Our Urban Chicken Coop Plan

Plans for this coop are now in infographic form. Click to see them.

Feed stores will be getting their chicks in the next couple of months, and if you’re pondering the addition of a backyard flock this year (we hope you are!), it’s time to start thinking about a coop.  There’s still lots of time–this year’s chicks won’t be ready to go outside by themselves until May or June–but it doesn’t hurt to start gathering plans, ideas, and materials. So today: A soup-to-nuts look at our year-old coop.


In our last house, we re-purposed a corner of the separate garage for a coop, but this time we started from scratch.  Having lost hens to both raccoons and feral ferrets (!), we incorporated lessons from harsh experience into our coop design.  Still, I was thinking “Chicken coop:  we’ll hammer four walls together, add a roof, cut a little door, fence it up good, and Voila!”  Then my dad called–my dad Jerry, the stone mason, from the “If You’re Gonna Build It, Build It Right” school.  He said, “I need a little project.  You wouldn’t mind if I helped work on your chicken coop, would you?”  I know he secretly feared what we’d build without him.  With Jerry’s expertise, we ended up with a coop that is as beautiful as it is functional.


For four hens, we chose to build a 6×3′ raised coop, with an enclosed area beneath, set inside a larger, fully-enclosed aviary.  As you can see, the coop is raised on cedar posts set in concrete footing, and framed they way you would build any small shed. It has a sloped roof with an overhang on all four sides. We used a hodgepodge of leftover, gifted, used, and new materials, and spent a few hundred dollars. The wood for the walls is half inch plywood, which happens to have a stamped pattern on it (it is not T-111, which isn’t sturdy enough for wet Seattle weather).  At the end of this post there’s a downloadable plan with all the dimensions of our coop.


Our coop design has two doors: a big “human door” in the front for easy access, egg gathering, ventilation, and cleaning, and a chicken door on the left side with a ramp.


We leave both of them open during  the day, and although the chickens can jump in and out of the human door, they usually prefer to use the chicken door.  So funny!  Of course all gates and doors latch tightly.


Coop_Staples_480Though the chickens have a larger run, underneath the coop we built a cage Tom calls “Chicken Guantanamo,” where they can be outdoors and still be fully protected if we need to leave them for an extended period. We completely enclosed the area beneath the coop with 1/2 inch metal hardware cloth, buried 10 inches into the ground. We also buried a “floor” of hardware cloth several inches under ground, and sewed it with wire to the buried fence to prevent burrowing by rats/raccoons. Chicken wire is not acceptable, as raccoons can reach right through it and grab a chicken. We made a discovery: the hardware store carries sturdy arched nails called “poultry net staples” for attaching the hardware cloth.


The cage below the coop is accessed from the outside through a small gate which, when open, allows the chickens into the covered Coop_Under_door_480area for shade, and protection from the rain.  But more importantly, we  designed it so that if we need to leave overnight, we open a trapdoor on the floor of the coop,  and give the chickens full access to the coop and the outdoor cage beneath it while keeping them safe.  Most days we don’t use the trap door at all–we just let them out in the yard during the day, and close them up in the coop at night.  But the trap door to “Guantanamo” works great when we need it, and we’ve been grateful for this setup many times.



The roof has a ten inch overhang, and even during this year’s wet, blustery Seattle winter, not a drop of water got in the coop.  My friend JoJo gave me a bundle of cedar shakes he’d picked up somewhere years ago–they have a tattered label, and are clear, old growth western red cedar, milled locally in 1964! I wouldn’t buy old growth cedar today (even if I could afford it), but was grateful to put these to use.  Jerry covered the roof with roofing cloth before nailing down the shakes.

To prevent future warping, Jerry insisted on cedar for all the gates and door frames.

Around the coop is a fully-enclosed chicken yard. For this we used “hog wire,” which is both stronger, and looks nicer than chicken wire. The raccoons in our neighborhood are bold, and wander about in broad daylight–it was absolutely necessary to have the overhead protection. Some urban chicken farmers just create a little closed-in pen, covered at waist-height, but we love to hang out with the chickens, and wanted to be comfortable standing in their yard. We like to let the girls range freely in our backyard when supervised, but most of the time we keep them in their run, safe from neighborhood predators, dogs, and away from the garden.

