut the hardware cloth to size.
Cutting wire is unpredictable, so have a helper for this step to avoid injury.

Building the Coop

The hardware cloth can be fastened with roofing nails. In these images were using -inch hardware cloth; -inch
is also commonly used.

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For each side panel, youll need a larger piece (or Step 6: ComBine the FrAme pAnelS
probably two pieces with a seam)enough to cover This is a fun step because you get to make some real
about 64 inches on the long end by almost 59 inches visual progress in a hurry. This is where your coop
on the short edge. Note that you only need to cover goes from looking like just a pile of lumber to a real
about two-thirds of each side panelyou dont need structure. Using our old friends the 6-inch screws
to cover the section of each side panel with the two and wood glue, attach one of your side panels to the
30-inch 24s, as this area will be covered by back panel (make sure you attach the back panel to
wood later on. the correct end of the side panelthe end with the
You must be very careful when working with wider 30-inch gap and the two 30-inch 24s.)
hardware clothits sharp, and it has a tendency to Youll definitely need some extra hands around for
jump back into its original shape. This is one area this portion of the project. Youll also want to work
where youll definitely want another pair of hands in a fairly level place.
to help you. One way to tame the wild hardware Be aware that your long side panels go on the
cloth beast is to fasten two top corners first, then outside, and your shorter front and back panels fit
work your way down. Dont fasten all four corners in the inside of those.
at once; youll need to work in one direction so Once you have a side panel and the back panel
you can keep stretching it taut and avoid ending up fastened, and they are standing on their own, you
with slack in the middle. Use roofing nails to fasten; are free to add the other side panel, as well as your
the large heads will keep the mesh in place and the front panel. Combine all these together with 6-inch
short length makes for easy installation. screws and wood glue.

A
th

h
to
a
fa
With the hardware cloth in place, its time to assemble the coops frame. Note that the front and back panels need
to go on the inside of the side panels. tr

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Building the Coop


Apply some wood glue to the frames before joining When assembling the frames, start your screws ahead
them together. of time as shown here. Then when youre ready and
holding everything in place, you can quickly and easily
finish the screws off without having to worry about
getting them in the right places.

This is where your framing square (if you square. Use your tape measure to measure across
have one) comes in very handy, as youll be able the diagonal of your frameboth ways. Are they
to use it repeatedly to ensure that your corners the same? Then youre good to go! If not (theyre
are square. Check before, during, and after the probably very close), then youre going to have
fasteningprocess. to try to bend and shift your frame a little bit one
While youre at this stage, theres another handy way or the other until you get essentially the same
trick you can use to double check that things are measurement on both diagonals.

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Your framing square can come in handy again during this stage. You want all four walls to be square in order to
avoid creating bigger problems later on.

T
Dont try to handle the frames alone. Theyre awkward and heavy and youll save time and be more accurate if you sl
have another pair (or pairs) of hands around. Here, the final side panel is being attached. st

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Building the Coop

Take care to keep things flush while screwing the frames together. If youre working in grass or another type of
u slightly uneven surface, you can temporarily place a spare piece of lumber under your frames to help keep them
steady and level.

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With all four sides up and fastened, use your tape measure once more to check the diagonals. Again, having
someone to help you will ease the process.

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At this stage, we have all four panels built and assembled, with hardware cloth on the necessary areas. Time to
move on to the roof!

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8
2 "
12

11
"
" 100 2
31 12

11
"
2
12
2 10

22
Cedar

Step 7: the rAFterS plenty of strength. Be sure to refer to the diagrams


Cut list for the rafters: while making these cuts.
8 31" cedar 24s Next, take four pairs of 31-inch 24s and
combine them at the ends with the 40-degree angle
This coop plan is designed with four rafters, and cuts (use your trusty 6-inch screws for this job as
theyre fairly straightforward to construct. Make a well). When youre done, youll have four rafters
cut at a 40-degree angle to the short end of all eight completed and ready to screw (with 6-inch screws)
31-inch 24s. Then, cut a 3-inch1-inch onto the coop frame. The two unnotched rafters go
notch into the opposite end of just four of the on the front and back ends, while the two notched
31-inch 24s. This notch will let the rafters fit rafters are installed directly above the 59-inch
snugly onto the top of the side panels and give them 24s along the side panels.

Building the Coop


Use 6-inch screws to fasten your
rafters to the frame. Its important
to keep the rafters straight (square
to the frame) as you work.

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The coop uses four rafters: two (unnotched) over the front and back panels and two (notched) above each stud.

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Now you can put up the 212 roof boards. Dont forget to rip the two ridge boards to 40 degrees.

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Nail your roof boards into all four rafters, either by hand or by using an air nailer.
Building the Coop

Step 8: the rooF BoArDS Step 9: rooF trim


Cut list for the roof boards: Cut list for the roof trim:
4 8' cedar 212s 2 96" cedar 22s
2 8' cedar 212s, 4 34" cedar 22s (one end cut 40)
one side ripped 40
To keep things looking nice and tidy, well add
Now, lets get a roof to go with those rafters. some trim to the roof. Use the two 96-inch 22s
With someone to help you (those 212s can be and attach them with 3-inch screws directly onto the
heavy), install all six 212s to the rafters with lowermost 212 on each side of your coops roof. The
nails. Use three 212s on each side of the coop, four 34-inch 22s are used as trim on the front and
saving the two that you ripped to 40-degrees for back ends of your coop, spanning all three 212s on
thetops. each side and meeting at the top with the 40-degree
cuts. These are also attached with 3-inch screws.

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Roof trim will give your coop a professional touch. Youll need a total of six pieces of trim for the roof. Two for
each side . . .
R
p

. . . and two apiece for the front


and back. Use 3-inchscrews.

Step 10: ADD


rooFing pAper
Its best to put something in
between your 212s and your
shingles. Felt roofing paper is
easy and quick to install and
can help keep moisture out.
Cut a piece for each side of the
roof to roughly the size you
need (10036 inches); you
can trim it to fit later with your
razorknife.
Attaching the roofing paper
goes pretty fast; we used a staple
hammer to quickly tack the felt
into place, but you can also use
roofing nails and a hammer.
Whatever you have will work Y
justfine. h

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Roofing paper comes next, for both sides of the roof. Overlap the paper across the ridge to provide added
protection against moisture.

Building the Coop

You can tack down your roofing paper with roofing nails, orfor a faster and easier solutionuse a staple
hammer. Its a great tool.

