Building a Chicken Coop—Carolina Coops Style


Chicken Coop

The Carolina Coops style of chicken coops are high-quality and well-designed and in today’s article I’m going to show you how to build one similar. Having a well-designed chicken coop is essential not only for the health of the chickens, but a good coop will last longer and be easier for you to clean, maintain, and of course, harvest eggs from.

In this article I’m going to show you my process for building a Carolina Coops style chicken coop. I’ll go step by step and give you the exact measurements I used to build my coop. By the end of the article I hope you’ll be a lot more prepared to tackle a project like this.

Carolina Coops

Carolina Coops is a company that makes custom built chicken coops that range in price from $2,400 to $16,500. The coops are beautifully built and have a lot of great features. However, being the handy man I like to think I am, I’m going to build out my own chicken coop in the style of Carolina Coops. It’s going to take me several weeks to build the coop and I’ll record my progress so you can follow my steps!

Benefits of Choosing This Style of Coop:

  • Large, covered runs mean lots of room for the girls and 6 foot tall walls give humans comfortable access inside.
  • Predator proof—both the materials as well as the design help to deter predators. I didn’t need to add a predator proof skirt around the coop and run because I really don’t get any wild animals here in town. But that is something you would want to do if you live in a more rural setting.
  • Deep litter beds with drop down gate makes it so you don’t have to clean the coop for a year or possibly longer.
    • The deep litter method actually composts the litter shavings with the poop, and good bacteria develop that ward off lice and mites.
    • It doesn’t smell when done properly.
  • Plenty of headroom and ventilation in the hen house which is essential for healthy chickens.
  • Egg hutch is easily accessible with removable dividers and drop-down doors.

I watched the videos from Lazy Lab Acres, which helped me plan out my coop. This video https://youtu.be/whf6kiR_OY8 shows the basic plan I used on my own.

Materials Needed To Build a Chicken Coop

I will go into specifics for each part of the coop I built, but in general the things you need include:

  • 2×4’s
  • 4×6’s
  • 1×2’s
  • Plywood (1/4’’)
  • Measuring tape
  • Level
  • Speed square
  • Decking screws (1 5/8’’ and 3’’)
  • Standard galvanized 1’’ roofing nails
  • 2 1/2” Pocket screws
  • Pocket jeg
  • Mending plates
  • Miter saw
  • Circular saw
  • Reciprocating saw
  • Jigsaw
  • Router
  • Hardware cloth
  • Staples
  • Hinges (usually two per door)
  • Standard gate latches (one per door)
  • Paint (I did mine in two colors with a high quality semi-gloss with the primer included)
  • Corrugated plastic roofing
  • Wood chips

For the purposes of listing the materials for each component of the coop, I won’t re-include general items like paint and a measuring tape in each list.

I also excluded the step “paint the wood” for my how-to guide, but don’t forget to do this before you start assembling if you end up building your own coop.

Building the Foundation for the Chicken Coop

Check out my video “Building a Carolina Coop Part 1” to see me do these first few steps.

The coop that I plan to build will be 18 feet long and 8 feet wide. I’ll use 4×6’s to frame out the foundation for the coop, and attached the 4×6’s together with a combination of mending plates, decking screws and pocket screws.

Materials Needed:

  • 6 10 ft long 4×6’s (standard grade)
  • 4 mending plates
  • Twelve 7’’ metal spikes
  • 3’’ Decking screws
  • Miter saw
  • Shovel or hoe (to create a level surface)
  • Wood chips (I used ~30 wheelbarrows full)

Step 1: Make the needed cuts.

  • 2 of the 4×6’s will remain at 10 feet long
  • 2 of the 4×6’s will be cut to 8 feet long
  • 2 of the 4×6’s will be cut to 88 13/16’’ long

I wanted the shorter side of the run to be 8 feet long, so I cut the two end boards down to 88 13/16’’. The reason it ended up being 88 13/16’’ and not an even 8 feet is that I wanted the total width to be 8 feet, and with two 4×6’s on either side this trimmed down how long the width piece needed to be.

I recommend waiting to cut your width pieces until you have your two length frame pieces in place. The best way to measure how long the width should be is to lay the 4×6 down between the two length pieces and measure from there.

