One Woman, One Saw, One Week

By DesigningLife · Oct 11, 2013 · Updated Apr 27, 2014 · ·
  1. DesigningLife
    In a few days, I'll be getting some laying hens from my sister along with a couple of Guinea keets! Since I didn't have a chicken coop, I had to design and build one (by myself). It's been an interesting process for someone with very few tools and very little clue as to what she was even "doing"!

    There are some pretty elaborate "hen houses" out there on the Internet (complete with mood lighting, restrooms, skylights, and snack bars - or so it seems, lol), and while mine could have been "better", I'm still quite proud of it! I thought some of you might like to see it!

    Since I'm working on a fixed income, I had to keep the cost as low as possible. Please keep in mind that the only tools I had for this project were a hammer, a circular saw, a tape measure and a screwdriver...oh, yeah, and my "brain" with it's limited understanding of construction. ;)

    The idea was to create a portable, low maintenance unit, for up to 6 hens, that could easily be moved from one place to another around the property. What I've constructed (and I use that term "loosely"), however, is a bit...okay, a LOT heavier than I was hoping, if you (and 5 of your buddies) happen to be around in the spring to help me move it out back...uh, please stop by!

    With your truck.

    And...a winch.

    The First Day...first steps of framing: I spent more time sitting and staring at the wood than actually "touching it"...trying to mentally "work out" how I was going to pull this off. I wanted to utilize the standard board widths and lengths to avoid as little scrap as possible, so the 2'x4' "coop" with attached 1'x4' nest box will be suspended over a run of 4'x8'. Doesn't look like much here...this is after the sides are built and stacked up to cover in case of rain that night.


    The Second Day: With the help of my youngest son, we stood the sides up and started "putting it together". I highly doubt anyone could do this part without someone to help "hold stuff". Thanks, son! He also put up with my frustration and took orders like a champ (well, mostly) while cutting boards to my specifications. The roll of wire shown below is the green, vinyl-coated fencing - I got the 50' roll, 36" high, for $32. Chicken wire bends/breaks easily and rusts out really quickly. Not a good choice (for pretty much anything).​

    Day Three - doors and a floor: In case you've never thought about this before, it is really difficult to attach the wide sides of 2x4's together. I tacked mine in place with fencing staples in the corners (for the "gate" at the bottom), then used 4 short "scraps" and nailed them on kitty-corner in each corner. We did need to shave a bit off the bottom of my gate though...everything was "squared" by eye, wasn't fitting that tight space (probably also not "square") very well! Another tip, for the door you're going to use to open the hen sure it is big enough to put things in and out of and to clean inside. Ours turned out pretty good (it gets new hinges later in this process though).



    Day Four - beginning of nest boxes, roof and some paint: Before adding anything more, I moved (er, drug the structure inch by inch) over to the edge of the driveway and placed it on somewhat level ground where it will remain through the winter (easier for me to access during the cold, windy months and will provide a bit of extra wind protection/shelter in this location for the birds). Luckily, we have lots of scrap lumber around, so I used these old fencing panels for the nest boxes and layered them on the roof as well. For the floor of the coop, and between the staggered layers on the roof, I tacked down large scraps of pond liner. This will protect the wood, keep the rain out and make it easy to clean up the floor inside. Some people use linoleum over the floor.
    So, I have to tell you...I REALLY got lost trying to figure out this whole "framing for the nest box system" you can tell.
    Side Note: My thrifty son found this (usually REALLY expensive) exterior latex paint (28 ounces) for only ONE dollar on the "mis-tint" shelf at Menard's! I wasn't about to spend $25 some-odd dollars for PAINT for the thing...but needed to weather proof and protect the wood a bit. Great find, son! Some people have put paint (or paint over Kilz) INSIDE...but it is my understanding that chickens will peck at anything and it doesn't sound too healthy for them, in my opinion.
    Days Five and Six sort of just all run together in a mass of confusion, frustration and ignorance regarding the whole nest box area! On the other hand, the back of the coop went exactly as I had intended. I did have to have a friend use his table saw, though, to notch out the 2x4's where the sliding "pop door" moves up and down. I might be good with the circular saw, but I kinda wanted to have fingers left in order to type and share this adventure with you! Note that the new hinges are on the main access door to the coop now and all the hardware (so far) is installed. A word of advice: Put on a glove BEFORE you go screwing in those hinges and latches! (The blisters on the palm of my hand are healing now, lol).

