DIY Chicken Coop Plans: Ideas and Tips To Get Started (+ Free Plans)
One of the main things you will need to successfully raise chickens is adequate housing.
But in a vast world of chicken coop choices it can be difficult to figure out which shelter is best for you and your flock.
In this guide we guide you through some critical decisions you need to make in planning your coop, and then we reveal a whole bunch of easy to follow, free DIY chicken coop plans which you can use today.
Navigate through our extensive coop guide to find your perfect match!
The Big Question: Should Build Or Buy a Coop?
Three things you should consider before making a final decision are your budget, available time, and carpentry skills - or willingness to learn!
Prices for chicken coop kits vary substantially, and can range from a couple hundred to a couple thousand dollars. Expect to pay at least $500 for a basic, store bought chicken coop.
However, with the more affordable options one is generally forced to sacrifice quality, as manufacturers opt for poorer quality wood or extra-thin wooden planks.
When building your own coop, you have to source and buy raw materials, and either borrow or purchase tools if you don’t have your own.
The amount of money spent in new materials for a large coop is nearly equivalent to the cost of a small pre-made coop.
To save money, many people decide to purchase recycled wood, reclaimed wood, and surplus materials.
If you’re short on time, you may wish to use a kit instead of building from scratch.
Remember: when building, you must consider prior steps such as planning and designing. You will be able to customize the coop according to your personal needs, but it is a time-consuming task.
Kits, on the other hand, only require you to assemble their parts.
Clearly, the project of building a chicken coop will run more smoothly and take less time for those with carpentry skills.
Yet, this shouldn’t be a drawback for those who are willing to build something for the first time… after all, many non-builders have done it, therefore so can you!
Consider building a coop if:
- You have basic DIY skills
- You have access to basic power tools (saws and drills mainly)
- You have access to an easy to follow, step-by-step guide.
- You can salvage free timber and materials (e.g pallets)
- You are NOT super rushed for time (it will take longer than you think)
- You enjoy the satisfaction of being self sufficient
Consider buying a coop if
- You’ve never done any type of DIY project in your life
- Your chicks are already brooding and will soon need a coop – like really soon (in the next few days)
- You'll likely end up having to buy all of the materials to build the coop (it may work out cheaper to just buy one.)
6 Crucial Questions You Need To Answer (For Planning a Perfect Coop)
Before you make a decision to build your chicken coop, you must consider these important factors first:
1 - Do you have enough space for your flock?
How large is your flock? Are you planning on expanding it in the future? Will your chickens free-range or hang around the coop all the time?
Space is one of the most important elements to bear in mind when choosing the right coop, as it will largely determine how happy and healthy your chickens are.
This will not only depend on the size of your flock, but on whether you want to keep your chickens in part-time ranging or full-time confinement.
Part-time ranging refers to chickens that are allowed to free-range for most of the day, whereas full-time confinement refers to chickens kept within a coop and run 24/7.
If a chicken is raised in part-time ranging, the minimum living space required is 4 square feet per bird, and 10 square feet per bird when it comes to the run.
For those kept in full-time confinement, one has to increase this number to 10 square feet per bird for the coop, and at least 20 square feet for the run.
Remember that these are minimum values!
Small Bantam-variety chickens generally need half the space than that of a regular chicken.
2 - What is the weather like in your area?
What’s the weather like where you live?
Is it rainy? Hot? Cold? …and if so, does it tend to snow a lot?
Depending on the weather conditions of your area, you will need to pay attention to factors such as materials, insulation, ventilation, and the overall design of the coop.
Bear in mind that the aim is to provide proper shelter for the birds.
3 - Are there Predators around?
Slender weasels, agile racoons, tricky foxes, brainy hawks, and even witty dogs... what are the predators that prowl around your area?
Any meat eater would certainly like having chicken on their dinner menu once in a while.
That’s why it is crucial for both the coop and run to stay out of their reach. The only way you can do this is by identifying what predators wander about your area.
Once you know of potential predators, you’ll have to guard the coop and run from all necessary fronts.
This includes the sides, top, and even bottom to shield your chickens against burrowing animals!