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Step 11: the SiDe wAllS present on each side panel. So youll use a total of
Cut list for the side walls: six 35-inch 210s to cover the lower areas of both
12 35" cedar 210s side panels.
Next, use your remaining 35-inch 210s to
Lets get some walls on this coop. Working your cover the upper areas of both side panelsthe areas
way up from the ground (and on the inside of the above the upper 30-inch 24s (the open space
coop), use nails to attach three of your 35-inch left over will become your cleanout and nest box
210s to the lower portions of each side panel. doors). For each of the uppermost 35-inch 210s,
This will be enough to cover the section thats youll need to cut a notch 5 inches long and
just below each of the lowermost 30-inch 24s 1inches wide to fit around the rafter.

T
ca

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o
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in

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Installing the coops side walls shouldnt take long, and it can be a fun part of the project as your coop begins to ro
really take shape. T

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The back wall is also pretty simplejust seven 210s stacked on top of each other. Arent you glad you were
careful to keep everythingsquare?

Step 12: BACk wAll but this plan calls for the use of cedar shingles. In Building the Coop
Cut list for the back wall: all cases (whether roof, side wall, or back wall), start
7 42" cedar 210s shingling from the bottom and work your way up.
This way, the shingles will overlap in a way that
The back wall is pretty simple. Just use all seven helps prevent water from penetrating the coop.
of your 42-inch 210s to fill in the back panel. Like Using a carpenters chalk line or a long level and
the side panel walls, youll be doing this from the pencil can help keep your lines straight, although
inside. Fasten with nails, and youre good to go. you may prefer to stagger the shingles for a more
rustic look. In any event, nail your shingles either
Step 13: ShingleS by hand or by using an air nailer (this can greatly
Materials list: speed up and ease the process). Also, keep a hand
Roughly 5 bundles of cedar shingles saw and razor knife handy to trim any shingles to
size asrequired.
At this point, you can go ahead and shingle the When you finish each side of the roof, you
roof, side panel walls, and back wall of the coop. can use a circular saw to trim off whatever excess
There are many different routes you can take here, shingles extend over the edge.

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D
p

An in-process view of the construction of the back and side walls. W

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During the shingling process, youll often need to trim or otherwise adjust certain shingles to make them fit,
particularly when you reach the end of a row. A pair of sawhorses and a handsaw can make quick work of this task.

Building the Coop

With one row of roof shingles complete, its time to start overlapping with the second row.

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Install shingles on your coops roof, side, and back panels. You can use a hammer and nails to fasten your shingles
or an air nailer if you have access to one. (Be careful!)

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Building the Coop

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S

This is a side view of the way the roof shingles overlap after completion.

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4

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If you do decide to try an air nailer for the shingling process, be sure to read the manual and fully understand how
the tool works, including its safety precautions. Take your time, be careful, and wear safety glasses.

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Sometimes youll want help from an experienced person for challenging parts of the construction.

Building the Coop

Once the roof shingles are finished, you can top it all off with a ridge cap. Dont forget to make those
40-degreerips!

Step 14: riDge CAp After your roof is shingled, youll want to put
Cut list for the ridge cap: a professional finish on the ridge. Use two 8-foot
2 8' cedar 16s, ripped 40 (96-inch) 16s, ripped to 40 degrees to handle this
job. Nail it in place.

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8" Vent
12"
9" 9"
3"

10" 8" 10"


3" 3"
37"

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in
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1
fo
a
c

M
a
This is what the gable vent area will look like from the inside of the coop when it is completed. The 88-inch vent b
provides additional ventilation. fi

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The 212s that make up the coops floor sit nicely on top of the coop walls.

Step 15: BuilD gABle Vent AreA cut, the board should have a slanted roof, with the
Cut list for the gable vent area: highest point being 12 inches from the base and the
2 10" cedar 212s or 210s lowest point being 9 inches from the base.
2 12" cedar 24s The 8-inch 24 will be used at the very peak of
1 8" cedar 24 your gable, fitting in just beneath the rafter. As a result,
1 8" cedar 24 it will require a pair of 40-degree cuts in order to shape
it into a triangle. The 8-inch 24 will be used at the Building the Coop
This coop includes an 88-inch gable vent to center of the bottom of the gable to fill in that portion.
help with ventilation inside the coop (as discussed All of this will leave you with an 88-inch hole,
in Chapter 3). Were going to place this vent on just right and ready for your gable vent. Nail it in.
the back wall gable, but before we do that, we need With the gable vent installed, you can go ahead and
somewhere to attach it. shingle this portion of the coop as well.
We need to make two right triangles out of the
10 212s. The two straight legs (that meet to Step 16: Coop Floor
form the right angle) need to be 10 inches long Cut list for the coop floor:
and 9 inches high. This will require making several 3 45" cedar 212s
cuts into your boards.
Your 12-inch 24s need an angled cut as well. Building your coops floor is very simple.
Make a mark at 9 inches on one side, and then make It consists of just three 45-inch 212s placed
a diagonal cut from this point to the corner of the horizontally on top of the side panels lower six
t board, as shown in the diagrams. If you stand your 210s. The floorboards will fit right into place and
finished board upright on the flat edge opposite the can be nailed down to lock them into position.

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Step 17: upper VenteD AreA cuts on both ends of your 44-inch 210. S
Cut list for the upper vented area: When youre finished, you should have a C
1 44" cedar 210 trapezoid 44inches long on the bottom
and 22 inches on the top. Nail this just
Hardware: underneath the second rafter from the rear
Hardware cloth of the coop. It should fit snugly into place,
leaving a triangular gap above it, in between
Now we can begin to construct the front wall the rafter. Cover this triangular area with ro
of the actual coop area. Make two 40-degree hardwarecloth. ro
T
u
This upper area provides additional
ventilation. The 44-inch 210 fits
right under a rafter, and hardware
cloth is used to protect the integrity
of the coop.

Three roosts arranged like this 3


provide plenty of roosting room for
your chickens.

