We call it our homestead, in reality it is a 1.25 acre wooded lot in a rural northern-Wisconsin type subdivision in the heart of the Chicago suburbs. Every day when I turn off the main road into the subdivision, with open ditches and mature trees, I feel like I'm back up north.

We have talked about chickens since we moved in 6 years ago. With a family our size we use 4-5 dozen eggs a week so it seemed natural. We hemmed and hawed about the idea, what it should look like, where it should go. Then COVID. I took a rare week off of work to help transition the older kids to e-learning while not disrupting the homeschooling of the littles. In reality, I needed a break after being in the middle of a management group assigned to figure out how to do our essential job in light of COVID. I needed a break, and I took it. The result is this:


We sat down and drew out what we both wanted. We marked it up several times and then set to work. We picked the spot, protected by the woods but clear view from the house, not in the wet part of the yard. Fit it in where we could expand the run someday. A mix of new treated materials and scraps from projects past. RESEARCHED all over the place including BYC and admittedly plagiarized a little from the Carolina Coop Co. And then we started:


The Specs:


Every piece of lumber is treated (this drove the cost way over budget and probably wasn't necessary)
4x6 timbers as base/foundation
Floor is 42" off the ground (higher than it needed to be, it's hard for the short side of our family to reach in. I wanted to be able to put a wheel barrow under it)
48" side walls with pitched roof
4x4 corner posts foundation to the roof
2x6 floor beams screwed to the posts
2x4 floor joists hung from the 2x6s with hangers
2x4 roof joists
plywood side walls
Nesting boxes hanging off the front (3 - 12"x12"x12" boxes with frame that slides into coop to clean out hutch)
Economy window in front
Basement window (with screen) in back
Under eve vents with fiberglass screen
Shingle roof with copula (vent in rear)

plus space under coop
same 4x6 timber foundation tied into coop foundation
7' tall in front, 6' tall in back
2x4s doubled up for posts
2x6 beams to support the roof
2x4 joists across the top
vinyl corrugated roof covering the entire run
1/2" hardware cloth on bottom including 12" buried under ground
poultry netting on upper wall sections and entire roof area
Hardware cloth and poultry netting were installed while frame was going together, then 2nd 2x4 was added as a backing / additional support
Economy prefabricated screen door, stained with hardware cloth added

The Details:

Guillotine Door - plywood with lathe strips down the side & 2x4 at top. 1x4 trim track with ripped 1x4 behind. eye screw and rope system running to outside of run
2 vents - 15"x18" with top hinges, eyehooks to hang from roof structure. Fiberglass screen to keep the bugs out


Full width vent outside - hardware cloth and fiberglass screen
Large access door - to clean / maintain inside of coop



Used vinyl sheet good flooring to make cleaning easier. Doesn't have to be fancy or pretty, it does the job

Hutch with shingle roof. Drop down door on front. Like this a lot, don't have to weather seal a hinged roof or reach down into the nesting boxes. Downside: took a while to get everything plumbed, square and weather tight. Ended up adding strips of duct tape in a couple of spots to cover small gaps where drafts could come in. Nesting box was all scrap lumber with a weird angle that ended up working out. the box unit slides out into the coop to make cleaning the hutch easier. Put the front 2x4 at an angle to discourage roosting on the front of the box


Roosting bars across the middle. Upper (Main) bar is a 2x4 laid flat over another 2x4 for support. This is important to allow them to squat and take the weight off their feet. Also important to allow them to tuck their feet under in the cold weather at night. The lower 2x4 upright was there initially when they were little and too small to get up on the upper board, now it's there as a step (which only half of them use). We have since added a poop board (plywood with lathe edge) that uses sand like a litter box. We clean it 2x a week and it takes care of probably 80-85% of the poop in the coop. It is heavy and awkward for anyone other than me. Like the idea, but the jury is still out on the execution



Dust bath under the coop. Using dirt, ash from the fire pit, and DE (they use the mulch/soil outside as much as anything else)
Plastic feeder on legs, bricks under to add height (tried a DIY PVC feeder but over engineered, and it didn't work well)
Plastic hanging water

Cut branches for a swing and roosting bars in each corner. Made a "ladder" to help them get up when they were younger

4 mil high clarity plastic stapled around the run
vinyl corner bead (for drywall corners) ripped in half to hold down the plastic instead of thicker wood strips
Have a small section (above where hutch meets run) that has a board in the plastic so it can be rolled up on warmer days
will use a plastic waterer with an integrated heated base


The Fine Print:
We are still learning, as this is our first year. We are currently doing but undecided long term on:
fine pine shavings on the coop floor
limited straw on the run floor (we have great scratch soil so just enough straw to keep the poop off their feet and ours)
straw with nesting box pads in the nesting boxes
LED work light in the run (on timer in the morning / early evening while the days are short)

Things We Learned:
Take your budget and triple it (especially if you over engineer things like I do)
Hardware (hinges, latches, etc) take time to figure out. We went through several before we found the ones with the look / function we liked
Use self locking gate latches (see picture above) and drill a hole through the frame with a piece of speaker wire pulled through to open the latch if you are locked in (I have this weird fear of being locked into places after seeing a scene in a Friday the 13th movie as a young kid, don't ask...)
Add a second latch (that doesn't self lock) to the bottom of any big doors (ie run door) because predators will try
Balance sealing things off with leaving enough room for doors / vents to open and close in all weather (we get leaves stuck in the bottom of the door that makes it hard to close sometimes, we've also added weather stripping to areas to get rid of drafts when doors / vents are closed)
Chickens will escape from any fenced in area no matter how high you try to make the fence
Chickens poop A LOT
We love the experience so far and the joy that these birds bring to the faces of our kids (other than the teenage boy, he just wants to know when he can eat them)

Final Fun Pics:


Raising the Next Generation:



Hope you enjoy. Blessings