Building a Backyard Chicken Coop, A Family Experience

Earlier this year we made the decision we’d like to add a few chickens to our little zoo we call home. It’s actually been a long term discussion, so not something done on a whim, although recent press coverage of the increasing popularity of backyard chickens brought it more to our attention. We researched our city allowances and found our zoning and lot size allows for 4-6 chickens, hens only of course. I had had chickens growing up more rural and had many chickens, but it has been a long time, so this was going to be a new experience.

As part of this process, I did plenty of research on what kind of chicken coop we might use. I was amazed at the variety of options out there, ranging from “tractors” that can be moved around the yard to stationary options. I had a basic idea in my head of what I wanted to accomplish, but there were so many designs it was mind boggling. There were also many pre-made options at IFA, Cal-Ranch and similar stores, but none seemed to fit quite what I wanted. Ultimately I found a neighbor building small coops and selling them on KSL Classified with a basic design I really liked. Plus, the idea of building something with my kids was appealing to help them have some ownership in the process.

Getting the chicks was an experience itself, and the kids fussed, worried and enjoyed every part of it. We started with 4 chicks, each of a different species, one for each kid. When you start with them this young, they have to be incubated at very specific temperatures that lower with each week.

Having chickens inside was a mixed bag. The kids loved looking in with the chicks, holding them, playing with them every possible moment. Washing hands increased 1000%. I will say, what started as a very fun idea inside got to be a noisy affair. It was perfect for the family experience.

These little ones grew amazingly fast. Even after just a week they were loosing that cute little fluffiness and starting to get a bit rangy.

Because they needed to be incubated for a 6 to 8 weeks, the procrastinator in me put off the build of the coop a bit, but I was excited to finally get started. Though there were grand ideas of taking many photos throughout the build process, that kind of fell apart as I was ad-libbing so much I focused much more on figuring out the build instead of documenting things.

The build was quite frankly a lot of fun, and reminded me how enjoyable it is to just create something out of materials into a finished product. Sure, there were some mistakes along the way, and some of course a result of involving kids in the process, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. We took a rough design, enlarged it and made it our own.

Much of the build was made with inexpensive wood sizes: 1×4, 1×2 and 4×4. Throw in some siding, chicken wire and tin and you are most of the way there. A nail gun is a much needed asset along with a miter saw for all the various cuts and connections. The basic frame came together fairly quickly, though some of the angles required getting back to some math I hadn’t visited in quite some time! A couple of afternoons on Saturday and I was most of the way there.

At this point, after a bit more procrastination, the final pieces and paint were applied and we were ready to get it in place. With the help of a few friends this now heavier than originally planned coop was put into place. Just to show a little of how quickly they grew and what the (near) final coop looks like, here’s a few more photos.

So as you can see, the coop was made to maximize the use of space with an over under design. The run underneath allows for plenty of space should the chickens need to stay penned in for a time, with hinged door that can be held open to allow for free ranging, which is what they do for the most part. The tin roof was a design choice both for appearance but also functionality for a lighter weight on the sides that open for access into the laying boxes. The paint was chosen by my lovely wife and is a vinyl based type that is meant for long term outdoor durability.

Inside the coop is divided into laying beds and a ramp that allows for easy access from below. With a total of 24 square feet of space  both above and below, with a few chickens they have plenty of room to move around and find a place of their own. Currently the hens still cuddle up into one corner or another, but I expect they will find some separation once they start laying.

Though there is a slight tilt in some places and not perfectly true, the coop is strong, stable and the chickens have taken right to it. With chick’s very hard to tell their gender, we wondered if we would end up with a rooster that would need to be placed elsewhere. We fortunate to end up with all hens, though also unfortunate one died a few weeks old. We are looking forward to when they reach laying age and hopefully figure out some places in the lawn (and on deck) we’d rather they not frequent. Overall it’s been a great experience for the whole family will continue to be for a long time.

If there is enough interest for plans based on this design, I may eventually get them created. Leave a comment or send me a message to let me know and give me a little incentive to actually get them done!