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Step 18: rooStS the right amount of roundness without being too
Cut list for the roosts: slippery. In any event, make a 45-degree cut on each
1 25" roost end of the 25- and 40-inch roosts. Attach these to
1 40" roost the left corner of your coops interior with 3-inch
1 33" roost screws, with the shorter 25-inch roost placed higher
than the 40-inch perch. The exact height of each
Its important to give your birds plenty of roost isnt critical, but aim for about 24 inches and
roosting areas, and as discussed in Chapter 3, these 30 inches off the coop floor. Dont make 45-degree
roosts are ideally wooden and somewhat rounded. cuts on the 33-inch roost, as it is going to be
There are various ways to achieve this; we actually placed just beneath the 88-inch vent and parallel
used a type of hand railing that seemed to have just to the coop walls.
l
s

y 5" 33" 5"

5"

39"
r
14 "
Building the Coop

11 "

12 " 16"

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Step 19: remoVABle Coop wAll
1" Cut list for the removable coop wall:
11 " 1 44"44" " (thickness) plywood
(forwall)
1 1278" cedar 112 (for door)
2 1438" 1"1" cedar
11 " (for door trim)
2 16" 1"1" cedar
(for door trim)
12 " 12 "
Hardware:
hook latch (for door)
hook latch eyes (for door)
pair of 2" hinges (for door)
1" 1" Were really getting close now! The next step
is to build the interior coop wall, which is semi-
removable. You wont be taking it on and off on a
1" daily basis, but for times when youd like to have
continued on page 135

N
A jigsaw can make the job of cutting the removable coop wall door very simple. n

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The finished doorway opening. Use a jigsaw to make precise cuts.

Building the Coop

Narrow pieces of wood can easily split accidently when theyre being nailed, so take care. When used safely, an air
nailer can be very good for handling this task.

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Title:MBI -- How
How to
to Build
Build Chicken
11-AC72479 Dtp:SF
Coops
Chicken Coops
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Page:133
Once youve completed your doorframe, attach it to the door opening you cut into the plywood.

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Now you can shingle your removable coop wall to protect it and make it look great. y

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Mount the coops door onto the frame and add a hook to keep it closed as needed. You can also try other types of
latchessome are even able to be opened and closed from the outside of the coop.

continued from page 132

complete access to the coop (as you would for Before proceeding any further, we need to
a thorough cleaning), removing the wall is easy make a couple of cuts to modify the upper corners
enough. But for right now, lets just get it built. (opposite the door hole) of the plywood. As
The first thing is to create an opening for the shown in the diagrams, make a mark 39 inches
door. In one corner of your 4444-inch piece of up on both sides of the plywood wall. Then make
plywood, mark out a 11121516-inch rectangle. The two more marks on the top of the plywood, each Building the Coop
two sides of this opening nearest the corner should 5inches in from their respective corners (leaving
both be 1 inches from the edges of the plywood. To a distance of 33 inches between these two marks).
actually cut out your rectangular opening, you can Now make two cuts between each pair of 39-inch
use your circular saw to do most of the work, but you and 5-inch marks, thus removing the two upper
might not be able to get all the way into your corners. corners from the plywood.
Use a jigsaw or hand saw to finish. From this point, Now you can go ahead and shingle the plywood
were going to consider the corner with the hole to be wall just as you shingled the other areasbut only
the lower left corner of the plywood wall. the side with the door trim, of course.
Next well put the trim on the door. Cut Theres one thing left to do, and that is to attach
45-degree angles on all ends of the two 14-inch the door. Use the 12-inch piece of 112 cedar for
11-inch cedar trim pieces and the two the door, and attach with the pair of 2-inch hinges.
16-inch11-inch cedar trim pieces. Glue Add a hook and eye latch, and youre finished.
and nail these four pieces together to create a Now its time to set your plywood wall aside, as
rectangular frame. Nail this into place over the hole it cant be installed until we have a final detail taken
you cut into theplywood. care of inside the coopthe nest boxes.

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13"

6 78"
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8"
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3"

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33 38"

13"

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10" 10" 10"

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33 38" A
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Step 20: neSt BoxeS The two 1418-inch plywood pieces are
Cut list for the nest boxes: spaced 10 inches from each other and from the
1 3338"13" " (thickness) plywood outer edges of the roof as well.
2 3338"3" " (thickness) plywood The two 333-inch plywood strips are used
2 14"18" " (thickness) plywood as a base to keep the nest boxes sturdy. Nail all of
the sections together.
Building the nest boxes can be a little tricky, but One final detail is to make two minor cuts to
theyre really nice when youre finished. Following the rear 33-inch plywood strip (the one that was
the diagrams carefully, make several adjustments placed in the slots). As shown, remove of an inch
to the two 1418-inch plywood piecesyoull from one end (nearest the back wall once the nest
be making two notches and slants for the nest box box is installed) and 2 inches from the other end
roof. The roof is made out of the 3313-inch (the one that will be closer to the door).
plywood, ripped to 65 degrees on one of the long You can anchor your nest box to the coop if you
sides. This would be a great time to borrow a jigsaw wish, but use screws if you do so that the nest box
from someone if you dont already own one. can be removed for cleaning if desired.

Building the Coop

Assembling the nest boxes is fairly straightforward, but you might need an extra pair of hands to hold the pieces in
place as you nail.

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Take your nest boxes into the coop to mount along the wall. If you prefer, you could make your nest boxes larger
and have two instead of three.

This is what the interior of the coop looks like before the final interior wall is in place, showing the position of the
nest boxes and the roosts.

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Step 21: inStAll the remoVABle Coop wAll
Now you can go ahead and attach the coop wall with 3-inch screws.
Things are really looking goodnow!

Building the Coop

Now you can fasten the final, removable coop wall with 3-inch screws.

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This is the interior of the coop with
the final wall in place, to show
itslocation.

Step 22: BuilDing the ChiCken lADDer Step 23: neSt Box AnD CleAnout DoorS
Cut list for the chicken ladder: Cut list for the nest box and cleanout doors:
1 54" 112 cedar or pine 2 30" 112 cedar
13 ""11" cedar slats
Hardware:
Hardware: 4 2" hinges
2 hook latches and eyes 2 latches

Since the actual coop portion of your coop is Guess what? Youre almost finished constructing
raised off the ground, your chickens need a way to your coop! The next step is to install doors over
climb up there and access it. A simple ramp made the exterior access openings on either side of your
of the 54-inch 112 will do the job. To make it coopone covering the nest boxes, to allow for easy
easier for the chickens to climb, install thirteen egg collecting and another on the opposite side to
11-inch slats, spaced 3-inch apart, allow for easy cleaning of the coop.
along the 112 to provide your chickens with
steps. Attach the slats with nails. continued on page 145 T

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Building the Coop

5 The chicken ladder needs two eye hooks at the top to allow it to be hung in place inside the coop.

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Now its time to install the chicken ladder. The slats provide chickens with a way to grip the ladder and climb up. o

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The egg collection door allows access to the nest boxes without having to go inside the coop.

