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 updating this chicken coop ourselves. I started by mapping out how I wanted the chicken 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 built our own mobile chicken tractors! That way you can protect your hens and give them all the benefits of bing free-range on pasture with none of the risks. You can read all about the mobile chicken tractors 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 don't jump up to perch on the nesting boxes at night and poop all over them. You can see the three seater nesting box on the lower left side and the roosting bars on the upper right side.
I decided to go with the deep litter method for the inside of the coop mainly because it's low maintenance and also creates perfect compost for my garden. We put down vinyl flooring to making cleaning and sanitizing a breeze - I highly recommend this over an earth, wood, or concrete floor. If you get pests, mites, or a chicken is sick - it makes hitting the reset button on the coop so much easier. The non-porous surface of vinyl lasts, is water resistant, and so much easier to sanitize.
For the deep litter method, I layer chopped straw (not hay - which is full of seeds that will end up sprouting in your garden!) on the linoleum floor to about 6" deep. As the chickens roost at night and their droppings build up under the roost, I sprinkle extra chopped straw and First Saturday Lime (a safe and natural coop deodorizer) over their manure to keep things smelling neutral.
A deep coop cleaning takes place every two months. When it comes time to clean, I simply open either the front door or the coop door and sweep out the straw with a shop broom, then give the linoleum a vinegar and essential oil scrub down. Super easy!
We installed a south facing slider window with a screen to keep ventilation at a premium. The south facing window also provides 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 made two feeders. We have an inside feeder and an outside feeder for the hens. Then we installed 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 put a DIY nesting box. 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!
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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. We choose not to insulate the floor because the deep litter method actually generates some heat as it decomposes. 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 down the cheapest vinyl flooring we could find and sealed it with an exterior grade waterproof caulk. The vinyl 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 also 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. It ended up being three 1" thick wooden dowels and a few 2x4"s. Our roost design gives 12 hens enough room to comfortably 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.
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 seven 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. We are so pleased with our chicken coop design and all the features we included. We wouldn't change a thing!
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Thanks for stopping by Green Willow Homestead! From chicken rearing to composting, 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.
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