When we first got our chickens we believed Tractor Supply and purchased one of their prefab coops supposedly designed to keep 6 chickens. We quickly learned that not only would it not hold 6 hens, it would barely hold 2. It was too small for roosting or winter quarters so I had to turn the entire run and “coop” complex into a winter coop. We added a run extension to the coop when we went from 2 hens to 3 and I would wall this up in the wintertime as well to extend the livable space. The need for a new coop was becoming clear.
The final straw was one wet winter when their run became nothing but mud. Nothing I tried would dry it up. I spoke to my daughter Mary (who is an architectural engineer) and we began drawing up plans for a much larger run.
Here is the prefab coop complex. That is my Daisy standing on top of the run extension and Elphie on the roost inside.
What did I want in a run?
- I wanted to be able to stand in it but not have it higher than my 6 foot privacy fence that surround the perimeter of my backyard.
- I wanted enough space to support up to 6 hens.
- I wanted to be able to put the prefab coop in it in case I ever needed to segregate hens for any reason.
- I wanted to be able to close it off from the main coop if needed.
- I wanted to connect it to the existing coop but wanted it behind the prefab on the other side of the birch tree creating a “U” shape. The birch tree provides essential shaped in the summer heat.
- I needed it covered so that hawks cannot attack the hens
I assembled the long walls on the ground and then put them up into position. I had Mrs. BY Bob hold them in place while I put the cross pieces in place. Here are the walls just after being connected.
I then placed the hardware cloth on the ends and roof.
On the end nearest my shed I placed the door.
I connected it to the prefab by rotating the run addition. Here is the run connected to the Prefab via the rotated extension.
I would eventually install an automated door at the connection and floor the prefab run and coop.
Here is the flap door that separates the big run from the rest of the complex.
And here is the prefab assembled i. The run for when I was integrating Hattie and Jabberwocky. That is Jabber on the roof.
Remember, I put up this run in the winter. The idea was to build a coop to match once the weather turned warm in the spring. Well that winter started out wet and would turn to cold and snowy. That was fortunate because I learned some important lessons that would drive my needs in a coop.
Our winter weather here can vary greatly. Some winters we will have temperatures well below 0 degrees F, and sometimes it is mild. Some winters, like last winter, we will have 1 or 2 snowfalls over 4 inches and in others we will get a blizzard or 2, or 3.
The winter we built the run we had one of the biggest blizzards we have ever had. It taught me some valuable lessons before we built the coop.
This photo is of the entire backyard early in the storm.
These photos are from the mid point of the blizzard. It snowed for nearly 48 hours.
View attachment 2413209
I brought the girls inside and improvised a roost for them.
This was the last measurement I got. At this point it was still snowing and we were at 31 inches.
Obviously this storm was an extreme but several things came out of it as I was planning the coop.
- The coop had to be high enough to not be buried by a blizzard. This photos show the Prefab ½ way through the blizzard. The coop would wind up being be buried in a snow drift. If I had not brought the ladies into the house, they would have suffocated.
- The run needed a solid roof. The snow falls right through Hardware cloth. Can you believe it? You can see how the run is full. It was a bear shoveling that out after the blizzard was finished.
- Because of the extreme cold that followed, I needed a coop that could hold the ladies with no access to the run for days on end. So it needed to be much larger than the prefab.
What other requirements were there?
- I wanted it elevated to create run space underneath and to make it taller in case of another blizzard.
- I wanted the floor to be removable for access to that run underneath.
- It had to be attractive as it will wind up as a focal point of the backyard.
- I wanted a sun porch for the chickens to laze around on when it was cool outside.
- I wanted both ends of the coop to open so I could use a push broom and push the straw from one side to the other for easy cleaning.
- I wanted ventilation on the opposite side of the coop from the prevailing wind.
- I wanted a window so they would have light and additional ventilation in the summer.
- I wanted 2 nest boxes as I figured I would never need more than that.
