First coop build



Aug 15, 2020
near Richmond, VA
Hey everyone, my coop is coming along. I've appreciated other people's postings, and maybe my efforts can help someone.

My wife was interested (in chickens) before I was. I got more interested when I got into intermittent fasting, which has helped me lose weight. Working from home gives me more access to cooking eggs, which I do daily (usually four). When things got so crazy this year with the riots and masks, I also learned more about how vulnerable the food supply chain really is. I now want to live with the Amish and start a homestead! But in the meantime, learning to garden and raise chickens make a lot of sense.

For inspiration, my wife kept showing me Carolina Coop videos. They do look nice, but I thought I could build one cheaper. Now that I'm nearly complete, I doubt that's true. I happen to buy my lumber in September, when lumber futures peaked. However, I have really enjoyed learning how to build a chicken coop and use a variety of new tools. I'll share my various influences as I progress with this thread.
Here is the site selected for the coop. We decided to use the Palace Chicken Coop plans, which has a 12' x 6' footprint. However, I got very stuck right off the bat because the foundation in the plans is poured concrete with a fairly sophisticated network of PVC drains intended to keep flat land from puddling. I have sloped land and I didn't want to pour concrete, so I looked around at other ideas.
It seemed that most sheds or coops used either posts dug in with concrete poured around, or blocks (usually solid) that were dug in and levelled. I purchased blocks before I really knew what I wanted to do, so I decided to use them even though I didn't need as many as I bought.

In retrospect, I kind of wished I had dug in posts with concrete. Anyway, at this point, I wanted to get a level wood base and go from there.
My first deviation from the Palace plan was to buy 4x4 pressure treated wood for the base in lieu of the poured concrete. I would extend posts down to the blocks. Each pair of blocks I levelled on top of crushed rock that I tamped down. I had left over crushed rock from a fire pit I had built last year. I used about 3-4" of crushed rock for each block. I built batter boards to run string to locate the corners of the blocks and align them. I was trying to get the blocks close to 12' x 6'. The batter boards worked pretty well - you level them with string to each other, then run string between them to form a rectangle to the size you want the foundation to be. Then you use the 3-4-5 rule to square the shape, then measure the diagonals for final check. I got my diagonals within a 1/4", and decided that's close enough. I tend toward needless perfectionism, so I began to tell myself "It's just a chicken coop."
One thing about string though - I never did get the 4x4's level just using string and the little hanging level. I used the string to cut posts, then I cut the posts, but they would be off quite a bit when I checked with my larger level. So string was good for roughing in the block locations, but I either lacked the right technique or I should have used a laser or something for actually cutting the length of the posts. Those black things are shims I made from roof shingles that I had to add on top of the post to get the one side level. Later I cut a post to a proper length.
One other deviation from the plan - I decided I wanted the door located on the downhill side instead of the side of the coop. Therefore, I moved that part of the foundation down near the ground. I wanted the capability to roll a wheelbarrow into the coop to help with extracting compost (that sounds better than mucking out). The coop will go uphill on the other end.

Also - I filled the blocks with concrete and then later drilled anchor bolts into the concrete through those Simpson strong-tie pieces screwed to the 4x4's at each block. I'm sure that isn't the right way to do it, but I wanted to have some sort of wind resistance. I also hammered rebar into the ground with the tops flush to the blocks before adding the concrete. I think this meets chicken coop code? Probably not...Oh well. Anyway - the anchor bolts - I used the Red Head anchors that are hammered into the holes. I beat them flush, so they look right, but I have little confidence that they seated correctly. I probably should have used the ones with nuts. Drilling those holes, btw, was pretty difficult. I really didn't want to drill bigger ones, so if anyone has the right answer for this, do tell.
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I bought my first round of material, mostly 2x4's. The plans called for 50 2x4x8's with some other long pieces for the roof, the top and bottom beams. Then plans called for another 30 1x4's and other trim pieces, but I was already putting down serious capital here and I began to doubt that I would follow the plans that strictly. My spidey-sense was correct here, as I'm nearly down with the 2x4's and I still have at least a dozen uncut.

I laid them out on blocks and painted them. This was good - lot of work but I felt better as the project has taken many weeks and I didn't have undercover storage for all that wood. I used the barn paint sold at Home Depot.

I began the framing. My thought was to build the two longer wall frames and temporarily support them, then add the smaller ones.
I laid things out on the driveway and squared the frames using diagonal measurements. I used 3" Spax screws, which do a good job. No one will come right out and tell you what length screws to use, so I can tell you that a 3" Spax screw may be used to mate 2x4's without the end sticking through. I've learned from videos that it's good practice to drive the screws at a bit of an angle for strength, and to drive adjacent screws at different angles for more strength.

The frames came together reasonably well. I
I levelled them roughly at this point.


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