Some chicken keepers leave the water and food out during the day.  I like to keep it in the coop, so I don’t have to move it inside at night.  You can make your own feeder/waterers, but these metal ones from the feed store are hard to beat.  Hanging the food keeps it free from litter, and discourages the chickens from sitting on top of it (and pooping there…).  But the water sloshes from a chain, so I just put it up on some bricks to keep it out of the coop litter (currently we’re using coffee chaff).

CoopInsideFeed480CoopEggsSquareOne rookie coop building error is the construction of a nest box for every single chicken.  We promise you– as we discovered ourselves with out first coop–that no matter how many nest boxes you have, the chickens will all lay their eggs in one nest!  Why??? We don’t know, but it’s true…One nest box suffices for four hens. The wooden crates that you can find in dumpsters outside of vegetable stands make perfect nest boxes.  I nailed a board across the bottom to keep the straw in. There are also natural branches inside the coop for nocturnal roosting.

The very best part of our coop?  Our daughter Claire’s old wooden crate, in the aviary.  She sits there with the chickens for an hour at a time,  petting them when they jump in her lap.  Sometimes she brings a book.  She says she feels just like Fern in Charlotte’s Web. We leave an old raincoat by the backdoor, and her boots, and she cuddles the  chickens in all weather.

CoopClaireFour480Here’s a simple plan for our coop (PDF), ready for your own modifications (***Please note: the dimensions of the floor are 3 x 6′, not 4 x 6′ as in my sketch***). The photos from this post, and more images of our coop and foul endeavors, are in Tom’s Flickr account (at a higher resolution and under a Creative Commons license – feel free to re-use them).


Obviously we love our coop and it brought us pleasure to build it, though it did take the better part of five days, and the support of my experienced and indefatigable dad (Thanks, Jerry!). But don’t feel daunted! The web is full of great examples of simple coops made inexpensively from found materials (as well as coops much fancier than ours!). Or find inspiration, as we did, in the terrific book, Chicken Coops: 45 Building Plans for Housing Your Flock. Better still, have a look at what your chicken keeping neighbors are up to.  Chickens are great for local community building, and everyone loves to talk about their own chickens and coop.  If you hear clucking on a neighborhood walk, see if the chicken farmer is around and say “hi.”  And if you have questions or ideas that worked wonderfully in your own coop, we’d love to hear them!

Here are previous chicken-related posts on The Tangled Nest, including this one on caring for chicks in a homemade biddy box.  There are tons of resources for urban chicken farmers on the web, including this great page by Seattle Tilth.


December, 2012: This coop plan is now available as an amazing infographic by Timothy Sanders.

You may also like the post The Tangled Nest Urban Chicken Roundup, an overview of my best chicken-related posts.


  1. It’s soooo cute and cheery! What lucky chickens. That’s adorable that they will jump into your daughter’s lap – I had no idea they would do that. We had a friend bring us fresh eggs last week and they were AMAZING!

    We’re getting bees – maybe we’ll trade you honey for eggs!

    1. lyanda

      Yes, our chicks were handraised, and very friendly. We also chose breeds known for their sweet temperament (Buff Orpingtons are dependably cuddly…) Honey for eggs–anytime!

  2. great post! i just moved to west sea this past fall and we’re looking to start with a few chicks this spring. right now however, we’re focusing on the garden, but your post was great inspiration of things to come after we’re done shoveling compost. plus i love the colors of your coop and your tips re what kind of wire and nails to use. i agree, the raccoons around here are entitled and brazen! gotta keep the chicks safe!

  3. Hi — visitor here via Tom’s BikeJuJu blog. Beautiful coop. We’ve thought about making the plunge for a while but haven’t yet.