Now the wonderful thing about having plans done is that you get a shopping list. You buy everything on the list and you have everything you need. Neither time did I need to go back to Home Depot and buy more supplies. One trip and I had everything I needed.
I had an old window from our house that I had wanted to reuse for the coop but I had put it somewhere a decade beforehand and do you think I could find it. Of course I did find it several months later. Without the $80 for the cheapest window at Home Depot. All of the lumber and screws to create the coop cost me under $100. I do not remember what it cost to build the run in lumber but much less.
Once the lumber was purchased, it was time for a coop raising. My father and my daughter Mary showed up on a July Saturday morning to start building the coop.
First we had to remove the existing coop and run. You can see that the run has been removed below.
Of course a dust bath is the straw from the run floor us definitely in order.
We assembled the front and back before placing them.
The back, my father is cutting out the hole for the nest boxes.
We then propped the completed rear wall against the birch tree and tagged the frame for the front wall to it. Notice that I attached the hardware cloth for the run beneath the coop while the walls were on the ground.
We then placed the cross braces finishing the framing and removed the temporary bracing.
Notice the union inspectors assuring that everything is going to plan in that last photo.
We then placed the removable floor into the coop.
Variance from Original Plans
It was at this point that we needed to make a decision on the window. It was originally supposed to be midway between the floor and the roofline. Looking at the front wall we decided to lower the window to the floor line. I am very glad that we did. I have seen the ladies looking out the window on many cold or stormy days.
We framed out the window and installed it. We notched the floor where we placed the window frame so that the floor could still be taken up as needed.
Notice that I placed hardware cloth over the inside of the window to protect the ladies when the window is open. It was now time for the inspectors to review our work.
Now it was time to place the roof. One piece of plywood would not cover the roof so we over lapped them. In addition, because of how we put the framing on the front of the coop we needed spacers in order to attach the plywood to the front. You can now see where the rear vent will be.
We then cut out the window and placed the front plywood wall on the coop.
It was now time to attach the porch side door. We placed the the plywood against the frame and marked the angle of the roofline so we could cut it to match. We placed the automated door, marked the opening, cut out the door opening, and attached the door to the coop.
We then attached the automated door.
We then reversed the process for the opposite side door.
It was then time to install the roost. I simply hung a 2x2 at first. I later switched to a 2x4 flat, so they can cover their feet easily with their feathers in the winter.
It was getting dark and we needed to wrap things up, so rather than build new nesting boxes I removed the ones from the prefab and attached them. You will also note that rather than put hardware cloth over the rear vents, i closed them off with quickly tacked up pieces of plywood. Here are the prefab nest boxes attached.
I then placed latches on the two doors to seal up the coop.
It was then time to invite the ladies in for the night. Here they are exploring the new digs.
Daisy, the greatest hen ever and Alpha hen at the time, was not impressed and went back to the old prefab to roost despite it not have a floor, a door or a rear wall.
Patsy and Lilly figured it out quickly. I had to move Daisy.
Day 2 arrived. I needed to cover the rear vents with hardware cloth. You can really see the overlapping plywood of the roof in this photo.
I decided to then construct the porch and connector to the big run. I would need the porch to be removable so that I could open the door on that side. Another consideration is that I wanted the porch roof to cover the automated door mechanism while allowing the door itself to freely pass up and down.
I next began framing out the connection between the coop and run. Where Daisy is standing will be a swing door to allow them egress on this side of the complex. The porch floor is also removable for access to the run area below.
I then built out the frame for the removable porch.
And roofed it leaving a slot for the automated door to raise up and down while allowing the porch roof to seal to the door.
I then added the door and finished the framing.
Here is the porch in place for the inspectors to review.
I added hardware cloth to everything, roofed the run extension with left over pieces of plywood and Mrs. By Bob painted it to match the coop.
I put the ramp in place and the ladies then set about enjoying the porch.
The porch is secured with 2 carabiner style latches and the door with one as well.
That leaves permanent nest boxes as the final piece to complete the coop.