Building the Coop

The cleanout door is identical to the egg collecting door and allows you to clean the inside of the coop from the
outside. Handy!

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Ju
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co

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A simple doorstop just inside the coop will prevent the door from swinging too far inside. in

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Just a couple of final details and your coop will be complete. Youll need one more extra piece of hardware cloth
over the door . . .

continued from page 140

To create the doors (which are identical), place


one 30-inch cedar 112 in each of the openings
on the sides of the coop, then secure each one in
place with a pair of 2-inch hinges. The hinges
should be placed on the bottom side of the cedar
112s, so that the doors open downward, not
upward or to the side. Attach a latch at the top of
each door so that they will remain shut when not Building the Coop
inuse.

Step 24: DoorStop


AnD FinAl hArDwAre Cloth
Cut list for the doorstop:
1 34" 14 cedar
2 62" 14 cedar

To make your coop door work really well, well


install a doorstop around the doorframe. Use the
two 62-inch 14s on either side of the door and
the 34-inch 14 for the top. Let all three of the
14s overhang about a half inch so that the door
will bump up against them and not be able to swing . . . and two strips of hardware cloth to cover the
inward into the coop. additional areas on either side of the door.

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Finished! The coop is now ready for your chickens to move in. You should be proud.

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Building the Coop

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The finished coop from the back. F

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There are a couple of final places where you Step 25: FiniShing the Coop
need to attach hardware cloth: on the two narrow Coops made of cedar (like this one) can be left
openings on either side of the door and in the gable unfinished; cedar doesnt need paint or stain to
opening above the door. Attach the hardware cloth protect it from the elements the way other types of
with roofing nails. wood do. However, you can certainly apply a coat
of exterior paint or stain to a cedar coop for dcor
purposes if you wish.
And now youre done! Move in your chickens
and enjoy the coop!

Building the Coop

Feel free to add your own personal decorating touches.

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Chapter 6
Adapting and
Converting Coops

A
ll right, so weve shown you Maybe your coop needs to be a bit
the plan for a basic 48-foot largerlarge enough to house, say, ten
coop that is suitable for four birds. Or maybe you need a coop that
chickens. But what if the coop as is easily portable or one that offers a
shown doesnt quite meet your needs? largerrun.
If
th
Now that the Chapter 5 coop is
complete, its time to move in
those adorable chicks and hens.
But maybe youre looking to add
more room by converting another, th
existing structure into a chicken in
coop. In this chapter, well take st
a look at ideas for adapting and ti
converting coops.
A
t
Y
n
d
a
d

th
2
a
1
a
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n

If you have aspirations to someday move on to a larger flock, you may want to consider modifying the coop plan in
this book to accommodate more birds.

In this chapter, well show you how to adapt the coops interior length from 30 inches to
the basic coop plan to suit your needs. Well also 44inches will give you enough room for an
introduce you to ways that you can convert existing additional nest box, not to mention more elbow
structures into chicken coops, potentially saving room (or maybe its wing room?) for more chickens.
time and money. You could even choose to go longerall the way
to the next 24 stud. Of course youll also need
AdApting the BAsiC plAn to lengthen the cleanout and nest box doors, as
to CreAte A lArger Coop well as the coops floor, but these modifications are
You may have aspirations of keeping a larger relatively straightforward and can actually make for
number of chickens than the coop in this book is a fun challenge.
designed for. If this is the case, you might want to be The advantage to lengthening these areas
able to construct a larger coop, without creating a rather than making them wideris that all of the
design totally from scratch. What can be done? rafter, door, and removable coop wall measurements
First off, you could think about lengthening remain intact and dont have to be reconfigured.
the side panels. Instead of using 96-inch (8-foot)
24s for the side panels, consider extending them AdApting the BAsiC plAn for Winter
another 29 inches using 11-foot 24s cut to Have you ever heard anyone who keeps livestock
125 inches. This will give you enough length to say, I just love winter, its my favorite season?
add an additional section to the run. Youll also Chances are, the answer is no. Winter can be a
need one additional rafter, longer (125 inches) challenge for chicken keepers who live in cold areas.
212s for the roof, and additional shingles. If you live in a particularly cold region with
If youd like to make the coop area larger, dont hard winters, youre in great shape, because this
worryit can be lengthened as well. Increasing coop has already been designed with cold weather

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In addition to building your coop with cold weather in mind, you might want to consider a chicken breed that is
naturally hardy in winter, such as the Russian Orloff.

in mind. There is excellent ventilation without In general, try to use Plexiglas panels on the
letting in drafts, while the thick 210s and 212s sides of your coop where the sun is likely to shine;
that are used on the walls and roof offer fine this will depend on trees and other objects near
insulationproperties. your coop, but its likely youll want to install
Nevertheless, there are a few more things you Plexiglas on the southern side of your coop. Then
can do to make your coop better equipped to handle use your sturdier wooden winterization panels
cold weather. to provide protection against the direction of the
prevailing winter winds.
WinterizAtion pAnels
One thing to do is to create removable winterization heAted WAter
panelstheyre fairly easy to make and can go a If youve raised any kind of animal before, you
long way toward keeping your chickens warm all are aware that providing water during winter can
winter. You can build winterization panels out of be a challenge. If your chickens cannot access
Plexiglas (which is a flexible, clear, durable plastic) their water, youre in trouble. If the temperatures
or wood. consistently drop below freezing, you could
Both Plexiglas and wood winterization panels consider an electric-heated water pan, which can
can be built to slide into place on any areas that keep your chickens' water from freezing even in
are normally covered with hardware cloth and very cold conditions. Youll need an electrical
therefore open to the air. You can protect open areas source, of course, as described earlier. E
of both the coop and the run to provide insulation Taking extra time to make your coop warm a
from the cold without sacrificing the beauty of and protected from winter weather is always a in
yourstructure. goodplan. to

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Adapting and Converting Coops

Even though this coop is suited well for winter housing, its a good idea to use winterization panels on the run
areas of any coop, as discussed in Chapter 3. To winterize the run with wooden winterization panels, youll need to
install a frame of 11-inch spacers around the outside of each area of hardware cloth. Then use -inch plywood
to create the panels. Wing nuts can then be used to hold the panels in place.

