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    Sunny Side Up Chicken Coop

    A Classic Design with an Easily Accessible Nest Box

    There are a number of practical qualities to this design that poultry owners will appreciate. In terms of size alone, this design is versatile. The coop measures 4' x 6' (1200 x 1800mm), which provides 24 square feet (2.2 square meters) of floor space. Allowing 2 square feet (.2 square meters) per bird, a structure of this size could house up to 12 chickens. You can scale the concept to accommodate smaller or larger flocks too

    A separate area—often called a sidecar—that is easily accessible from the outside of the run holds the nest boxes. Some poultry owners like this aspect, while others don’t mind entering the run to collect eggs.

    Because this coop is on stilts, its large footprint provides a shady area for the birds on hot days. It also makes for good airflow; breezes below the coop keep the ground dry, which is important for disease prevention. For ventilation, the coop’s two large sets of double doors allow great interior circulation. The doors and the removable roosts make cleaning easier.

    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.

    Instructions

    1. Start with the bottom. Start building the coop with the bottom (A). Use a 4' x 8' (1200 x 2400mm) sheet of 5/8" (15mm) plywood, although any thickness between 1/2" (13mm) and 1/4" (6mm) would work. The bottom of the coop will be 4' x 6' (1200 x 1800mm), so you will need to trim down the plywood. Use a straightedge to draw a line for the cut.

    2. Cut out the bottom. A jigsaw is best, but a circular saw will work too. Keeping the plywood up on sawhorses makes the process a bit easier.

    3. Screw on the 2 x 4 frame. The stiffness of the floor comes mostly from the framing (B, C) along its edges. The 2 x 4s provide rigidity when they’re screwed to the plywood with 2" (51mm) screws at 12" (300mm) intervals. Attach the three shorter 2 x 4s (C) on the two short edges and the middle of the floor (A).

    4. Screw the 2 x 4 corners. To get a tight joint on the corners, use a long pipe clamp and screw the 2 x 4 corners together. Pre-drilling isn’t necessary.

    5. Make the solid side panel. You can make one solid side (D) from 1/2" (13mm) plywood with 2 x 2s screwed to the underside at the vertical edges. The 2 x 2s (F) act as corner posts to which you attach the adjacent side panels. Set up the 2 x 2s 4" (100mm) from the bottom of the plywood so that the side panels hang down and cover the 2 x 4 of the bottom assembly.

    6. Attach the solid side panel. Screw one side panel (D) to the bottom assembly with 1 1/2" (40mm) screws. You can reinforce this joint with construction adhesive if you prefer.

    7. Make the front panel. If you have reclaimed lumber, you can make the front of the coop (E) from a pair of 1/2" (13mm) plywood panels. Alternatively, you can cut out a large single piece of plywood.

    8. Prepare to cut in door openings. The front of the coop (E) requires a large set of doors (S) to provide good ventilation and easy access for cleaning. Lay out the opening with a framing square. 

    9. Cut front door openings. Use a jigsaw to cut out the openings.

    10. Reinforce the front panels. If you are using two panels for the front of the coop, it is important to reinforce the joint between them. On the interior, screw a piece of scrap with plenty of surface area for screws and glue. This piece is 20" (510mm) long, leaving 10" (255mm) on either side of the joint to work with.

    11. Construct the first back panel. The back of the coop (E) is assembled in a similar fashion. However, the size of the opening, where you’ll install the nest box, is different. As with the front, you can use a single large piece of plywood or multiple reclaimed panels. If you use panels, first set a vertical piece into place to build up the back.

    12. Construct the second back panel. Construct the other vertical panel for the back (E) just like the solid side panel (D), using a 2 x 2 corner post (F).

    13. Construct the last back panel. With both vertical panels in place, measure for the middle horizontal panel and cut it out with a table saw.

    14. Reinforce the back panel. Reinforce the middle panel on the inside just like the joint on the front panel.

    15. Construct the side door panel. Put the other side of the coop (D) together just like the back panel. Again, you can use a large plywood panel for this, or use up odds and ends that otherwise might end up in a landfill. This side is perfect for scraps because it also has a large set of doors (S) to aid with cleanup.

    16. Construct the nest box. The external nest box is essentially a four-sided box constructed with butt joints. The sides (H) are cut so they taper toward the outside of the box, and the whole subassembly is open on the back side so the chickens have easy access to the nest boxes from the coop interior. Use 3/4" (17mm)-thick plywood scraps for the nest box sides (H) and bottom (G).

    17. Attach the nest box. You can use scrap sheet metal to fabricate the simple L-shaped brackets that attach the nest box to the coop. Use tin snips, a metal-cutting jigsaw blade, or an angle grinder to cut the metal to the right size. Alternatively, just use prefabricated brackets.

    18. Notch the bottom. The floor of the coop supports the nest box. Cut out the edges of the bottom of the nest box so that the floor can be set into the opening in the side panel. This makes for a strong connection between the nest box and the main structure.

    19. Install nest box dividers. Because this nest box measures nearly 4' (1200mm) long, you can divide it into four separate compartments (12" [300mm] wide is considered sufficient for most layers). Another option is to divide it into two main parts with a long divider (K) and then partially divide the halves with shorter dividers (L).

