Building a Chicken Coop? Do's, Don'ts and Things to Consider.

Building a coop, do's and don'ts
By sumi · May 16, 2016 · Updated May 16, 2016 · ·
  1. sumi

    So, you fell for the temptation of new chicks in the feed store this spring and got your new charges safely set up in a brooder. They are going to outgrow that brooder within 6-7 weeks and will need to move outside to a coop. Now you have two options: you can either go out and buy a coop, or you can build one yourself. With the former, beside it being a sometimes pricey endeavour, you will have to "take what you get" and have little say in the design, details etc. With the latter, you can make sure it’s exactly what you need to fit your budget, your chickens and your circumstances. But it isn’t as simple as throwing together a structure and putting a few hens in it… There are a few VERY important things to consider when building your own coop.

    Permits And Local Chicken Laws and Ordinances

    Find out if you CAN build a coop on your property and it goes without saying, if you are allowed to keep poultry and how many. In most cases a small coop will be allowed without the need of anything particular, or permission, but bigger coops may require a permit before you can legally build it. This will require getting a building permit, involving showing your coop plans and then requesting allowance. In most cases you won’t have a problem, but be sure to check it out just in case. Also check out your local laws and restrictions regarding location of the coop. Many towns, cities and municipalities have very specific codes in place regarding placement of coop, for example, no closer than 20 feet from your property's boundary, or no closer than 40 feet from your nearest neighbour's house. Find out before you build!

    Location of the Coop

    Once you’ve confirmed that you are allowed to build and what (if any) the restrictions are, you'll need to select the best location for the coop. Convenience is a factor, but things like noise and smell should be taken into consideration. Having the coop close to your house is going to be great until your insomniac rooster starts crowing at 03:00am! Yep, I had a few of those and they don't crow once or twice, they crow until they are sure you and the entire household is awake and craving fried chicken. With that taken into consideration, pick a spot that would be one that allows the chickens to get the benefit of the morning sun without the afternoon heat as much, sheltered from excessive wind and weather conditions, with some shade from trees, if possible and not too close to your, or the neighbours' house to be a nuisance.

    How Big Should I Make the Coop and Run?

    That depends on how much space you have available and how many chickens you plan on housing in the coop. Would your flock have free range time during the day, or would they be "cooped up" permanently? Would they have access to the outdoors/run during winter when the snow is 3 feet deep? If the former you can get away with a smaller coop, but more is always better. If the latter build the coop as large as possible and keep the number of inhabitants down (easier said than done, I know). Member Ridgerunner wrote an excellent article on the topic of coop space, here:

    Building Materials

    The sky is the limit when it comes to building materials for coops. I've seen coops build from a wide range of materials ranging from old windows to gutted cars! Wood seems to be the #1 building material with pallets a very popular source, especially for the frugal-minded or or those on a budget. Here are some ideas, examples and discussions on the topic:

    Regardless of what materials you use, make sure it's sturdy enough to protect your flock from adverse weather conditions and predators! For more detailed predator protection tips, have a look here:


    Another VERY important aspect to consider is proper ventilation in the coop. Again, more is better, especially during the winter months when can make all the difference between a sick flock and a healthy one. You need to make sure that there is proper airflow within the coop, without making it drafty. Here is another excellent article on the topic with some suggestions to include in your design:

    Adding Electricity

    Electricity in the coop can be handy for extra lighting during the short winter days and for additional heating, when needed. Faulty electricity installations can pose a huge fire risk though, so if you choose to install an electrical outlet in the coop, have a licensed electrician come down and take a look at your plans and your finished work. Fire prevention and electricity safety tips are discussed here:

    Further and Recommended Reading

    Coop Plans and Designs:
    Winter chicken keeping:
    Heating the coop:
    Nest Boxes:

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Recent User Reviews

  1. N F C
    "Coop Things to Consider"
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Oct 4, 2018
    A good overview of the things to consider when building a coop.
    sumi likes this.
  2. ronott1
    "Helpful article"
    4/5, 4 out of 5, reviewed Aug 3, 2018
    Well written article about coop building.
    sumi likes this.
  3. mrs_organized_chaos
    "Good “Start Here” Article"
    4/5, 4 out of 5, reviewed Jul 24, 2018
    This is a great article to start with when looking at getting started on a coop. The additional links are helpful to organize a search on coops.
    sumi likes this.


