Building the Coop

After introducing you to The Coop last week, I realized I made it look too easy.  I mean, first there was no coop, then there was a perfectly completed coop.  Like magic.

It was not magic.  It was work.  There was sweating and swearing and snacking.  Often all at the same time.  Sometimes in emergency situations I even snacked on my sweat.

So I thought it would be nice to take you through the building of the coop from beginning to end so you get an idea of what’s involved in case you’re thinking of building your own coop.  Which I don’t advise you do if you have children, pets, a spouse, laundry that needs to get done, a job, a need for more than 5 hours sleep a night, an aversion to possibly maiming yourself, or any semblance of sanity.

O.K.!  Here we go!  How to build a chicken coop.

Get a hammer.  You’ll definitely need a hammer.

tee shirt


Call your sister. The one with the pink, suede toolbelt and the Chanel safety glasses.  You know, the one who matches her work gloves to her tee shirt.

Building Coop 2


Start building the frame.

Building Coop


Once the frame is completed, you might want to look into bringing in extra help.

Building Coop 3


Probably check their credentials first.    These guys started out strong …

Building Coop 4


But naptime seriously slowed progress.

Building Coop 5


Once the framing is done you can start on putting up the plywood.

Building Coop 6


This is the point where things get exciting and you run around the neighbourhood high fiving random people because your structure finally looks a little bit like an actual building.  Since coops may or may not be legal where you live, you tell everyone you’re building a cabana, or a shed, or a landing pad for possible alien lifeforms.  Anything but a chicken coop.

Building Coop 7


Once all the plywood walls are up, you can tackle the roof.  The roof is an asshead.

Building Coop 8


The roof is plywood, a drip edge, a layer of roll roofing nailed down, another layer of roll roofing glued down with roll roofing tar.  Then stomp around on it a bit to make sure it sticks.  At least that’s how I did it.

At this point people will start congratulating you on your completed coop. They will say things like “Almost done now!” and “Not much more to do!“.  They’re liars these people.  Or stupid.  Or both.  I’m referring to my sister in the pink tool belt by the way, who from this point on in the building process kept saying “Wow. It’s almost done“.   She would continue to say that for the next month and a half.  Less convincingly as each week passed.  Finally by the time the coop really was almost built she was afraid to say anything and mainly just blinked at me.

Buliding Coop 9


Taking a cue from the foreman (who if you didn’t notice is actually a chicken) … take a little nap.  While standing on a ladder.  Fondly remember a time when you didn’t wear ugly jeans paired with an Olympics tee shirt and lime green crocs.

Building Coop 10


Then one day – everything will get kicked into overdrive – as you realize the chickens CANNOT live in your potting shed any longer.  Since they’re almost full sized chickens who happen to be able to wreak havoc everywhere they go.

Building Coop 11


See?  Too big to live in a potting shed.  Big enough to peck your eyes out.



Work, work, work.  We’re a month and a half into this and not even close to being done.  Work, work, work regardless of gross injury acquired while cutting the metal drip edge.  Work, work, work regardless of the fact that you’re so sick of this you could cry and you feel like you’re running around like … well you know.

Coop Injury Finger


Build a screen door.  Because you need a door.  So you have to build it.  I know.  Weird.  Building a door.  Almost done now!  Uch.

Building Coop 12


Handy little tip!  If you’re cutting anything, put a big cross through the piece you want to get rid of.  This helps for when you bring the wood over to the saw and can’t for the life of you remember what part of the wood you’re supposed to cut away.



Handy little tip!  If you have to cut a straight line but don’t have a table saw, use a circular saw with a long straight edge clamped to it.  Run the skill saw along the straight edge and you’ll get a perfectly straight cut.

Cutting plywood


Handy little tip!  Take time to snack.  It’s important to snack.  Especially on Ruffles and dip.  Twice during the course of this build people randomly dropped off Ruffles and dip.  Actually they didn’t drop them off so much as throw them over the fence and drive away fast.  You might find at this point in the build, people begin to perceive you as “cranky”.  Shitheads.

chips and dip


Once you get to the point that you’re hand staining and rubbing all the spruce you’re using as siding, you might develop narcolepsy.  Go with it.

napping building coop


Once your siding is up you’ll think, It’s done!  It’s really done!  It isn’t.  It really isn’t.  Sure your hardware cloth is installed and it looks like a chicken coop basically, but you still have to paint the inside, install a few perches, pick out, shop for and install a bunch of hardware and add the trim.  Work, work, work.

