Welcome to the final post in my “How To Build A Chicken Coop” series! In Part 1 we went over the supplies you’ll need, how much money we spent building our coop, and how to build the base and walls. In Part 2 we talked about building the nest box, putting in windows and doors, and how to build and finish your roof. At the end of part 2 we already had a pretty good-looking chicken coop, with walls, doors, and a roof! My husband and I felt very accomplished at that point, but we still had quite a ways to go. Today we will cover those final steps: building a chicken run, adding flooring and bedding, proper ventilation, and finishing touches like roost bars and electricity.
Framing the Chicken Run
The first thing to do was to build a chicken run. A run is simply a fenced area attached to your chicken coop, which allows your chickens to spend time outside. Building the frame for your run is pretty straightforward; it’s just a 3D rectangle! We made ours out of untreated 1×2’s. If you’re not planning to paint your run, be sure to get treated wood. Note that you will need two boards for each corner, which fit together in an L shape. You also need to place a board horizontally across each side, and another two across the top. These will provide extra support, and give you something to attach the hardware cloth to. Here’s what our basic frame looked like:
Chicken Run Door
Once your frame is up, you will need to add a door. We did it the easy way and made the entire end of our run into a door. Simply measure inside your frame where you want it to go. Subtract about half an inch to allow a gap around the door for easy opening and closing. Using these measurements, build your door frame. A simple rectangle will do, but you will need to add some support inside it. This can be a simple horizontal beam across the middle, but we chose to do a diagonal beam. We felt that this gave the door more support, and added a little bit of a barn look. Now attach your door to your run frame with hinges. Add your handle and locks, and you’re done!
Priming and Painting
You may have noticed that our coop and run were already painted when I took the photo above. It actually took about 3 days to finish painting, mostly because I needed to prime it so well. Raw wood soaks up paint like nobody’s business, so priming is a must! I did a full two coats of primer, and two coats of paint. Of course you should make sure you choose exterior paint and primer.
I had really considered painting my coop a ‘barn red’ color, because I’ve wanted a barn my entire life. In the end though, I went with the same blue and white color scheme as our inspiration coop. That’s what had drawn me to it in the first place, after all. Someday I would like to paint our house a bluish grey, and this will match well. In the meantime, it blends in nicely with our rural neighborhood!
The color that I originally chose for the door did not contrast well, so I ended up getting a much darker navy blue. To save some money, I bought a tiny paint sample bottle rather than a full quart or gallon. It can be difficult to find samples of exterior paint, but overall you save about $20. Most samples will cover a 4×4 area, so it was perfect. I didn’t feel bad changing the door color when it only cost me $3 and about ten minutes! A quick note: Don’t paint or use treated wood inside your coops. The fumes can make your chickens sick or even kill them.
Adding Flooring To The Coop
The next step was to add some flooring to our coop. I didn’t want to leave the plywood bare, as that would be difficult to clean and might soak up any spilled liquids. We found simple stick-on 12″ square tiles for only $.59 each at Menards. I bought 28 of them, because a 4×6′ coop plus a 1×4′ nest box equals 28 square feet – right? Well I actually ended up with several left over, as I hadn’t accounted for the kickboards – the flat 2×4’s that cut down my floor space significantly. Oh well, the extra $2 didn’t hurt me any, and we will have a few extras if we ever need them!
The tiles were very easy to put in. The tiles in the last row needed to be cut down by about 2/3, which was simple to do using a framing square and a box cutter. I used small wood blocks to help push the tiles down, especially along the edges and corners. I did the flooring completely by myself, and was quite proud of myself when it was done! The whole job took less than an hour. The floor is now slick and smooth and will be easy to clean.
Adding Hardware Cloth to the Run
Now we needed to add hardware cloth to our run. Hardware cloth is essentially wire fencing that comes in a roll. It has very small holes in it, usually either 1/4″ or 1/2″ wide. You will want 1/4″ hardware cloth to keep out even the smallest of predators. You should NOT use chicken wire for your run! Despite the name, it is not at all safe for your chickens. Any predator can destroy, bend, or go through chicken wire. Hardware cloth is the only truly safe fencing for your chickens.
We purchased both 4′ and 3′ wide rolls of hardware cloth for our coop. The 4-foot wide rolls were perfect for the main part of the run, since it’s 8 feet tall with a support beam in the middle. I measured the length of each section of my run, then used wire cutters to cut the hardware cloth. The width was already right where I needed it to be for all six sections – the top and bottom of each side, the roof of the run, and the door. I did need my husband to help hold the wire in place while I attached the first side of each section. After that it was smooth sailing. I just stapled the hardware cloth into the frame every few inches.
Hardware Cloth Under the Coop
The 3-foot wide rolls of hardware cloth were used to fence in the section underneath the coop. The space is actually 2 feet tall, but we folded the extra foot of hardware cloth and buried it. This will prevent predators from trying to dig underneath it. The run had the bottom of the frame to attach the cloth to, but we didn’t have that option underneath the coop. It was stapled to the base feet, but the bottom would have just been loose. Burying it added extra protection and also solved the attachment problem.