I first cut all of my 2x2 framing to the length I needed and the began assembling.
Note that in the photo above I have use a 2x4 for a cross piece. That is where the box frame will meet up with the coop. I have put 2 little 2x2 pieces on it so the floor will have something to set on and I will have a lip at the front of the nest box.
You can see the floor resting on those 2x2 blocks below.
I installed the back wall next.
I then attached it to the coop. I am using 4 legs to support the box as my prefab nest box was not supported and sagged horribly because of it.
I placed the roof on top of the box in order to determine the sides. To get the angle to cut the side pieces of plywood, I first placed the roof on and then cut a piece of cardboard to fit. I then used that peice of cardboard as the pattern for my pieces of plywood. That way I got the proper angle when I made the cut.
I hinged the roof to the coop and hung an "S" hook from a tree limb so I could hang the lid open when collecting eggs if necessary.
For some reason I was not happy with the stability of the box so I added a 2x2 cross piece along the top. You can really see it well in this view from the inside. In order for the divider to stay in place, I used scaps of plywood to create a slot for the divider to rest in. I would eventually replace this slanted divider with a square one when I caught a hen reaching over to peck another in the head while they were both trying to lay.
You can the latch hanging in this photo, it is another carabiner style latch. i filled the boxes with straw and sample eggs (golf balls) so they would get the idea.
With the completion of the nest boxes, the coop was done. Decorations would not begin until the following spring as you can see from this holiday season photo.
If it is going to be a focal part of the backyard it needed to look good. I let Mrs. BY Bob decide upon the color scheme and she was more than happy to paint it to help out.
Fluffy Butt Acres
I thought it would be perfect to put the name on the coop. A quick trip to Marshalls and I had all of the letters I needed. A little spray paint and super glue and the name was up.
Mrs. BY Bob wanted a scalloped edge along the roof line of the coop. So I needed to create scalloped edging somehow. So I took a single board and traced the lid of a pretzel container, cut it out with a jigsaw and smoothed it with my hand sander. I then painted and fastened it to the roof line.
I thought it would be fun to duplicate that elementary school project where the teachers had your child cut the silhouette of their face out of construction paper and send it home as artwork. So I took photos of each of the ladies and painted the silhouette of their fluffy butt and stenciled their name. A little “In Residence” sign and everyone who is currently living in the coop has their silhouette on the front.
Those that have lived in the coop and then moved on for any reason, have their silhouettes hung in the run. Here are those who have moved on.
Tractor Supply supplied the remainder of our decorations, the solar light and the sign over the window. The chicken sculpture is from a local artist.
What Would I do Differently
The following are several items that I have had to correct over the years since I put the coop up.
Roof the run
I did this before I even built the coop and repurposed the hardware cloth from the run roof for use on the rune beneath the coop. I love my solution to roofing the run. My Dad had some leftover double pain patio door glass from some old patio doors. We took down the hardware cloth and put up the patio doors and I had a snow proof roof that let in the sun.
Frame out the coop doors
I used flat pieces of plywood for the side doors and they started to warp over time. I needed to frame them out to hold them straight and prevent warping creating gaps. Here are the doors being framed.
Put an exit on the run beneath the coop
I created a dead end under the coop where a hen could be chased and cornered when the complex is otherwise open. Here is where I cut off the bottom of that door and used hinges to create a drop door for a quick pass through.
The automated door faces the prevailing wind
I struggle with this one because the porch needed to face the sun in the winter and that is also roughly the same direction that the wind takes. I figured out the first winter that I needed to put a shower curtain over the porch wire to prevent the winter wind from blowing through the coop. Here is the shower curtain on the porch. It does create a little greenhouse effect for them and raise the temperature on the porch even more when the sun shines.
A third nest box
I eventually expanded the flock to 6 hens and I let one set a nest of eggs. This created a backlog at laying time and I had to add another nest box. I simply added it to the side of the other 2 and cut a hole in the back wall. Here it is.
