Buy the 2015 Old Farmer's Almanac!

Raising Chickens 101: Building a Backyard Coop

February 20, 2012

Related Products

Your rating: None Average: 3.5 of 5 (12 votes)

Learn how to build your own chicken coop for your backyard. Here's beginner's guide to building a poultry palace!

(This is the third post in our Raising Chickens 101 series.)

Building a Chicken Coop

The housing for your chickens can be as simple or fancy as your imagination and budget permit. The basic criteria will be dictated by the birds.

  1. First, decide on the size. You will need 2 square feet of floor space per chicken, and one nest box for every three hens. Nest boxes should be about a foot square. For instructions, you might want to check out this page. For larger breeds such as Jersey Giants, allow an additional square foot of floor space per bird.
  2. Sketch the coop on paper, with measurements. (Don’t know where to start? Check the plans for any size of flock here.)
  3. It might also be helpful to mark the ground where the coop will be erected, taking into consideration its location relative to the sun (southern exposure ensures greater warmth and sunlight); any nearby structures (will you attach it to a garage or barn?); and the need for a run, fenced or not (more on that in a moment). Build your coop and run on high ground to avoid battling water and mud problems!

    Do not forget to include a door and a floor in the plans. A door can be as simple as a piece of plywood on a frame of 1-by-2s, with hinges and a simple latch—make it large enough for you to enter and exit easily with eggs in hand or a basket. A dirt floor is perfectly adequate. However, if you build a wooden floor, plan to raise it 6 inches off the ground. A third option is poured concrete, if your time and budget allow. Also consider whether you will bring electricity into the coop: A low-watt bulb will prolong the day during winter months and keep egg production figures constant.

    Coop ventilation is more important than insulation. Plan to have openings near the ceiling for air circulation. (While chickens enjoy moderate—around 55°F—temperatures, ours survived nicely in the barn through –40°F winters. Their feathers kept them warm.) Also plan to install a couple of 1½-inch dowels across the upper part of the coop; this will enable the chickens to roost off the floor at night.
  4. When you’re ready, bring your plans to the lumber yard. Someone there can help you to determine how much stock and what tools and/or equipment you will need. Plan to frame the coop with 2-by-4s and use sheets of plywood for the walls. The roof can be a sheet of plywood covered with roof shingles or simply a piece of sheet metal.
  5. A 5x20-foot run will keep a small flock—six to eight hens—happy. More space is better if you have the room. If predators are a problem in your area, bury a layer of chicken wire 6 inches deep under the coop and run to foil diggers like foxes, dogs, and skunks. Mink and weasels can slip through standard 2-inch wire. To keep them out, use a couple of 2-inch layers offset or 1-inch wire instead. Plug any holes in the coop walls as well.
  6. You’ll need to accessorize the coop, at least rudimentarily: Waterers, available from farm suppliers, keep the chickens from fouling their water supply. Get one for every three or four chickens. Also get a feed trough long enough to let all of the chickens feed at once (or get two smaller ones). Have enough wood shavings (pine) or straw to put a 6-inch layer on the floor and a couple of handfuls in each nest box and your chickens will have a perfect home. Change the bedding about once a month or if it starts looking flat.

Remember, a chicken coop doesn’t need to be complicated. Our first one was a small shed built with recycled wood. The run was screened in chicken wire and built onto the side of our house. It wasn’t pretty, but it did the job. Just keep in mind the two simple rules “Measure twice, cut once” and “Pointy end down,” and both you and your hens will be happy.

Next, we’ll address chicken care and bringing up those baby chicks!

Related Articles

Elizabeth Creith has fifteen years of experience keeping chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys on her farm in Northern Ontario. She currently dreams of a new flock of fancy chickens. Elizabeth and her husband also have six and a half years experience running a pet store. On top of that, she's kept more animals than you can imagine from cats to cockatoos!


Hello! My husband & I are

By Kymee909 on March 16

Hello! My husband & I are researching and getting ready to build our first coop. Would using corrugated fiberglass panels for the walls be an option? Also, we live in the mountains on a ridge with lots of wild critters (hawks, coyotes, skunks, raccoon, bears, and bobcats) Do I have to put electrical wiring around the entire 3/4 acre fence or just around the coop? Is it necessary to put them in a caged environment to run free, or do you think they will be safe if just the fence perimeter is charged? Any help is appreciated. Thanks!!

Marking the ground is

By Zac Spade

Marking the ground is important to get your sizes right.
You can use spray cans to mark the ground if you need to, having the dimensions right is important.

This is how i built my chicken coop below.

Found these extremely helpful

By Paddy

Found these extremely helpful books. They are full of material and really helped me get started! Check them out for yourself!

I would say probably not, but

By Ranch Supply

I would say probably not, but I am just guessing. 2x6's aren't that hard to break, and at 8' spans, I think they would be flimsy.chicken coop plans When I think of something like this I think metal poles, with steel cable run between them, but that might not be appropriate for something like this.

Affordability and

By <a href=””>ChickenCoop@Home

Affordability and customization are few of the reasons why I'd like to build my own chicken coop. I like the idea of being able to design my own chicken coop plan not to mention the fun and excitement you feel as you watch your plan slowly comes into fruition. Excellent tips you've got here in this article Elizabeth. I will surely incorporate your tips in my next coop plan. :-)

just build a new coop for my

By CharleneQ

just build a new coop for my one chicken. She likes it it seems but is sleeping either in the nest or on the floor of the coop - is there a reason? She had been sleeping on a roost in the old cage.

She could be feeling a little

By Katelet

She could be feeling a little vulnerable, being all alone. I recommend a friend for her!

I'm planning on building a

By dwhiteboy

I'm planning on building a coop that's 18x20 attached to my shed with a tin roof. How many chickens should I raise in this size building and how many roosters and nest?

Here is a good page on how

By GeorgeB

Here is a good page on how much space your chickens need; do not build a coop if they can't spend a lot of time outdoors; chickens aren't inside animals.

Hello, Wondering how

By rtsplace

Hello, Wondering how important insulation is in a small coop 3'x4'x4' I live in SE,MN. Temps can be -20F ? Home made coop/tractor/run, well built and would be sheltered from wind snow. Walls/nest box will be insulated. Would it be too hot if I did the ceiling ? I do have closeable vents in peak. Ray

Hi Elizabeth, I live in North

By Jen Springett

Hi Elizabeth,
I live in North Western Ontario, and we've been curious about considerations like keeping our chickens comfortable over winters (your comments were very helpful), and specific predators in our area. Is there any other regional specific info you could share? We're hoping to free range our birds, and we're in a rural area. Thanks :)

Post new comment

Before posting, please review all comments. Due to the volume of questions, Almanac editors can respond only occasionally, as time allows. We also welcome tips from our wonderful Almanac community!

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.

2015 Special Edition Garden GuideCooking Fresh with The Old Farmer's AlmanacThe Almanac Monthly Digital MagazineWhat the heck is a Garden Hod?