I had purchased a trigger-release staple gun to attach the hardware cloth with, and it was absolutely vital to this job! I can’t even imagine trying to do all that with my old staple gun… No joke, I would have dissolved in a puddle and given up on the first row. I’ve since used the new staple gun for my garden, household projects, nest box curtains, and coop upkeep. Can you tell I’m completely in love with it?! Anyway, moving on… Here is what the coop looked like when we were finished with the hardware cloth:
Proper coop ventilation is very important for your chickens. Without it, ammonia can build up in your coop and become toxic. Ventilation helps keep your chickens cool in the summer, and provides fresh air in the winter. The goal is to have lots of air flow, but no drafts. So if ventilation is so important, why didn’t I ever tell you to cut any vent holes?? Because with the roof style we did, they’re already built in! The spaces under your roof overhang are called gables, and they were left open when we built the roof. All you need to do is cover these gables with hardware cloth, and voila – ventilation!
There should be plenty of hardware cloth left over to do the vents. You will also want a handful of 2″ screws and a bag of 1″ washers with small center holes. Screw the hardware cloth straight into the rafters. The washers will keep the it tight up against the wood, and prevent it from being pulled off.
This is quite likely the most vulnerable part of your chicken coop, so you want it to be very safe. If a predator tries to break into the run at night, he’s still not going to be able to get to your chickens. (That’s assuming you have an automatic chicken coop door, or an otherwise locked and very safe pop door.) But if he got in through your vents, it’s Hello, chicken dinner! So besides the screws, you will also want to staple the hardware cloth well. Check it regularly for any gaps or loose areas.
At this point the exterior of your chicken coop should be finished and safe. It’s almost ready for your chickens to move in! Chickens love to sleep off the ground, so you will need to provide roosting bars. There are different preferences for this; some people use a simple 2×4, and some people insist that natural branches are best. One thing to note is that chickens sleep flat-footed, not with their toes curled around a branch like other birds. Because of this, we went with 2×4’s laying with the 4″ side facing up. We used joist hangers to hold our roosting bars. The nice thing about this is that I can just lift up the 2×4 to remove it for cleaning or replacing.
We put two roosting bars in our coop, one about two feet high and one about three feet high. The chickens used the shorter one for about a month before venturing to the higher one. Chickens will usually roost as high up as they can at night. Because of this, it’s important that your roosting bars are higher than your nest boxes. If they aren’t, your chickens will sleep on the next box – and poop all over it! Conversely, you don’t want any open rafters that your chickens will try to fly to. They can hurt themselves trying to get down again, and develop a condition called bumblefoot. This isn’t a problem with the type of coop we built.
There are just a few finishing touches left before your chicken coop is ready. You will need bedding, a ramp for your chickens to get in and out of the coop, and possibly some extras like electricity and nest box curtains.
For bedding in the chicken coop, I did some research on the topic and decided to go with sand. Sand stays cool in the summer, insulates in the winter, does not harbor mites or bacteria, is easy to scoop clean, and dries quickly. It’s also gentle on the chicken’s feet and provides them with grit and a dust bath. Clearly it was my best choice. As a fantastic bonus, I was able to get my sand for free! Our local sand and gravel company generously provides residents with free truckloads of sand for personal use. One small trailer load was enough to fill my entire coop and run! It’s important that you get rough construction sand, not the smooth play sand that you can buy by the bag. Play sand clumps together and does not dry quickly, nor will it work as grit or a dust bath.
We made our ramp out of scrap 1×2 pieces, and a board we had left from another project. You could use plywood, too. Simply screw the 1×2’s as treads into the board, about 8 inches apart. I didn’t bother to paint this, because I knew the chickens would just poop on it and scrape the paint off with their feet! My husband cut the end of the board at an angle and screwed it into the coop with 3″ screws.
I added nest box curtains to my nests before moving the chicks in. The curtains would provide privacy once my chickens started laying, but for now I was trying to keep them OUT of the nest boxes. I didn’t want them in there exploring and thinking it was a nice place to hang out! It worked pretty well. I simply found some fabric I already had, cut it a little longer than the nest boxes, and stapled it up. I think the chickens appreciate the ruffles.
The last thing we did was add electricity to our chicken coop. My husband is naturally great at this type of thing! He installed an outlet to the inside of the coop, with a switch on the outside for turning it on and off. We mostly use the outlet to power our automatic chicken door, and I have a small nightlight plugged into it. I have also used it to plug a fan in when it was very hot out, and will probably use it to plug in a water bowl heater in the winter. Electricity is certainly optional, but it’s been very convenient to have!
The Finished Product
When it was all said and done, I was thrilled with how our chicken coop turned out. It’s exactly the way I had envisioned it… well, maybe a tad bigger! 😉 It’s strong and safe, very functional, and completely adorable. I couldn’t have asked for anything more! I found the little white rooster sign at Hobby Lobby, and it was the perfect finish.
Now that it was done, we were finally able to introduce our chickens to their new coop! They were still living in the brooder in our basement at this point, and growing bigger by the minute. They were ready to be outside, and I was ready to have them there! Once everything was done, we let them in to explore the chicken coop.
They were so curious! I had planned to ease them into it – let them stay in the coop during the day, but still bring them in at night for a while. However, it was obvious how much they loved their new coop. Before I could even get them in for the night, they were already snuggled up on the bars, roosting! So I left them out there, right from the start. I checked on them frequently for the first couple of weeks, but they were safe and happy as could be.
It’s been over 3 months now. Some of the hardware cloth staples have popped out here and there, requiring me to go out and staple it back down again, but that’s the only issue we’ve had. The chickens spend most of the afternoon and evening free ranging in our backyard, and as the sun goes down they hop back into their coop again. The chickens are happy, and I am happy. And I hope that you will be happy with your new chicken coop, too!