How to Build Chicken Coops: Adapting and Converting

Have an existing structure that you think would make a good chicken coop? Here are some tips for adapting and converting chicken coops.


| August 2015



Chicken Coop Shed

With the right adjustments, a simple garden shed can become a chicken coop.

Photo by Samantha and Daniel Johnson

Whether your chickens roam free on acres of rolling farmland or kick up dust in your backyard, they are going to need a place to rest sooner or later. Farmers and poultry enthusiasts Samantha and Daniel Johnston will help you obtain the right knowledge and know-how to finally build and prepare a home for your birds in How to Build Chicken Coops (Voyageur Press, 2015). This excerpt, from Chapter 6, “Adapting and Converting Chicken Coops,” will arm you with the information you need to renovate or convert an existing structure into a chicken coop for your flock.

Buy this book from the Capper’s Farmer store: How to Build Chicken Coops.

So you have a plan for a chicken coop, but what if the coop as shown doesn’t quite meet your needs? Maybe your coop needs to be a bit larger—large enough to house, say, ten birds. Or maybe you need a coop that is easily portable or one that offers a larger run. In this chapter, we’ll show you how to adapt the basic coop plan to suit your needs. We’ll also introduce you to ways that you can convert existing structures into chicken coops, potentially saving time and money.

Adapting the Basic Plan to Create A Larger Chicken Coop

You may have aspirations of keeping a larger number of chickens than the coop in How to Build Chicken Coops is designed for. If this is the case, you might want to be able to construct a larger coop, without creating a design totally from scratch. What can be done? First off, you could think about lengthening the side panels. Instead of using 96-inch (8-foot) 2 x 4s for the side panels, consider extending them another 29-1/4 inches using 11-foot 2 x 4s cut to 125-1/4 inches. This will give you enough length to add an additional section to the run. You’ll also need one additional rafter, longer (125-1/4 inches) 2 x 12s for the roof, and additional shingles. If you’d like to make the coop area larger, don’t worry—it can be lengthened as well. Increasing the coop’s interior length from 30-3/8 inches to 44-5/8 inches will give you enough room for an additional nest box, not to mention more elbow room (or maybe it’s wing room?) for more chickens. You could even choose to go longer—all the way to the next 2 x 4 stud. Of course you’ll also need to lengthen the cleanout and nest box doors, as well as the coop’s floor, but these modifications are relatively straightforward and can actually make for a fun challenge. The advantage to lengthening these areas— rather than making them wider—is that all of the rafter, door, and removable coop wall measurements remain intact and don’t have to be reconfigured.

Adapting the Basic Plan for Winter

Have you ever heard anyone who keeps livestock say, “I just love winter, it’s my favorite season”? Chances are, the answer is no. Winter can be a challenge for chicken keepers who live in cold areas. If you live in a particularly cold region with hard winters, you’re in great shape, because this coop has already been designed with cold weather in mind. There is excellent ventilation without letting in drafts, while the thick 2 x 10s and 2 x 12s that are used on the walls and roof offer fine insulation properties. Nevertheless, there are a few more things you can do to make your coop better equipped to handle cold weather.

Winterization Panels
One thing to do is to create removable winterization panels—they’re fairly easy to make and can go a long way toward keeping your chickens warm all winter. You can build winterization panels out of Plexiglas (which is a flexible, clear, durable plastic) or wood. Both Plexiglas and wood winterization panels can be built to slide into place on any areas that are normally covered with hardware cloth and therefore open to the air. You can protect open areas of both the coop and the run to provide insulation from the cold without sacrificing the beauty of your structure. In general, try to use Plexiglas panels on the sides of your coop where the sun is likely to shine; this will depend on trees and other objects near your coop, but it’s likely you’ll want to install Plexiglas on the southern side of your coop. Then use your sturdier wooden winterization panels to provide protection against the direction of the prevailing winter winds.





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