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. Rachel Aberle says:

    I can’t wait to finish ours. Did you use pressure treated plywood under the fir pickets? Not sure if necessary or not.

  2. LaDonna says:

    Also, not sure if you mentioned it, but where did you get your lanterns and are they solar powered?

  3. LaDonna says:

    I know that you mention never having created anything resembling a building so I’m guessing that means you are not very experienced?

    What did you use to help you build this? Was it all really just common sense basic knowledge? Or did you kind of go based of an actual plan and made edits?

    • Karen says:

      Hi LaDonna! I didn’t use any plans, I just started building. When I say I’d never built a building before, I meant just that. Not a building. I am however familiar with power tools and building things. Not just an actual building. :) For example, I do all my own home renovations, rebuilt my entire backyard etc. etc. So this isn’t a project for someone who isn’t familiar with basic building skills or power tools. :) ~ karen!

      • LaDonna says:

        Thanks for the response! I’ve done a couple of projects and LOTS of research so I feel good to attempt lol What is it that takes up the most of the budget? I’m just trying to understand how coops can cost so many people over $1000 when doing it themselves. Is the lumber that expensive?

        • Karen says:

          It’s everything. Plywood, 2x4s, trim wood, hardware like hinges, nails, screws, fenceboard for cladding it with, stain … It all adds up. ~ karen!

      • LaDonna says:

        What size are the fence panels you used for siding?

  4. Chris Gore says:

    Beautiful coop. I’m totally riffing off it and some others. I love the siding. What did you use? Plywood panels? Individual boards? Thanks.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Chris! Thanks. :) This coop has inspired a lot of people, lol. I framed it then closed it in with plywood. Finally I added “siding” and the siding is just fence board. Have fun building! ~ karen

  5. Alex Decker says:

    I understand that building a chicken coop can seem like a hard project. Working out dimensions, materials, insulation, ventilation, lighting, positioning, nesting, perches, waste collection and protection from the elements and other predators can seem complicated, but it doesn’t have to be.

    Here’s an easy way build your own backyard chicken coop, even if you are a beginner with no carpentry skills…

    You will have your chicken coop built in no time!

  6. Kimberly says:

    I love your coop and aspire to spend at least a month and too much money building a similar one soon! Thanks for the awesome post.

  7. Tracie says:

    I just found your blog today, I believe it was via Sweet Savannah – oh my word. In between all of the laughs, I’m actually learning stuff to do. Love your coop, love your chickens, love, love your sister and her pink tool belt! Thank you for giving up on TV!!!

    • Karen says:

      Hey Tracie! Welcome. :) Yep, couldda been Sweet Savannah. Or Boxwood Avenue. Either or. You’re quite welcome on the whole giving up TV thing. I’m glad I did it too! ~ karen

  8. Celeste says:

    I got up this morning to read your article and cannot stop laughing. I cheated and got my coop made. I did at one point think about designing and making the coop but who was I trying to impress. I had neither the time; having kids, hubby , dogs, job, life… I did love that you persevered and completed your coop and it is wonderful. I do so love the color and the design. Congrats on a beautiful and functional coop…I am sure your chickens adore their home.

  9. Ethan says:

    I am sorry i thought i had no more ?s but i would like to build my own like that is there any site or anything i could look at to see the plans for it. How many chicken could you put in the coop.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Ethan, lol. No problem. I’m afraid I don’t have any plans, cut list or materials list for the coop because I literally just started building it from scratch with no plans. This size of coop will comfortably fit 4-5 chickens. I wouldn’t put more in it. I based my plan on the look of another blogger’s coop. Heather Bullard’s coop is beautiful and very similar to mine. Her has a more traditional roofline, which is really the only difference. You can buy her plans on her website and then either make her coop exactly or modify the roofline a bit to make it look more modern like mine. Good luck! ~ karen

  10. Ethan says:

    On last Question do you have a list of all the materials that you used

  11. Ethan says:

    How much was the total cost

  12. Diane says:


    Just wondering if you have a chicken guide book that you would suggest. Randomly trolling Indigo isn’t helping my decision making. Planning to get a few hens next spring (or not as I live in Calgary and they are SO behind the times so I cannot admit to anything) and would like to build the coop/ alien landing pad over the winter!
    You are the best.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Diane! Congratulations on still considering chickens after reading my posts on them, lol. You did read about flystrike, didn’t you? I actually really like Ashley English’s book, Keeping Chickens from her Homemade Living series. But more than anything I did what you’re doing … I read blogs and articles on the Internet. :) Good luck! ~ karen!

  13. Maarja Daniel says:

    Oh, this is so increadibly beautiful! I am speechless! I simply love the design: it is not only pretty to look at but really practical as well! I have been dreaming about having chickens for years and now we are finally getting pullets for my daughters birthday in two weeks from now. I will get some help and try to make a chicken tractor with your coop in mind. I am so happy I found your blog! A million thanks from Estonia!