    So I gotta ask: What’s the rat situation like. Our neighborhood is blessed with healthy populations of both rats AND raccoons. And in talking to folks around here who have tried and given up on chickens, one reason they state for abandoning the flock is a noticeable increase backyard rats.

    True or false?

    1. lyanda

      Thanks for all the comments, everyone!

      Tim–alas, yes, rats are a consideration for the urban chicken farmer. Remember, though, that lots of things attract rats–birdfeeders are a big one, also fruit trees, pet food…And there are lots of things you can do to discourage rats from the coop: rats burrow, so build your coop on posts, off the ground; make sure there are no holes bigger than 1/2 inch, and if there are, nail hardware cloth over them; put all food in at night; close the coop at dark, when most rats come out; feed food scraps in the morning, so the chickens have a chance to eat them all and there is nothing left out for rats at night. We did see rats in our old chicken setup, but it was in the corner of a big garage–really difficult to ratproof. No rats so far in the new coop (knock on wood!!!).

  4. liz

    I’m going to get 2 chickens soon. 1 barred rock and 1 buff orpington, most likely. We’re going to build something similar to yours, except smaller since we’re only getting 2 chickens. My mom wanted bees at first, but changed her mind almost immediately. Rock on!

  5. Pingback: Colorful chicken coop — YOTD | Yardhacker

  6. Pingback: The Chicken Coop Plans : Chicken House Plans : Download Now

    1. lyanda

      Hi Jason. The Guantanamo area is no trouble–they are not locked in there very often, so on an everyday basis it just serves as a covered part of the run, and the poop just turns into soil like the rest of the run. Oddly enough, in outdoor areas, chicken poop quickly disappears–it never ever seems “poopy” in there (that might be different if your run was very small). The only place it collects is inside the coop, under their evening roost, and because it’s gathered in one place, it’s pretty simple to scoop out and compost for later use as garden fertilizer.

  7. Lisa

    Thanks for sharing, your coop is awesome. We are getting 8 Buff’s in a few weeks and are working on our coop now, I will definitely share the tips with my husband. We live in the country and I don’t think we have enough protection:)

  8. Charlie

    I’m going to build your coop – it’s perfect (with some minor modifications) for our area. Two questions: the dimensions in the drawing show a 6′ x 4′ floor, but the web photos show a 6′ x 3′ floor. Did I miss something? Second, I plan to use PT lumber for the support posts – no PT lumber will be used anywhere else. Any reason not to use PT posts?

    1. lyanda

      Hi Charlie, glad you are finding inspiration in our coop. YOU ARE RIGHT! The floor is 6 x 3′. So sorry for the mistake on the plan–you have a good eye. About the PT posts–some people are very much against this, feeling PT lumber could poison your poultry. I would definitely not use it close to a garden area, but I have seen many people use PT posts in their coops with no trouble. If you have access to untreated cedar, it is preferable, but also more expensive to buy new. Any other thoughts out there?

    1. lyanda

      Thanks, Kathy. I scoop poop out of the coop every two or three days with a garden trowel, and change the litter about once a week by sweeping everything into a big bucket. It’s truly simple, and doesn’t take more than a few minutes. The poop in the coop is easy to remove, because it’s all in one place–beneath their evening roost branch. In the day they are usually outside, and that poop just blends into their yard.

  9. Finally taking the plunge and building a coop for 4 chickens that are coming. This site is great because it is simply written, funny and has great pictures! We went on the Seattle Tilth Chicken Tour last year…and now it is time to DO IT!. Thanks for the great site. Sunny

    1. lyanda

      Thanks, Sunny. I’m glad you found the Tangled Nest, and congratulations on your impending chickens! Stay in touch and let us know how it goes.

  10. I loved this blog! We are so excited to have our first chicken experience! We live on five acres in Utah and have lived here for nine years. I love chickens but have never had the time to put together the coop. I am having one built! I wish that had the talent to build one but alas I do not! I am certainly going to paint it fun colors just as you have! I love it!!! Thanks for inspiring us with your great ideas!!