Note: I normally purchase the highest grade of wood available because more of the boards are usually perfectly straight, but the hardware store only had standard grade. I ended up with Douglas Fir for the framing, while the smaller pieces were pine. In the end I got lucky and the standard grade worked just fine.

Step 2: Join the 4×6’s together.

Ideally you’ll want to use a half lap joint to join the two boards as this is a very secure way to put a frame together. Here is a video that explains how to cut a half lap joint. https://youtu.be/MtAnTaHVYSo

I did not have the right type of saw to make a half lap joint so I used a flexible metal plate with holes in it, aka a mending plate, and 3’’ decking screws to secure my joins. Be sure to use decking screws or some kind of screw that won’t rust, as they will last longer. I attached one mending plate on each side of the join, for a total of 4 mending plates.

To ensure I connected my 8’ and 10’ long boards together straightly, I laid them on top of another one of the 10’ long boards and used that as a kind of guide.

Step 3: Ensure the foundation is level.

For this step I used a level and had to dig out a little bit of dirt to get it to lay flat.

Step 4: Ensure the foundation is square.

To nail the 4×6’s together I used a 7’’ spike to nail the 4×6’s together at the corners. I used 3 spikes on each corner.

To ensure the foundation frame is square I measured the rectangle from one corner to the corner diagonal from it. When the measurements on both diagonals were equal I knew the frame was squared up.

Step 5: Fill the foundation with wood chips.

I happened to fill my foundation with wood chips from my own backyard, and my chipper happened to turn the wood into kind of a stringier and “stickier” (meaning it had lots of sticks in it) type of mulch which wasn’t what I really wanted, but hey! I’m going to go with it and I think it will still turn out fine.

For the size of coop I’m building it ended up taking approximately 30 wheelbarrows full of mulch to fill up the foundation.

Building the Walls of the Chicken Coop

Each of the walls of the coop is different. I’ll number the walls 1-4 starting with the wall that faces into the chicken run. This will be Wall 1 and then going clockwise Wall 2 will be the left side wall (side with the nest box), Wall 3 is the back wall of the coop, and Wall 4 is the right side wall.

Check out my second video in my series on building this chicken coop for the best visual guide on building the walls and the nest box of the coop.

Materials Needed:

For the Frames:

  • 14 8 foot long 2×4’s that will be cut to the following lengths:
    • 2 at 96’’
    • 1 at 93’’
    • 3 at 89’’
    • 6 at 65’’
    • 4 at 46.5’’
    • 3 at 39.75’’
    • 1 at 39.5’’ (The boards must have been a little warped. In theory it should have been 4 boards at 39.75’’)
    • 2 at 20.5’’
  • 2 1/2’’ Pocket screws with a protective coating
  • Pocket hole jeg (I used a Milescraft Pocket Jeg 200)
  • 3’’ Decking screws
  • 1 5/8’’ Decking screws
  • Electric screwdriver
  • Miter saw
  • Clamps (to help hold the frames in place as you screw them together)

For the Plywood Walls

  • Two 96’’x65’’ pieces of plywood (1/4’’ thick)
  • Two 46.5’’x 65’’ pieces of plywood for the sides (1/4’’ thick)
  • Circular Saw

Note: I’ll be describing how I built out the frames of each wall, and several of the walls have several horizontal cross boards each. Unless I specify otherwise, all the distances between crossboards are between the top of the lower board to the bottom of the board above it.

Wall 1

Its top board was 93 inches long. It had no bottom board because this wall faces the chicken run, and you want the chickens to be able to access the space underneath the raised hen house.  It did have two horizontal cross boards, and these serve as the framing for the raised hen house. The distance between the foundation board and the lower cross board was 24 inches. The higher cross board was 12 inches above the lower cross board.

Wall 2 (Nest Box Wall)

This frame is 46.5’’x65’’. This wall has three horizontal cross boards between the top and bottom pieces (this is the “foundation” for where the nest box will jut out) and these were 39.75’’ long.

The bottom of the lower cross bar was exactly 24’’ from the top of the foundation board. The middle cross board was 29 inches above the lowest cross board. Finally, from the top of the middle cross board to the top of the highest cross board was 18 inches.

