Building a Permanent Chicken Coop

Build your own hen house with these tips on what is needed: roosts, ventilation, entries, nesting boxes, and more #chickens
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Week four of our DIY Homesteading series brings us back to the topic of chickens with this piece on building your own coop by Staci from Life at Cobble Hill Farm. As many have already found out for themselves, probably the biggest financial barrier to starting up with chickens is buying the hen house. In this post Staci gives information on the essential features of coop construction and guidelines on building one yourself.

If you’d like to ask questions or leave comments, please visit Staci at her blog and make sure to tune in next Wednesday for the next exciting guest post.

You can make a chicken coop out of almost any existing structure or, if you choose to, build one from scratch. The two most important things to take into consideration with either option are keeping them safe from predators and providing them with adequate ventilation.

Building a coop from scratch can be very expensive. When we built ours, although we had to purchase the lumber and roofing new, we were able to use found items for the framing, windows, insulation, main door and screen door. Needless to say, this helped cut the cost considerably. Here is a basic overview of the needs of a permanent chicken coop:

Build your own hen house with these tips on what is needed: roosts, ventilation, entries, nesting boxes, and more #chickens

Size: Unless your town limits the size of your flock, plan for expansion when building your coop.  This is much more cost effective then needing to start over in a few years if you grow your flock. Although the actual size of your coop depends on many factors {i.e. size of the birds, whether they will be confined or free-range, etc.}, the general rule of thumb is 4-5 square feet per bird.

Flooring: Commonly used flooring includes concrete, wood or dirt. Concrete is the easiest for cleaning and dirt is more difficult. For us, we chose a wood floor and utilize pine shavings for litter. As long as we keep a couple inches of shavings in the coop, clean-up is a breeze.

Build your own hen house with these tips on what is needed: roosts, ventilation, entries, nesting boxes, and more #chickens

Nesting Boxes:Hens prefer dark areas for laying eggs. Nesting boxes are useful for providing an area a hen can lay where you can find the eggs and they remain clean {most of the time} and unbroken.In general, you should plan on one nesting box for every four birds. I know this doesn’t seem like enough but trust me when I tell you that most days they line up to use the same box. We made our boxes 12″ wide x 12″ deep x 14″ high and this seems to be plenty of space even for the larger girls. We also slanted the roof to discourage roosting {and therefore pooping} on top of it. Our string of nesting boxes are positioned just under a window.

Build your own hen house with these tips on what is needed: roosts, ventilation, entries, nesting boxes, and more #chickens

Windows: As I stated above, proper ventilation is essential to chicken health. They are susceptible to respiratory diseases and, therefore, fresh air moving through their coop is fundamental. It’s important to cover all window openings with a small {1/2 inch to 1/4 inch} galvanized mesh wire to prevent bird/animal intruders.

Ventilation is important in all seasons. It’s imperative to have one of the window openings higher than the chickens perch in order to provide draft-free ventilation in the colder months. In the warmer months you will likely have all windows open o provide constant cross-ventilation and relief.

A quick word about our “found” windows. When we bought our farmhouse there were treasures in the attic space of the barn including a few old windows. In order to make them work, my husband attached 2 hinges to the top of each window and then attached that to the inside of the coop. He then used a string and cleat for opening the window {we can open it as little or as much as we want by winding it on the cleat} and a barrel bolt latch for the window lock to prevent drafts in the winter months.

Build your own hen house with these tips on what is needed: roosts, ventilation, entries, nesting boxes, and more #chickens

Perch/Roosts: Chickens prefer to sleep off the ground on a perch/roost. The best material to make this from is wood. A 1-3 inch thick, rounded piece of wood allows the birds to comfortably wrap their foot around and grip the perch with their toes. You can choose to create this from a wooden dowel, a tree branch, an old wooden ladder leaned against the wall and attached, or an old wooden drying rack. If using a stack system {stair-step style} make sure the wood pieces are 12 – 18 inches apart. Each chicken will require approximately 8-10 inches of perch room.

Build your own hen house with these tips on what is needed: roosts, ventilation, entries, nesting boxes, and more #chickens

Door & Latches: If your coop can accommodate, you will want a people-size door that you can enter into the coop for egg collection, cleaning, caring for sick birds, etc. If you have an attached outdoor run, you will also want a small door that can remain open allowing the chickens access between the coop and the run.

The reality is, predators bound and determined to enter your coop can undo many styles of latches. Different types of intruders have different capabilities therefore, it’s best to utilize two different lock systems on each door. For instance, we use a metal clip that requires squeezing to open and then another latch for each of our entries.


We found, from experience with a previous coop, that it’s best for us to have the main door swing out {easier to enter a full and busy coop} and a small door to the outside run that opens from the outside. In the coop that came with the property the small door opened inside the coop. In the morning, when the very impatient girls are stamping their feet waiting to get out, it’s extremely difficult to wade through them and open a door.

We installed a “found” screen door onto the main entrance for spring through fall. It’s just a wooden frame door. My husband attached hinges and then used a spring so that it would close behind us. When we let the girls roam we can unhook the hinge and it stays open.

Build your own hen house with these tips on what is needed: roosts, ventilation, entries, nesting boxes, and more #chickens

Feed & Watering Stations: The feeders and waterers should be off the ground to prevent them from standing in or defecating in their food and water source. We’ve found that making a small platform for the waterer and hanging the feeders from the ceiling works well for us. Make sure that this station is away from the sleeping area to prevent a feeder full of chicken poop.

Build your own hen house with these tips on what is needed: roosts, ventilation, entries, nesting boxes, and more #chickens

Insulation, Heaters, Etc: It all depends on the climate where you live and access to electricity, what exactly you install in your coop. We have electricity as well as a solar panel on ours, so we have a light, flat panel heaters, and a heater for the waterer. If you don’t have access to electricity but you live in an extreme climate of either heat or cold, it may be worth the effort to insulate. We insulated the floor, main door, and roof of our coop. You will also want to plan on the waterer not being in a drafty spot to help prevent it from freezing up in the winter {i.e. not in a direct line from the chicken access door to the outside if that will remain open in the winter}.

Build your own hen house with these tips on what is needed: roosts, ventilation, entries, nesting boxes, and more #chickens
Staci Ducharme resides with her handy husband Jay in Upstate New York on a small backyard farm named Cobble Hill.  Their lives revolve around the critters on the farm, both indoors and out. They are working toward homesteading full-time and living a self-sufficient lifestyle.  You can read more about them, and Cobble Hill, at LifeAtCobbleHillFarm.com.

If you liked this post then please visit these other pieces from the DIY Homesteading series:

Week 1 Chicken Tractors with Liz from Eight Acres
Week 2 Gardening on a Budget with Elaine from A Woman of the Soil
Week 3 Off-Grid Living with Dani from Eco Footprint ~ South Africa
Week 4 Building a Permanent Chicken Coop with Staci from Life at Cobble Hill Farm
Week 5 Making Your Own Country Wines with Ben’s Adventures in Wine Making
Week 6 Self-Sufficient Goat Keeping with Leigh from 5 Acres & A Dream

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3 Discussion to this post

  1. Melissa Lopez says:

    Is there a plan for building the coop in the title picture. I love the rustic look!

  2. My Homepage says:

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