Rodents are notorious for getting into chicken coops - see this guide if you need some tips to stop them getting back in your coop once they have already breached your coop walls.
4 - How Important Is Practicality For you?
Is the coop you are considering easy to clean and maintain? Is it easy to pick up the eggs from the nest boxes? Can you open and close the coop door without having to crouch inside the run?
All these design details that favour efficiency can really make a difference when it comes to your overall chicken-raising experience and peace of mind.
If your looking for something a little more mobile, why not check out our article on Chicken Tractor Plans for something that's compact, light, and portable!
5 - Does Your Coop Have All of the essentials?
Make sure the coop or run have nesting boxes, perches or roosting poles, dust boxes, and feeding and water containers!
6 - style
Would a stationary chicken coop work best for you or would you rather go for a mobile one?
Do you prefer wood or plastic? Small or large? With an A-frame, a curved or living-roof?
Depending one how big your coop will be, you will need to actually like how it looks. Once built, it won't be easy to change it up. If you don't like the look of any of the coops below, consider customising them or trying a different design.
3 Crucial Chicken Coop Design Tips
A lot of thought has to go into the coop before you get started with the planning, designing, and building, so that any unwanted scenarios can be avoided.
That’s why it is fundamental to consider the most important aspects of a coop prior to anything else.
1 - Be mindful of shelter
Think about what your own house provides you and your family when it rains or snows, when it is too cold or too hot, when there are strong winds or stormy weather…
This is exactly what you want to provide to your chickens: a place where they feel safe and protected!
A good way to start is by examining your backyard or terrain in order to determine where the windy and cold sides are, as well as where the sun hits the hardest during the hottest hours of the day.
All these factors will give you clues on where the ideal spot for your coop lays.
A few recommendations include the following:
- Provide at least 4 square foot of covered area per chicken.
- The sides of the coop that face the cold and wind should be closed off
- The side of the coop that faces the sun should be open during winter
- Provide enough shade from the sun throughout summer time
2 - Accurate ventilation is Critical
It is important to remember the villains of moisture and mold! This can only be done by paying enough attention to ventilation.
The constant flow of air won’t only get rid of humidity, but also the ammonia fumes that are naturally released by the birds’ excrement, and that can negatively affect their respiratory system.
Ventilation is essential no matter the weather.
Failure to provide proper ventilation may be fatal, as in the summer it can cause heat stress, and in winter may cause respiratory issues due to the combination of moisture and cold.
A few recommendations include the following:
- Perches must be 2 x 2’s, preferably round, and provide each bird with at least 9” of space (it sounds like very little space, but they are used to cuddling together at night!)
- Nest boxes should be around 1 ft3 each and hidden away to the upper side. Some people use one large nest box for every 4 or 5 chickens.
- Build the nest boxes so that the bedding doesn’t fall out of them.
- Install a landing bar in front of the nest boxes so that the chickens can easily go in or get out of them.
- Place the nest boxes at eye level, so that chickens don’t peck on them when bored.
- Use a bucket of your choice for the dust bath and simply fill it up with soil, wood ash, and diatomaceous earth.
3 - ALWAYS leave space for more Chickens
Even if you are fully convinced that you won’t be getting any more chickens in the future, make sure to make your coop slightly bigger than what is suitable for your current flock.
To avoid the nightmare of many chicken owners, that is, having to make their coop bigger for the unexpected newcomers!
15 Different Styles Of Chicken Coop Designs
There are countless options to choose from when it comes to types of chicken coops.
In the end, the ideal coop should have features and characteristics that keep your personal wellbeing, as well as that of your flock, at the centre of its design.
For that reason, we recommend having a list of your personal must-haves, like-to-haves, and don’t-needs while going through the following alternatives.
Here are the major 15 types of chicken coop designs. Scroll through each one and if it feels like the right style for you, click the button and you'll be taken down the page to a list of free plans.
1 - Elevated/off-the-ground chicken coops
A raised coop is elevated at least 2 feet off the ground, with chickens making their way in through a small ladder or staircase.
This is an effective way to avoid burrowing animals, and it also allows for easy cleaning and maintenance access.
