On April 25, 2015 my husband and I packed up our kids and our dog, Brook (she travels with us wherever we go), and drove to pick up our very first one-day-old chicks. Our family had moved into our current house in the winter of 2012, and one of our goals before we even found our current house was to build our own chicken coop and raise some feathery friends in hopes that they would provide us with years of eggs in exchange for letting them happily roam our property.
The previous winter had been consumed with researching everything chickens. We researched chicken breeds, chicken care, chicken books, chicken coops, and coop construction. After looking through many books and poring over many DIY chicken coop pages, we finally decided on our final coop and run design. I spent a week or so drawing up our coop plans before getting our supply list ready. Please click on picture to enlarge it.
After gathering the materials we needed (well, most of them anyways as we ended up taking many trips to home improvement stores throughout the coop and run construction), we began constructing the frame of the coop.
My parents had some extra 2×4’s in their barn (some of the 2×4’s were the boards my great-great-great-grandparents used to build their first house on the farm in 1884) so we were able to construct most of the frame using these boards. *See plans for board lengths.
After leveling the ground, we placed four 18″ cement squares (one at each corner) on the soil and put the frame of the floor squarely on these stones. We decided to insulate the floor, so we used ground-rated, 3/4″ plywood on the bottom of the frame, stuffed some left-over insulation between the joists, used 3/4″ plywood on the top and finished it with a laminate remnant (for easy cleaning) before putting up the walls. I’m picturing a milkshake parlor right now, but I don’t think that would be too sanitary in our chicken coop.
The framing for the coop and run went up next. The walls were raised on the coop, we attached the roofing boards, and we began to attach the framing of the run to the coop. We wanted the run to be attached to the coop so we could have one long run of roofing which provided continuous shelter for the chickens inside the coop and outside in their run. After leveling the ground where the run was going to sit, we partially buried ground-rated 6″x6″ boards on all three sides of the run. These boards were attached to the coop using 5″ screws at the base. We toe-nailed four screws on each 6″x6″ board at the point it attaches to the coop. We bought even longer screws (8″) to screw the 6″x6″ boards into each other on the two outside corners of the run. Finally, the joists were erected and a roof was added over the run. We screwed down 1/2″ plywood to the roof joists, stapled some tar paper down, and attached corrugated steel panels to the roof. We bought eight 3’X8′ corrugated steel panels and ran them from the east end of the coop all the way down to the west end of the run.
We also decided to insulate the walls and ceiling of the coop since our chickens would have to endure our MN winters, so we added plywood to the inside of the coop first. The bottom 12″ of plywood is treated plywood so it won’t rot if it gets wet when we wash the floors. We used 1/2″ plywood on the walls and 1/4″ plywood on the ceiling.
We stuffed insulation in-between the joists on the outside of the coop. Then, tongue-and-groove car siding was hung using a nail gun. The nail gun made the installation of the car siding very quick and easy. The most difficult part was fitting the car siding between the exposed roof joists, but with a little elbow grease (and our trusty jig saw), everything came together very nicely! I loved the look of the natural car siding, but we had our hearts set on a red coop with white trim.For our windows, we decided to install simple barn-sash windows. We wanted windows that could swing all the way open to allow for the maximum amount of air circulation. These windows were also much more inexpensive than the traditional windows we looked at. We paid $18 per window. Four windows were installed, two in the front of the coop and two in the back.
After the windows went in, we painted the coop a brilliant autumn red. The kids really enjoyed helping me paint the trim on the windows white!
We re-purposed a door that was originally in my great-great grandparent’s farm house (built in 1884). The nest box door is insulated so the hens (and eggs) can stay as comfortable as possible in all seasons.
Finally, we put a large door on the west side of the run and added support boards between all of the run joists. We decided to make a 4′ door so we could get a wheelbarrow in and out of the run if needed. Also, we put a spring hinge on the door so the door would shut right behind us. Half-inch hardware cloth was stapled to all sides of the run. We also removed a couple of inches of soil from the bottom of the run and attached 1/4″ hardware cloth to all of the 6″x6″ boards and to the base of the coop to keep predators from digging up into the run. We put the soil back on top of the hardware cloth once the cloth was secured. Quarter-inch hardware cloth was also used on the inside of the windows and vents to keep predators out of the coop. A chicken door was attached to the coop using hinges at the bottom of the door, and we added 1″x1″x12″ pieces of wood every 2″ down the inside of the coop door so when the door drops down, the chickens have their own ladder into and out of the coop.
As far as the inside of the coop goes, we added 16″x16″ nest boxes under the front windows. A sloping board was added to the top of the boxes to prohibit roosting on top of the boxes. We also inserted some plastic Lego boxes we found at Target inside of the nesting boxes so that they could easily be cleaned. Please note that we did eventually add a two-inch lip using plywood at the foot of the nesting boxes so that the inserts could not be kicked out.
A hanging waterer and feeder were added using eye hooks on the ceiling, a long chain, and carabiner (which attaches the chains to the waterer and feeder). I also built a perch out of extra 2×4’s and a small ash tree that was getting choked out by larger trees in our woods. The ash provides a comfortable, easy-to-grip surface for our birds, and it should last a long time since it is a very hard wood. Our birds love the top perch where they can see outside of the windows.
The total cost for the coop alone was about $1400.00. The run cost another $700.00. It took us about a month and a half to build the coop and run, but this was our very first construction project, so I’m sure someone with a little more experience could finish this project a bit quicker.
Our hardy Minnesota coop did not fail us, or more importantly the chickens, during one of our coldest winters. On this particular day in 2016 we had wind chills down to -40F. My mother-in-law had the brilliant idea of wrapping the chicken run in shade cloth. As you can see, the run stayed snow-free and the winds were significantly reduced inside the run. Our chickens free-range most days, even in the winter, but I’m happy to have the coop and run on some of our most frigid days as frostbite can easily occur on combs and wattles. Our friendly mail lady loves to be welcomed by the chickens when she comes up the driveway. Here is a picture of a couple of our chickens on our front sidewalk:
We thoroughly enjoyed the entire process of planning, gathering materials, building our coop and run, and ultimately buying our first chickens. Fast-forward a few years and we are still thoroughly enjoying our chickens. They are smart, silly, and each chicken has his or her own personality. I’m happy to say that we have a flock of happy chickens and they reward us with healthy, beautiful eggs!