  14. Maarja Daniel says:

    Oh, this is so increadibly beautiful! I am speechless! I simply love the design: it is not only pretty to look at but really practical as well! I have been dreaming about having chicken for years and now we are finally getting pullets for my daughters birthday in two weeks from now. I will get some help and try to make a chicken tractor with your coop in mind. I am so happy I found your blog! A million thanks from Estonia!

  15. Tresha Vincent says:

    I wanted to know what paint did you used, I just love the look it gives your coop.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Tresha. Thanks! I actually had the colour custom made. It’s Benjamin Moore outdoor stain, not paint. I had it stained to match the slate in my backyard. It’s basically a black with a lot of blue in it. ~ karen!

      • Jason says:

        I love that color!!! I can’t wait to try and match the stain look. I am not making a coop, but want to make extra storage on the back of the garage and MUST HAVE THIS COLOR :-)

  16. Allen says:

    Hi Karen – Most definitely I will send you pics as well as any pictorial and/or publication credits. For the coop you have, the cost is very reasonable. Especially with what is out on the market currently. I sure hope you would consider putting together a kit of some sort or even plans to sell. Again thank you kindly – Allen

  17. Allen says:

    I’m completely respectful of your work. I’ve not seen a more well designed space for a chicken coop (given the limited space and the budget). How much in total did it cost you to build this coop, if you mind me asking? This is worthy of an architectural digest article. The color choices, the trims, the lanterns … simply perfection ! May I use some of your ideas for my nonprofit project that includes a coop for my backyard chickens? Thank you kindly in advance for any considerations! But most importantly, thank you for sharing your journey with all of us. ~ Allen

    • Karen says:

      Hi Allen – Thanks very much. The coop is holding up well and I still love it. As do the chickens I assume. :) I have to tell you it wasn’t an inexpensive adventure. But because of my limited space (and general aversion to cutesy coops) I was kind of forced into building my own. I didn’t keep track of the cost but my guess would be it ended up costing around $1,000! Part of the reason is because I was under such time constraints that I couldn’t take the time to source out used materials. Many people have copied my coop, which I have no problem with. All I ask is you send a photo when you’re done so I can see it! :) ~ karen!

  18. Ashley says:

    Your coop is absolutely beautiful, but the roof looks very flat in pictures. Is there a small slope on the roof so rain water doesn’t collect on top?

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Ashley. The roof is *almost* flat. To look at it, it is, but there’s a slight slope forward to it. I can’t remember what the calculation I used was but it was whatever it needed to be for run off. ~ karen!

  19. Kandy says:

    We love your coop!! We are about to start ours. I was wondering what the length, width and height are of your coop, forgive me if I have miss the info somewhere. Is there anything you wished you’d done differently now that some time has gone by? Thanks.

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Kandy. I actually don’t know what the measurements are! I just made it to fit the space I had. If you read through the post again, the measurements might be in there. It’s *around* 10 feet long by 7 feet high by 3 feet deep. And I still wouldn’t change anything about it, other than make it a bit bigger, but given the space I couldn’t have anyway. :) ~ karen!

  20. Linnea says:

    Your coop is amazing!! I’d like to try to recreate it this spring…but my hubby says there’s no way chickens will survive through a Manitoba winter. Then, I see in your comments that you’re in Canada! May I ask where? I’m assuming by your comments somewhere more harsh than the coast.
    How often do you have to clean the coop? Also, would this coop work with the deep litter method I left off the bottom? Thanks for your awesome inspiration and your help!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Linnea! I am indeed in Canada. Southern Ontario where it is currently -14. Obviously it doesn’t get as cold here, but it gets plenty cold. The funny thing is, it isn’t cold that normally kills a chicken. It’s heat. I struggle with keeping them cool in the summer, but never with keeping them warm in the winter. If you build a smallish coop for them to roost in, their body temperature will keep them warm enough through the coldest nights. Remember, birds fly around Manitoba all the time and they survive the winter. What you have to do is make sure you get chickens that are winter hardy. Birds like Marans and Rhode Island Reds. I would guess Barred Rocks are good cold weather birds too. Last year I bought a small, ceramic heater for their coop. It hangs on the wall and isn’t a fire hazard like any other type of heater would be. I only did it because last year was SO cold that there was risk of them getting frostbite on their combs and toes at night. So there you have it. If I were you I’d look into any “Feather Fancier” clubs in Manitoba and see what they have to say. ~ karen!

  21. Minette says:

    You crack me up! The Narcolepsy “go with it” comment and picture made me laugh out loud!

  22. Jackie Hall says:

    Wow! I can’t believe how amazing this coop is! I’ve been in the “research” phase for weeks. The research phase is also known as the “I’m afraid to start” or “I don’t think I can do it”, stage. Thanks for the info! I think I can, I think I can. :-)

  23. Barbara Nelson says:

    Loved your chicken coup. Do you have one for the potting shed or plans?

