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Build it yourself chicken roosting box



Chicken Box - a simple coop

I needed an extra coop. Every natural chicken farmer's greatest fear is to have their hens start to eat their own eggs. I have to replace my hens (admittedly they are getting old and would need replacing anyway). I got some new birds (including two more roosters), but didn't want to try and mix the new with the old. I had already built a larger run for the older birds, so I could use the smaller run for the new birds, but all I had for housing them was a transport box that my grandpa built over 40 years ago. It was meant to hold chickens for slaughter, so it was too small for holding the young ones for too long.

Since I had already made my run 4 feet wide (to fit over my garden plots), I decided to make the box the same size so it could set on top of the inside rails of the run. If your run/pen is not this size you can simply build a platform on which to place the box.

In order to make the box as light as possible (to make it easier to carry), I chose 3/8 inch plywood. To make it rigid, I made a framework of 2x2s (in some places doubled to make assembly easier). Putting it together with screws makes it easier to take apart later, if I need. The biggest share of the screws are 1-5/8 inch exterior screws.

short screws

Where the 2x2s get doubled, I attached them to each other with 2-1/2 inch screws.

long screws

You start by cutting 4 - 18 inch by 4 ft wide pieces off a standard 4x8 ft sheet of plywood (I used 3/8 inch thick BCX plywood - it was on sale). These three pieces will end up being the bottom, back and top of the coop.

Next you cut an 8 ft 2x2 into 2-4 ft pieces. These first two pieces will be stiffeners that will support the weight of your chickens in the coop (box). Here is what it looks like:

bottom view

Quick note: As you may observe, I turn all my plywood pieces worst side in except the floor. There is a reason! If you turn the rough side in on the floor, and it splinters, you can injure your chickens' feet. This can cripple them and might cause them to starve. Turning the rough side in anywhere else in the chicken box will not harm the chickens and can add years to the lifespan of the chicken box, even without painting.

Also, let me take a moment here to tell you that whenever I attach a piece of plywood to a 2x2, I do 2 things:

1) - I try to never screw into an endgrain (MUCH too prone to tearing out and damaging the project), and

2) - I always run the screw in from the plywood side.

I know this last point may sound obvious, but you would be surprised how many people try to go the other way around and ruin their plywood.

Looking at the bottom of the box, you will notice I have left a space between the side of the box and the 2x2 on both the front and the back. I did this to allow the inside framework to be screwed in along the edges. to do this, I took some scrap 2x2s and placed them up against the edge of the plywood (you can temporarily screw these scraps into place if you wish) and then butted the 2x2 floor braces up against them and screwed the braces into place.

Next, we cut an 18x18 inch piece of the plywood for an end piece and attach 2 - 18 inch 2x2s as the top and bottom frames of the end and 2 - 15 inch 2x2s between them as wall bracing.

One, framed in, short side

This is what the outside of the 18x18 inch ends look like:

outside view

After making two of these, you attach them to the 18 inch ends of the box floor.

one end on

both ends on

Next, measure and cut 4 pieces of 2x2 to fit between the two end walls. I tend to measure and cut as I go since the pieces fit tighter and it makes up for the variances in cutting. In this case, because of space taken up by the plywood, these four pieces came out to 42-1/4 inches long. Two of these pieces get screwed onto the long sides of the floor, between the side walls.

floor framing

On top of lending more rigidness to the box, the 2x2 at the front of the box will help keep the chickens from kicking out all their bedding on you.

Now, a little thinking. Will the top of the box need extra suppot on the long sides? Some might think not, but I planned on drop down access doors for cleaning and possibly collecting eggs. So, I added more supports along the front and back of the box. To do that, I had to attach 4 more 15 inch 2x2s to those already on the 18x18 inch ends.

Starting with whichever side you want as the back, attach 2 of the 15 inch 2x2s to the existing ones, with 2-1/2 inch screws.Then attach the back wall.to both sets of 15 inch 2x2s.

with the back on

Next, place another 42-1/4 inch piece on top of the two 15 inch pieces you attached a bit ago and screw it to the back wall.

Back top bar on

Now, before you put on the top, you must screw the other front roof supports on, using 2-1/2 inch screws.

front left roof support front right roof support

From here, you have another choice to make. Since my older hens are still laying, I would like to keep them as long as possible. That means the younger hens might start laying before my old hens are butchered. So, I made a nesting box wall for the chicken box. By the time I'd cut all the 18x18 inch wall and access door pieces, I was left with 2 6x18 in scraps. So, I used one of these, with 2 more 15 inch sections of 2x2 to separate out a 12x12 inch "nesting area"

If you don't plan on having hens in this box long enough for them to start laying, you can skip this step

Here is what it looks like screwed onto the floor of the box. I put mine on the right side of the box. If you prefer the left side, simply flip it over and place it there. NOTE: place the wider opening to the back to provide the "dark space" that hens prefer for laying.

nesting wall attached to box floor

Now, you can put on the top and screw it in place (including screwing it to the nesting box area if you chose that option).