Wall 3 (Back Wall)

This frame is 96’’x65’’. The bar that goes across horizontally at the level of the coop floor was 89 inches long. The two vertical support boards that went between that board and the bottom board were 20.5 inches tall.

Wall 4 (Right side wall)

This wall was pretty simple. 46.5’’x 65’’ frame with one 39.5 cross board. The bottom of this cross board should be 24’’ from the top of the foundation. This cross board length is slightly different from the cross board lengths on Wall 2, I think because of some warping in the wood.

Floor

91 ½’’ x 41 ½’’ with a plywood base that is the same dimensions. To support the plywood floor I put five 41 ½’’ 2×4 cross beams spaced evenly across the length of the floor.

Step 1: Cut the 2×4’s to the required lengths but wait to cut the cross boards.

The reason you should wait to cut the cross boards is sometimes your measurements can be a little off and you may end up cutting your cross boards a little too short. I did this and ended up having to cut new cross boards that were about ¼’’ longer than the originals.

Step 2: Cut pocket holes on all the boards that butt up against another board.

I hadn’t really used pocket hole joinery before but I like the way these turned out. You can read more about why pocket holes are so great here , but basically, they’re just a very secure way to join lumber together.

To make pocket holes you do need a special tool called a pocket jig. I used a Milescraft Pocket Jig 200 but I used Kreg pocket screws.

Step 3: Paint them whatever color you like.

Paining the wood helps seal it against environmental agents and it’s a good idea to paint the entire wall frame, not just the side facing out. I used a high quality Sherwin Williams semi-gloss with the primer mixed in and I chose different colors for the plywood walls vs. the frame.

I painted both the frames and the plywood before I had them assembled so I didn’t have to crouch down or use a ladder.

Step 4: Install the plywood walls.

Like the cross boards, it’s a good idea to wait until you have your frames built out before you make cuts on your plywood for the walls.

Once I had my wall pieces cut to match my frame sizes exactly I used 1 5/8’’ decking screws to attach the plywood to the 4×6’s.

Since I was mostly doing this project alone, I used clamps to hole the plywood walls on while I attached them.

Step 5: Secure the frames together.

Again using clamps to help keep things in place I used 3’’ decking screws to attach the frames together, being careful to keep everything squared up and level.

Step 6: Cut a hole for the nest box.

Do this with a reciprocating saw in between the top and middle cross bars on Wall 2. You’ll also do this to make windows and a door later.

Installing Hardware Cloth

This mesh is going along the walls of the coop, underneath the hen house so that the chickens can forage in the space underneath the elevated hen house.

Materials Needed:

Step 1: Attach hardware cloth.

Simply staple the hardware cloth to the frame posts. Since the cloth comes rolled up, normally I find it easier to work with if I lay it flat for a few hours first. But this black PVC coated hardware cloth did not have that problem at all. I highly recommend an automatic staple gun, but a manual one works fine too. It is just a bit more work.

Building the Nest Box

The nest box will jut out of the main hen house, with a hinged door on the front side for easy egg collection. The nest box is 43’’(length) x 8 ½’’(width) x 14-18’’ (height). Note that because it has an angled roof, the back height dimension is 18’ while the front height dimension is 14’’. The angle on the roof of the nest box is 15o.

You can choose to put dividers up in the nesting box or not. One of the benefits of dividers is that you don’t have to scare all the chickens at once when you go to collect the eggs.

Materials Needed:

  • 3-4 8’ 2×4’s (scraps from previous projects may work just fine)
  • ¼’’ thick plywood (in the same dimensions as your frames)
  • 3’’ Decking screws
  • Corregated plastic for the roof
  • 1’’ galvanized roofing screws
  • Two door hinges
  • One standard gate latch (I used an oil-rubbed bronze one)
  • 1×2 furring strips (aka a door stop material)
  • Plywood and 1×2 scrap wood to make dividers

Step 1: Nest Box Side Walls

The height of the hen house in the front is 14’’ tall and the height in the back is 18’’. The width on the side walls is 8 ½’’ long, although you’ll see in the video the width piece on the top of mine ended up being 8 ¾’’ due to either human error or warped wood.

