Wednesday, March 13, 2013

How to Build a Backyard Chicken Coop

Before you begin building your backyard chicken coop, there are some things you'll need to consider. Here are some easy steps to building your own backyard chicken coop.

English: Traditional chicken coop
Traditional chicken coop (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
1. Determine the coop's purpose. If the coop will only be where the chickens sleep at night, then it can be very small and minimal. If the chickens will spend time in the coop to lay eggs and nest, it will need to be a bit more elaborate.

2. Decide on how many chickens you plan to keep. For most families, 2-4 chickens is plenty.

3. Plan the location of the coop. Putting it near your house helps keep it warm and discourages predators. This also means you have easy access to it, which can be very helpful. Keeping it further from the house is fine, too. A coop can get unsightly and smelly. (Regular cleaning keeps it from smelling bad, though.)

4. Now to build the coop. A coop needs ventilation but not drafts. It needs perches and bedding. A mixture of pine shavings and straw does well. Chickens are not picky - thick sticks, sideways 2x4s, and even old broom handles work fine for perches.

5. First, build a frame. Lay 2x4s on the ground to make a rectangle, and then attach them at the corners using nails or screws. You can skip this step if you begin with a wire structure such as an old dog kennel. Then you need only cover the kennel with plywood.

6. Nail or screw 2x4s vertically at the four corners. Make two of the 2x4s shorter than the other two, so that the roof will slant. You can decide how you want it to slant - sideways or back.

7. Next, you'll need a jigsaw and four sheets of plywood. Cut the sheets of plywood so that they are the correct height and width to attach to the vertical 2x4s. You will need to cut 2 of the sheets at a slant so that they will attach to the tall and shorter 2x4s.

8. Cut a hole for the door, and save the piece you cut out.

9. Cut two small windows along the top of the plywood and save the pieces you cut out. Using a staple gun, attach hardware cloth or chicken wire over the window holes.

English: An A-frame chicken coop in a Portland...
An A-frame chicken coop in a Portland, Oregon backyard. Dimensions are 4 feet tall, 8 feet long, and 6 feet across. The metal device in the front is their 3-gallon waterer. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
10. Attach hinges to the window pieces and the door. You will need to rig up a latch of some sort to keep the door shut and locked. The window holes will need to be propped open during the day and on warm nights, and then shut when it's cold. Position the hinges with this in mind.

11. Attach perches with nails or screws. You may even want to cut holes in the walls and slide the perches through.

12. Nail roofing tiles to the piece of plywood you are using for a roof. Using the jigsaw, cut the tops of the vertical 2x4s at a slant. Lay the roof across the top of the coop - it should be slanted without much of a gap. Nail it into place.

There it is - a simple chicken coop that you built, yourself! It's pretty basic, but it's really all you need. Of course you can also buy a chicken coop, or get a kit, but in most cases the instructions above should provide the basics that you will need.

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