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AdApting the BAsiC plAn to the center of the back panel to provide additional
to CreAte A portABle Coop strength. Likewise, additional 30-inch 24s could
You may like the idea of a coop that is semiportable. be added horizontally to the side panel areas.
To be sure, a chicken coop of any variety (except T1-11 comes in 48-foot sheets, so by
perhaps a chicken tractor) isnt something youre purchasing just three sheets you should have more
going to want to move around every day. But it than enough material to cover the back wall, side
isnt a bad idea to move your coop throughout the walls, and removable front wall of your coop.
year to take advantage of new grass or to choose a You could even go as far as eliminating siding
better location. Lets look at a couple of ways you altogether on the portions of the side panel walls
could adapt the basic coop plan to make it more beneath the coop and instead opting to close these
easilymoveable. off with hardware cloth.
If you want your coop to be portable, youll need Its possible to make the roof lighter (although
to make it lighter. One way to decrease the weight of perhaps not quite as cute) as well. The six cedar
your coop is to side the exterior walls with plywood 212s that make up the base of the roof could be
siding such as T1-11 (sometimes mistakenly called replaced with -inch plywood and then covered
bead board) instead of shingles. Doing this saves a lot over with ordinary roofing shingles, or even a metal
of weight because you can eliminate the heavy 210s roof attached with screws.
that make up the coop walls. T1-11 is a flimsier Of course, even with these modifications, your
product, however, so you may need to consider coop is still going to be rather heavy. Therefore,
incorporating additional 24 studs to the back and a set of wheels will go a long way to making your
side panels to help strengthen the T1-11 and give modified coop truly portable.
it something more to hold on to. For instance, an You dont want to have your coop raised up on
additional 59-inch 24 could be added vertically wheels like a cart, since this would give predators

e
c
o
o
1
T1-11 is another option for the walls of your coop. It weighs less, but needs to be painted for protection from to
theelements. o

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Extending the coops base by a
few inches and adding braces and
wheels can help turn your coop into
a somewhat more portable version.

Adapting and Converting Coops

easy access. Instead (as shown in the photo), wheels will stick flat out the back, letting the coop
consider installing a pair of wheels on just one end stay flush on the ground. The wheels only come
of the coop by taking those base 96-inch 24s into play when its time to move the coopand then
on the side panels and extending them another they act like wheelbarrow wheels. The idea is that
12inches to 108 inches. Your wheels can be attached you raise up the end of the coop opposite the wheels
to these extensions, and corner braces can be made (perhaps by installing handles or with the help of a
out of additional 24s. By using this method, the machine) and let the wheels carry most of the load.

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is
a
a
a
c

fo
a
W
d
y
to
y

th
it
id
a
in
a
su
c
c

Heres an example of a coop that was divided by partitioning off the area directly beneath the coop with chicken
wire and adding a door in the back.

For this reason, youll want to install the pair of it into a divided area. One way to accomplish this
wheels under the coop end of your structure. is to simply use chicken wire or hardware cloth
Remember, these are guidelines, and your to separate the area under the coop from the rest
actual modification decisions will depend on of the run (this way the wire is semiremovable
the materials that are available to youand your and will allow you access when needed). An
skilllevel. outdoor access door for the chickens could be
either framed out with 24s, or even installed
AdApting the BAsiC plAn to CreAte A on the back wall of the coop by cutting through
divided Coop And/or Brooding AreA the210s.
You may find it useful at times to be able to divide
your coop into two areas. Luckily, modifications Converting other struCtures
can be made to the design in Chapter 5 that allow Building a coop from scratch is a rewarding
forthis. experience, but it does require an investment of
While you can always create your own designs time and energy. You can shave some time off
and ideas, one thought for dividing this design is of your coop project by renovating an existing D
to isolate the area directly under the coop and turn structure. Maybe you have an old playhouse that sa

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is no longer being used for childhood tea parties AdvAntAges of Conversion
and youd like to give the structure a second life Renovation can be an effective way to build a
as a coop. Or maybe you have a garden shed with chicken coop without cost playing a major role.
a lot of life left in it, or a doghouse with definite Many farms have outbuildings that could be
cooppotential. converted into delightful coops. Another reason to
In the following pages, well explore options convert an existing building into a chicken coop
for renovating and converting existing structures is that it can be much more fun! Being faced with
and turning them into chicken-friendly habitats. many different layout styles is sometimes daunting,
Well discuss necessary considerations, benefits, so renovation can be a friendly approach to creating
drawbacks, and additional info that will help a coop. It is particularly appealing for those who
you decide whether to build brand-new or opt might not be as familiar with construction.
to convert an existing structure into the coop of Choosing what to convert is one of the hardest
yourdreams. challenges, but you might have several options
But dont limit yourself to the ideas shown on already. Former doghouses, rabbit hutches,
the following pages. Opportunities abound when childrens playhouses, and storage sheds are just
it comes to repurposing coops. If you need more some of the buildings you can repurpose into lovely
ideas than weve outlined here, simply go online chicken coops. Do you have a couple of empty box
and type converting structures into chicken coops stalls that arent housing horses? Convert them into
into a search engine. Or stop by Pinterest to view splendid large-space chicken coops.
an innumerable assortment of impressively clever The ability to recycle is another reason to update
suggestions for repurposing buildings into chicken an older structure. Instead of just letting unused
coops. Youll undoubtedly find inspiration to outbuildings be wasted, repurpose them into
convert a chicken coop of your own. something youll need every day.

Adapting and Converting Coops

Do you have an unused building that could have a second life as a chicken coop? The possibilities exist. This old log
sauna was converted into a chicken coop by cutting windows and a chicken door and adding an outdoor run.

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When you have a building that could stand to possiBle Buildings to Convert
be repurposed, you might be more open to getting ShedS
creative and taking a less standard method with If you live on a farm, theres a good chance that
your chicken coop. The personalization process can your property has a number of small outbuildings
involve the entire family. Choosing a paint color that are perfect for being converted into chicken
and doing the actual painting is something even coops. It often seems like the farmers of the olden
younger family members might be willing to assist days couldnt get along without one or two small
with. You wont have to purchase as many materials sheds, perfect for storing miscellaneous equipment
as you would starting from scratch, so youll be and whatnot. And even if you dont live on a farm,
able to spend more time beautifying the coop. you might still have a shed out in the corner of your
Remember, safety is the number one concern when yard, harboring some of Dads less frequently used
renovating a coop, so be sure that you keep this in tools or a collection of rusting garden supplies. If
mind whileworking. you have the good fortune to possess such a shed,
and if its present purpose is indeed to house various
disAdvAntAges of Conversion objects and articles for infrequent use, then by all
What if you have your heart set on a 610-foot means bid farewell to your hodgepodge shed and
chicken coop and the shed that youd like to say hello to your new chicken coop.
renovate is only 48? The lack of the ability to The main thing to consider when converting a
customize your coop can be a disadvantage of coop shed into a chicken coop is that many sheds lack
conversion, but its not an insurmountable problem. any form of ventilation, having been built for the
Its wise to look at your existing structure as a sole purpose of storing tools, equipment, and other
baseline, but not necessarily the final blueprint of objects that dont require a constant supply of fresh
your renovated coop. air. Therefore, some adaptations you could think

