by Cheryl Long — Illustrated by Nate Skow
I set out to learn how to make a chicken coop that would be secure, low-cost, easy to build, light enough to relocate easily and scaled to fit in small backyards. The design in this chicken coop how-to meets all the necessary criteria. It’s a simple chicken coop with a portable pen and henhouse that will meet the needs of a small group of backyard poultry. Intended for three or four hens, this inexpensive poultry housing costs approximately $100 and can be constructed in a few hours from standard welded wire fencing.
To follow this chicken coop how-to, purchase the following items:
- Barn-style doghouse: The larger, the better – but it’s important to get the 1-inch-by-2-inch-mesh wire fencing for the pen’s side walls in a height that’s as tall as or taller than the doghouse.
- 1-inch-by-2-inch-mesh welded wire fencing, as tall as your doghouse – 38 feet is enough fencing to construct sides and doors for one 3-foot-by-10-foot pen.
- 25 feet of 2-inch-by-4-inch-mesh welded wire, 36 inches wide; this will produce the chicken coop’s top and bottom panels. You could use 1-inch-by-2-inch mesh throughout, but the 2-inch-by-4-inch is adequate, plus it’s lighter and less costly.
- Two or three boxes of “hog rings” and the particular pliers to pinch them closed. I found these fasteners at a Tractor Supply Co. store. They’re ideal for quickly attaching the walls, top and bottom to create a lightweight all-wire pen. Aluminum J-clips used for making rabbit hutches will also work – be sure to get the matching pliers.
- If you don’t already own wire cutters or a small bolt cutter, purchase a tool that will allow you to easily cut the wire fencing.
Step 1: Bend the 1-inch-by-2-inch-mesh fencing to create the sides of the 3-foot-by-10-foot pen.
“Hog rings” are one way to fasten together your
portable chicken pen. — Photo by Matthew Stallbaumer
Step 2: Cut an 11-foot length of the 2-inch-by-4-inch-mesh wire, turn 6 inches under on each end (to provide extra firmness) resulting in a section 10 feet long. Using the hog rings every 4 to 6 inches, attach the 2-inch-by-4-inch wire section to shape a top for the 3-foot-by-10-foot wire rectangle. (I also constructed one test chicken pen that was 4 feet wide, rather than 3 feet. To avoid sagging in the wider top section, I inserted two 1-inch-by-2-inch wooden “beams” through the top slots in the side walls.)
Step 3: Make an additional 10-foot section as described above, turn the chicken pen over and install the second section.
|Two roost-bar illustration
of coop main body.
Step 4: To make two door openings – one at one end used to gather eggs from the henhouse and slide the house out for cleaning, and the second door at the other end to allow tending to the birds’ food and water containers – cut sections of wire from each end of the pen to make openings tall and wide enough for the house to slide in and out easily. Twist back all the sharp wire ends.
Step 5: Construct the doors – two 3-foot-by-1 1/2-foot sections of the 1-inch-by-2-inch-mesh fencing that hinge up from the bottom and down from the top (use the hog rings to design the “hinges”); the top and bottom sections will overlap 6 inches in the middle. This door design allows you to open the top flap to reach in for eggs, or open both the top and bottom flaps if you want to slide the moveable henhouse out. Use bungee cords or other fasteners you have to secure the door flaps.
Step 6: To use the barn-style doghouse, first file off the tabs that secure the roof section to the bottom so you can easily remove the roof when you want to change the bedding. Then insert a 1-inch-by-2-inch board to be used as a roost at the top edge of the bottom section, and install a thin plywood “wall” to a second crosspiece toward the rear of the coop, with a hole cut in it so the hens can lay eggs in the “back room.” Assemble the top section of the doghouse onto the bottom backwards, so there is a large opening in the front and a small, higher opening facing the rear.
|One roost-bar illustration
of main chicken coop.
Step 7: Lastly, trace the shape of the front and rear henhouse openings, make plywood doors to fit and hinge them to the openings. I constructed the front door hinge downward and attached a cord to the upper edge so I can easily pull the cord up to close the door; and I installed a small snap fastener at the end of the cord so opening and closing the door takes about five seconds! I discovered the hard way that groups of raccoons can scare young birds out of the house, and reach through the wire and kill them! So, even though the birds naturally head into the house every evening to roost, it’s still a smart idea to close the door each night.