  24. Lara says:

    This is the most beautiful coop ever, nice work! I am not sure that I could persuade my husband to go to this extent, but we’ll see what we come up with…Cheers!

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Lara! But here’s the thing … you don’t need to persuade your husband to do anything. YOU could do it! Yes. Yes, you really could! :) ~ karen

  25. Chrystal says:

    oh! Just the kick in the butt I needed to get outside and finish my coop. I am stuck on the ‘winterizing’ part. It gets cold here in Fairbanks, Alaska! I, too, am just winging it, which makes figuring out my doors a bit tricky….for me anyways ;)

  26. Pammy says:

    I loved your article – it just cracked me up. Great work, you are amazing!
    (and so honest!)

  27. Cher says:

    LOVE your coop!! Sweetie and I started chickens with a simple cattle panel parabolic arch house, a tree branch for the perch. It has worked well for 2 years and many feet of snow. Have never added insulation nor light/heat. The RI Reds do just fine. We cover it up with a strong plastic for the winter, letting the ladies out every day to roam their yard.
    Have been looking and dreaming for 2 years of a “nice” coop. This is the year!
    We both have skills, and materials – old and new – around the place.
    Bought: hardware, siding, roofing, pressure treated boards for touching the ground. Used scrap & reclaimed lumber for framing, & floors. Even used a used stair handrail for perch’s!
    After reading yours I told sweetie that ours is not going to be a “month” project!! Started this past Saturday, snow storm halted progress for few days (spring, hmmph) more work done today. the building WILL be finished this weekend. The run by next week (no sunroof).
    The 11 new chicks & 2 ducks are enjoying their babyhood under the heat lamp. Hope they enjoy the coop as much.

    • Karen says:

      THanks Cher. Yup. “The Coop” wasn’t a small project, that’s for sure, LOL. Especially with one person doing it. Although one of my sisters did help when she could. It’s done now and if I ever move out of this house, that coop is coming with me! I have no idea how, all I know is it is, LOL. ~ karen!

  28. Amanda says:

    Ooops … “Anna’s” comment on …

  29. Amanda says:

    This project may be all just a long ago dream for you, but your comment on diydiva brought me over for a hearty laugh! The coop is beautiful and the build story FABULOUS! Thanks for a bit of hilarity to end my day. I’ll be back …

  30. Alexis Eyler says:

    Hi! We love your coop! Have looked for something to buy, but given space constraints and dogs, nothing else seems to fit the bill. So we are ignoring your very wise advice not to tackle something like this if we have children, jobs, laundry, etc. and going ahead and attempting to copy your coop. Hope you don’t mind. Thankfully, we currently only have 2 chickens busting out of their small cage in our utility room and will wait on the other 4 until these guys can move out! Hope you don’t mind if we lob a few questions your way as we go through this process! Many thanks, in advance!

  31. Donella lyans says:

    You made me laugh so hard! Your coop is absolutely beautiful, kudos to you! I’m almost done with the 2 month adventure that has been the building of our coop. I have 7 chickens bursting out of their crappy, pieced together enclosure in my garage. I’ve read this several times because it’s helped me keep my sense of humor about all this. Great job and thanks for the inspiration!

  32. Nicole says:

    Your coop is beautiful! We recently finished our coop also. It was a lot of work. Unfortunately, it isn’t as cute as yours. We made it out of pallets and scraps left on the side of the road. We did end up buying the material for the roof. We are still predator-proofing it, though. We’ve lost 3 out of 12. Sad part of having chickens, but so enjoy them while they are here.

    Down here in the deep south of Alabama, we have the opposite problem of keeping it cool enough and allowing the air to move, instead of winterizing it. Thought I will be putting some insulation of some sort inside for the girls. I do also need to beautify their house. I want to paint and hang curtains. You know silly girlie stuff. ;)

    • Karen says:

      Nicole – I had heat problems here in the summer too. Canada has very cold snowy winters followed by very hot, humid summers. Many days were 105. Insulating the coop (especially the roof area) helps a LOT to keep the heat out. I also sprayed the ground around the coop, whereever they run. Cooling the ground down a couple of times a day with water helps a lot too. ~ karen!

      • Nicole says:

        Wow! I never would have guessed that! That is actually hotter than it was here all summer. That’s just crazy.

        I found your blog through pinterest. Glad I did.

        • Karen says:

          LOL. I know. Everyone thinks Canada’s only cold, but it gets blindingly hot too. And humid like a steam bath. Glad you found my blog too! (I see butterflies in your blog name .. if you search my site I have a 5 part tutorial on how to find monarch butterfly eggs and then raise them indoors to become butterflies … it’s very fun) ~ karen!

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