Building Coop 13


Precious minutes will be stolen from you as you investigate who is responsible for this random act of comedy.  A hanging rubber chicken in your coop.  An extensive investigation (one phone call) reveals the culprit to be your mother.

rubber chicken


Work stoppage.  Injury #2.  Fat lip.  Kindda cute.    Almost done!

coop injury lip


Trim the coop.  Paint the trim.

Building Coop 14


Actually done.

CoopFirst copy


And THAT is how you build a chicken coop.  In a nutshell.  The things that end up taking a lot of time I don’t have pictures of.  Like figuring out how to build doors that’ll work, drilling out holes for the door latches to fit properly, chiselling away at stuff so it fits better, deciding on the best way to install the hardware cloth, nailing in the siding so that all the edge line up perfectly around the entire circumference.  Stupid stuff.  It’s the stuff you don’t see, the stuff you don’t think of that takes time.  Well … that and the fact that I’ve never build anything even close to resembling a building before.

I could NOT have done it without these people who helped along the way.

My fella.  Who randomly woke up one morning, bought all the materials and starting framing the coop.  He quit … but he got the job going.

My sister with the pink tool belt.

Interior designer Carol Reed  who held my hand and confirmed my colour picks when my sister wasn’t around to ask.

My chickens.  You never saw a chicken who could wield a hammer like Tuco.

And all of you who sent me coop pictures and encouragement all the way through.

Thank you to all.


  1. augie gallegos says:

    very nice…your carpenter skills are impressive and very helpful. I’m planning on building a coop in the spring of 2013…been wanting a coop in my yard for a few years now. You inspired me! Wish me luck. Augie

    • Karen says:

      Good luck Augie! There’s plans for sale on my right hand sidebar (Chez Poulet) $39 I think. Beautiful coop that I kind of based mine off of. I wish she had the plans for sale at the time I built mine. Probably would have taken half the time to do it. ~ karen!

  2. Kari says:

    Karen, how did you install the magnets so they stay where you put them? Drill out the wall, push them in, secure with…glue?

    • Karen says:

      Kari – I bought the rare earth magnets at Lee Valley. They come with a cup that has a hole in the centre. So you drill out the wood you’re putting it on with a Forstner bit (to make a flat bottomed hole) then you put your cup in the hole, screw it in place, and set the magnet in the cup. It’s magnetized there for life. ~ karen!

  3. Donn says:

    3 roosting bars and 4 laying boxes. Oh well….they’ll the hang of it eventually.
    Thanks D

    • Aisha says:

      To some chickens it comes naturally, to others, not so much. My dippy birds NEVER figured out the upper loft area! I have learned training chickens is impossible, and gracefully bow out before hitting my head for the umpteenth time while sitting inside the actual coop trying to show said dippy birds that their little legs are perfect for going up ramps.

  4. Donn says:

    I built the same design. My 10 chickens seem to love it. They’ve only been in it for 2 nights. They have not discovered the advantages of sleeping in the upper (condo) area. I’m trying to coax them up there with more food and water.
    Did you have any problems?
    I envisioned a parade of hens proceeding merrily to the “loft” every night when the temp dropped below 50 and/or when the coyotes started howling…which they do.
    Santa Barbara Chickeneer

    • Karen says:

      Donn – Weird! No, my chickens started using the roost up in their upper coop condo right away. Do they have a roost in the upper coop? Technically it should come naturally to them. :/ ~ karen

  5. Christie Thomas says:

    Hi again,
    Our coop is moving right along!! Thank you again for this inspiration! So I’m buying the siding today, did you actually stain it, or paint it? And did you use a “chicken friendly” product? Lol
    Thanks, Karen! Hope your front yard is looking good!

