Like many folks, when we got our first chickens, we thought we'd be happy with four or five chickens and a cute, small coop that measured 4'x4'. You can see our first coop HERE.
And... like many folks, we quickly discovered how addictive chickens can be and wanted to add to our flock. We created our second (mobile) coop out of a horse trailer and you can see the results HERE.
We now also have a larger shed with breeding pens that you can see HERE.
But more chickens just kept happening! (Insert totally innocent look here.)
It wasn't long before we needed an inexpensive, spacious, durable chicken-housing option. Now mind you, this isn't the "cutest" option, but we have found it to be such a sensible option that we now have FIVE hoop coops on our current property that house everything from chickens to turkeys to peafowl to sheep, because why not?
|The back view of our flight-pens for chickens, turkeys and peafowl.|
|A fully-enclosed area with an open hoop coop. Our Great Pyrenees livestock guardian dogs patrol the perimeter 24x7. Duke is making his presence known in the background.|
|Our hoop coop for one of our peafowl pairs. This one has a front framed with PVC. PLEASE NOTE - this setup will NOT prevent predators. We rely on multiple livestock guardian dogs to keep our birds safe.|
Our original hoop coop is more than 7 years old. This style is highly predator proof and durable. We built it when we lived 120 miles from our current property and actually cut and rolled it up and put it on a trailer to bring it with us when we moved.
Amazingly it is just as sturdy now. It needs a new tarp (badly), but it's as handy as ever. It's at the far end of our property and when we aren't using it to quarantine new birds, the sheep and lambs use it on a daily basis.
|This old coop is still predator proof.|
First and foremost, know your predators. Are your main predators raccoons, skunks and Yorkshire Terriers, or do you have weasels, mink, bears or wolves roaming your area? If you have large predators like bears and wolves, you will need to use solid wood supports, strong wire instead of zip ties, heavier-duty wire on the front and on the apron to prevent digging.
If mink, stoat and weasels are common where you live, then consider installing a wire floor and understand that using plenty of hardware cloth will be very important.
If, like us, you have reliable livestock guardian dogs, you may be able to get away with minimal wire and wood. There are so many ways to build these coops, so be sure fit your coop to your individual needs.
Using 16' x 4' Cattle Panels, you can configure your coop's square footage based upon how much bow you put in the panel. You can have a 10' wide coop that is about 5' high, or with more bow, you can have an 8' wide coop that is 6' high.
Let's talk about making a simple hoop coop first.
You will need:
- Pressure Treated boards for the base (based on your desired coop width and depth)
- 16'x4' Cattle Panels (2 for an 8' deep coop, 3 for a 12' deep coop, etc.)
- Cable Ties (Zip Ties) or wire
- Box of fencing staples ("U" shaped nails)
- Two Ratchet Straps
- Hardware Cloth
- Chicken Wire
- Heavy-Duty Tarp or Corrugated Roofing or Cheap Tarp + Linoleum
For ease of explanation, let's assume a 10' wide by 8' deep by 5' high coop is being built. You can use 2"x4" or 4"x4" pressure treated wood for the base. You would need two boards at 10' and two at 8' for this size.
Place two 16'x4' cattle panels flat on the ground beside each other and attach them together along the long side (we use zip ties but you can use clips or wire based upon how strong you need the structure to be).
Next, place one 8' board underneath one end and affix the panels to to the board (we use fencing staples). Make sure it is relatively straight as you do this. Then, repeat for the opposite side.
Now, this is the tricky part. You'll need to roll the whole thing over without putting a crimp in the cattle panels, and lay it close to where the coop is going.
Use t-posts temporarily set in the ground, ratchet straps or friends and push/pull the ends towards each other to bow the cattle panels upward. Ratchet straps are very helpful at this point to hold the bottom in place for you while you work. You want it to be close to 10' (or your desired width measurement) but it doesn't have to be exact just yet.
Position one of your 10' pieces of pressure treated wood along what will be the front and put the screws in from the front into one of your side pieces. Repeat on the other side.
Now, go to the back of your bowed panel and attach that board. Once attached, you can release your straps and you now have a 10'x8'x5'(ish) coop.
At this point you will want to secure 30" high (or higher), 1/4" hardware cloth on the sides and back of your hoop to prevent weasels, stoats. mink and other small predators from inviting themselves in.
If you plan on using a tarp as a roof, you will also want to install either chicken wire or 2"x4" wire over the rest of the top to prevent raccoons and other climbing predators from chewing through the tarp to get to your chickens.
|Hardware cloth on the sides and back.|
|Chicken wire over the top and on the ground around the perimeter.|
For the backside, we have personally used fencing with corrugated panels secured to the wire, or plywood. The fencing is lighter and when you put on the corrugated roofing panels as a wind block, it is pretty secure. If you choose to use a tarp on the back, be sure to put a layer of hardware cloth over the entire back beneath the tarp for security.
Another of our coops has a plywood back. (Craig's List free windows are optional.)
We have found that plastic corrugated roofing panels (run sideways starting at the bottom and working upwards) are both sturdy and long-lasting. Be sure to put in your wire anti-digging predator skirting prior to covering it though.
An 18" chicken wire skirt is added around the entire base and staked down with tent stakes. Grass will grow over this in time and hold it down for you
For the front side, we framed up a door and build in some supports. Cover these with hardware cloth also. Your door should sit off the ground and on top of the base board so it will be easy to open even in the muddy season.
Now for the roof. We have tried several different methods. Our first hoop coop had plastic sheeting and tarp over it. This is a great solution for those on a tight budget, but tarps don't last more than a season or two.
We have also found that a tarp with a large piece of cheap linoleum strapped down over it with ratchet straps works well. The linoleum adds longevity and durability to the tarp and seems to weather well. Who knew?
Lastly we tried the corrugated panels. These last well and are the most durable, but they have to be attached to wood pieces on the inside, and they are more expensive. (Also, if you have really heavy turkeys, sometimes things get a bit dented...)
We then take branches or un-treated pine 2"x4" boards to use as roosts, set them on the wire of the cattle panels and zip tie them in place. In a few of our coops we have used wooden crates for the hens to use as nest boxes. They are also handy to set roosts on. You can use whatever you happen to have on hand, whether it's old furniture, barrels or cat litter buckets. Your chickens won't care.
All told, about 4-6 hours of work and a sturdy coop. Ours have been rained on, hailed on, snowed on, and sustained high winds. The panels flex which helps their stability.
It should also be noted that we put the back of our hoop coops to the direction where the winter winds come from and we leave the front of the coop uncovered all winter. Those new to chickens might feel a need to enclose the coop completely in cold weather, but DON'T! With the back and sides enclosed, the birds are protected from the wind and weather, but with the open fronts, you won't have issues with frostbite because the ventilation is so good. (Read why winter ventilation is SO important HERE.)
Simple Hoop Coop:
Sturdy Hoop Coop:
Good luck with your coops, and Happy Chickening!