After you attach the top plywood, slip in the last 42-1/4 inch 2x2and screw it onto the roof plywood.Then it will look like this:

Back top bar on

The Access Doors


Next, we made the front access doors and the chicken ramp.

I started with the 18x18 inch plywood panel that I cut to give me the 18x6 inch piece for the nesting box divider and started the access/cleanout door to go in front of the nesting box. These doors are the closest I come to doing anything "pretty" on the chicken box. I say this because the 2x2s will go on the outside of the plywood here.

Start by screwing an 18 inch 2x2 to the cleanest, straightest edge of the 18x18 inch plywood.The butt a 15 inch 2x2 up against it on one side and attaching it. Like this:

2x2 starting layout on the access door

It is important, for appearances, that you get the 15 inch 2x2s all the way out to the ends of the 18 inch 2x2s. After attaching the second 15 inch 2x2, the outside of the door should look like this:

 access door

I call the next step "prettying up" because it hides any bad cutting jobs by placing a 2x2 over the top of them. This is how it looks from the inside of the access door:

prettying up appearences

Mounting the hinges


I dont know about you, but the hardest construction problem for me used to be getting the hinges on straight. If the hinges aren't on straight the door can bind and the hinges can break easily.

A few years back, I was told a trick that works with most box (door type) hinges. Flip the hinges upside down and run the screws in on the frame side.

upside down door hinge

As long as you can get this tight against the frame, when you flip it over (place the door tight against the frame and run the screws straight into the door) the hinge will be straight and won't bind. Do this with both hinges before attaching the access door. Here is what the hinges look like when flipped over and the door is attached (I flipped the box upside down to install the hinges).

hinged

At this point, I spotted a flaw in my design.The ramp for this box was cut to be 42 inches long as the resating bars of the run are about 30 inches off the ground. The problem is, the roof of the run is also about 30 inches from the resting bar.

So, I guess, SAM, I made the ramp too long (for the height of the box). Sorry if nobody else gets the reference to that OLD song.

Of course, the solution was quick in coming. Fold the ramp.

This task isn't really difficult. First you build the outside of the ramp, like so:

building the ramp

Making sure to butt the longer 2x2s tightly against the shorter ones (since you will need them to give the ramp strength). Here is how it looks with all the outside 2x2s in place:

Ramp backing finish

Next, flip the ramp over snd measure out a convenient folding point (mine was halfway - but you can make it whatever is convenient). Since having this fold as a straight line is important, I used a chalkline to make sure I had it straight.

chalklined

Then I cut through 2x2s, plywood and all.

Straight cut, ready for strap hinges

As a last step (please excuse the pun), before hinging the ramp, you need to attach AT LEAST the step that overlaps the cut in the ramp (again to make sure the ramp is strong enough to hold the weight of the chickens using it). These are simply 1 foot long (mine were slightly shorter to keep the ramp from jamming when wet) 2x2s screwed into place on what will become the top side of the ramp.

ramp step

For the purpose of connecting the two ramp sections, you will need 2-3 inch strap hinges (light straps will do for most, but if you raise heavier breeds, you might want heavy strap hinges). Strap hinges present their own problem when trying to keep the joint straight. My oldest boy has a trick with this those. He centered the strap hinge over the top half of the joint on one side with the bottom side of the joint on the other side, like this:

strap hinge trick start

strap hinge trick continued

After carefully running the screws in 1 half of the hinge (top pic), then running in the screws into the botton half, you take the screws out of the bottom half, moving the ramp back over and running the screws into their proper places. Then you can properly place the second strap hinge and both hinges will align and the ramp with fold without binding at the hinge. It should look like this:

hinged and straight

And folded it should look like this:

folded

In order to attach the ramp, I used the ramp step to position it on an old metal shelf frame, like so (again with the box upside down):

positions and hinged attached

After attaching the second access door, We secure the access doors with gate/door latches:

to hold access doors closed

The ramp is secured by drilling some holes that are JUST SLIGHTLY larger that the wood screws used to secure them, into a couple short pieces of 1x3 and using screws to attach them to the 2x2s on the inside edge of each access door:

latch for the chicken ramp (1 of 2)

Here is what the complete unit looks like with the doors open, bedding in and perch (2x2s screwed together with top edges rounded over) in place:

complete with doors open

Here is the unit, with all doors closed and the ramp straight (so the ramp latches can be seen):

all buttoned up

And this is the box, ready to be moved into place:

ramp folded and ready to move

And so, as you may or may not know, you should always wait until your chickens have gone to bed for the night to move them into this (or any other) coup.

chickens home for thew night

Improvements/problems/future thoughts


Since I started using the box, I've noticed it can get quite warm inside. With the number of chickens inside at night (8) it can get 10 degrees warmer inside than outside. Also, with the amount of manure generated, the bedding used (wood chips) was decomposing VERY quickly. I have had to add more wood chips almost weekly.

I think I will put some ventilation holes in the sides, to help cool things down inside as well.

Finally, with the steep angle of the ramp, I might need to add some more cross pieces to the ramp so that the chickens aren't sliding down the ramp.



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