Step 2: Nest Box Front Wall

7 1/8’’ side pieces with a 40’’ wide top and bottom frame piece. This will make the total side length of the front wall 14’’ tall and with the two side walls attached the total length of the box will be 43’’.

Step 3: Nest Box Back Wall

To complete the “foundation” of the nest box simply attach another 40’’ long 2×4 between the two side frames. You won’t need to build a back wall per se for the nest box.

Step 4: Nest Box Front Door

7’’x 32 7/8.” The short pieces I cut from a 2×4 and the long pieces I made from a 2×4 that I cut down the middle lengthwise.

Finally, once the box was built I attached corrugated plastic roofing to the top. I’m glad I did this because moisture can get into the nest box without it. I originally cut the roofing to fit the lid of the nest box perfectly, but I found I was still getting a little leakage in there, so I re-cut a roofing panel that overhangs the nest box by about 6 inches.

Additionally I put door stop rubber (called furring) around the edge of the box where the door meets the frame to help weatherproof it even more.

Building the Front and Side Doors and Windows On the Chicken Coop

Good ventilation is essential for chicken health, so I made four windows that will be covered with hardware cloth in addition to the door that the chickens will come in and out from.

Materials Needed:

  • Jigsaw and reciprocating saw
  • Hardware cloth (to cover the windows)
  • 1×2’’ wood pieces (for window and door exterior borders. The amount you need will depend on how big your doors and windows are)
  • 3/4” staples
  • Pencil
  • 1 5/8’’ decking screws

Step 1: Outline the windows and doors with pencil.

Using a rule and a pencil I penciled out the outline of the windows and the door.

Step 2: Use a reciprocating saw to cut through the plywood.

You can also use a jigsaw depending on the situation. You will see me using both in my build videos.

Step 3: Attach hardware cloth.

I attached the same hardware cloth I used on the bottom of the hen house to the backside of the windows using staples.

Step 4: Frame the windows and door.

For the outside of the window, mostly to make it look a little cleaner, I framed the outside of the windows and door with painted 1×2’s around the border of each.

Building Slide Covers For the Windows

We have very harsh winters where I live so I need a window cover I can slide closed in the winter time. The slide covers will go on the inside of the hen house but they shouldn’t be hard to reach because the back door has easy access and I can also reach them through the main door.

Check out the fourth video in my series to see how I did the window slides.

Note: The third video in this series is linked lower in the article!

Materials Needed:

  • 1×2’s (twice the width of each of the windows)
  • Router
  • ¼’’ plywood (enough to cover each window)
  • 1 5/8’’ decking screws

Step 1: Make the Slide Holders.

I cut 1×2’s twice the width of each of the windows and then took a router and cut a notch along the long edge of each piece. The 1×2’s will sit above and below each of the windows, with the routed edge facing in.

The lengths of my 1×2’s ended up being 32’’ and 22’’ inches and I needed 4 of each because I have 4 windows that are two different sizes.

Step 2: Cut the Plywood Slides.

Simply cut plywood slides to fit the dimentions of the slide holders.

Building the Back Doors on the Hen House

The back doors to the hen house will have large screen doors with a smaller winter door nested inside that door that is covered with plywood. The inner door will act like shutters that can be open in the summer and closed in the winter, while the outer, larger door will have hardware cloth on it and will allow for ventilation during the summer.

Materials Needed:

  • Nine 2×4’s
  • Router
  • Hardware cloth
  • 1 5/8’’ decking screws
  • Two 38’’x15’’ pieces of plywood (these will get cut down just a bit)
  • Two door hinges
  • Two standard gate latches

Step 1: Make the Outer Frame.

The larger door frame is 44 3/8’’x 21 7/8’’ and has hardware cloth attached to it.

Step 2: Make the Inner Frame.

The smaller door frame that fits exactly inside the big door is 37 3/16’’x 14 ¾’’. I painted the doors before I installed them and used a router to cut out a ledge on the inside of the inner door so that the plywood will drop right in.

Mounting the Roost Bars

The roost bars will go inside the hen house and will provide a perch for the chickens to sleep on. The roost bars need to be at least one foot apart and have at least a foot between the bars and either wall. The height doesn’t matter so much as long as its above the nest box.

