I have gotten so many questions about how we built our DIY modern chicken coop, so I put together this post to chronicle the building process – but note that our chicken coop and run built on a hill meant a few different steps and a slightly irregular finished product. But you can adapt this DIY coop project to suit your needs (which could also mean building a cute modern shed!)
Our entire yard is one big hill, sloping down toward the lake, but we didn’t want to spend a ton of time bringing in fill and preparing the spot, so we worked around the slope. Here’s the step-by-step construction of our DIY modern chicken coop – but it’s not 100% done. In the spring I want to gussy up the foundation a bit to make it even homier and cozier (and hide the construction). I also clearly have some landscaping to do but, the chickens are in there – and happy – so it’s done enough, haha! Before I delve into the process, here’s a good look at the coop and run (although after I took these photos, we added more hardware cloth under the eaves and around the foundation):
Here’s a closer look at the enclosed chicken run we built, which is attached to the coop:
The outside looks like a little shed, or “mini barn,” as we call it. I wanted a place to store chicken stuff and, because our winters are so brutally cold, I wanted shelter for myself while I clean out the coop and collect eggs (and hang out with my flock!). I also wanted the mini barn as a place for the chickens to get some reprieve from the winter as well. We did install wind break on the run for the winter months, but when it’s really, really cold they do like to hang out in here and it’s nice for them that they aren’t “cooped” up – they have room to roam and play in the barn. The actual coop is built within the barn (with storage space above and below):
Starting with the DIY Chicken Coop Foundation:
The first thing we did was map out where we wanted to the put the coop. We tried to find the most level spot we could, in the shade, with room for an attached run. Laying down four eight foot long 2x4s helped us visualize the size and determine placement. We built the barn 8×8 for two reasons: where we live we don’t require a permit for buildings smaller than 1-0x10, and plywood comes in 4×8 sheets so cuts are minimized. We built the run 16 feet by eight feet – although, in hindsight, I wish we’d gone much bigger.
For the foundation, we used four concrete deck blocks, supplemented by cinder blocks for the lower corners:
To make the floor of the mini barn level, we dug down and buried some of those concrete deck blocks in two corners, placed it on the ground in the third, and propped up the fourth corner with cinder blocks. It took some time to make the adjustments just right, but eventually we had a level base for the frame that we built:
Building the DIY Chicken Coop Floor:
For the floor, we built an eight foot by eight foot frame, using pressure treated 2×4 wood. The interior cross pieces are 16″ apart. We added a line of small cross pieces to join them all together for added strength. They are all drilled and screwed together. Then we screwed on two 4×8 3/4″ thick pressure treated plywood sheets to make the floor and started working on the walls.
Framing Out the DIY Chicken Coop:
Next we built the framing for the walls. This is all 2×4 lumber. The front wall is eight feet tall and the back is six feet tall. We built each wall section on the garage floor and raised them one at a time using diagonal braces to hold them in place until the others were up to screw them to.
The side walls are sloped because we wanted an angled roof (because of snow and rain). To get the angle right we laid the boards out on the garage floor, screwed them to the lower board, and used a chalk line (a string will also work) to mark a line across all the boards so the wall went from eight feet tall on one side to six feet tall on the other. Then we unscrewed the boards and used a mitre saw to cut the angles.
Building the Coop within the Barn:
When the walls were framed out, we started building the actual coop, which I described as being built inside the “mini barn”. In these photos you can see clearly what I meant by that. It is basically a framed out box that we later insulated. We installed cross pieces to the inside of the barn walls and built a floor and ceiling to attach to them. The coop and barn will share the outer walls, with the coop floor, ceiling and interior wall being separate. The floor and ceiling cross pieces are mounted on edge for increased strength.
After the coop area was framed out, we attached some plywood from the inside. Because I was painting this plywood anyway and it will never even get rained on, we didn’t use pressure treated for the coop.
You can see that we also cut out some small vent holes, near the top. To do this we marked and drilled four holes in the corners and used a jigsaw to cut the opening.
After installing plywood (which serves as the “interior walls” of the coop), we then installed sheets of rigid insulation (to the sides, top, and bottom). To encase that insulation, we added exterior plywood walls to seal it in place. So the barn is not insulated, but the coop is insulated on all four sides, top and bottom.
The insulation is not attached. It is simply cut and friction fit between the studs.
Installing the Coop Walls and Siding:
Sheets of 1/2″ plywood serve the double function of walls and also siding. Once the coop was full insulated and we had installed plywood to keep that insulation in, we kept going and built all of the barn walls. These are full width 4×8 sheets screwed in from the outside, trimmed to length on the back and side walls.
Installing the Coop Roof:
After finishing the framing and walls for the chicken coop, we added the 2×6″ boards to support the roof. Below you can see the boards installed approx 16″ apart and before the OSB was installed, this frame was boxed out (see photos below). We sloped the roof towards the back because we don’t need the interior height back there, as the coop takes up the back half of the barn interior.
