We are on our way to a finished chicken coop thanks to some serious planning and one huge Menards trip. Paul and I like to joke that Friday night is date night at Menards, the place of serious romance.
All joking aside, going in to Menards with a plan is what saved our heads on renovating and building this coop ourselves. I started by mapping out how I wanted the coop to look on the inside by using SketchUp Make. The plan went through a lot of changes as I did more research. But below you can see how everything shook out.
PSST! If you've got some intense building codes where you live, we also build our own mobile chicken tractors! That way we can protect our pastured hens and move them to a new patch of pasture every day. You can read all about here.
Scroll down to grab the plans on how to construct a nesting box from one piece of plywood!
Please note: The links below are affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you end up clicking and purchasing an item. I worked hard to find my trusted favorites and I want to share them with you so you don't have to deal with all the crappy junk I had to go through. Nuff said.
It is important to having the nesting boxes and the roosting bars on opposite walls. This is so the hens can't jump up to perch on the nesting boxes and poop all over them. You can see the 3 seater nesting box on the lower left side and the roosting bars on the upper right side.
I decided to go with sand for the inside of the coop mainly because of how easy it is to keep clean. It's basically like a giant litter box for the birds. You can pooper scooper out their droppings three times a week without having to change the entire bed of litter, which is common of wood shavings. Of course you have to change the sand out at least once every year, which will be made easy with vinyl sheet flooring along the floor. I'll just open the door and sweep out the sand and give the vinyl a vinegar scrub down. Super easy!
[EDIT: Two years in and we did end up switching our floor protocol to the deep litter method instead of sand because it makes fabulous compost for my garden]
We are installing a south facing slider window with a screen to keep ventilation at a premium. The south facing window will also provide natural light to help with egg production. We decided to go with a 36" x 24" version which was fairly affordable, we got it for for $68.
Then we bought a 4" x 5' PVC pipe to cut in half and make two feeders. We will have an inside feeder and an outside feeder for the hens. Then we will be installing Chicken Nipple Waterers inside and outside as well. I like the nipple waterers because the bucket has a nice cover that keeps the girls from pooping in their water. Both the DIY feeders and nipple waterers hold a good amount so leaving the hens for two or three days isn't a huge issue.
Then on the wall closest to the door we are going to put a DIY nesting box. I plan on covering the front with some repurposed cloth to give the hens more nesting privacy.
What's awesome about this three-seater nesting box is you can make it from one piece of 8x4' plywood, sign up below to nab the cut plan! Three nesting boxes are more than enough for seven or eight hens.
Yes ma'am, send me the cut plans on how to build a nesting box from one piece of plywood!
So Paul took this plan and then went at it with an 4'x8' piece of plywood. From there I assembled the pieces with 1 and 5/8" screws and a cordless screwdriver. We started with the back piece first (the largest piece) and screwed in the four angled walls.
Then we screwed on the bottom, then the roof, and finally the front 4" tall front piece. We marked everything out first with a pencil using a tape measurer. I found it extremely helpful to mark both the center point for the screw as well as both the right and left side of the placement of each piece.
Be sure to not use plywood any less thick than 5/8" otherwise you will split the wood when you screw into it!
Then I painted the wood to keep the mites from being able to burrow into it and get at the hens over time. I used a no VOC interior mildew resistant paint. I love this paint because if my chickens ever DO eat it, they won't get sick.
Next up is getting the interior of the coop insulated. It gets cold here in WI! Paul did some measuring between the studs and found that 32" wide insulation would fit best. We plan on insulating the roof and walls for the hens to keep things warm from November to April. At the moment we are considering if we want to insulate the floor, but my vote is no. With 6" of sand, things will be insulated enough I think. Below you can see Paul laying out the insulation to measure and cut it. Then he finished off one wall with the plywood to seal everything up.
Once the insulation was up we put in 3/4" plywood and painted it white with a low VOC exterior grade paint.
[EDIT: It's been two years and we've had NO issues with the chickens eating the paint or it peeling. We also can CLEAN the walls when there are poop explosions (which there are), cleaning and scrubbing would have been impossible had we not painted.]
Once the paint was dry, we put done the cheapest linoleum we could find and sealed it with an exterior grade waterproof caulk. The linoleum flooring is a must to keep the floor washable. We can't have a bare earth floor where the coop sits because we are on a flood plain and everything would be sopping wet.
We also installed a south facing window so the girls will get ample sunlight even if they are cooped up (hah) during the winter months. South facing windows are wonderful for solar gain during the cooler months of the year.
Next, we built our roosts. Honestly, we winged this design and used what we had on hand. This ended up being three 1" thick wooden dowels and a few 2x4"s. This roost design gives 12 hens enough room to comfortable roost every night.
The nesting boxes were installed next. We used these cheap wooden curtain rod holders and a spare wooden dowel for the girls to jump up to lay. Finally, we spread the sand out on the floor.
At this point the girls were old enough to be re-homed from their brooder to the newly built coop! We kept the girls in the coop for five days so that their sense of "home" was reset.
Of course, in usual chicken fashion, the girls found the strangest spot to sit and relax!
We love this coop and it keeps our hens warm in the cold Wisconsin winters. Aside from switching to deep litter instead of sand, we wouldn't change a thing.
If you've got some intense building codes, we also build our own mobile chicken tractors! That way we can protect our pastured hens and move them to a new patch of pasture every day. You can read all about here.
Thanks for stopping by Green Willow Homestead! From chicken rearing to orchard planting, we've got our hands full and we love sharing what we've learned along the way. Follow along as we strive to live sustainably and turn these five acres from just property to a fully functioning small-scale homestead.
1. Joe Salatin
2. Rachel Carson
3. Wendell Berry
4. Temple Grandin
5. Sustainable Dish
6. Zero Waste Home
7. Allan Savory
Favorite Books of 2018
2. Bringing it to the Table
3. Holistic Management
4. The Small Scale Poultry Flock
5. In The Company of Women