Keep in mind the style of coop I’m building has a deep litter box, and when I first put my chickens in their new home they seemed to be having trouble getting onto the roost bars so I put them on top of the bars by hand. Once they were up there they stayed up there all night, but I might have considered placing the roost bars a little lower if I were to do it again.

Materials Needed:

  • Two 1×3’s, approximately 93’’ long
  • 1 5/8’’ decking screws
  • Scrap wood (to make brackets to hold the bars)

Step 1: Make Brackets to Hold the Bars.

I made brackets from scraps of wood to hold the roost bars by simply nailing some scrap 1×2 pieces into an open topped square shape.

Step 2: Place the Roost Bars.

I mounted two roost bars next to each other about a foot apart with a foot from either wall.  I mounted the roost bars so that they’re essentially just under the windows on Walls 2 and 4 (the side walls).

Making a Deep Litter Door

The deep litter door will go along the back side of the hen house. It’s the door that will swing open so I can rake out all the soiled litter when it’s time to clean the coop.

Materials Needed:

  • Two 81 7/8’’ long pieces of 2×4
  • Two 12’’ long pieces of 2×4
  • 83’’x6’’ plywood
  • 1 5/8’’ decking screws
  • Two door hinges

Step 1: Assemble the frame.

Assemble the 81 7/8” x 12” frame with decking screws.

Step 2: Attach plywood and hinges.

Nail in the plywood, paint the door, and screw in the hinges.

To Frame the Chicken Run

The chicken run is the little yard that the chickens get to run around in! I really like this style of run because it’s covered.

My third video will cover how I framed out the chicken run and put the roof on.

Materials Needed:

  • 21 8’ 2×4’s
    • 16 of the above 2×4’s will be cut to 65’’
    • 4 of the above 2×4’s will be cut to 65 15/16’s
    • 1 of the above 2×4’s will remain at 8’
  • Clamps
  • Level
  • Pocket screws
  • PVC coated hardware cloth, 36’’ wide
  • Staples

Step 1: Attach posts to the foundation.

To frame the chicken run I spaced each of the posts about 36’’ apart since this was how wide my hardware cloth was. The end-most section ended up being about 24’’ between posts just because the total length of my run didn’t divide equally by 3.

For the wide end of the run I just divided the 8’ by 3 and chose one of the sections to be the door. I secured all the posts to the frame with pocket screws.

Step 2: Attach the hardware cloth.

Once the framing was completed you can staple in your hardware cloth however I did this as a very last step when everything else was completed.

Building the Roof of the Chicken Coop

Note: This was my first time building out a pitched roof and I learned a lot by watching professional carpenters on Youtube. See the links below for additional guidance on how to do this right.

Materials Needed:

  • 18 8’ 2×6’s
  • Corrugated plastic for the roof
  • Standard 1’’ galvanized corrugated roofing screws
  • Scrap plywood for the truss attachments
  • Speed square

First, the boards that form the pitched angle of the roof are called trusses.

Go slow and only cut two 2×4’s for trusses at a time to start. Once I determined the first two were going to work out well I used them as a pattern for the rest.

This video on rafter basics was very helpful as I prepared to do this project.

Step 1: Calculating the Pitch of a Roof.

  • I used a 5/12 pitch. On a 5/12 pitch for every 12 inches of horizontal distance the pitch should rise 5 inches.
  • To make a roof you need two trusses joined at the top, and to start you calculate the length of each truss by dividing your structure in half.
  • For me, since the width of my coop is 8 feet, the truss needs to cover 48 inches (4 feet) aka, half the distance as my width.
  • If my width is 48 inches (4 feet), then 4 feet times 5 inches (remember that’s how much rise you get for every 12 inches of horizontal distance covered) is 20 inches.
  • Now, 20 inches is how high the pitch will be, but I still need to figure out how long to make each truss.

Step 2: How to Calculate the Length of the Trusses:

This video was worth a watch as I prepared to measure and cut rafters.