We used galvanized hurricane ties for attaching the roof joists to the walls (because we could easily find them in stock and they’re tough):
Then we installed sheets of OSB to create a base for the metal roof we ordered. Now, at this point I painted the barn because I wanted to use our paint sprayer but didn’t want to get over spray on the metal roof. If you’re painting by roller, I’d recommend getting the roof on ASAP to avoid any water getting into the coop. I had to play the waiting game with painting because of a rainy spell, so water got in the coop and we had to hurry to cover it with a tarp until I could paint – ugh, it was annoying. So I say, if you can: build coop, add roof, then fuss with paint.
I originally wanted to get the same copper colored metal roof we recently got for the house, but in the end I decided that it was too expensive and, because of the slope of the roof, you don’t really see in much anyway! So we got a less expensive black metal roof from the local farm co-op. Installing it was a breeze: The sheets were pre-cut to length when we ordered them. So it was simply a case of positioning a sheet on the roof and driving in appropriate roofing screws, which we ordered from the roofing manufacturer at the same time. These screws also have an included rubber washer to seal against the roof to ensure a watertight seal. Each panel is also designed to overlap the sheet next to it for a waterproof seal.
We overhung the metal a little bit beyond the roof to prevent water from getting under the tin instead of just dripping off.
Here’s an aerial shot – you can see we also used the same black metal roof for the chicken run (which also slopes, away from the mini barn):
Building a Mini Door from the Coop to the Run:
With the roof done and the exterior painted, the coop was taking shape so we started to focus on small details, like an opening to the run. This door is always open, but we built a little sliding plywood door (pictured closed below) so when I’m in there cleaning, I can lock them out into the run. The door has a little lip for them to step on, and a scrap of wood serves as a mini “awning”:
Painting the Coop Exterior:
I originally planned to paint the coop grey and the “soffit” black to match the garage and house exterior – but I hated the grey! And it meant that I would have needed to paint the edge by hand to avoid over spray on the black eaves. I decided to make my life easier and just paint the WHOLE coop black and, because paint sprayed inside under the open eaves, I painted the barn ceiling black too.
Adding a Coop Window:
I ordered a small shed window from Amazon that opens for a little extra airflow when I’m in there cleaning. We haven’t replaced the mesh with hardware cloth, so we don’t keep it open unless we’re in there. The barn and coop get ventilation under the eaves (open but covered with hardware cloth), vents inside the coop (also covered in hardware cloth), and the always-open door to the run. So we don’t really need this window for ventilation, but a window is great because it lets in more light – I want to add a second one.
Installing the little shed window was easy. Using the same method as cutting the holes for the coop vents, we cut a hole in the wall. The window simply screws through the frame into the wall. To add a little more strength we added a 2×4 frame on the inside for more material to screw into.
After the painting was done, and the window was installed, we added some furring strips to cover the plywood seams and trim out the door and window (I painted them black to match). We just cut them to length and used an air nailer for quick installation. The furring strips create a board and batten effect which meant that I could save money by not having to buy siding. I think it helps it look a little fancier than just a plywood shack.
Making the Chicken Coop Man Door
The man door to the barn was a simple DIY project. We cut out the shape of the door from plywood. To make it more rigid and to attach hardware to it we attached 2×2 and 2×4 boards on the back. We also added 2×2 boards to the door frame in the barn to prevent the door from being pushed in. I don’t want to rely on a single bolt if a larger predator tries to get in. This should at least slow it down.
I wanted it to match the mid-century modern inspired front door we have on the house (which also has three square panes), so we added more furring strips trim with an air nailer and then I painted it all aqua using exterior paint.
We notched out the trim around the door to add a black slide bolt and also added a nice big modern door handle. I tried to save money wherever I could on the coop, but I was adamant about modern black hardware for our modern DIY chicken coop!
Finishing up the Coop:
Whew! Building the coop took way longer than we planned so by the end we were focused on function over form but it ended up looking pretty cute.
I don’t have many photos of it, but we did also add the hardware cloth underneath the barn (buried) and under the eaves as well. This is stapled to the barn and folded so it extends down to the ground and outwards underground. We do not want any critters like skunks making a home under there.
Wrapping up the DIY Chicken Coop Inside:
Here’s a look at how the inside of the barn developed. As I mentioned, I sprayed the ceiling black (the same paint used for the barn exterior):
The coop is essentially one big box with an vent on either side. There are two large doors that we can open to clean, access eggs, etc., but in the middle we built a solid area to install the automatic chicken door.
I sprayed everything with un-tinted, low VOC exterior paint. I had to edge between the white walls and black ceiling (which was annoying work and I regretted it), but I wanted the coop to feel bright and clean (lol – it’s covered in poop now):
We built the roosts (which are removable so we can replace them when they get too poop covered) using 2x2s for the roosting bars.
The big doors that open up to the coop are extra thick because we encased insulation inside them because they’re essentially a coop wall so we need to keep that heat in. To make them we just made a frame with 2×2 lumber and put plywood on each side with the insulation in between. Two hinges and a simple gate latch work perfectly for them.