    Great idea and then a stupid one...instead of having the entire roof lift up to access the eggs/nests (as originally planned), I decided to have just the lower half lift - this still allows easy access, won't put strain on the "main structure", won't cause a lot of heat loss when opened in winter, and won't be too heavy for my grankids to lift. The stupid thing, I mean, "the tip" I want to share is to put the hinges on first and THEN put pond liner down (or whatever you're using) OVER them. The hinges were later moved underneath the liner with a new piece added to make up for the places where water could get in before when opened.

    Next to the side gate (which I positioned in the middle and made large in case I need to reach in to remove a dead chicken or something), this is my favorite accomplishment for this coop. The pop door allows the chickens to get into the run by sliding up and down, and I can operate it very easily from outside of the structure!
    Day Seven - finishing touches and catch up on a week's worth of neglected housework!: The rest of the painting is done, double-checked all the fencing staples, security of the joints, added a few nails here and there, made a ramp, put on the remaining hardware (no need for glove, my hand is pretty "tough" now, lol), and painted on some fun "decor". Somewhere in the steps above I had also installed a roost inside...must have been during the "haze" of days five and six! All that is left is tacking on a few shingles on the nest box roof! Total cost including a set of new blades for the saw came to just under $150 (USD).
    Welcome to the "Ramada Hen". Your complimentary issue of "Cosmipolihen" is waiting for you near the pool, and hors d'oeuvres will be served at three. In-room movies for the month of October will include "Bride of Cluckie", "Henboy", and "Fryday the 13th". ;)
    Next time, I would use 2x2's for the framing and a more lightweight material for the sides and floor. Also, I would attach the framing with screws rather than large nails (so they won't pull apart when moved). One "smart" thing I had chosen to do was use hinges with removable "pins" so that I can easily remove an entire door if needed (for any reason) without having to unscrew the hinges and re-attach them.

    Edited to add: I forgot to mention there is some "natural" ventilation here and there where some boards didn't fit snugly together and also between the first row of three fencing panel boards layered on the roof (about 3/4 of an inch in two places on each "side" of roof). It is staying perfectly dry inside though, even with heavy fall rains, YAY! Depending how "hot" it gets inside during summer, I might add a "shutter" near the top somewhere that I can close and latch over hardware cloth. More than likely, though, I'll just move it (ha, "move it"?, yeah right!) under a shade tree in summer.

    Edited to add - The hens are here! I have a gorgeous Buff Orpington, a Barred Rock, a Rhode Island Red and a Black Australorp! They are SO fun to watch :D They seem very content in the coop/run - maybe a bit spoiled too! Already laying in the nest boxes but tapering off now that cold weather and molting is happening.



    Edited to add a link to the "Summer Digs" I just made (April 2014) that is actually a PORTABLE tractor. Used entirely reclaimed materials for this, except for the staple-gun staples. So the whole thing cost the same as a box of staples. ;)

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    N F C and mjy4 like this.

Recent User Reviews

  1. N F C
    "Good Job!"
    3/5, 3 out of 5, reviewed Jul 15, 2018
    Great job of describing your coop build and including photos of the progress! Stories like yours give us other non-builders hope :)
  2. karenerwin
    "Good job!"
    3/5, 3 out of 5, reviewed Jul 14, 2018
    Good job on building your first coop! I bet you learned a lot!
    Thanks for sharing your coop with us.
    "Nice Job"
    4/5, 4 out of 5, reviewed Jul 14, 2018
    I'm also one woman with a saw, and not much building experience. I loved all your details and the honesty about staring at the wood for more time than touching it. I do the same thing.

    It's a little small for what I need for my flock, but I love that you did it by yourself with fairly few snags. Kudos!