health concerns
When converting an older structure into a chicken coop, its wise to keep in mind the potential health hazards
involved. While any construction project has its hazards, there are a few special concerns to keep in mind
when dealing with olderstructures.
One obvious concern is encountering old, rusty nails. Chances are that any older structure will contain
a few (or maybe more than a few!) old nails that could pose a safety hazard as you try and convert the
building into a coop. As nails can cause serious injury, it is wise to be extremely cautious when dealing with
them. If you will be removing old nails, or wooden boards containing old nails, be sure to put each nail in a
bucket so that they cannot fall to the ground where they could be stepped on. Furthermore, wearing thick
clothing can help protect you from being scratched by a nail that you didnt notice.
Another major concern is that the building you are converting may not be 100 percent stable. If your
building seems rickety, unbalanced, or severely deteriorated in some manner, it may be in danger of
collapsing. Obviously, you dont want to be inside any building where collapse is a possibility, so try to
confirm the soundness of the building before you begin converting it into acoop.
You will also want to keep your eyes open for lead paint. As you may know, many old paints were
manufactured with lead. Unfortunately, lead can be poisonous if ingested or inhaled by you or your chickens.
Thus, if the building youre interested in converting has an old layer of paint, you may wish to have a
professional remove the paint from your building, or choose a different structure for conversion.

If
b

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r

Adapting and Converting Coops

If youre thinking about using an existing building to gain more room, you could think about adding extra nest
boxes for your growing flock.

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With the right adjustments, a simple garden shed can become a chicken coop.

about would be cutting big windows in the sides place to keep chickens, there can be no denying
of the shed to supply much-needed ventilation that a traditional livestock barn is a wonderful
and light. In some cases, this may be as easy as option for protecting your poultry. While it may
cutting openings into the walls and installing not be as picturesque and quaint as a smaller, more
the necessary components, although in other typical chicken coop, a barn offers several major
instances, it may require major structural changes advantages that smaller buildings cant provide. For
to the shed that should only be undertaken by a example, you can easily convert a small portion
professionalcarpenter. of a barn into a top-notch chicken coop while still
One great advantage to adapting a shed is the retaining the vast majority of the barn for other
extra size you have to work with. If you were to purposes, a major advantage if you dont have room
convert an entire basic 810-foot shed into a coop for a standalone chicken coop or if your farming
(and have an outdoor run attached separately), it endeavors extends to livestock other than chickens.
could easily house as many as twenty chickens. Or Also, barns typically have electricity installed for the
you could just wall off the back end of the shed for purpose of running lights and heaters, so powering
use as the coop and possibly remove siding up front the chicken coop portion of your barn will not be an
to create a built-in run. There will be plenty of room issueyippee!
to stagger your roosts in the corners, as well as no However, like sheds, barns often require a bit of
lack of space for nest boxes and other amenities. work in the ventilation department. For while barns
do have windows, the amount of air movement
BarnS in the portion of the barn where your coop is
Although a big old barn for livestock isnt quite located might not offer enough fresh air for a flock
what people tend to picture when thinking of a of chickens. Adding windows or vents could be a S

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ns

Some cute decorating, some windows, an outdoor run, and this shed is now a chicken coop.

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c
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a
th

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Y
a
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to
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si
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A chicken coop doesnt necessarily need to be its own building. If there is spare room inside a larger barn, you R
could consider converting a portion of the building into a coop.

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challenge, so in the case of a barnwhich is most to make adjustments in this department. There will
likely already equipped with general ventilation probably already be enough windowstheyll just
some well-placed electric fans to help circulate need hardware cloth installed to protect against
fresh air may be all you need to keep your chickens predators. But all in all you probably wont have to
happy and healthy. You might need a chicken- do much to prepare your playhouse for chickens.
sized door to allow them to access the outdoors Really, outside of installing nest boxes, roosts, and
and perhaps a run attached to the outside wall of such, many playhouses barely need any converting
thebarn. at all.

ChiLdrens PLayhouses Lean-Tos


You may have many fond memories of pleasant Like sheds and barns, lean-tos can easily be adapted
afternoons spent playing with stuffed animals and into exceptional chicken coops, assuming that
board games in the playhouse your dad built for they arent being used for anything else. Perhaps
you, but if the playhouse isnt getting as much use you have a lean-to that was once used for storing
as it did in its heyday, perhaps the time has come wood, back before your house was heated with gas
to give it a new lease on life by converting it into a or electricity instead of a wood-burning furnace. If
chicken coop. In general, playhouses are the perfect your lean-to is just sitting there gathering dust and
size to be adapted into chicken coops, and in some seemingly begging to be put back into good use, you
cases they already have electricity installed. They may have found yourself the foundation for your
also might already have good ventilation, or need new chicken coop.
continued on page 166

Adapting and Converting Coops

Repurpose an old playhouse for new tenants. Getty Images

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While usually quite small, a converted doghouse has the potential to house a couple of chickens. C
v

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Adapting and Converting Coops

Converting different kinds of buildings into coops can sometimes be as easy as cutting doors and adding
ventilationand the all-important chicken ladder.

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continued from page 163

The open side of a lean-to can make a great However, if you deem it necessary to add additional w
opportunity for constructing an attached run. Of ventilation, the simplistic design of lean-tos should y
course, this also means that youll have to put up allow you to easily cut sizeable openings in the e
an additional wall to give your chickens protection walls, in which screened windows or vents can y
from the elements as needed, but this shouldnt beinstalled.
prove too much of an issue. fo
As is becoming a bit of a theme here, your Doghouses in
primary concern is to make sure that your lean- You know that doghouse out in your yardthe p
to offers good ventilation. Depending on how one being engulfed by tall grass and weeds? The b
you construct your coop, you may not have to one you built when Fido was a puppyback before o
add much in the way of windows and/or vents. he started sleeping in your bed at night? Even if it fr

At the end of the project, youll have the satisfaction of knowing that you built your own coop with exactly the K
features you desired. Its a great feelingnow go have fun with your flock! o

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al was never used for its intended purpose of housing more than two or three, this wont be a problem
your canine companion, a good-sized doghouse can your coop will be just the right size. But if your
easily be adapted into top-notch living quarters for chicken-raising dreams involve a larger flock, you
your chickens. might be better off building a new, large coop
Of course, unless your doghouse was built rather than trying to adapt a doghouse to suit
for a great dane or a Mastiffor unless you yourneeds.
intended to spoil Fido with a doghouse of epic As most doghouses rarely (if ever!) have
proportionschances are your doghouse isnt very windows or vents, youll need to add some to
big. Therefore, you may be limited in the number provide your chickens with proper ventilation. A
of chickens you can keep in a coop converted good place to do this is in the gables at each end of
from a doghouse. If you werent intending to keep the doghouse, assuming it has a gable roof.