  11. Pingback: Chicken Coop Plans – Best Backyard Chicken Coop Plans For You

  12. Pingback: May Mid Month Meanderings « Grow & Resist

  13. Jenna

    What an inspiring spot to find on the web. I have adopted 3 plymouth rocks. They are headed my way with no coop plan! They have a small “cottage” with no roast or nesting box inside. They are 3 months old. Any idea how urgent the need for a box is? Can they live without a nighttime roost until I can build one? They will have plenty of outdoor/daytime roost spots in our fig tree. Thoughts?

    1. lyanda

      Nice to hear from you, Jenna! Congratulations on your new girls. Most hens start laying when they are about six months old, so have a nest box for them at least a month before that. They really do like to roost off the ground at night, but it doesn’t have to be anything fancy–even a crate turned over that they can sit on top of. And meanwhile–yes, they’ll live until you get to it! Have fun.

  14. Pingback: Chicken Tour: Not the “New Black”

  15. Monica Lundberg

    Thanks so much for the “Open Coop” and garden tour last weekend. I’m inspired and ready to get going next spring! May have more questions as construction begin- we’re just about a mile from you.

      1. Monica

        Hi Lyanda,
        We met last summer during the coop tour. We got our four chicks last month, and I’m ready to start building our coop. Could I come by some time with my daughter and ck-out your coop set-up again?


  16. Lee Storey

    I’m so inspired by your blog and have learned so much from it…’we’re getting our chicken coop on Friday and I can’t wait!! We found one at an auction, brand new and we’ll just modify it a bit and add the run for them! I too am thinking about getting Buff Oringtons for our hens..they have been recommended by many because of our cold NH winters and my 3 sons! Im hoping to go to a local chicken swap this weekend to ask questions and absorb more knowledge for our soon to be additions to our family!
    Thank you again!

  17. Ceren

    I’m having trouble finding a vendor for the hog wire – are there other names it goes by? I’m in san francisco, so that might be part of my problem. 🙂

    1. lyanda

      Hi Ceren–sorry to take so long getting back to you, we’ve been camping. SO–hog wire should be available at any hardware store (even in SF!). Just don’t get too hung up on the “hog wire” name–I’ve never seen it actually called that on the label. Hog wire is just the stronger, larger-squared wire fencing generally available. I didn’t know it was called that–my dad just says, “you need some hog wire,” and when I look at other coop builders, they all use the same term, but they may not call it that in your neck of the woods. Just take a look at your local hardware store, and choose the fencing that will work best for you–even the big boxes like Home Depot have it. Good luck, and let us know how your coop turns out.

  18. Roland and Sylvia in PT

    We found your site while looking for chicken coops for Roland’s birthday chickens, which we hope to get next week. Bo says , “hi” and so do we. We love your Coop. Maybe someday we can visit each other’s chickens.

  19. Jodi

    Love it! I just bought a fixer house on a big lot in White Center. Chickens coming in the spring…I just put in a winter garden and need to protect it from my dog and her doggie buddies-mostly them, she’s figured it out for the most part! I want to use hog wire but am having a hard time finding it. Did you get yours in Seattle?

  20. Thanks for a great post. i really enjoyed the pictures of your hen house. I like the colors are just simply beautiful. I have never seen anyone use such pretty colors but I now know that they will look great. Happy hens make lots of eggs.

  21. Paul

    What a great coop! We’ve built a similar version and are trying to get our 8 month old hens used to a new environment. They are eager to get out in the morning and usually hop down from the roost and exit through the chicken door immediately after we open it. They love the run so much, they’re not keen on entering the coop again to lay. So far, three days and no eggs. When do yours lay? And do you find they have enough light to lay often?

    1. lyanda

      Hi Paul. I wouldn’t worry yet. Do you have nest box with some nice bedding in a nice, dark, private corner of the coop? If so, I am sure they will get back to laying soon. Our chickens have always followed the same pattern–pretty much an egg a day, occasionally one will slack off, for the first year 1/2, then slowly decreasing after that. They don’t lay at a particular time of day, though all are usually done about 3:00 or so. In older chickens, production will definitely slack off in the darker winter, though here in Seattle we haven’t noticed that in the first year of laying. We’ve never used artificial light, but many people do. Anyway–your girls are young, and just coming into their own as layers, and adjusting to a new coop–I bet all will be well soon. Let us know.

