How to make a chook house
How to make a chook house

Gather your supplies

  • 17mm CD exterior plywood
  • T hinges; mini corrugated steel
  • H4 wing splits
  • bagged concrete
  • 90 x 45mm treated pine
  • 90mm treated-pine decking
  • 25 x 12mm aviary mesh
  • Zincalume corrugated roofing
  • Coarse river sand, for paving
  • 200 x 200mm and 200 x 100mm concrete pavers
  • Hasp and staple latches
  • Paint
  • Flat-headed clouts

Keeping chickens in your backyard can be a great idea. Not only are they terrific pets, but they’re wonderful recycling machines, too. Chickens convert kitchen scraps, garden weeds and grubs into fresh eggs and chook poo, which is an excellent fertiliser.

However, if you want to keep chooks, you must look after their welfare and give them shelter and protection. Your backyard should be fenced and you’ll need a chook house of some description. And you don’t have to build one from scratch, just convert a disused cubby into a palace for your feathered friends.

Click here to see pics of Rob building this chook house

Check with your council
Before you begin, check with your council about any restrictions that may apply. Different councils have different rules regarding number of fowls and whether roosters are allowed, distance from the boundary and the house, cleanliness and odours, vermin-proofing and drainage. It’s also worth sounding out neighbours to prevent any local disputes.

To prepare the cubby, clean out any junk in, under and around it. Remove all the unnecessary parts, such as rope ladders and slippery slides, but leave the structure, walls, deck and roof.

Keeping chickens happy
Your chooks will need water, food and bedding to be happy. Here’s how:

1. Install a waterer that holds ample water, held up off the ground on a chain. Make sure you change the water every day.
2. Cover the floor of the house and nesting area with wood shavings.
3. Install an automatic feeder, suspended off the ground, inside the chook house, and scatter food scraps on the ground outside. Also, cover the pavers with coarse river sand and give the chickens oyster-shell grit to aid their digestion.
4. To allow your chickens to get off the floor, make a simple perch. Use 50mm-wide timber or plywood and a notched bracket at each end that allows you to take out the perch and clean it from time to time. Locate the perch 250-300mm off the floor.

Dr Harry’s top tips for chook houses

- Vermin-proof your chicken coop to keep out foxes, dogs and rats.
- The chook house must protect its inhabitants against the weather, especially wind and rain, and provideenough space for the hens to move around freely and easily.
- To make cleaning much easier, design your chicken coop so you have access to all areas.
- Let the chooks out of their coop every day to exercise, flap their wings, forage and have dust baths.

If you don't have a cubby to makeover, try our popular chicken coop project.
make a chicken coop here

Here's how

Step 1

Chooks need to be protected from the weather. Fill in gables and gaps under the roof with 17mm exterior CD plywood on sides that get most wind and rain. Fill other sides with mesh. Measure widths and height and check angle of roof using a sliding bevel. Mark and cut out plywood and test fit. Notch around internal framing as necessary.

Step 2

Measure widths and height and check angle of roof using a sliding bevel. Mark and cut out plywood and test fit. Notch around internal framing as necessary.

Step 3

You need access to the chook house to clean it. If cubby sides are slatted boards, reinforce them before cutting in the hatch. Glue and screw a 17mm CD plywood panel to cover entire inside of timber-board wall using exterior construction adhesive.

Step 4

Mark in the hatch. Plunge-cut down the hinge side, setting power saw deep enough to cut through both boards and plywood. Screw a pair of 200mm T hinges across cut with barrels aligned with the cut.

Step 5

Use your power saw to plunge-cut the other 3 sides of the hatch to separate it from wall. Finish off corners with a handsaw. The hinges will support it and the hatch should be a perfect fit in the hole.

Step 6

Many cubbyhouses are open to the deck. Fill this in with a new wall. Mark out the wall’s shape on a sheet of 17mm CD plywood, and as for the gable, allow for fitting around framing members. Also cut a 200mm(W) x 300mm(H) doorway in the bottom, so your chooks can get in and out of the house.

Step 7

Slide the wall in place and screw to framing. Use a pair of cleats to screw the bottom of the wall to the floor of the chook house.

Step 8

Unless you like searching high and low for your eggs, build a nesting box to encourage your hens to lay their treasures within easy reach. Made of small pieces of 17mm plywood, it only needs to be about 400mm(L) x 250mm(H) x 250mm(W) internally. Select a spot on the outside of the coop where you’ll have easy access. Cut a 350mm(W) x 220mm(H) opening in the wall with a power saw so it is 50mm above the cubby floor.