Another benefit of this option is that the space under the coop adds to that of the run area. It also provides the chickens with extra shelter from the elements, and prevents flooding and/or rotting of the floor.
Raised coops are generally stationary, which means that the green garden patch under the run will soon turn into a dirt floor as your wacky little birds tear up everything in their way.
Therefore, when choosing this coop, one has to be ready to sacrifice a slice of green lawn.
Basic plans for 6 chickens. Neat looking, practical, along with proper ventilation.
A rough explanation on the building process, plus its respective chicken coop plans for 12 chickens worth $19.00.
An overview of how to make a chicken coop for 12 chickens.
The illustration of the building procedure and dimension information of this chicken coop for 8 chickens.
An idea for a simple eco-modern coop build.
A spacious house for 4 hens and the coop plans free download!
This guide is done in a “building chicken coops for dummies” fashion, with detailed explanation on the materials, tools and steps involved.
Learn how to build a chicken coop step by step, and take a look at their free chicken coop plans download!
Perfect large plans to comfortably home 18 chickens.
Small chicken coop plan great for reduced urban area spaces.
Another interesting, yet peculiar, idea for a large chicken coop.
Enjoy this PDF containing DIY plans free, featuring precise instructions on how to build your own chicken coop!
Plans for 6 chickens, including a PDF download for $10.00.
A small and suspended hen house apt for 4 hens and its corresponding free chicken coop blueprints.
From “Swing and Slide” set to a large DIY coop, an inventive repurposing idea!
2 - repurposed Shed coops
Many people simply decide to convert a shed into a chicken coop.
By repurposing a shed, chicken owners avoid any heavy and time-consuming construction work.
It is perfect for those who have a large flock or who plan on expanding it in the future, as sheds often cater more than enough space.
Take a look at how this family turned a once forgotten and worn-out shed into a lovely chicken chateau!
Some things to consider when modifying the shed, however, is to raise it a few inches off the ground to prevent flooding or the rotting of its floor, in addition to cutting enough holes for proper ventilation.
LINK TO MORE INFO
Take a look at this nice hen house as well as its coop plans for free…
3 - triangle or a-frame coop (A cheap chicken coop)
Because of its simplicity, the A-frame coop is quite popular nowadays. With all materials at hand, one can have it built within a day or two.
In addition, A-frame coops can be easily cleaned, and moved from one place to another due to its lightness.
Some people even add wheels that easily screw in or out, to turn it into a tractor.
In the case of this triangular-shaped coop, however, these benefits frequently come at the price of having to sacrifice space and, at times, even ventilation.
It is therefore most suitable for small or medium flocks of bantam varieties.
LINK TO MORE INFO
There’s plenty of info. on how to make this chicken coop: design, materials, cutting, framing, roofing, and using wheels!
This polished small chicken coop reminds us of the importance of playing with colours!
If by any chance you have an old swing set, think twice before throwing it away.
Sneak a peek at this uncomplicated coop and its free printable plans.
4 - Curved roof coops
Curved roof coops, like A-frame coops, have a relatively simple build.
They provide more height, can withstand extreme weather- especially storms, hail, and strong winds- and allow for more heat and light to enter its inner spaces.
Nonetheless, the installation of this coop’s roof may prove difficult, though this will largely depend on what material is used.
LINK TO MORE INFO
A large, but painless build with free plans for 15 chickens.
A futuristic design with step by step instructions.
5 -planted green Living roof coops
Imagine a garden full of vibrant flowers, green herbs, or both, right on top of your feathered friends’ little house!
...it’s quite a fascinating picture, isn’t it?
But, apart from being aesthetically charming, living-roof coops work well as natural insulators, keeping the coop warmer in the winter and cooler during summer.
They also function as a small pollinator habitat, and help reduce runoff caused by storm waters.
One can install them on gable or flat roofs.
Some chicken keepers go all the way and, instead of planting flowers, they plant edible gardens right on top of the coop!
Lavender, parsley, dill, and tarragon are some herbs that are not only good for us, humans, but for the chickens also.
Yes, this truly is a functional coop!