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  1. Two Chicksahs
    I think you did a very nice job! Its a learning process especially on your and our first one. (hopefully ours will be the first and last one) We're learning & adjusting on ours as we go.
  2. Two Chicksahs
    I think you did a very nice job! Its a learning process especially on your first one. We're learning adjusting on ours as we go.
  3. sdetwiler333
    Your coop is very much like the one I built . In fact, it may be the one that gave me the picture in my head when I designed (if you can cal it that), and built mine. I really had no plan, just design as I go. turned out ok, & very functional. I have seven hens and a rooster in it & they seem quite contented.
  4. dreamcatcher12
    Wow awesome job.....
  5. RezChamp
    I took a break, had homemade chicken soup then a Grampa snooze.
    ......then re-read and look over...
    Yup, nice one
  6. RezChamp
    Sitting, thinking, visualizing. Same with me.
    Wish mine turned as nice as yours.
    Proud of yourself? I would be too.
  7. ChickInDelight
    I love it! You may need to get the ramp off the ground for easy moving (speaks experience). Perhaps by putting a 'stick' through the wiring on each side on which the bottom rests.

    Have you thought about putting it on wheels? I am having trouble finding cheap wheels for mine.
  8. cluckcluckluke
    Fantastic job!!!

    Also, sorry if someone else has already said this but that is not a Buff Orpington hen. It's a bit hard so see but she look more like a Buff Sussex.
  9. N F C
    Good job on your coop! And I really enjoyed your writing style. Enjoy those birds of yours!
  10. MyPetNugget
    Great Coop! :D I like the design and the nest boxes!
  11. BYC Project Manager
    Congratulations, we've chosen one of your pics for the Chicken Coop Picture of the Week. Thanks for posting your coop design & pictures to our "Chicken Coops" pages! You can find more info about the CC-POW here: CC-POW Process
  12. DesigningLife
    Newtoallthis, thank you so much for the compliments! I'll look at your profile and see if you've posted pics of yours - I'd love to see it. I just finished a "tractor" that ACTUALLY is portable, LOL using entirely reclaimed materials (including the screws I took out of old lumber!) - so yeah, I'm definitely a scavenger but it sure pays off. I'll post pics if I remember how. Getting quicker at this "building" stuff. Funny hens have TWO houses and I don't even own ONE. Hmm, something wrong with this picture, LOL.
  13. newtoallthis
    Looks Great! Fantastic job you did! I know that the pics online can be quite intimidating. I just went through this myself building our first coop. Good news is you don't have to be rich to keep healthy happy chickens.... Thank God lol!!! Kudos! 8)
  14. DesigningLife
    ChaoSS you're lucky to have such mild winters :) Maybe one of the "tractor style" coops that you can easily move around would work well for your goals.
  15. ChaoSS
    I don't get snow, and we don't get below 20 degrees here, rarely below 30, honestly. It drops below freezing a few days a year, so snow and true cold aren't that big of an issue.

    When I get around to building, I'll try to get some pictures, although I tend to be bad at taking pictures of my builds, I just get into building and designing, and then the thing is done, with no pictures of the process.

    I want something small, to avoid excessive weight. I really want to be able to move the thing around the yard, letting them clear weeds and grasses from garden beds and such. I'll likely be doing it in pieces so I can move the coop and run seperately to avoid it being too heavy.
  16. DesigningLife
    I don't know if I can insert a photo here, but the coop I liked the most was this one - the third one down on this page that looks like cedar. If I could do it again, I'd have built it more like this so that I could have a roof over the whole thing and a door large enough for me to fit into...shoveling snow out (or raking out muck) is a little tricky when you're having to hunch over and bend in odd ways.
  17. DesigningLife
    Hi ChaoSS, If you build one, I'd love to see the photos! I haven't had any trouble at all with 4 hens in this space and one is quite large (a Buff Orpington). They huddle together inside tightly to keep warm and still come out for brief periods during winter when it's really cold. It isn't insulated and I don't use external heat source. They were in great shape all winter. I keep their water outside (in a heated dog bowl) so they had to come out to get it and I fed them corn in the run toward evening (which helped keep them warm through the night). Haven't had any issues with pecking, feather plucking, cannibalism or anything at all. :D I should mention there is a large feeder hung from the roof inside the house too...just a few inches off the floor to keep muck out of the "trough". That takes up probably a square foot all by itself and they're still fine.

