Introduction: Mail Pouch Chicken Coop
In an effort to create a self sustaining garden and mini-homestead, I decided to build a chicken coop. The chicken waste is great fertilizer, the eggs are plentiful, and the kids love it. Much of the supplies for this build were dictated by what I could find on the clearance racks at Lowes and Home depot as the colors and design were not critical to the project's success. I opted to make the shelter portion of the structure separate from the floor so that it could be lifted off in the event that maintenance inside the coop should ever become necessary. I also chose to elevate the coop, giving the birds a place to find shade or cover from rain while free-ranging.
With these options my build included the following supplies:
1 x 8' treated 4x6 for legs (could be a 4x4 but the 4x6 was 70% off in the cull lumber section)
4 sheets of exterior plywood or sheathing for walls
Approximately 20 eight foot long 2x4s most will be used for framing, but some will be cut for support
Trim- I opted for 1x2 and 1x3 because they are cheap and readily available I used about 5 or 6 of each to trim the corners, doors and windows
3 bundles of whatever color shingles you can find cheap
2 sheets of inexpensive sheathing for the roof
1 sheet of sheathing for the floor (I used a thick exterior plywood so that exposure to moisture wouldn't damage it... again it was from the cull lumber rack but appearance wasn't important.
3 8 foot long 2x6s to frame around the floor
Fasteners are really a matter of preference, but I used a combination of framing nails, finishing nails, 3in drywall screws, and 2in drywall screws
I used a table saw and miter saw for most of the cuts, but this project could be completed with only a circular saw
Step 1: Getting Started
Keeping in mind that sheets of plywood and paneling are 4'x8' I chose to layout my design to make the most efficient use of the sheets. The walls are framed in at 4 feet tall and 8 feet long; with 4' x 4' square openings at each end. Using some short sections of 2x4 you will want to brace 2 opposing corners to keep the framework from racking while it is being built and moved.
Step 2: Base and Roof
Once the basic 'box' had been assembled the structure was starting to get heavy. Before building the roof I figured it was best to get everything in place at its final location. I nailed together a simple 4'x8' rectangular frame made of 2x6s and screwed down the plywood. Since I wanted the coop elevated, I cut my 8 foot 4x6 into 4 equal 2' lengths, and screwed them into each corner. Again I cut some 2x4s with 45 degree angles to use as braces.
Some old scraps of wood were utilized to build some 48" wide gambrel roof trusses. The 2x4s were cut to the desired angles then I glued and nailed the wood scraps over each joint to add extra support. While this style is great to achieve the classic "barn" look, I actually did this to got the most space inside the coop for the times that you may need to get inside. I wanted to be able to stand up without a bunch of cross members in the way. I created 5 trusses in all and found that setting them in place by myself was quite challenging. I would recommend having a second set of hands to help and nailing a temporary board across the roof to help hold each truss plum in the correct position.
Step 3: Sheathing
With the framing complete it was time to begin covering the coop with sheathing. I found some T111 exterior paneling on the 70% off cull lumber rack at home depot so that was the obvious choice for me. The only issue I encountered was that the ribs in the panels run along the 8 foot length and I didn't want them running horizontally along the coop so I had to cut the sheets creating 2 4'x4' panels, and rotate them 90 degrees to achieve the desired look on the long walls. The ends of the coop did not require this step, but make sure to save the excess that is trimmed off to use for nesting boxes later.
Step 4: Roof Sheathing and Nesting Box
I measured the remnants of T111 after cutting the angles for the gambrel roof and determined an optimal nesting box size that could be covered using the scraps. The box ended up being about 6 feet long with a height of 16" and a depth of 12". The next step was to cut a section out of the wall sheathing to accommodate the nesting box; do this carefully so that you can reuse the sheathing on the outside of the nesting box. Carefully mark and cut out a rectangle using a circular saw with the blade out just far enough to cut the sheathing and not damage the frame (about 5/8"). The nesting box shape can vary, but you will need to cut some 2x4 sections and firmly attach them to the wall studs. You may also note that I cut a slot in the end wall to aid in sweeping out the coop. This will get a small hinged door later.
Covering the roof trusses is pretty straight forward. you will need to cut 4 rectangles that fit your roof design.... HOWEVER... if you want the roof to extend out past the end of the coop as this does, you will either need to make the coop LESS than eight feet long, or be prepared to add some extra pieces of sheathing to extend the roof. One last thing to keep in mind is that heat will build up quickly in the summer so ventilation is important. Also, the ammonia gasses from chicken waste can become toxic, so adding a ridge vent in the roof is a great help. This means that when you apply the roof sheathing you will want to leave a gap at the peak for gasses to escape.
Step 5: Drip Edge and Tar Paper
In hopes of keeping water from damaging the coop I added aluminum drip edge around all exposed edges. This diverts water away from the wood rather than allowing it to roll under the shingles and soak into the wood. Once the drip edge is nailed in place, tar paper can be stapled down.
Step 6: Shingling
Shingles have always been one of my least favorite building materials to work with and while covering this small roof was pretty straight forward, it did take more shingles than I expected and requires a lot of patience. This roof is just like shingling a real house except there's no long runs of shingles. Each row consisted of, at most, 2 full shingles, and then a shingle that would need to be cut. You have to be careful not to end a row with a single tab that would be likely to blow off, so some rows may need 2 two tab shingles in order to keep seams staggered and avoid single tabs. Single tabs that are cut off however will be saved for caps when finishing the ridge.
Step 7: Doors and Paint
There are a few doors necessary for a practical chicken coop. As I mentioned earlier, a short wide door for sweeping out the old bedding is very useful. Also, a small door for the chickens to enter and exit will need to be cut into the side. My door is about 14"x18" and was framed with inexpensive 1x2 lumber. You will want an access door big enough to walk though so that you aren't trying to squeeze through the chicken door. This door will need to be pretty rigid; I framed mine with 2x4s and covered it using the sheathing that was cut to create the entrance point. My door is trimmed in 1x3 lumber and I also used this space to add another vent. The final door is half door and half roof; it is the cover for the nesting box. a simple piece of plywood is sufficient, but keep in mind that you will need a water-safe covering on it. I used the same shingles as my roof, but had to cut off the ends of the roofing nails so that they weren't protruding into the areas that the chickens will occupy or creating a dangerous poking hazard when you collect eggs.
The little red barn to house the chickens was looking great but looked too plain. I thought I'd dress it up with a traditional "Mail Pouch" graphic. I made some stencils using poster board and fit the design to the biggest surface I could use on the coop.
Step 8: Wrapping It Up
A couple cans of spray paint made the Mail Pouch design pop and the chickens just needed a ramp. I had a piece of 5/4 decking board laying around. It's around 5 feet long and works great as a ramp. Decking boards are treated with water resistant chemicals, so the ramp can be exposed to weather without any threat of deteriorating. We nailed in some treads to give the chickens something to grip. these are made of 1x2 lumber as well. The ramp is attached to the coop with some simple eye screws screwed into the coop and cup hooks screwed into the ramp
Step 9: Done!
The last task was to make a few perches and add bedding. I grabbed a few old tree branches and screwed them into the coop, dumped a bit of pine chip bedding, and the birds are happy and healthy!
First Prize in the
For the Birds Speed Challenge