Building a Chicken Coop

I’ve been asked by several people about how we build our chicken coops that we use for holding breeding groups of birds.  I thought it might be helpful to walk through the construction of a row of breeding pens.  They’re fairly easy to build although they are a little spendy.  Our goal is to build a low-maintenance, secure structure that is comfortable for the birds.  We’ve tried many designs over the years and this is the one we’ve settled on after much trial and error.

Before building, you may want to give some thought to the location of the pens.  Our pens are built around the perimeter of one of our main gardening areas.  This creates a ‘wall of death’ for traveling insects headed toward the garden.  The chickens pick off the pests before they can make it to the cornucopia of veggies that lies just a few tanatalizing feet away.  By using chickens for perimeter security and using veggies to attract live insects for the chickens, this is an example of applying permaculture principles to get the chickens and the vegetables working in concert.

The key to making the pens low maintenace and secure is to pour a single running concrete footer.  This keeps predators from digging under the wire and provides a dry foundation that supports the vertical wooden structure of the pens.

Here’s how we begin the site prep.

Then, we install the plumbing so that each pen has an automatic waterer and a spigot we can use for hosing down the pen.

Next, the wooden forms are made for the concrete footer and concrete is poured.

The vertical construction begins and is fairly straightforward.  We use vinyl-coated chicken wire to enclose the pens.

The western side is sheathed in corrugated metal to provide some shade for the birds from the hot late afternoon sun.  The bottom of the pens are filled with white sand to provide a clean, permeable base, and then hay is put over the sand and changed often to keep the pens clean.  The soiled hay becomes mulch for the garden,


  1. anonymous
    March 1, 2009 at 9:28 am

    Wow, how impressive and helpful. I have been contemplating how to build and organize my breeding pens in the near future. Thank You for providing insight for us. I love your website, the birds you offer and hope to be doing business with you in the very near future.
    Thank You,
    Cheryl Weisenberger, Washington State

  2. anonymous
    March 3, 2009 at 10:44 am

    Impressive Paul!!!
    Want to join your birds to California and build me some of those?? lol Would you suggest that open style in colder climates?

  3. anonymous
    March 4, 2009 at 9:05 am

    I think for cold climates you’d have to include a less ventilated roosting box for the birds, but the basic design would stay the same. The Sussex are content to sleep on the ground at night so we just provide deep hay on freezing nights. It’s easier for us to keep the birds warmer in the winter than it is to keep them cooler in the summer, so we err on the side of more ventilation.

  4. anonymous
    March 28, 2009 at 2:27 am

    wow that is awsome!! What are the measurements of the pins?

  5. nwfl
    December 29, 2010 at 8:23 pm

    Our houses are similar but enclosed bottom half all around. We live 3 hours west of Tallahasse. We have yaupon windbreaks north of coops. If we have terribly cold periods we staple heavy plastic on the north side and arnd young birds. Roll it up when it warms and remove and reuse it for few years. Simple, tidy, healthy. We have good white sand and plenty of grass hay here too.

  6. Shannon
    March 29, 2011 at 11:35 am

    I was wondering if you could help us out by posting a list of Material for the pens, and how many pens it makes thanks a lot for your help take care shannon

  7. Danny Pritchett
    July 13, 2011 at 10:50 pm

    It looks like the pens are 12×10 and about 8 feet tall. Am I right? Do you put your doors at the front or the rear. Also what do you use for roosts? More photos please on the inside of the pens :)

  8. Dan Herman
    July 20, 2011 at 12:49 am

    How are these pens working out over the last three years? Have you changed anything lately? I sure like to see your great pictures.

  9. The Farmer
    July 28, 2011 at 9:10 am

    The pens are working out well. We continue to build them according to this design with no modifications. The pens are about 8′ x 10′ x 8′ tall.

  10. Steven
    August 1, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    How many do you keep to a pen? What is your normal roo to hen ratio in these?

  11. The Farmer
    August 1, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    The number of chickens in each pen depends on the size of the chickens. For large chicken breeds we usually have two roosters and about six hens. For smaller breeds we may have as many as ten hens.

  12. Christie
    December 16, 2011 at 6:34 pm

    I love this design. We live in Hawaii and have very mild weather. My first coop we designed like many chicken coops that have the little hen house with the gang plank and little opening for the birds to go inside. Later we realized this closed up hen house idea was unnecessary here where the weather never gets colder than 45 degrees. So I have been searching and searching for open air coop ideas.
    Love yours and will be building something very similar soon!

  13. Patricia
    July 29, 2012 at 4:21 am

    How do you keep rodents or snakes from burrowing under the footing to get into the bottom of your pens?

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