Step 9

Glue and screw together a box with a 434 x 270mm back, sides that are 250mm(D) x 270mm (at back) x 300mm (at front), and a 400 x 250mm base. Screw a 500 x 360mm panel, with a 380 x 250mm hole cut out of the centre, to the front of the box. Screw box to outside of chook house, centred over the hole.

Step 10

Measure opening at top of nesting box. Cut a panel this size and a second panel 80mm longer and 40mm wider. Screw together with 1 of the long sides flush, then clad top with mini corrugated steel. This lid sits on the box and is located by the bottom panel.

Step 11

Chooks need an exercise area (1sqm per bird) where they can be safe from predators. Measure and mark about 1m out from each end of cubby on 1 side. Join marks and dig a narrow, 300mm-deep trench all the way around, including between cubby posts. At each corner and on long side, coinciding with cubby’s central pole, dig to about 500mm so you can set posts in the ground.

Step 12

Set a pair of H4 wing splits as posts in the corners of the excavation. Check they are plumb (vertical) and prop them in position. Add the third post opposite the central cubby pole. Fill around posts with a concrete mix to hold them firm.

Step 13

Once posts are set, level from underside of cubby floor joist to outer posts, then measure down 100mm. Level to other posts at this height and cut to height. Screw a 90 x 45mm rail across posts. Cut two 90 x 45mm sloping ‘rafters’ to span between outer posts and the posts of cubby house, notching around rail at the front.

Step 14

Use flat-headed clouts to nail welded mesh to frame – there is little point burying the mesh deep into the ground as it will soon rust. To curve it around the edge of the post, hammer with a block of timber.

Step 15

Predrill and screw corrugated roofing to outer posts, but this time set the sheet right down into prepared trench. Cut around blobs of concrete as necessary.

Step 16

Repeat, adding mesh and corrugated sheets to other long side and 1 short side. Screw cover strips of wing splits to the face of outer posts and across the top of the rails to cover edge of wire. Bring top cover strip forward so the rail can support the lid (to be made later).

Step 17

In the run, spread out and compact paving sand to 30mm deep. It doesn’t have to be level as you want rainwater to drain away. Lay out pavers. We used 200 x 200mm and 200 x 100mm pavers. Mark up pavers to be cut around posts. Cut with a paving saw, or use a masonry disc in an angle grinder to get it started. Break out waste with hammer. Continue paving until you are near opening.

Step 18

Make end wall out of solid plywood and line the bottom with corrugated roofing so it projects 300mm below the plywood. Before screwing the steel to the plywood, cut a 200 x 300mm hole for a hatch in the steel using an angle grinder. Mark the position of hatch on plywood. Plunge cut along the lines with a power saw, but do not finish the corners. Screw steel to plywood, then set in place and screw to posts.

Step 19

Screw a pair of hinges across the cut on the internal hinge side, then cut the corners with a handsaw. Complete paving.

Step 20

Make a ramp to run from bottom of run to deck of house above. Use 17mm CD plywood about 200mm(W) and 1800mm(L), with 140mm-wide treated-pine battens spaced 100mm apart screwed to the top surface. Cut a 200 x 600mm opening in the deck at least 200mm from edges. Also cut a hole in the wire mesh so the ramp can pass through. Stand the ramp in position and mark its length. Cut to length.

Step 21

Screw ramp to the deck floor using a cleat on the underside, if needed.

Step 22

Cut 2 triangular pieces of plywood to fill in the gaps between the decking and the ramp, and screw to the edge of the ramp. Then screw the loose deck boards and nail loose mesh to triangles. To line smaller top half of outdoor run, screw a rail across the poles of original cubby so the top is flush with rafters. You may have to house it slightly into the poles so a wing split can cover the gap between rail and cubby. Add another rafter and nail on top mesh. Cover with a further wing split.

Step 23

To make a lid for the other half of the run, screw together a rectangle of 90mm treated-pine decking. Nail on welded mesh, then cover with another layer of decking, overlapping the corner joints. The 2 rails support it. If you haven’t already done so, screw rails across the top of the deck posts. Paint the entire coop, we used Dulux Red Stop and Antique White USA. Then cover the sides and top of deck with more mesh.

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