Adapting and Converting Coops

Keeping chickens is a hobby that can involve the entire familyeven the youngest members. Dont let them miss
out on the fun!

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A healthy environment and a healthy place to liveits sure to keep any chicken happy. T
(Shown: red star chicken) b

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Adapting and Converting Coops

Thats it! If you need more help with building ideas or caring for your chickens, check out the list of resources at the
back of this book. Good luck, and have fun!

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Resources
8

T
2
B
w
supplies NascoFort Atkinson w
Cedar Chicken Coop.com P.O. Box 901 8
cedarchickencoop@gmail.com 901 Janesville Avenue
cedarchickencoop.com Fort Atkinson, WI 53538-0901
www.facebook.com/Cedarchickencoopcom custserv@eNasco.com h
920-420-5550 www.eNasco.com B
800-558-9595 P
ChickenCoopGuides.com W
4283 Express Lane NascoModesto w
Suite 233-740 P.O. Box 101 w
Sarasota, FL 34238 Salida, CA 95368 P
www.chickencoopguides.com modestocs@eNasco.com 2
www.eNasco.com
FarmTek 800-558-9595 C
1440 Field of Dreams Way P
Dyersville, IA 52040 Poultrymans Supply Company L
www.farmtek.com 40731 Audrain Road 618 w
www.facebook.com/FarmTek Wellsville, MO 63384 w
800-245-9881 (customer service) info@poultrymansupply.com 4
800-327-6835 (sales) www.poultrymansupply.com
563-875-2288 (retail store) 573-594-2174 E
P
GQF Manufacturing Company Premier 1 Supplies, Ltd. 8
2343 Louisville Road 2031 300th Street S
Savannah, GA 31415-1619 Washington, IA 52353 c
sales@gqfmfg.com www.premier1supplies.com w
www.gqfmfg.com www.facebook.com/pages/Premier-1-Supplies- 8
912-236-0651 Ltd/116352505056725 4
800-282-6631
Jeffers 319-653-7622 H
P.O. Box 100 2
Dothan, AL 36301 Randall Burkey Company, Inc. P
www.jefferspet.com P.O. Box 1090 R
www.facebook.com/JeffersPet Boerne, TX 78006 sa
800-533-3377 info@randallburkey.com w
www.randallburkey.com w
Kemps Koops Incubators www.facebook.com/randallburkey 8
3560 West 18th Avenue 800-531-1097
Eugene, OR 97402 830-249-3596 Id
sales@poultrysupply.com 2
www.poultrysupply.com Smith Poultry and Game Bird Supply C
www.facebook.com/kempskoopsincubators 14000 West 215th Street sa
888-901-2473 Bucyrus, KS 66013-9519 w
smithkct@centurylink.net w
www.poultrysupplies.com 2
www.facebook.com/smithpoultrygamebirdsupplies
913-879-2587

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Snap Lock Chicken Coops Meyer Hatchery
601 Hurricane Shoals Road, NW 626 State Route 89
Lawrenceville, GA 30046 Polk, OH 44866
www.snaplockchickencoops.com info@meyerhatchery.com
www.facebook.com/pages/Snap-Lock-Chicken- www.meyerhatchery.com
Coops/345860685427273 www.facebook.com/meyerhatchery
800-310-3867 888-568-9755
419-945-2651
Tractor Supply Company
200 Powell Place Mount Healthy Hatcheries, Inc.
Brentwood, TN 37027 9839 Winton Road
www.tractorsupply.com Mt. Healthy, OH 45231
www.facebook.com/TractorSupplyCo info@mthealthy.com
877-718-6750 www.mthealthy.com
www.facebook.com/mthealthyhatcheries?
rf=168089576534531
hAtCheries 513-521-6900
Braggs Mountain Poultry
P.O. Box 2173 Murray McMurray Hatchery
Whitney, TX 76692 P.O. Box 458
www.braggsmountainpoultry.com 191 Closz Drive
www.facebook.com/pages/Braggs-Mountain- Webster City, IA 50595
Poultry/726211520725490 www.mcmurrayhatchery.com
254-205-5422 www.facebook.com/MurrayMcMurrayHatchery
800-456-3280
Cackle Hatchery 515-832-3280
P.O. Box 529
Lebanon, MO 65536 My Pet Chicken
www.cacklehatchery.com 483 Monroe Turnpike #322
www.facebook.com/CackleHatcheryMO Monroe, CT 06468
417-532-4581 info@mypetchicken.com
www.mypetchicken.com
Estes Farm Hatchery LLC www.facebook.com/pages/My-Pet-
P.O. Box 5776 Chicken/149928893560
805 North Meteor Avenue 888-460-1529
Springfield, MO 65802 908-795-1007
cme@esteshatchery.com
www.esteshatchery.com Strombergs Chicks and Game Birds
800-345-1420 100 York Street
417-865-8874 P.O. Box 400
Pine River, MN 56474
Hoovers Hatchery info@strombergschickens.com
205 Chickasaw Street www.strombergschickens.com
P.O. Box 200 www.facebook.com/StrombergsChickens
Rudd, IA 50471 800-720-1134
sales@hoovershatchery.com 218-587-2222
www.hoovershatchery.com
www.facebook.com/HooversHatchery Townline Poultry Farm, Inc.
800-247-7014 P.O. Box 108
Zeeland, MI 49464
Ideal Poultry Breeding Farms, Inc. office@townlinehatchery.com
215 West Main Street www.townlinehatchery.com
Cameron, TX 76520 www.facebook.com/pages/Townline-Poultry-Farm-
sales@idealpoultry.com Inc/453952121376766
www.idealpoultry.com 888-685-0040
www.facebook.com/idealpoultry 616-772-6514
254-697-6677