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  1. Dennis Noble
    Excellent article with great external resources for us beginning our chicken journay. i am around 2 to 4 months until i get ready to build and buy pullets! Can't wait.
  2. Thomas70
    I have hawks so I had to cover the run. I used plumbing PVC pipe and made a frame and covered it with chicken wire. The pipes are arched and high enough I can walk in there. More than once I have watched from inside and saw a hawk in a tree. There was a squirrel under the bird feeder and he looked at but never flew down to get it. So I guess he prefers chicken, but this was before I got the chickens. Before I built the cover a hawk grabbed my bantam rooster and flew off with him.
  3. Rebecca Thomas
    I built a shelf of nesting boxes and all six of my girls pile up in one! They are about 16 inches wide and 11 inches deep. I have roosting bars and they still pile in to sleep. Any advice to get them out of the box and onto the bars during the night?
    1. Thomas70
      We had the same issue and the hens were pooping in the back of the box. I pulled the hens out and placed them on the roost. Then I placed a board in front of the boxes. Each morning I remove the board. I have 3 boxes and they are 12 x 12.
      Rebecca Thomas likes this.
  4. Shezadandy
    In the "if I'd only known" before building the first coop (an 8x12ft shed):

    Poultry ventilation fans. While there are multiple manufacturers, we landed on this variety for its ease of install and positive reviews:

    These things are AMAZING. They have an enclosed motor meant to operate under the dusty conditions created by our feathered friends, rated indoor/outdoor. You build them into the side of your coop like a window. It's an expenditure - but just like an automatic coop door- a huge peace of mind investment.

    We positioned them in our coops to do 2 things- 1. pull air through the coop - and 2. to blow a nice breeze into the chicken runs outside for those windless nightmarish hot summer days.

    The best deal I've found is at Valley Vet Supply -- remember to calculate all prices INCLUDING shipping when pricing them at various stores.

    I've always worried about a regular fan burning up. After going out to visit the birds and smelling that horrible 'something's burning' smell from one of those "heavy duty" fans sold at the farm stores- choking on all the dust --- it was time to get serious and stop trying to 'make due.'

    We use a metal security door as the 'people door' to our coop opposite this fan, which helps pull the air through the building along with the raised roof and the windows and the roof vents. In the NW we don't see the kind of summers much of the country sees - most of our building efforts are centered around keeping the rain (ice, snow) out and keeping the coop from being drafty.
      Marion Hoe and MissChickaletta like this.
  5. ErSwnn
    A couple of ideas here to consider. Make the coop inside "modular". Make it so everything can be takenout and washed...I use a pressure washer, inside and out. The nesting boxes are milk crates, one with an opening cut into it, the other resting upside down on that. On top of that is plywood as a roost and the entire thing is sitting on a shelf like structure...old kitchen cabinets. The plywood is attached to the upper level of milk crates which holds the top half in place. Two sets of 3 milk crates makes it easy to lift and handle. These are taken out of the coop and washed and then I can shovel/scrape the inside of the coop then power wash the interior.

    I have ramps for the birds to get to a couple of different levels in the coop plus a 4'x 8' nursery coop with a long swinging swings up and secures with hooks in that position as well as the closed position. Across from that is a brooding/hospital coop, about 2' x 3'. Both of these are set about 4' from the floor...I kept the floor space but added by elevating these two internal coops. Both have floors I can take out for cleaning and the "sides" are just chicken wire....very easy to clean. The run area...about 10' x 6' is a simple rake and shovel away from clean.

    My coops stay very clean and therefore my birds are happy and healthy. All of this was built with scrap wood I got here and there, except for the doors...I wanted straight and tight doors. I have maybe $75 tied up in this...mostly for chicken wire and hinges, both of which I bought from yard sales.

    Just my 2 cents, your mileage may vary.
  6. lifein1840
    I have battery powered lanterns in the risk of fire and they look great!!
  7. Spiritsmeadow
    Great article! I, living in snow country on Colorado's eastern prairie, would add this: make sure your outdoor run can be shoveled out during times of deep snow. We had snow on the ground from the end of October until mid-April, and many 24"+ snow falls. With huge hawks over-wintering here, I couldn't just let the chickens out all day long without protection so they needed to be in the outside run which is covered with poultry wire. So when you're designing your outdoor runs, make sure you can stand up in it, have room to work with shovels and rakes, and if in snow country...make sure you have room for shoveling and moving the snow.
      Serenityintheverse and sumi like this.
  8. Chicken Girl1
    Very informative, thank you sumi!
      sumi likes this.
  9. RodNTN
    Great sumi!
      sumi likes this.
  10. Blooie
    Nicely done, Sumi! The only thing I would add (and you know my passion for this subject) is if that if the builder has anyone in the family - or even a friend or neighbor - with a disability, the preliminary stage is the time to take that into account and perhaps add a people ramp. They love to interact with the chickens too, and making it comfortable for them allows them be part of it, not just looking on. Great job!

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