Supermarket eggs can't compare with those fresh from the farm. But who says you need an entire farm? A backyard chicken coop with three hens can produce up to two eggs per day. "I had chickens growing up, and not only will they make you breakfast, but they eat bugs and weeds and give you fertilizer," says This Old House general contractor Tom Silva. He built a coop from low-maintenance home-center materials with details that make easy work of caring for the birds, cleaning their quarters, and collecting eggs.
Before you go all in for a new class of family pet, check local ordinances about keeping livestock. Then follow along as Tom shows you how to skip the grocery store's dairy case for better eggs closer to home.
Building a Chicken Coop: Planning and Prep
- Day One: Build the coop (Steps 1–12).
- Day Two: Add the nesting boxes and roof (Steps 13–17).
- Lumber: Pressure-treated 4x4 posts
- T1-11 sheathing
- Exterior-grade plywood
- Cellular PVC trim
- Asphalt shingles
Steps for Building a Backyard Chicken Coop
Step 1: Measure the parts
- Stain the front of the T1-11 panels and let them dry.
- Measure and mark a gable end and a sidewall on each panel.
Step 2: Cut the walls
- Use a circular saw to cut a sidewall from the first panel, then trim the leftover to the width and height of the gable end.
- Mark the gable's centerline to find the peak: Place the sidewall on top of the gable, lining up the bottom edges, then use a straightedge to draw a diagonal line connecting the top corner of the sidewall to the top of the centerline.
- Cut the angle with the circular saw, then use the cutoff as a template to mark the other angles, as shown.
- Finally, cut out the doors: the sliding entry door in one gable end, the clean-out door in the other, and an egg-retrieval door in one sidewall.
Step 3: Adjust the saw
- The 4x4 corner posts raise the coop off the ground and away from predators while supporting the walls.
- Use the gable-end offcut to calibrate the saw's angle, so you can cut the tops of the posts to match the roof's pitch: Place the scrap against the saw, as shown, then swivel the blade until the kerf in the saw bed matches the angle of the scrap.
Step 4: Miter the posts
- Measure and mark the height of a post, then miter it so the cut angles down and away from that mark.
- Repeat for the remaining posts.
Step 5: Join posts and sheathing
- Align a gable end on top of two posts on the work surface.
- Use a rafter square to keep the tops and sides of each post even with the edges of the gable, then drive 1 5/8-inch deck screws through the sheathing and into the posts, as shown, evenly spaced along the length of the post.
- Repeat with the other gable end and posts.
Step 6: Add supports
- Cut four 2x4 supports to fit between the posts.
- Add a floor support flush with the bottom edge of the gable wall and fasten it with deck screws, as shown.
- Screw the wall supports flat against the gable end and flush with the tips of the mitered posts.
- Drive a pair of 3 1/2-inch deck screws through the face of each mitered post and into the wall-support end grain for additional strength.
- Repeat on the second gable end.
Step 7: Attach sidewall and roof structure
- Working on the ground, use 1 5/8-inch screws to join a gable end to the sidewall without a door, making the bottom edges flush.
- Attach the other gable, forming a three-sided structure. Cut and attach a floor support between the sidewall posts.
- Add a wall support between the post tops, pivoted so it follows the angle of the miters, by screwing through the sidewall.
- Cut two 2x4s for purlins, to fit between the gable ends. Fasten one with 1 5/8-inch screws halfway between the gable's peak and an eave in line with the roof's angle.
- Repeat on the other side of the peak, then cut and screw in a 2x4 ridge beam just below the gable peaks.
- Stand the coop upright and add the fourth side's floor and wall supports, but don't add the sheathing.
Step 8: Notch the plywood
- Cut and attach a pair of 2x4 floor joists parallel to the gable ends by driving 3 1/2-inch screws through the sheathing and into the end grain.
- Measure the area for the floor and cut a piece of plywood to size.
- Then use 4x4 scrap to mark notches to fit around the posts and cut them with a jigsaw, as shown.
Step 9: Attach the floor
- Drive 1 5/8-inch screws through the floor and into the supports, as shown.
- Add more screws through the floor and into the joists.
Step 10: Build the door
- Glue a piece of plywood of the same size to the back of the sliding door.
- Glue 2x2 rails to the sides of the assembly, flush with the door, and attach them with 2-inch stainless-steel nails, as shown.
- Twist an eye hook into the center of the plywood's top edge.
Step 11: Add the pulley system
- Make a track for the door with 2x2s twice its height. Attach them to both sides of the opening with 1 5/8-inch screws fastened through the outside of the gable wall.
- Center the door in the opening and add 3-inch-wide plywood strips to the tracks with 1 5/8-inch screws to contain the door.
- Drill a 1/2-inch-diameter hole through the wall support above the eye hook, then hang a pulley on a hook from the beam above.
- Fish clothesline around the pulley, feed it through the hole, and tie it around the eye hook, as shown.
Step 12: Tie the rope off
- Add another pulley to the other end of the beam and thread the clothesline around it. Attach a marine cleat to the post inside the clean-out door.
- Pull the rope down until the door opens, and tie a loop in the rope that when tethered to the cleat will keep the door open.
- Then attach hinges and hardware to the clean-out door and screw it in place.
- Screw a 2x4 to the inside wall of the coop on the latch side to act as a doorstop.
Step 13: Make the frame
- Build a case with a plywood top, bottom, and vertical walls, cut to fit under the angled roof.
- Nail on plywood strips across the bottom and halfway up the front of the frame, as shown, creating an upper and a lower row of nesting boxes.
Step 14: Add the nesting boxes
- Cut floors for the three upper nesting boxes out of plywood, then nail them in place through the sides and the plywood strip.
- Cut three 2x2s 4 inches longer than the frame's depth to support the perch.
- Add one under the floor of each upper box and attach them with 1 5/8-inch screws.
- Cut a 2x4 perch the width of the frame, then drive 3 1/2-inch screws through it and into the 2x2s, as shown.
- For added support, glue plywood blocking under the upper nesting box floors.
Step 15: Install the nesting boxes
- Cut two 2x4s to support the bottom perch, screwing them to the coop floor with 3 1/2-inch screws.
- Attach the 2x4 perch to the ends of the supports with more screws.
- Place the nesting boxes on top of the perch supports.
- Screw through the box sides and into the posts, as shown. Install the egg-retrieval door, with its hardware, on the sidewall, then fasten the sidewall to the coop with 1 5/8-inch screws.
Step 16: add the trim
- Nail the cellular PVC rake boards to, and 1/2 inch higher than, the sheathing.
- Top each sidewall with PVC trim between the rake boards and nail it in place.
- Then measure, cut, and install corner boards the same way.
- Cut two plywood rectangles for the roof; drive 1 5/8-inch screws through them and into the purlins, as shown.
Step 17: Nail on the Shingles
- Staple on a layer of roofing paper. Starting at the bottom, attach the asphalt shingles with roofing nails.
- From 2x12 stock, cut four 6 inch square blocks, beveling them to shed water, and four 14-inch lengths to use as pads.
- Nail the blocks to the ends of the posts, then slide a pad under each block to prevent the coop from sinking. Use the remaining 2x12 to build a ramp to the sliding door.
Tip: In colder climates, heat lamps can keep chickens comfortable when the temperature drops below freezing. Hire an electrician to run power to the coop, and secure the lamps so the chickens can't knock them over.