  6. Christie Thomas says:

    Hi Karen,
    One last quick question. What gauge of wire did you use? I’ve seen people use 1/2″ and 1/4″. Not sure if 1/2″ will keep mice out!
    Thanks again so much!

  7. Christie Thomas says:

    Hi Karen,
    Yes, and yes :) I’ve read and re-read and studied all of your coop postings and have purchased her coop plans. Her plans are definitely nice, but do not contain a “how to” section. :) This is my first time building anything, so i am basically teaching myself by watching u-tube video’s. My hubby is begrudgingly giving me some advice and letting me use his tools :) Your nesting box works better for our backyard. Thanks for all of your input! Here goes nothing!

    • Karen says:

      Christie – Switching up the plans should be simple. Where Heather has a door, don’t make a door. Make a regular side panel attached to the framing. Then using her drawings, just make the door on the front of the nesting box where mine is. You’ll be able to figure it out. ~ karen

  8. Christie Thomas says:

    Hi there!
    Do you have any pics of how you did your nesting and storage box? Also did you put a bottom on your coop? Starting our coop this week!! I’m scared but excited!!!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Christie – Have you seen my entire Coop post? It shows the entire coop. I don’t have any plans for it or measurements because I just bought the wood and started building for the area I knew I had. If you don’t have plans, the ones for sale on my site by Heather Bullard (Chez Poulet on my right sidebar) are beautiful! I based much of my coop off of hers. Good luck and have fun with it! ~ karen

  9. Allison Oropallo says:

    Looks great! How much did materials cost?

  10. Allison Oropallo says:

    Looks awesome! Love it!

  11. Heather says:

    Hi Karen
    What a beautiful coop! My question is whether you would do it again? I work full time and I have not built anything before and my fella =) is about as handy as I am….I am ok with the chicken care part having grownup on a farm. I just love artistic original stuff (like your coop) and dont want something generic if I can help it. Thank you!

    • Karen says:

      Heather! It’s hard to say whether I would do this again. I mean, I love the result but it did take months of work. The other thing to keep in mind is even though I’d never built a chicken coop, I’m very familiar with tools and building things in general. I’m not sure if a Chicken Coop is the right place for you to start if you’re not handy at all. It might just end up being discouraging. If you notice, on my righthand side bar there are plans for a BEAUTIFUL chicken coop. It was the coop that inspired me to build mine. You might look into buying plans and having someone build it for you. At the very least, make sure you have actual plans. It’ll make it easier for you than doing what I did (built with no plans … just … started hammering. ) ~ karen!

    • Karen says:

      Oh! And I had all the tools needed to build this sort of thing. An electric mitre saw, jig saw, nail gun … etc. ~ karen

      • Heather says:

        Thank you for talking me down from the edge of that do-it-yourself chasm I was teetering on. I will place my energy in my garden and maybe buy a coop that I will customize. Keep up the wonderfully witty yet useful blog. I enjoy it immensely.

  12. Suzi says:

    OMG, that is one beautiful coop! Great job!

  13. Christie Thomas says:

    Hi Karen,
    Your coop is amazing! I LOVE it! I am going to attempt to build one as close to looking like it as possible! Do you know the dimensions for your coop?
    Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Christie – I can’t remember exactly the dimensions, but just build your coop according to however much space you have. I believe it’s around 3 1/2′ wide X 11′ long X 7′ high. That’s the absolute largest I could make it for my area. It would be better if it were a bit wider ’cause that would make the run bigger for the chickens to run around. I literally just started framing it to the size I needed and built it on the fly. Good luck! ~ karen!

  14. Crazy gorgeous chicken coop! Wow! That’s all I can say…. Wow! xo

  15. Regina says:

    Hi Karen,
    I just came across your chicken coop. It’s fabulous…I also saw the coops that inspired you about a week ago & thought they were wonderful too. I’ve been trying to design my own coop for about a week now, I want it to be functional yet creatively different. My baby chicken will be hatching out in about 8 days…and since poultry is frowned upon in my neighborhood it will be interesting to see if we can get away with having “pet hens”. The hens are Buff Orpingtons, very friendly and a quiet breed ;)so I am told.