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Index
air nailers, 98 customization of, 22, 24 framing squares, 90 n
Ameraucanas, 40 definition of, 9 free-range, definition of, 9 N
ammonia, 77 design considerations for, front panel frame, 106 N
Araucanas, 40 5283 n
finished, 146149 gable vent area, 130131
back panel, 106 portable, 58, 6162, 154156 gardens, 73 n
bantams, 9 purposes of, 1225 gloves, 95 n
barns, 160, 162163 size of, 5354 gluing, 100101 n
Barred rock, 43 stationary, 5861 golden laced wyandottes, 42
bedding, 4851, 5859 Cornish rock cross, 39 grass, 33 o
birds, predatory, 14, 15, 18, 21 costs, 27, 29 o
breed, choosing, 3841 hammers, 89
brooders, 5759 deep litter method, 51 hand saws, 90 p
broody, definition of, 9 doghouses, 164, 166167 hardware cloth, 71, 77, 79, p
broody hens, separating, 6970 dogs 108111, 145, 149 p
buttercups, 42 guard, 21 health hazards, 158 p
threats from, 14 P
canine threats, 14, 16 doors, 103106, 107, 139, jigsaws, 91, 92 p
carbon dioxide, 7778 143144, 145 p
cats, 16, 17 drafts, 81 knives, 90 P
chicken ladders, 139, 141142, drill, electric, 8586 p
164 dual-purpose breeds, 39 ladders, 9495 p
chicken tractors, 29, 32, 62 dust bathing, 8, 72 latches, 19 p
chicks, 3839 dust masks, 9596 lean-tos, 163, 166 p
chop saws, 91, 93 leaves, dried, 50 p
circular saws, 9091 ear protection, 95 levels, 8688
cleaning, 6364 efficiency considerations, 6365 light, 7377 q
coccidiosis, 58 egg collecting, 6465, 66, 143 Livestock Conservancy, 39
Cochin, 41 egg color, 8, 40 location, 2930 r
cockerels, 9 egg production, 8, 39 lumber, 27 r
compost, 34, 35 electric drill, 8586 r
converting structures to coops, electricity, 30, 32 mail-order hatcheries, 39, 42 r
156167 eye protection, 95 materials, 27, 29 re
coops meat breeds, 39 re
adapting, 151156 fencing, 19 Migratory Bird Act, 18 R
advantages of building, flock, 9 minks, 18 r
2225 floor, 131 moisture, 29, 79 r
building instructions for, frame panels, combining, ro
102149 111117 ro

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nailing, 9899 roofing considerations, 83 upper vented area, 131132
Naked neck, 45 roofing paper, 119, 121
Nankin, 39 roosts, 9, 5456, 132133 ventilation, 33, 34, 7783,
nest boxes, 9, 5657, 137138, runs, 9, 7071 130131
143, 159 Russian Orloff, 39, 46, 59, 152
nest pads, 51 walls
newspaper, shredded, 50 safety, 10, 9596, 158 installing, 122123, 124
nighttime, 19 safety glasses, 95 removable, 133137, 139, 140
sand, 50 water, 30
opossums, 18 sawdust, 4950 heated, 152
ordinances, 3637 sawhorses, 91, 93, 95 weasels, 17
saws weather, 13, 3233
pavers, 20 hand, 90 wheels, 154155
pencils, 89 power, 9091 white leghorn, 39, 42
perch, 9 screwing, 99 wind, 33
permits, 3637 separation areas, 65, 67, 68, 156 winterizing, 8081, 151153
Phoenix, 42 shade, 3233 wood shavings, 4950
pine shavings, 49 sheds, 158, 160161
playhouses, 163 shelter, 13
Polish, 20 shingles, 123, 125128
power saws, 9091, 92 side panels, 108
predators, 1418, 1821, 54 silkies, 47
pullets, 9, 42 site preparation, 28
pulling nails, 99 skills needed, 98101
purchasing chickens, 42, 46 skunks, 17
solar power panel, 31, 32
quarantine areas, 65, 67, 68, 156 Spanish, 39
speed squares, 90
raccoons, 17, 19 squares, 8990
rafters, 117118 straw, 50
rats, 18 sun, 32
razor knives, 90 supplies, 48
red star chicken, 168
regulations, 3637 T1-11, 154
Rhode Island red, 39, 44 table saws, 100
ridge cap, 129130 tape measures, 8889
ripping, 100 terminology, 9
roof boards, 118119 tools, 29, 8496
roof trim, 119, 120 traps, 18, 21

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About the Authors
As brother and sister collaborators, Dan and Samantha pursue their writing, photography, and agricultural
interests at the family-owned Fox Hill and Pine Valley Farms in northern Wisconsin. Since 1999, they
have been involved with raising and showing registered Welsh mountain ponies, and they also keep an
assortment of purebred rabbits, including mini rexes and Holland lops. Several hundred thousand honey
bees also make their home at Fox Hill and Pine Valley, which keeps life sweet.

daniel Johnson, Samantha


writer and Johnson is an
photographer, likes award-winning
to spend his time writer, as well as
lugging around a proofreader and
heavy camera pony wrangler.
equipment in all On any given
kinds of weather day, you might
to take pictures of find Samantha
things such as dogs pursuing a variety
pulling sleds at 20 of occupations:
degrees below zero crafting words
or people hauling into articles,
hay in 90-plus advertisements,
degree heat. He or books; planting
loves to photograph horses as well, and he is the heirloom vegetables in the garden; or harvesting
coauthor (with Samantha) and photographer of honey from the hives. On another day, she might
Horse Breeds: 65 Horse, Draft, and Pony Breeds; How be hauling hay, feeding livestock, or assisting with
to Raise Horses: Everything You Need to Know; and the delivery of a newborn foal. She is also a horse
the Horse-a-Day box calendar, all from Voyageur show judge, is certified with the Wisconsin State
Press. Hes also the author and photographer of Horse Council and the Welsh Pony and Cob Society
The 4-H Guide to Digital Photography and The of America, and has judged horse shows across
Beginners Guide to Beekeeping. Dan also films and the United States from Maryland to California and
produces videos for companies to use on websites locations in between. Samantha is the author of
and in online magazines. In his spare time, he also several books, including The Rabbit Book, The Field
photographs frogs, one of which has been his pet for Guide to Rabbits, and the coauthor (with Dan) of The
the last twenty-two years. Beginners Guide to Vegetable Gardening. Samantha
enjoys making to-do lists, watching old episodes of
Little House on the Prairie, and daydreaming about
buying a couple of Cheviot sheep and a miniature
Jersey cow.

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