Because I used 4 support legs for stability, I was able to make a box frame
cut out a hole in the back coop wall
Attach the box frame to the existing nest box frame
Extend new plywood to the back and roof and I had another nest box.
Recess the doors to create an overhang
I have roof overhangs on the front and back of the coop but not on the sides where the doors are. Silly oversight that is not easily fixed so I live with it.
Is a single long roost the best way to go?
I put a single long roost in the coop initially. I started adjusting it quickly adding an extension that was made from the roost from the prefab shortly after the coop went into operation. I’m not certain that a single long roost is the best way to go. I did it to maintain maximum four space in case I needed to lock them in for a period of time.
Things to Consider When Building/Designing Your Own Coop
- Write out what you want from your coop before even beginning to design it. I tried to show that above as I explained what I needed my coop to do. That leads to my second recommendation.
- If you can, have your chickens a while before you design your final coop. Yes, they will need a place to live for a while. We got away with a prefab coop. It was definitely less than ideal. However, if the blizzard had not occurred and if we had not gone through some bitter cold winters, I would truly have not built the coop I did. If you can do a less than perfect "temp coop" and experience a year with your chickens before building a "final coop", I believe that you can learn valuable things that will make your final design better.
- Use Screws when building. The entire coop complex is held together with deck screws. The beauty of using screws is that if you need to disassemble something you can unscrew it. Nails are much harder to work with. Think about when I extended the nesting boxes to include a third box. I was able to disassemble the existing box and use the side again without destroying everything.
- Read through coop designs here on BYC. You never know what may inspire you.
- Ventilation. Pay special attention to where you want to place your ventilation to accommodate the prevailing wind. Mine is specifically designed so that no wind will ever blow on the chickens in the winter. Also leave yourself a place to add additional ventilation should it be required. I can still add additional ventilation to my back wall if needed.
- Space. Overbuild. When I built I anticipated adding more hens to my flock of 3 at some point. Technically, the coop and run I built could hold 8 hens comfortably, (32 sq feet in the coop and around 100 sq feet of run space). I do not ever see myself having 8, but I do now have double the amount I did, 6. If you are not going to overbuild understand how you would expand if needed.
- Pinch your Hardware Cloth between your pieces of lumber as you build. It will save on fender washers and screws.
The following are the plans for the coop, the run, and the porch/extension. The plans include your shopping list so that you know what needs to be purchased before you get started. If you decide you want to use them and have questions, please do not hesitate to PM me.
Here are the drawings which I sent to my daughter for her to start the plans. I just found them while I was cleaning out my desk. I would not build this coop if I were you. I thought I would include them for reference so you can see how the rough concept became the coop.
This first drawing is the top view. I love that the removable porch is noted that "this is going to take some thought".
The second drawing is the front of the coop which would face the pool. I am astonished that I was so bad at drawing blades of grass that I felt the need to label them. What else could they be! Also, I did not realize that i originally thought 2 windows. Interesting.
This third one is the side view with the connector to the big run. Look how tiny that exit door is that I drew. I would have had to switch the flock to Bantams. There is no way Patsy or Hattie were getting through that!
You will find PDFs of the plans attached under downloads on the right side of the page towards the top. They are printed on 8.5 x 11 inch paper at a scale of 1/2"=1'-0" scale. The individual porch and nest box plans are not yet complete but I will be adding them as soon as the updated ones are complete.
Since I built this coop there has not been the kind of snowstorm that caused me to design it. Over a week ago we finally had one. The coop, run and porch worked splendidly. The flock of 6 was comfortable the entire time. So much so that at the height of the storm they were lounging in the coop.
The next day they spent most of their time in the coop as the storm continued outside.
Once the storm was over, The porch became a place for warm sunshine and grooming.
While I continue to improve it every so often, I consider the entire complex to be quite a success. If you do decide that you wish to utilize our plans and have questions, please do not hesitate to private message me. I will help however I can.