If you ever thought about raising chickens or even building your own chicken coup for that matter, maybe it is time you actually did something about it. When you compare the price difference of building your own hen houses versus buying, you will be amazed at the amount of money you can save constructing them yourself. And it will not take as long or be as hard as you may have ever imagined. It is possible to get it done in a weekend or two.
Before cutting your first 2-by-4 or nailing two boards together, it is a good idea to come up with a plan. Chickens need a clean dry nesting area along with some room to roam. They will forage for a portion of their own food if you will let them, and this will keep your chickens happy and your feed expenses down. When you are making design decisions, you should be thinking about ways to accommodate the needs of your flock. In this case, you want the chicken coup to have an indoor area where their nests can remain clean and dry. You also want an outdoor area where they can free range for a portion of the food.
Both of these areas will be attached to form a single chicken coup. There will be a “house” section and a backyard area. Each section will be framed with 2x2s or 2x4s. The inside area will be constructed as an “A” frame building and the backyard will have 2x2s or 2x4s forming a large box without walls or a ceiling. The only other decision that needs to be made at this point is in regard to its location. The areas where the hen houses are placed must drain well. If the drainage is poor, it could end up being a health problem for the birds.
The main materials needed are lumbar, mostly 2-by-4s, chicken wire, nails and staples. The 2-by-4s will make the frame where the siding or plywood can be nailed. They will also be used to frame the outside area where the chicken wire will be attached with staples. It is important to buy chicken wire that has no larger than 2-inch spaces. If the openings are too large, predators and wild birds can squeeze through and come in contact with the chickens, either harming them or spreading disease. You also want to treat the wood and wire so that they will not rot or rust over time. Rotting wood can also attract insect infestations.
The outside part of these poultry houses will have an earthen floor. In other words, you will not make a floor from the wood or the wire. This will allow the birds to free range in that area. You will also need to make a hinged opening that will allow you to get completely inside of the poultry housing. This way you will be able to collect the eggs easily, remove any chickens when necessary, and clean out the droppings.
Another thing you may want to consider is whether you want to make your hen houses stationary, in other words in a permanent location, or if you want the added benefit of making them portable. You can make your poultry housing using the same basic steps whether they are permanent or movable, you just cannot make a portable chicken coup so heavy that you cannot move it when necessary.
Portable hen houses have a distinct advantage over stationary structures. Chickens can pretty much destroy a small area of ground from scratching and pecking for food. Having a permanent chicken hutch means that once they have ruined their outdoor area, it will stay ruined. With a portable hutch, on the other hand, once your flock has eaten most of the grasses in one area, you can simply move it to another area that has lots of fresh succulent plants. This gives the original area time to recuperate. By the time you move your portable chicken coup back to the original area it can be like new again.
Larry Sigurdsson has raised many breeds of chicken for both meat and eggs. He also maintains a fun and educational web site at hen-houses.org where you can receive free information about building hen houses.