We also screwed on scraps of wood to create makeshift shelves and storage.
Installing the Automatic Chicken Door:
The automatic chicken coop door is awesome. It opens and closes on a timer and I had a pretty easy time getting the chickens trained on it (it took a few weeks). We set the current time, and a timer, and then the chickens are automatically secured in their coop overnight and it opens automatically to let them out in the morning. We built a little platform for them to use when they emerge, then they clamber down the little ladder and hang out in the barn or head straight out into the run.
The automatic coop door has instructions, which we followed – although we installed it backwards with the finished side facing out. Other than that, we followed the instructions, which indicate how far apart to install the joists. We built that middle wall to these specifications, so it’s handy to order your door before you start building the coop. Basically, the door comes as one unit which you screw in, trim out (which comes with the kit) and then run the wiring – it’s really easy! Ours uses 120 volt power, but you can get solar or battery operated ones too.
Here’s what it looks like installed, with the trim painted:
Adding Easy to Clean DIY Coop Flooring:
Inside, we laid down cheap vinyl flooring on the floor of the mini barn and also the coop – for easy cleaning. We didn’t glue it down – we just cut to fit and held it in place around the edges with quarter round. This was so we can easily switch it out if it ever gets too disgusting to clean. It helps protect the wood flooring from moisture as well – I highly recommend this as a coop or barn floor – we just put shavings over it in the coop and then straw for the barn. Specifically, I bought this Koop Clean Bedding for the barn – it’s more expensive, but it’s awesome because it neutralizes ammonia, absorbs moisture, and is chopped really small so they don’t ingest long pieces of straw.
Making the Coop Ladder:
We have two little ladders like this, leading from the coop down into the mini barn, and from the barn outside. They’re just made from scrap wood. I originally wanted them painted but it makes it slippery, so bare wood is better. We attached them with hooks and screw eyes so they can easily be removed for cleaning.
Starting the Chicken Run
To make the run we used pressure treated 2×4 lumber. Once we had the dimensions we wanted we attached two upright pieces to the barn and laid out the bottom boards on the ground. They are pressure treated and should last awhile. Because the ground is neither level or flat there was some digging that had to be done. Vertical boards were then attached, followed by cross pieces for the roof. The height of the verticals is also varied, as the ground slopes in multiple directions but we wanted the roof to only slope in one direction. To reduce movement the bottom boards have four 12 inch spikes driven into the ground. We used a full 16 foot board for the length of the run to reduce seams. When putting up the vertical pieces it is helpful to use temporary diagonal braces to hold them in place.
Attaching the Hardware Cloth to the Coop Run:
Here’s a tip: don’t use chicken wire! I know, I know, chicken wire seems like the obvious choice but it’s too weak. I see so many first time chicken keepers sharing tutorials for their chicken wire enclosures and those chickens are susceptible to predators. Hardware cloth is stronger and when attached too the outside of the frame, as opposed to from the inside of the run, it is more resistant to being pushed in. We used 1/2″ by 1/2″ hardware cloth and installed it by hammering in some 1″ heavy duty poultry net staples.
Burying the Hardware Cloth:
We also buried the hardware cloth to discourage digging, and then piled rocks on top as well. Our friends did this and added a piece of cloth buried straight down for an extra level of security – you can never have too much security, so use your own judgement. So far we haven’t had any problems with animals trying to dig in (knock on wood).
Because the hardware cloth wasn’t wide enough we ended up with a seam, so we attached a horizontal piece of wood to hide the seam and to secure these edges.
In the photos below you can see that cross piece we added to hide and secure the hardware cloth seam. You can also see a gap below the roof and above the walls. We capped that off with a 1×6 board to prevent critters from climbing up and in (see next photo). As mentioned, we also ended up adding hardware cloth all around the bottom of the barn foundation – to keep skunks from nesting under there – and also under the open eaves to seal those off from predators also.
Making it Habitable Inside the Chicken Run:
I want to build a little chicken activity centre this spring to give them more to do (you can also buy chicken ladders and swings). Right now we have some roosts we attached to the corner, a table I snagged from the landfill as another roost (I tied it to the run walls for stability), a straw bale, a chair and logs for some variety.
It’s a little thrown together! But they have the necessities: place to dust bath, a large covered feeder (with rain hat), a heated waterer, and a human who goes out there and entertains them, lol. The feeder is awesome – although the run is covered, rain and snow will find the tiniest crack to blow in and so the (optional) hat keeps the food dry. We’ve been using the heated waterer for months now and it’s perfect because even in -20 or -30 Celsius weather, it keeps the water from freezing. It is also insulated so if the power goes out it will retain some heat for a little while.
So that is our modern DIY chicken coop and run, built on a hill! I still have work to do to make it prettier for the humans, and more fun for the chickens, but it’s been functional for us since July so I wanted to share some photos of the progress and a little insight into how we built it.