The chickens are coming Pt.III – Building chicken coops


June 4, 2011

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When building your chicken coop I suppose you have several options. The first choice I think you need to make is how many chickens you plan to keep. Many councils limit the number that can have in suburban areas to 6 hens. Any more than that and you are probably beyond the scope of this article.

Once you have determined the number of hens you are going to keep, then you really need to decide whether you are going to have a mobile coop or a fixed one. I have already shown my decision, a fixed coop, in a post here, but for the benefit of readers I’ll run through some of the reasons why you might chose either.

One of the chicken coop posts in place.

One of the chicken coop posts in place.

Mobile chicken coops have many benefits if you aren’t able to let your chickens roam free. You can move the hen house to various locations around your garden enabling them to graze on different areas, improving their nutrition and giving some of the benefits of free-ranging. Mobile coops are often also cheaper to build or buy.

Fixed coops on the other hand are more of an undertaking. They do limit you in that unless you let the chickens out they will be stuck in the one spot, but I have found that it is easy enough to put up some temporary fencing and let the chickens run free where I need them (such as turning over the vegie garden).  Fixed hen houses can potentially cost more to build, or on the other hand they may be cheaper. As mobile coops are constantly being moved and bumped about their construction needs to be extra sturdy which limits the chance to use mixed or recycled materials. With a fixed chicken coop as long as you aren’t too fussy about the appearance you can incorporate many different materials in the construction, much of which can be recycled. I constructed my coop out of hardwood timber and welded mesh. For the roof I used some sheet metal that I had lying around.

The Chicken Coop with beams, bracing and plinths in place.

The Chicken Coop with beams, bracing, back wall and plinths in place.

To make the coop I first of all leveled the area where it was to go, leaving a slight slope to help with

drainage (chickens hate long-term wet feet). I used four untreated hardwood sleepers to form the uprights of the structure and concreted them into the ground about a foot deep. The exact depth you need to use will depend on the soil etc that you have. The sleepers were 200 x 50 mm by 2.4 metres and I cut them down the middle to make 100 x 50 mm posts (2′ by 4′).  After concreting the posts in place I joined them

across the top using hardwood roofing battens which are 25 x 50 mm. Around the bases I placed a plinth using 25 by 150 mm hardwood. This gives a firm base to attach the wire to and discourages foxes from digging into the coop.


Three walls and the roof I covered in 25 mm galvanized welded wire. This wire is quite strong and I feel is adequate to keep out foxes though some people say that 10 mm wire is better. I can’t see that the extra cost confers that much benefit. Over part of the top I created a roof with some sheet metal I had lying around. I placed this over the roosts and the entrance to the nesting box to keep the rain out.

The corner bracing on the chicken coop.

The corner bracing on the chicken coop. It was rebated to allow it to fit.

The remaining wall of the coop I clad using hardwood fence palings. This style of fence paling is uniquely Australian being a 12 x 120 mm piece of timber that makes excellent cladding being strong yet inexpensive. To this wall I also attached the nesting box. The nesting box was a bit more involved in its construction so I will cover how to build it in another post, however if I was to build the coop again I would place it lower down the wall as I have had difficulties with the hens sleeping in the nesting box and fouling them. Supposedly they will sleep in the highest structure so make some accessible roosts higher than your nesting box.

One point to be aware of when building the hen house is that you must ensure that the structure is well braced.  I used one cross brace on the back wall and smaller rebated braces on the side.  Once they were in place the structure was rock solid.


Making the door was probably the most involved part of the process. I went for a stable door design

The Stable Type Door of the Hen House

The Stable Type Door of the Hen House

(separate top and bottom halves) to enable us to feed them chickens without them escaping or the dog getting in. I won’t go into detail about the door in this post, sufficed to say that if you don’t have the carpentry skill to make a door of your own design you might be better off buying one and building the rest of the coop around it.


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