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Little Big Barn Chicken Coop Design

A Low Design to Create Easy Access

 
Little Big Barn - Chicken Coop

This coop measures 7' x 4' (2100 x 1200mm), or 28 square feet (2.6 square meters), which can comfortably house up to 14 chickens using a standard of 2 square feet (.2 square meters) per bird. The interior is open so the movable roosts and nest boxes can be configured in whatever way seems easiest. Two sets of double doors provide access for cleaning and plenty of ventilation. A large clerestory window at the top of the coop allows for additional airflow. You can screw on a cover during cold weather. The base is low to the ground—the legs are 16" (405mm) high—so the coop is within reach of children who can learn about tending chickens.

If you build this coop off-site, you will need to transport it to its destination. Therefore, this coop is easy to take apart and reassemble.

 
 
Cut out the bottom panel

1. Cut out the bottom panel. Cut out a bottom panel (A) to serve as a base for the walls. You can use a circular saw to trim 1' (300mm) from the long end of the panel, making it 7' x 4' (2100 x 1200mm). Use 3/4" (17mm) plywood here because of its strength and rigidity. A benefit of this construction method is that it provides a nice flat table to work on.

 
Frame the long walls

2. Frame the long walls. Frame the walls with 2x3s (B, C) joined together with long screws. Capture the vertical members (C) between the top and bottom boards (B)—to ensure the force transferred from the roof (in terms of snow load, mainly) will not put undue pressure on the 2x3 on top and cause it to collapse. Use a pair of pipe clamps to keep the joints aligned while you work.

 
Cut the long wall panels

3. Cut the long wall panels. The framing approach here is not unlike traditional house framing in that it relies on panels securely fastened to the frame’s skeleton. The panels, known as shear walls, add stiffness to the framing and prevent racking. Use 1/4" (6mm) birch plywood for the long wall panels (D) and trim to length with a jigsaw.

 
Attach the long wall panels

4. Attach the long wall panels. The completed wall assembly is quite strong. Use construction adhesive and lots of screws to hold the panels (D) and frames together.

 
Install the long walls

5. Install the long walls. Once you finish the first wall assembly, screw it into place from below. Run a screw every 1' (300mm).

 
Review your work

6. Review your work. The long walls are built identically. Once they’re installed, you can get a feel for the overall proportions of the coop.

 
Cut out the end panels

7. Cut out the end panels. This coop exhibits a traditional look, reminiscent of an old barn. Draw out a shape for the gable end panels (E) on 1/4" (6mm) plywood and tweak the angles and dimensions until they seem right. Don’t worry too much about exact measurements—you just want it to look nice. This is hardly a scientific approach, but it works. After you cut out the first panel with a jigsaw, use it as a template for the second one.

 
Install end wall supports

8. Install end wall supports. To attach the gable end panels (E), place a length of 2x3 (F) on the floor of the coop in the gap between the side walls. Screw it to the floor and side panel. This provides a place to which you’ll screw the end panel.

 
Attach the end panels

9. Attach the end panels. Screw the sides of the end panels (E) into the vertical 2x3s (C) of the adjacent walls.

 
Check the big picture

10. Check the big picture. You may notice that the structure at this point, although nice enough in appearance, lacks practical amenities such as doors. This will be covered soon enough! It is much faster and easier to start building components that are identical, like pairs of walls.

 
Install rafters

11. Install rafters. To securely attach the 3/4" (17mm) plywood panels (I) for the upper roof, add a series of struts (G) that run with the long sides by screwing them into the end panels (E). This is the simplest way to build a strong roof while keeping the project lightweight.

 
Identify the door locations

12. Identify the door locations. After the coop is framed up, visualize the best locations and sizes for door openings. You might decide the sizes of the openings according the materials you have available, such as old kitchen-cabinet doors. Use a framing square to lay out rectangular openings.

 
Cut out the doorways

13. Cut out the doorways. Use a jigsaw to cut out the doorway. This is also a good time to screw the lower roof panels (J) to the struts.

 
Install roof cleats

14. Install roof cleats. Install cleats (H) at the top of the gable (E) to hold the upper set of roof panels (I). You will need to cut the 2x4s to fit the angle.

 
Complete installation of clerestory panels

15. Complete installation of clerestory panels. Make the side panels of the clerestory (K) with 3/4" (17mm) plywood for strength and rigidity. Attach them to the gable wall panels (E) with screws. Screw down the upper roof panels (I).