  22. Laura

    I love your design, and the paint is so cute! I would love to do something similar for my backyard. I was wondering if you had a detailed list of materials for each part, or in total still laying around somewhere. I’m new at this so having a little more direction would be great. If not, don’t worry about it, your pics are still inspiration in and of themselves!

    1. lyanda

      Hi Laura. I actually don’t have that sort of list. It would have been a good idea, and would save future builders some extra trips to the hardware store, but I just didn’t think of it. Sorry! But good luck, and I hope you’ll send a photo when your coop is done.

  23. Rebecca E


    What a sweet coop! My daughter and I are oohing and ahhing over it. (We covet chickens) I was wondering if you have the dimensions for the run? It is so beautiful, almost like an aviary. I love the idea of the girls being able to hang out with the chickens of my dreams…someday.

  24. Artis

    I love your plans. It is really nice. My son and I would like to build one similar but I’m not sure about where to find the plans – maybe I missed it. Let me in on it. Thanks, Artis

    1. Hi Artis! Glad you’re inspired. There is a link to a PDF just before the last photo in the post, “Here is a simple plan for our coop.” It is a very simple little blueprint, and please not there is an error–the coop is 6×3′, not 6/4′. Good luck, and let us know how it goes!

  25. Charlotte

    Hi, I live over in Rainier Valley, and I’m wondering – what kind of permit(s) do I need to build a chicken coop and raise chickens in the city of Seattle? What rules are there regarding my neighbors? Are there limits to how near / far it can be to the property line, etc?

    1. Hi Charlotte. It’s my understanding that you do not need a permit, and that the coop has to be 25 feet from a neighbor’s house. I always suggest contacting Seattle Tilth for the latest info. Good luck!

  26. Laura

    Hi Lyanda. I’m about to start building my coop and am debating using hog wire vs hardware cloth for the run. The hardware cloth is just so expensive! Have you had any problems with predators or rodents so far with the hog wire? Also, do you always lock them up at night?

    1. lyanda

      Hi Laura. These are good questions. We haven’t had any problems with predators getting through the hogwire, BUT we always lock the chickens in their coop at night. I am convinced that is the main reason we don’t have rats. I think hogwire is great for a run, but for underneath the coop, if you make one on stilts with a covered area underneath, like ours, I would recommend hardware cloth. Good luck, and if you have any other questions, feel free to ask!

  27. Mike

    I like these plans and am planning on building a modified version in the next month.
    How do you like the height of the coop floor? Would a higher one be easier or harder to clean / feed /interact with the chickens, say about kitchen counter heighth?
    What is the optimal and/or maximum angle for the ramps?
    I have a Sketchup model that approximates what you built. If you give permission, I’ll share it and post a link.

    1. lyanda

      Thanks, Mike. I am very happy with the height of the floor. It’s easy to sweep, and the chickens can jump in and out, which they love to do. Ramp angle is flexible, as long as you have slats, the chickens can sort of grab on and flap up if it’s steep, but they’ll be happiest if it is 45 degrees or fewer. And of course, by all means share a link to your model!

      1. hey mike-
        i’m also trying to make this coop in the next few weeks. great CAD model! any chance you have a list of materials to buy? i’m buying the materials then getting help with the building.

  28. laurabogdan

    My urban four chickens have a large yard area for themselves that has been very muddy this year. Should the ground be covered with straw too?

    1. lyanda

      Hi Laura. The mud won’t hurt the chickens. We put straw in our chicken run to keep our own feet clean, and also because the chickens really like to poke around in it. Just be sure your chickens have access to dry dirt for dust bathing, which is essential for keeping external parasites away.