    A couple things that would have been beneficial in this one: Extend the roof (or make more of a tunnel to get in) somehow so it helps protect the pop door from getting snow/wind and rain inside. We had lots of blowing and drifting snow this year and I ended up having to put a piece of plywood over the portion of the run right up next to the "house" in order to keep the snow, etc, out. Also, I had to shovel snow off the ramp and out of the run a few times when it had drifted really bad...or they would not try to come this might be a consideration for improvement as well.
  18. ChaoSS
    I've been planning on trying to build something kind of similar, (perhaps a bit lighter, if I can engineer it) but have you had any problems with 4 chickens in a coop that size? Specifically when it's too cold/snowy for the birds to be outside, any problems with them fighting in the confined space?
  19. DesigningLife
    Thank you for all the sweet comments :D The coop is holding up well in this Michigan winter (nearly over hopefully!) although I have learned that it would have been better to set the entire thing on a row of cinder blocks as I have had to dig out the door to the run a few times and also have my son crawl in there to "raise" the electric-heated water bowl so it won't get "buried" in the snow (we usually don't get this much in southern MI).

    theawesomechick, the Buff very well could be something else or a cross although my sis insists they sold her an Orpington ;) - I won't argue with her.

    offgridhermit, if I could, I would come and help you build - I love making stuff - my grandkids want a playhouse next, lol Also I totally understand the income limitations! ;)

    gkleing3, thank you and I'll bet you CAN build it! I didn't post a photo of the dog house I built about 25 years ago...LOL, used 2x6 treated lumber scraps and it was huge! Couldn't tow it with a truck and tow strap, lol.
  20. gkleing3
    Oops. Commented in wrong place...
    I love your coop. I'm so impressed that you did it (practically) all by yourself! I don't thing I could.
  21. theawesomechick
    Nice coop! But your "Buff Orpington" looks a bit more like a Buff Brahma.
  22. offgridhermit
    You did a WONDERFUL job! Be very proud of the work you did! I'm still working on the one I started the day after Christmas (2013). I'm stalled because of my limited income. You have a great son, give him a big hug and a thanks from me.
  23. yardbird53
    nice job! It's was a challenge to build ours too but so rewarding when it was completed.
  24. offgridhermit
    You did a wonderful job, even more so with limited tools and pretty much solo. I have to do all my work solo, so I know it is not an easy job. Well done! But you know chickens are like potato chips, you always want more. I see more building in your future.
  25. Amiga
  26. Hischick
    Great job, and way to go with the perseverance.
  27. hotlantachicken
  28. DesigningLife
    High five to keepmumsane - yep, you know what I'm talking about then, LOL
  29. DesigningLife
    Hi Joan, I had thought of that too, however we don't have many weasels around here and there are 7 dogs (neighbors' and our 2) all around us (actually I worry more about the dogs, lol). Any mice and rats (haven't seen a rat here yet) would just eat their food rather than bother the chickens I think. ;) Our predators are mostly foxes, hawks and occasional opossums.
  30. keepmumsane
    Lol I too have a 'moveable' coop... for 6 iron men .. nice job !
  31. joan1708
    It's very cute but, I wouldn't consider the fencing on the run predator proof enough.
    the weave is too big. it will let rats, mice and weasels in.
  32. memphis
  33. memphis
  34. TwoCrows
    You did good! Give yourself a long pat on the back!
  35. DesigningLife
    Aww thank you! :D
  36. Weasleymum
    It looks great!
  37. desertegg
    Very nice job. You should be proud of yourself!
  38. ChemicalchiCkns
    Hehe; appears to be a woot-worthy Coop and general Tracktor.

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