 
Cut a window into one clerestory panel

16. Cut a window into one clerestory panel. Cut a large opening on one of the clerestory panels (K) to provide light and ventilation inside the coop. To keep predators out and chickens in, staple a layer of poultry netting across the backside of the panel. In the winter, the opening can be easily covered by a removable door.

 
Install the last clerestory panel

17. Install the last clerestory panel. You may be used to working alone, but this step goes much faster if you have help to hold the panel (K) in place.

 
Decide on finishing details

18. Decide on finishing details. Once the basic structure is complete, you can paint and add roofing materials, trim, doors, and other details to suit your own liking.

 
Reinforce the doorways

19. Reinforce the doorways. Reinforce edges at the door openings, both as a way to strengthen the walls and to provide a beefy place to sink screws for door hinges. Use 2x3s for the edges (L).

On the long side of the coop, you might decide to leave the lower 2x3 in front of the door opening. It adds some beefiness to that part of the structure. You can cut it out if you wish, but the chickens should have no problem walking over it.

 
Align the door hinges

20. Align the door hinges. Because these hinges will be visible from the outside of the coop, make sure that they’re all aligned consistently. The distance (2 1/2" [65mm] from the door edge in this case) is arbitrary.

 
Paint the doors

21. Paint the doors. You can paint the trim elements (including the doors) white while painting the rest of the coop in a classic barn red. It is easier to paint the trim before attaching it to the coop. This eliminates the need to mask off sections with tape, and it always makes for a neater result and a quicker process.

 
Attach the doors and paint the coop

22. Attach the doors and paint the coop. These doors (M, V) came with hinges pre-attached. This style of hinge is easy to use because you screw it to the coop with the doors closed. This makes it a snap to position the doors correctly and then add the screws without any guesswork. Now paint the coop.

 
Install felt roofing paper

23. Install felt roofing paper. This coop uses a traditional asphalt shingle roof (N). The first step is to put down a layer of felt paper. Wrap the edges of the roofing panels (I, J) to keep water from penetrating into the porous ends of the plywood.

 
Finish applying the tar paper

24. Finish applying the tar paper. Here’s a glimpse of the upper roof, prepped for shingles.

 
Begin nailing on shingles

25. Begin nailing on shingles. The shingles (N) go on quickly—just be sure to use roofing nails. Their wide heads help keep the shingles fastened down without tearing through.

 
Trim the shingles at the roof edges

26. Trim the shingles at the roof edges. When laying down the shingles (N), offset each horizontal row from the row below it. This means you’ll need to cut off the ends occasionally. Here’s an easy way to do it: just bend the shingle over the edge of the roof panel, and then bend it back and forth a few times.

 
Trim the top row of shingles

27. Trim the top row of shingles. Use a straightedge and a utility knife to make long cuts in shingles—whether for starter courses or at the top of the lower roof panels. You want to cut the shingle tabs off so it looks nice.

 
Continue applying shingles

28. Continue applying shingles. Here’s a shot of the lower roof section, almost finished.

 
Find the angle for the trim

29. Find the angle for the trim. The intersection of the lower roof panel (J) and the clerestory wall (K) is a potential trouble spot for leaks. You can make a piece of wooden trim (O) to cover this area. This makes for a nicer look and helps with the waterproofing. To fit properly, cut the bottom edge of the trim strip at an angle. Determine the angle with a simple angle finder.

 
Cut the angle on the trim

30. Cut the angle on the trim. By angling the blade on your table saw, it is easy to create a piece of trim (O) that fits perfectly. Also cut the same angle on the top of the trim strip, so that it sheds water better (not shown).

 
Install the trim

31. Install the trim. After you paint it, the trim strip (O) creates a nice clean transition between the roof panel and the wall above it. Nail it in place. Then install the doors (M, V).

 
Add some decoration

32. Add some decoration. The space below the gable seems like the logical spot for some ornamentation. A large white star did the trick on this coop.

 
Build the base

33. Build the base. When you arrive on-site, you can build a simple but sturdy base to hold the coop up off the ground. Screw together some sturdy 4x4 legs (P) and some 3/4" (17mm) plywood stretchers (Q, R). This coop is quite roomy on the interior, so nest boxes (S, T) and roosts (U) of nearly any style can fit inside.