Dad’s Small Chicken Coop, a Labor of Love
How to Build a Chicken Coop Fit For a King (Or a Queen)
By Cindy Pradarelli, Wisconsin — A small chicken coop doesn’t have to be too small! I bought my dad and mom a rooster and six pullets for Father’s Day, 2011, along with a subscription to Backyard Poultry to keep them up-to-date on raising their flock of backyard chickens. Dad bought a coop locally and thought it would suffice for his gang. When I delivered the chickens and saw the “coop,” which was about the size of a dog house, I told my husband I wanted to build them a real chicken coop for his birthday in September.
I had eight, 130′ white pines in the front yard of my home cut down because I was afraid they were going to fall on the house, so we had an abundance of lumber, at the “right price.” Having never built anything and after looking at some chicken run pictures, I gave my husband, Mike, some suggestions on what I’d like in the new, improved chicken coop and he came up with a plan.
Mike would leave for work in the morning, come home during his breakfast break and give me instructions on what to do next, show me how to do it and leave. Like clockwork, he’d be back at lunch to give me further instructions and when he returned at the end of the day we’d work on it together, and I’d get directions on where to start again in the morning. Little did I know what the end result was going to be.
It has some features that I don’t believe are found in a small chicken coop, such as remote temperature control (Dad can tell what the temperature is in the chicken coop from the house), a chandelier, waterproofed and fully insulated walls, motion detector lights, floodlights, linoleum floor for easy clean up, six nest boxes that can be accessed from inside or outside the coop, a Hen of the Month contest sign (with the required criteria listed so there are no squabbles between the hens), a steel roof, a rooster weather vane, a front porch to watch the sun rise in the morning, windows that open for a nice breeze on those hot summer nights, and the flock is even serenaded 24/7 with country music on the radio. The coop is 8 feet wide x 12 feet long with the ceiling peaking at 8 feet and built on skids so it can be moved around the yard.
Dad named his rooster “The Big Dummy,” so I made a sign proclaiming his turf for all who enter as “The Big Dummy’s Hen House.” We delivered the small chicken coop to my parents a week before Dad’s birthday, September 26, 2011. He was not expecting it and to say he was surprised is an understatement. The chickens settled into their new home quickly and rewarded my parents with 11 new chicks in the spring of 2012. Within a few days the local newspaper came to the farm to take pictures of their small chicken coop and wrote a feature article on it.
We had to allow the wood to “age” so in the fall of 2012, Dad and I painted the coop red, as well as the original “dog house” coop which was used by the hens with chicks. Building this coop was a “labor of love” and a great learning experience for me.
BUILDING A SMALL CHICKEN COOP: THE BUILDING PROCESS
290′ rough-cut pine for exterior walls
2 – 4′ x 8′ 3/4″ marine plywood
50 – 2″ x 4″ x 8′ for walls and double sill
14 – 2″ x 6″ x 8′ for rafters and ledge on double Dutch door
2 – 1″ x 6″ x 12′ for facia
4 – 1″ x 8″ x 12′ for trim
7 – 4′ x 8′ x 5/8″ OSB
2 – 4″ x 4″ x 10′ pillar posts on front porch
4 – 2″ x 6″ x 8′ for door approach
4 – 2″ x 2″ x 8′ for roosts
4 pounds deck screws
192 square feet steel roofing
2 – insulated basement windows
3 – 1″ x 12″ for nest boxes
4 – 30′ rolls R17 insulation
1 – 8′ x 8′ linoleum for floor
40′ – #12-3 wiring
4 barn door hinges
1 barn door handle
1 switch plate
1 electrical outlet
1 remote thermostat sensor
1 motion detector light
1 yard floodlight
1 rooster weather vane
It took us 1-1/2 weeks to complete the coop in our driveway, but without my husband’s help and expertise this coop never would have come to be. It was a 3-1/2 hour drive to deliver the coop to my parents’ house.
The lumber we used for the exterior walls of my parents’ small chicken coop came from 130′ white pines from a home I previously owned in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. My husband owns a sawmill so he processed the trees for the lumber; there’s a total of 290 board feet of lumber in the exterior walls of the completed coop. We started with 6″ x 6″ x 10′ skis (so the coop can be moved with a tractor), held in position with 3/4″ marine plywood floor. Next we screwed the 2 x 4s together for walls (16″ center) with about four pounds of deck screws. With the supports in place, we applied the rough cut “Pradarelli Pine” (as my husband refers to the lumber from my white pines) around the exterior.
With the walls up, we installed the windows and sills. Then we assembled the exterior nest box and attached it to the west wall of the coop.
Next, I insulated the interior walls with four rolls of R17 rated insulation (nothing is too good for the Big Dummy and his little ladies), although there was about 1/2 roll left over. I bought an 8′ x 8′ remnant of brick looking linoleum and glued it to the interior floor for easy clean up. (Dad shovels out most of the straw from the floor and then rinses the floor with the garden hose.)
The next challenge we had was the entry door on the side for the flock and the human-sized double Dutch door. I had complained to my husband a few times that all the pictures taken were with him in them, “It doesn’t look like I did anything,” because I was the one with the camera. When we assembled the double Dutch door, we stood back to admire our work and realized I had left the drill inside the coop and with no door handle to use yet, the only way to get to the drill was to crawl through the chicken’s entry door on the side. Being somewhat smaller than my husband, of course he decided I was going to have to crawl through the small entry door to get inside and retrieve the drill. (I’m sure you know what’s coming next…) I got my “wide load” stuck in the small—did I say very small—entry door. My husband never moved so fast as he did then to get the camera!
After I spoke some fluent French at him, he decided it would be in his best interest to help remove the “blockage” in the doorway, rather than take up the photographer position at that time.
Then we applied the OSB board to the interior walls, so the chickens couldn’t pick at the insulation. We had an electrician install the chandelier in the middle of the room, motion detector lights and yard floodlights to the exterior, as well as an outlet for the radio. Dad plays country music for the chickens 24/7; his theory is happy, contented hens will lay more eggs. To finish off the interior we used 2″ x 2″ x 8′ boards for roosts, hung the Hen of the Month plaque and the transferable hen name tags above each of the nest boxes.
With the interior of our small chicken coop completed, we finished off the soffit and facia and applied the steel roof to the rafters. To top it all off, we put a rooster weather vane above the doorway on our small chicken coop. It’s definitely made owning chickens more enjoyable for my father and his hens!
Originally published in the April/May 2013 issue of Backyard Poultry Magazine and regularly vetted for accuracy.