    It’s January now and I was wondering how your hens are doing laying eggs now? and how you have liked having them so far?

    • Karen says:

      Regina – My hens are laying like lunatics. 3-4 a day (I have 4 hens) I rigged up artificial light so they continue to lay. (chickens don’t lay unless they’re 13 or 14 hours of daylight, so they tend to stop in the winter. Some people like to give their chickens a rest in the winter but since this is their first year I feel like they haven’t earned their rest yet, LOL. I love, love, love having the chickens. It *is* work though. I’m always careful to tell people that. You have to feed and water them, clean the coop, check them for mites etc., make sure their water doesn’t freeze in the winter and on and on. However … there’s nothing more fun than watching a couple of hens fight over a cherry tomato. Plus I always give them our leftover dinner (they especially love polenta, pasta and cheese) after dinner. I highly recommend having chickens! ~ karen

  16. Nina says:

    You are my hero…

  17. Kathy says:

    I have been a subscriber to your blog for almost a year, but I am only just now taking a peak inside. YOU’RE ADORABLE! It’s 4:30am here in Minnesota, and I am up because I bolted out of bed at 3am realizing I had forgotten to wash a shirt my 15-yr-old says he absolutely has to have for school tomorrow. (But who am I kidding? I would be up finding stuff to do, avoiding sleep, regardless.)

    I so enjoyed reading your chicken coop saga…and before that your home tour. By the way, I love Margaret and especially LOVE your mother who inspired the purchase… actually, MANDATED the purchase…I’m not sure she ‘had me’ at the command to buy art or the when she sneaked the rubber chicken into the coop! She sounds beyond great. I guess that makes it obvious I am not your typical demographic in reader type. I’m more like your Mom’s age, with 1 kid most likely your age (who lives in Seattle), a 22-yr-old in NYC, and my little guy (6’4) who is still at home. And as for me, I am rattling around a now superfluous too-big house, which I share with my little man and my old curmugeony husband (who does not condone the purchase of art – hence my admiration for your mother’s mandate), and I am floundering around trying to remember what makes my life relevant (or hoping to figure out new ways to be relevant.) Who would’ve thunk I would get inspired by a funny, quirky girl half my age??

    Your posts gave me quite a few much-needed laughs and for that, I thank you. Rock on, girl (okay, be honest…do people still say that?) And here’s a question for you….. Does your Mom have a blog???! :D Clearly, she did a great job with you and your sister! If she does not have one, maybe she should! Or if you know of other cool old ladies with inspiring blogs, pass them along to me. :) I the meantime I will continue to be entertained by your funny musings, holding out hope that I did half as good a job in parenting my kids as your mom obviously did for you!

    Kathy from MN

  18. Sherri Hanigan says:

    Your post has totally ruined my eye makeup! I’m sitting here wiping away black mascara streaks caused by laughing until I cried. Part of the comic hysteria was caused by your very witty writing style, but I have to admit that part of the issue was remembering my own DIY projects that somehow turned out in spite of my lack of knowledge or foresight. Like the time I locked myself in the bathroom while using oil-based paint and nearly passed out until I remembered there was a window I could open for fresh air until someone rescued me. I am now a fan and will return to your blog on a regular basis. -Sherri

    • Karen says:

      Sherri – Well done. You got me to laugh over the “realizing you could open a window” bit. :) Glad you found my site! ~ karen

  19. Thomas says:

    how can i get the plans for this. its awesome. please share

    • Karen says:

      Hi Thomas – Thank you! However, as I said in the post, I don’t have any plans for the coop. I made it up as I went with a basic idea of what I wanted to create in terms of size, etc. Sorry! It’s basically just a series of rectangles and boxes though … give it a shot. ;) ~ karen

  20. Michelle says:

    Wow. I have a $2,000 ER bill (wood chisel + flesh = 8 stitches) and my coop doesn’t look anywhere as nice as this. It has been dubbed the ‘A’ Frame Chicken Tractor of Shame. Now I’m even more mortified.

  21. Liz says:

    LOVE the rubber chicken!!

  22. Tanya says:

    I know some people who would just love to have something like that to live in!