Before picking this option, however, make sure you have the extra time and energy needed to make this roof work. That is for waterproofing it, adding a drainage system, securing the soil on the roof, and planting.
For more information check out this article to learn how Rebecca Nickols and her husband built their own.
LINK TO MORE INFO
...and another alluring idea for a green-roof coop.
6 - Portable Chicken coop (aka Chicken tractor)
This is one of the most common mobile chicken coops - read our in depth guide on chicken tractors here.
It is generally small, for portability, but one of its most notable features is that it is floorless. Therefore, chickens are in direct contact with the ground.
What are the benefits derived from this?
Just like the traditional tractor, chickens can be moved around a terrain preparing the soil on the way as they dig, forage, and turn the ground around.
Another service they offer is that of fertilizing the soil, with their excrement!
In other words, this coop helps you to free-range chickens in a controlled way.
In turn, this allows for parts of the terrain that are outside their limits to remain untouched, and for the rest of the area to recover before the wacky little birds go back in.
Fenced wire floors that have openings big enough for the chickens to eat and scratch through, are the trick for those who live in areas with burrowing predators.
Despite all its pros, the major disadvantage of the chicken tractor is that it is usually not suited to small spaces, such as backyards or urban living areas, unless one builds a small one.
LINK TO MORE INFO
A step by step guide on how to make a chicken coop in tractor style.
7 - triple P: Pastured poultry pens
Generally bigger than the chicken tractor, the pastured poultry pen is mostly used to move large numbers of birds.
As a result, one has to move it on to new pasture at least once a day.
Besides providing the same benefits as those of a chicken tractor, poultry pens are simple in their design, and sturdy enough to withstand predators and harsh winds.
Take into account that, although a 10’ x 10’ x 2’ can be moved by one person, its weight can make it quite difficult to do so. Always be careful that no chickens are injured when moving your pen.
Though this coop is normally used in medium or big terrains, a pen more reduced in space can be built to adapt to smaller flocks and smaller spaces.
LINK TO MORE INFO
Click for a free plan download
Free PDF available.
8 - the chicken rickshaw (the Chickshaw)
Built on big wheels, this coop is made for those chicken enthusiasts who have to move their flock long distances to new pastures and across rugged terrain.
The best part of it is that one person can effortlessly move the chick shaw!
Homesteader and permaculturalist Justin Rhodes, shares how he built his own chick shaw in his article “Finally, a Mobile Chicken Coop One Person Can (Easily) Move”.
LINK TO MORE INFO
Another free download!
9 - recycled Pallet chicken coops
You don’t have to go out and spend a fortune in new raw materials when wooden pallets are fairly painless to find and cost somewhere around $0.00!
These can be used to build the coop as they come (assembled) or disassembled… the choice is yours.
Although it may considerably vary from pallet to pallet, bear in mind that the quality of the wood might not be as good as when looking at other options (...this is one of the low-cost alternatives after all!).
So, if you get the chance, make sure to get your hands on the newest or least worn out pallets to avoid having to rebuild parts of your coop in a few months time.
LINK TO MORE INFO
A few tips on how to build a chicken coop out of pallets.
A huge coop made almost entirely of free pallets!
Another big pallet coop… offsetting about $1,000 in wood expenses.
A one-day construction project and... for free.
10 - recycled Wire spool chicken coops
If pallets can be recycled, so can wire spools…
Some people choose to build their coop entirely out of wooden wire spools, while others use them only to build parts of it.
LINK TO MORE INFO
Building your own chicken coop doesn’t have to be hard or expensive. This is an example of how one can use recycled wire spools to create a petite hen house.
11 - the classic. Wooden chicken coops
Let’s face it, there’s nothing like a high quality wooden chicken coop. Most of them, in fact, are made of wood and they have been for centuries.
However, like poultry expert Andy Cawthray explains in an article for The Guardian, we should learn to avoid the mass-produced models whose wood will remarkably fail on the first rainy or sunny day of the year.
Naturally rot-resistant wood such as cedar, redwood, or tropical hardwoods are amongst the best to purchase. Another appropriate option is exterior-use plywood.