  • You will need to use a little high school geometry to figure out how long each truss is. To do this use the Pythagorean theory, which says that if you know two lengths of a triangle you can calculate the third side as well. You can use an online calculator for this. Since I know that one of my sides is 48 inches, and the other side (the height) is 20 inches, Pythagorean theorem says that the length of my board should be 52 inches.
  • Remember that if you want your truss to overhand the edge of the roof at all, plan to make the truss a little longer. In my case I cut my trusses to 58 inches.

Step 3: How Far Apart Should the Trusses Sit?

Check out this video on spacing roof rafters.

  • The trusses on my roof sat 2 feet apart.
  • To measure out the 2 foot spacing along the top frame I took a piece of wood that is half the thickness of the rafter material. I used 2×6’s so I used a little piece of 1×2’’ wood and screwed it to the top of my frame. With that extra ¾’’ on the edge of my frame, when I took my tape measure out and measured the length of the frame every 2 feet down the length of the frame marks the exact middle of where the truss should sit.

Step 4: How To Join the Trusses Together at the Top.

If you’ve watched my third video on how to build a chicken coop you’ll see there’s a wooden join at the top of my trusses that holds them together.

To make these I just cut small squares of plywood and angled the top the same 22.5 degree angles to match the 5/12 roof pitch. I didn’t use a template to make these, I just found a scrap piece that looked about the size I wanted. Then once I had the first one cut I used it as a pattern to draw out the rest of them on all the bigger scraps of plywood I had so that they would all be the same size.

All I did was screw these plywood pieces to the roof trusses and put one on either side of the truss joint.

Step 5: Making the Bird Mouth Cut on the Trusses.

The bird mouth cut on the trusses is the cut that allows the trusses to sit on top of the frame. For a 5/12 pitch you should have a 22.62 degree angle cut, but my miter saw didn’t have a setting for that, so I used 22.5 and it seemed to work fine.

That is also the angle that I cut both ends of the truss as well as the vertical (shorter) cut in the bird mouth. To mark where to cut for the long part of the bird mouth I used my speed square to measure that angle. That angle is supposed to be level with the ground or the top board of your structure so the trusses fit right on it.

The video I watched to help me figure out how to do this is here. https://youtu.be/40Em6uUqOwE

Step 6: Finishing Touches on the Roof.

Once the roof trusses were in place I installed the Suntuf corrugated plastic roofing with 1’’ galvanized corrugated roofing screws.

Next I finished sealing off the hen house at the top by affixing plywood to the space between the top of the hen house and the pitched roof. I also did this for the very front of the run (see 5:55 of my 4th video). I also attached a 2×4 divider that runs vertically from the pitch of the roof to the frame to help anchor the plywood.

Building the Ladder Into the Hen House

Materials Needed:

  • Two 8’ 2×4’s
  • 1×2 strips for the “steps”
  • Paint
  • 1 5/8’’ decking screws

The ladder that goes into the hen house was pretty simple to make. I just used two 2×4 boards cut to 7 feet long with each end cut to a 45o angle to it would sit correctly against the side of the coop. Then I nailed some 1×2’s horizontally spaced about 4’’ apart and painted the entire ladder.

Building a Door To the Chicken Run

Finally, the last thing I did was build myself a door to get into the run!

Materials Needed:

  • Three 8’ 2×4’s
  • Hardware cloth
  • Pocket screws
  • Standard gate latch
  • 3 door hinges
  • Paint
  • ~8’’ piece of string

Step 1: Make the frame.

The dimensions for my door are 57 ¾’’ x 28 3/8’’ and the cross board that bisected the door horizontally is  21 7/16’’. Like everything else I painted it before I installed it.

Step 2: Attach hardware cloth.

Step 3: Make yourself a handle.

I attached the hardware to the door and also drilled a small hole through the frame post and threaded a string through the hole to act as a handle for when I’m on the inside.

Conclusion

Building a chicken coop, especially one of this size, can be a big, complicated project, but I hope this step by step guide gives you some confidence that you can do it too!

David

Hi! I’m David. For most of my life I have been interested in emergency preparedness. Over the many years things have changed a great deal. From freeze dried food, to LED lanterns, preparing for an emergency has never been easier. The continual research I have done over the years have become the basis for this website. Now it is one of the most trusted sources to learn about emergency preparedness. Read More

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