  29. laurabogdan

    My four chickens have a big yard of their own to run in and a nice coop. However, they get soaked when it rains all the time and they are have very muddy feet. I put some straw down but it gets all muddy since they keep looking for bugs. I have a light on if it is cold and sometimes to dry them out at night. The eggs have been a little watery (white part) lately. Is that the rain? They get plenty of greens and chick food, water. Any ideas?

    1. lyanda

      Laura–If they have a coop to shelter in when they want, I wouldn’t worry much about the rain. Egg quality is usually diet-related. Just to be sure, give them a little health-check. Feel that they are nice and fat across the breast, lift the feathers behind the neck to check for tiny parasites against the skin, check the vent for runny droppings, observe their energy level. If all is well, I would try cutting down on the greens for awhile, and making sure there is plenty of protein in their diet–you can supplement with things like canned cat food (they will love you for all eternity…) or cottage cheese. Or scrambled eggs! Try extra protein for a few weeks, and let us know if it helps.

    1. lyanda

      I let the chickens out in yard the winter, when the garden is less vulnerable. My cat is intersested, but she knows the chickens could totally take her. I’ve found the same to be true of neighborhood cats. They pretend they want to catch themselves a hen, but when it comes right down to it, they’re scared of the big chickens. I’m very careful when the girls are small, of course, and I wonder about bantams (which I’ve never had) and cats.

  30. Anita

    Hi there! Just came across your chicken posts while doing a search for coop plans, and LOVE yours. It’s adorable! We’re in WS too, and getting three chicks this week that will soon need a home. As I look at your photo, I feel like you used to come into my coffeeshop Misto (we sold to the current owner of SugarRush Bakery). Small world! Congrats on your new book 🙂 Anita

    1. lyanda

      Hi Anita. I loved Misto! I used to do a lot of writing with coffee there. Now I frequent Sugar Rush–good folks. Congrats on your chicklets, and let us know if you any questions at all about raising them, or coops.

  31. I was so glad to find this post! We just got our first chickens a few weeks ago, and are in the process of building the coop. I LOVE the idea of using coffee chaff instead of pine. I love in the Pacific Northwest and it wasn’t too difficult to find a coffee roaster that will provide me with all the chaff I need… and burlap bags for my garden. Double bonus! Thanks for the inspiration. It’s going to be a good year!

  32. Natalie

    We are so excited to be starting on our chicken adventure. We have been researching and thinking and debating for a while now. We are ready to go and my 9 year old is SOOO excited playing with her new baby chicks.
    We love your design and are using it. Can you tell me what you used on the roof? Shingles? Metal?

  33. Dave

    I grew up raising Bantams and ducks. We had a large dog house that my Dad had built and modified that. We raised it off the ground about 2 feet and built a pen around it with a gate. We also had a door built into the side of the house for easy access as well. That pen/coop really served us well. We raised three chickens, two ducks, a rabbit and it even served as a home for an orphaned Barn Owl! The chickens were not normal…my bantam hen would ride on my bicycle handlebars, my rooster and one duck were best friends and would swim together. My rabbit colived with the chicken and eventually tunnelled out to our neighbor’s garden! Too funny. My owl stayed there until he was old enough to be released into the wild. Wonderful memories and now my wife and I are planning on raising one hen. Can’t wait to get started!

  34. I found your site today while researching coop design. I love your coop design and colors – right down to the little prayer flags, and the point about having only one nesting box is great. I’ve got three hens that are between 1 and 4 years old (all laying 5-6/week) and will be introducing two pullets into the mix. for expandability later, we’ll probably put two boxes in but it’s good to know they’ll probably just use one. 🙂

  35. Pingback: Chooks R Us » Blog Archive » Your Questions About Keeping Chickens Pets

  36. Pingback: Chooks R Us » Blog Archive » Why Chicken Coops Are An Important Part Of Owning Egg-Laying Birds

  37. Pingback: Chooks R Us » Blog Archive » Building A Chicken Coop, Find More Innovational Ways To Make A Chicken Coop

  38. Pingback: Chooks R Us » Blog Archive » Raising Outdoor Hens – The Main Advantages Of Raising Hens In Your Own Backyard

Comments are closed.