Altogether, wood is a natural breathable material that is highly flexible and adaptable even if modifications are required in the future.
12 - post modern Plastic coops
Plastic is a relatively new material when it comes to chicken coops and it frequently attracts people because of it easy to clean and zero-maintenance nature.
Another reason why some are attracted to plastic coops is because they are less prone to housing red mites.
Red mites are tiny parasites that feed off birds’ blood. They tend to cling onto chickens and wild birds when conditions work in their favour, but can also hide within small cracks inside the coops.
Because plastic presents a completely smooth and crackless surface, unlike wood, there are less chances of red mites becoming a plague inside the coop.
Learn more about this topic in another one of Cawthray’s articles called “Talking Chickens: Plastic vs. Wooden Houses”.
Two of the major problems related to plastic coops are ventilation and a lack of adaptability.
Contrary to wood, plastic is not a natural breathable material and is more likely to hold humidity, heat, or cold in its interior; and with this material one doesn’t have the advantage of altering its design to suit it to unforeseen situations or new needs.
13 - Small chicken coops
Regardless of being stationary, small coops are easy to move from one spot to another.
In fact, some chicken keepers choose having two small coops instead of a large one just to be able to move them around the area or to separate the flock when breeding.
We went into detail about small coops here - check it out.
LINK TO MORE INFO
Instructions for building this coop, suitable for accommodating 2 to 4 chickens.
Free printable chicken coops blueprints for building this and a few other easy to build chicken coops.
It took only 18 hours and $137.00 to build this portable chicken coop and the builders give a broad view of the process.
14 - grand designed Large coops
As anticipated, large coops are the complete opposite… they are totally locked to one place.
Therefore, one has to inspect the backyard thoroughly to make a wise decision on where to place the coop.
It is more practical in terms of feeding, watering, and cleaning to have a large coop over several small coops!
LINK TO MORE INFO
Chicken coop for 25 chickens or more, with access to plans and pictures!
Take a look at this chicken house for 20 chickens along with its free plans for 20 chickens!
15 - the backyard: Chicken runs
A chicken run is an enclosed or fenced outdoor space that’s attached to the coop.
Though some pro full-time-free-range chicken keepers choose not to use it, hooking up a chicken run can truly benefit your flock.
One of the main perks is that you are giving them the freedom of safely roaming outside at night time, thus encouraging their natural behaviour.
Likewise, a run can give you a lot of flexibility as a bird keeper.
If, for instance, you leave town for a few days, a chicken run allows your birds to exit and access the coop at their own accord while safeguarding them from predators.
If it is not possible to free-range your chickens throughout the day, then the importance of a chicken run doubles, triples… or, maybe even, octuples!
Only then will your flock be healthy, and the eggs they lay rich in Vitamin E, Omega-3, and Beta Carotene.
As mentioned previously under the raised coops subsection, one of the cons of using a run is the impact on the portion of lawn on which it will be placed.
Chickens will work their magic in a matter of days, by transforming lush green grass into a dusty paradise!
It is often suggested that all coops have a run attached to it, so chickens can go in and out of their coops whenever they desire without the risk of being attacked by a predator.
Here a few links to chicken run plans:
Other clever - easy to build - chicken coop ideas
How To Build A Chicken Coop - 67 Free Chicken Coop Plans
Below you'll find a list of links that will take you to free chicken coop plans for certain styles/designs of chicken coops.
Elevated Chicken Coops
1. Home Depot's Coop Plans
Home depot have kindly put together a 2 part video series on how to build this elevated chicken coop. You'll even get a list of cutting materials and tools required! Of course, you'll have no trouble buying all the gear from home Depot - maybe you could even print of their list and bring it with you?
Is this coop right for you?
2. Next Coop
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Is this the right coop for you?
The Bottom Line
Of course there are basic guidelines that apply to all chicken coops, but the ideal coop will look different to every chicken and chicken owner.
Because there is no one absolutely flawless coop, all there is left to do is to contemplate our needs and that of our flock in order to make the wisest housing decision on behalf of our wacky little friends.
Let us know of any doubts, comments or suggestions below and remember to share this post with your feather-aficionado friends!