  23. Melissa M says:

    Wow! I know this was a long, agonizing process for you (and everyone in your life, lol) but I hope you feel that in the end it paid off. The coop looks fantastic and I’m sure the chickens were stoked to have their own place. You rock!

  24. beckie says:

    Your coop photo was on the home page of this morning. thought you should know if you did not already.

    tried to print screen and paste, but couldnt :(

  25. Denise Leavens says:

    I love this post! I know it was hard, frustrating and took too long, but I still love this post. And one look at those feathered ladies (with the most elegant underpants EVER) all over the coop as it was being put together is enough to say it was worth it. Especially the one where they are all sleeping in line. An aside: do they do the line thing on command? The reveal post had several photos of those girls all lined up! How do you get them to DO that??? I must say the watermelon one (yes, I know, NOT lined up) is a favorite. I want to make it my desktop photo.

    I love this coop – the skylight is my very favorite feature, after the girls themselves. I am chicken caregiver wannabe and can only get my fix via the internet. I love it when they are called “Chooks”.

    Well done good a faithful servant of the chooks!

  26. Chris says:

    Great timing! We are currently in the “Will we ever finish” faze with our coop. I think my hubby was ready to walk off the job yesterday because our coop and run on are on a slope and he had to build a retaining wall to hold up one of the walls. Between having him read your post and watching him feed the chicks their first treat (zucchini), I think he’ll come back to work.

  27. Hailey Marie says:

    That is such a gorgeous chicken coop!

  28. Julie shinnick says:

    Oh man! Great to see the progress shots at last!

    I felt tired just looking at you tired!

    Loved how the girls moved in when it was just a frame…..

  29. Carol says:

    Karen you are soooooo welcome. Glad I could be there for you, I don’t have a sister so it was fun to be the stand-in. : ) Once again,,,you did an incredible job, i’m in awe of your planning/building skills.
    Carol Reed (aka Reid) ; )

  30. Evalyn says:

    I know. Build a door. What a concept. Right up there with buying a bag of dirt, or a bottle of water. Oh, and my fav: live chickens in the mail.

  31. Jenn says:

    Don’t forget to thank your mom for the awesome laugh!

    Love those tips, thanks for sharing!

  32. The Fella's Dad says:

    The way I heard it the fella didn’t quit, you turned mean and fired him.

  33. Christine says:

    Karen, what colour did you paint it? I may have missed the name/brand etc on a different post. It looks fabulous. You did a great job.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Christine – I actually custom blended a Benjamin Moore gray. I was trying to match the flagstone and slate in my backyard so it’s a dark, dark, dark gray. Almost black. ~ karen!

  34. Jen says:

    Awesome. Even your sawhorses were stylish.

  35. Such a great recap of your adventure, what an undertaking, but oh my word, you’ve got yourself one hell of a coup! Enjoy my friend, it’s beautiful! Someday I hope to drive on over for some fresh eggs. :)


    • Karen says:

      Thx. Kate! I’ll trade you some eggs for lavender. How’s that? Maybe we can make a lavender souffle. Oh god. No. That sounds horrendous. Nevermind. ~ k!

  36. Laura says:

    Yay!! It looks absolutely amazing! Such lucky little hens. I happen to have a bright purple chicken coop sitting in my backyard right now, but no chickens… Touring doesn’t leave much time for gathering eggs. You, however, make me long for some layers of my own! Great work on the coop, Karen.

    And thanks for listening to us two on Outlaw Radio! I love airplay! :)

    • Karen says:

      Laura – LOL. You got that Tweet, eh? I love Outlaw Radio on Sirius and I was SO EXCITED to randomly hear The Secret Sisters on it! If you missed the actual “Coop” post from last week, make sure you click on it. Better pictures of the actual coop (including the chickens) than this post. When you get back from touring (if ever!) get yourself some hens. I know you’d love them. :) ~ karen

    • Karen says:

      P.S. If you ever get home … I’d love to see a picture of the purple chicken coop. :) ~ k

      • Laura says:

        I’ll be happy to send you some shots of it…it was built by the previous owner, and it is a raving beauty. Literally the color of eggplant, and very well made…but in dire need of some inhabitants. I’m going to contemplate at which point in my life I could handle having some chickens. Do chickens like tour buses? What am I talking about…WE don’t even have at tour bus yet! :)

  37. Amy says:

    Can you tell me where you found the lights? They are awesome! Great job on the coop, BTW. I sent it out to all of my chicken loving friends last night. So impressive!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Amy – I go the lanterns at a grocery store, LOL. Loblaws in Canada. Did you click on the original “The Coop” link in the first sentence? It’s the post with all the pictures of the finished coop as opposed to this post which features a bit of the building process. ~ karen!

  38. Ruth says:

    One word… amazing. :)

  39. Angela says:

    Who are these crazies who think coops are easy to build?? Did they not watch the coop-cam?

    By the way, I miss the coop-cam. And I think the trim looked awesome unpainted. Just wanted to throw that out there to frustrate you a little. :)

    • Karen says:

      Angela – LOL. No frustration from that. The unpainted trim has a certain look, the painted trim has a certain look. I was going for the 2nd certain look, although both are acceptable. :) ~ k

  40. Farquist says:

    I would have taken the big red sign looming in the second and third pictures as a literal sign. You were brave to ignore it.

  41. Tracy says:

    This coop is just beautiful! I love everything about it.

  42. Jen says:

    Now that’s it’s done, do you stand outside and just stare at it constantly? I would. Huge accomplishment. It’s a beaut.

  43. bex says:

    cant wait to see what you do when your fella gets you a donkey next :) ‘ei i ei i oooo’

  44. Trysha says:

    So beautiful. Your sister rocks.
    I’m convinced I need chickens now. Golden Retrievers don’t lay eggs.

  45. Indira says:

    You are just everything I wolud like to be… So happy to have your blog for inspiration… :-) Indira

  46. SK Farm Girl says:

    Congratulations Karen! You rock! Girl power! Boys drool, girls rule! The chickens at Green Fakers are so lucky to have Farmer-ess/carpenter-ess Karen! Stop by for a bag of Ruffles and a Diet Coke; I have a little sketch of something I want to show you! Really, it’s just a small structure; quite simple really, just a little roof over . . . LOL!

  47. Michelle says:

    Quick question – is it winterized? Will your chickens live out there in our nasty Canadian winters? More importantly will you trudge out there every day in the knee-high snowdrifts to get the eggs?

    • Karen says:

      Michelle – No, yes and yes. But the coop will be winterized a tiny bit in the fall. I am going to run some styrofoam insulation underneath and in the roof of the coop. I will also be adding a 40 watt lightbulb to help keep the hens warm. They’re actually cold weather birds that can live comfortably with a temperature of freezing and below. The bodyheat of the hens and the lightbulb should throw off enough heat to keep them happy. And since I tend to leave the house pretty much every day, there’s no problem with trudging the 5 feet outside the backdoor to get the eggs. ;) ~ karen

  48. Adrienne Audrey says:

    Wow. I will never build a chicken coop. haha. I will just buy one!

    • Karen says:

      Adrienne – Probably a good idea. :) I couldn’t buy one because I had such a strange space to have to fit the coop into. Long and narrow. And also, there’s the whole control freak, having to have everything exactly how I want it issue. ~ karen!

  49. Nancy (aka moneycoach) says:

    Woman to woman: I am So PROUD of you! This totally inspires me to bust my own lingering stereotypes of what I can and cannot do. (sorry to get all feminist on your blog)

  50. Jamieson says:

    It’s crazy beautiful. How amazing!
    I would want to sleep in it at least once before the tenants moved in.

    • Karen says:

      I sat in the upper coop during a rainstorm with them once to make sure the roof wasn’t leaking. It was very cozy and they made excellent company. ~ k

      • Laura says:

        awww, chicken love. Reminds me of when I was a kid & would hang out in the barn on rainy days. We always had a few pet silkys along with the egg layers that were very friendly. The barn was a little roomier I can imagine. Great job Karen!

        ps..did you know you can hypnotize a chicken? It’s a fun party trick :)

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