    20. Attach trim to the front. Make and attach trim to the most visible sides of the coop. In this case, the horizontal trim piece (M) above the side door opening also reinforces the joints between the plywood sub-panels. You can also see the ladder here.

    21. Cut out the first gable. The roof of this coop has identical gables (N) on the front and back. Cut out gable profiles from 3/4" (19mm) oriented strand board (OSB). You can decide on the exact angle (pitch) of the roof by eyeballing it rather than doing any math. Or you can use an angle finder.

    22. Notch the bottom edge of the gable. Notch the bottom edge of the gable panel (N) with a jigsaw so that it fits over the multiple pieces making up the front panel (E).

    23. Cut out the second gable. You can use the first gable panel as a template for the second one. Be careful, however, because the notches on the bottom may not be the same. Make sure to trace the cutouts so that the gable fits correctly.

    24. Screw on the gables. The notches don’t have to fit snugly. A bit of wiggle room is okay. After the gable panels (N) are in place, screw them into the front and back panels (E).

    25. Begin building the truss. The gable panels support the roof on its ends, but the coop needs additional structure in the middle. Build a truss (O) from 2 x 2s. Start out by clamping the 2 x 2s to a gable’s edge. This makes it easy to verify that you have a good match.

    26. Add a plywood cross-tie to the truss. To strengthen the truss, make a rigid crosstie (P) made from 1/4" (6mm) plywood. Set the plywood into place and trace the profile of the truss (O) onto it. Cut along the lines to make the crosstie fit perfectly without having to measure. Screw the crosstie in place.

    27. Notch the truss 2 x 2s. The truss has to be notched at the bottom so that it can slip onto the top edge of the walls. This is easy to do—just hold the truss in place above the coop and mark the place where the walls intersect it.

    28. Hinge the roof panels. The roof (Q) is made of 3/8" (8mm) plywood. To make it easy to handle on site, join the two halves with a pair of inexpensive hinges.

    29. Dry-fit the roof. The hinges aren’t necessary, but they make lining up the roof as a unit quick and easy. Here, you can see the overhang at the front and back of the coop, which you need to reinforce for both structural and aesthetic reasons.

    30. Add the gable trim. Use a pair of 2 x 2s to build out the edge of the roof. This gable trim (R) stiffens up the roof (Q) and makes it look more substantial.

    31. Paint the coop. Paint brightens up reclaimed lumber, which might look grim beforehand.

    32. Add the nest box lid. Cover the nest boxes with a simple flap (J) made from 3/4" (17mm) plywood. You can raise and lower the lid easily to collect eggs and clean out the nests. Attach it with a pair of standard hinges.

    33. Attach the front doors. You can make the front doors (S) from scrap MDF, which will hold up fine outdoors if it is well finished. If the pieces aren’t big enough to span the whole opening, the next step provides a solution.

    34. Bridge the door gap. Bridge the gap with a piece of 1/2" (13mm) plywood screwed to one of the doors. It overlaps onto the other door and creates a nice, tight seal. Add a brass hook catch to keep the doors shut.

    35. Decorate the door. Rather than apologize for this solution, you can use it as an opportunity for some adornment. A hand-printed chicken emblem seems right at home here.

    36. Trace gable cover panels. The OSB used for the gable panels is structurally sufficient, but it doesn’t look attractive, so you might want to dress up the front. To cover it up with a properly fitting panel (T), trace the profile onto a 1/4" (6mm) plywood blank. In a few more steps, you can transform this panel into a sunrise overlay.

    37. Cut out the gable cover panel. Use a jigsaw to cut out the panel (T), but a circular saw will work fine too.

    38. Lay out the sunrise motif. Begin by laying out an arc—the sun—at the bottom of the gable cover panels (T). It sometimes fits best to set the center of the circle below the edge of the panel so that the sun is not a half-circle, but rather an arc that is shorter than it is wide.

    39. Lay out the rays. Lay out the rays of the sun in whatever arrangement looks best. Start with the center ray, and then space them out so they look right. Using pencil at first makes it is easy to change your mind and redo the spacing.

    40. Attach the sunrise overlay. Cut away the waste material between the rays of the sun. Glue and screw the overlay (T) to the OSB gable panel (N). Contrasting paint brightens up the gable.

    41. Disassemble the coop. If you’re transporting the coop somewhere, disassemble it and pack the parts into your van or truck. Reassembly takes less than an hour.

    42. Attach the legs. To attach the legs, turn the bottom assembly upside down. You can then run beefy screws through the legs (U) into the frame. Then, flip this subassembly right side up and attach the wall panels (D, E).

    43. Attach the ladder. The chicken ladder is a good addition to any coop. Younger birds use it quite often. Attach the ladder to the coop by screwing on a small hinge from below.

    44. Put on the roof. Hinging together the roof (as step 28 advises) helps to streamline the on-site set up. Insert screws through the roof (Q) into the gables (N) and truss (O).

    45. Add the roof top cap. To keep the birds dry, cover the roof with a layer of tarpaper and galvanized roofing. The top cap is an essential part of the system.

    Staple the tarpaper and use exterior-grade screws for the tin.