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Coop Shelter Box

Posted by joeabbott on January 31, 2010

I’ve been reluctant to discuss the next step in the project (adding the sides to the coop shelter box) because I’m just not ready. I’m “dry building” the coop in my garage and cutting the parts for later assembly. This is working well but this weekend we needed to get painting  … I’ve already held Suzy off too long on this and we need them painted before we can assemble. So, while she’s been painting, I’ve been building the final parts. Unfortunately, two people working in the same area on the same parts make for some challenges and it kept me from dry assembling the coop for pictures. You’ll get that next weekend when we have one last shot at building it out before taking it into the backyard for final construction!

But, I’ve made some good progress today and so I’m close enough that I can start us off.

Let’s start with an overall description of where we’re heading. So far on the coop we have four support beams with the coop shelter floor notched in; we’ve also added the nest box, which is essentially the bottom half of the back panel.

In a simple world, we’d just add plywood front, sides, and finish the top half of the back with solid pieces. But, the world isn’t that simple. At least mine isn’t.

On the front panel we’ll hinge the top part of the panel to drop down and allow us to use it as an open window or a vent in warm weather. We can also use it to peek in on the birds and see them when they’re on their roosts. On the lower portion of the front panel we’ll cut a hole for them to enter and leave the shelter to access the run.

Both side panels act as doors, although there are top and side trim pieces. Each doors has a 12”x12” window.

The back panel above the nest box is a simple rectangle piece of plywood. There’s a chamfer along the bottom edge to fit well with the nest box top, but that’s it.

In the original model I planned on building up the side panels from tongue and groove cedar, but that proved to be cost prohibitive. Would have looked nice, but it’ll look plenty nice as is. Let’s start “building”.

Before getting to the panels, I want to call out one other minor part that we’ve built. It’s so small I normally wouldn’t call it out but it ultimately helps to place the hen door correctly: it’s a “floor hold down”. In a couple places we’ve heard that if you have a slick surface on the bottom of the shelter that you can remove and scrape, it makes cleaning easier. After seeing a few coops that had something like this but that the chickens had obviously pecked the edges ragged on, we came up with a simple board that would serve to hold down and cover the front edge of the slick surface. It’s a simple ¾” piece of plywood that has a ¾” rabbet on one edge to hold the slick surface down … our hold down. But, we need to have that part identified so we can cut the door hole above it.

OK, now let’s get building!

Front panel

I started with a piece of plywood that was a rectangle big enough to fit from the bottom of the notch at the upper end of the beams to the bottom of the shelter floor. That’s 41½” x 48”. On the front and back, the panel sides will abut with the beams (on the sides they’ll be proud ¾” so they are smooth with the front and back parts).

Once you have the panel, cut about 13 ½” off the top. Be careful and save the pieces! Both parts, the “vent” and “front” will make up the front panel.

“Flip” the top vent part down, add a spacer, and clamp it in place. I have a picture here so you can understand it better. The spacer is to take whatever hinges you’re using into account. I used a piano hinge (a long continuous hinge) and just screwed it into the edges of the panels. You may want to cut out a notch in the panel edges so you don’t have a gap when the vent closes. As is, my birds will get a draft through that slot … not sure I like that a lot.

Anyhow, then figure out what sort of door you want, mark it’s location (knowing there’s a “hold down” helps to find the right height), drill a hole big enough for a jigsaw blade, and cut it out! That simple!

I can’t show you an actual picture of my hen door just yet, though … I haven’t done this step! Perhaps I can knock it out after work sometime this coming week. Should be simple.


Side panels

Both sides are identical so we’ll just talk about one and you can make two.

I started with creating the narrow front, back, and top “trim” piece. These frame the door and allow us to size the door correctly.

Create two parts that are 3¼” by 41½” … these will be placed vertically on the beams with a ¾” overhang. Then cut a 27”x6” piece … this spans the top of the door and butts up to the top notch on the beams; it is tight to the front and back vertical trim pieces you just attached.

The door is a bit tricky here.

The rough dimensions are 17” x 35 ½” … but depending on tolerances and how tight you want things, it may be off from that a bit. When installing the door, add 1/16” spacers between the door and trim parts (this really helps if the trim pieces aren’t attached yet!); then mount the hinges.

The spacer will give a consistent gap around the door and allow the shelter floor and beams to create a ¾” stop for the door to close on.

I’d love to show a real picture of this but I’m still dry assembling in the garage and haven’t attached the trim parts yet.


Side door windows

Yup, these merit their own little section.

I started by measuring out a 12”x12” window centered horizontally on the door and in the upper portion. I then drilled holes in the corners and ran my jigsaw around the lines. Even though I used a straight edge, the jigsaw blade flex left the cutout a bit imperfect. On one door I left things as they were but on the second door, I used a router to clean up the lines a bit. I much preferred the cleaned up way of doing things.

After I had the cutout, I used a router to cut a rabbet around the  window frame. It was 1/8” deep and allowed me to place in a piece of plexiglass for the window. I did this on both sides of the door and then created a quick muntin to separate the two pieces of plastic. Ultimately I’ll add a window frame around the window to finish it off.


Rear panel

This is mainly just adding trim around the nest box!

Start with the large upper panel and measure down from the top beam notch to the top of the nest box. You don’t need a chamfer on that bottom edge so it mates perfectly with the cut from the nest box, but it does make the fit a little nicer and limit drafts from one more spot. However you do it, remember to make the panel span from the outside face of the beams; they should butt and be flush with the side panel trim.

Then “fill the gap” on either side of the nest box with a couple of additional edge pieces. As before, your dimensions here will be roughly 17”x48” for the top panel, and 3 ½” x 24 ¼”. These are rough and based on the model … use the sizes that you need to account for any over\undersize parts you’ve used.

As for the nest box, I’m hinging that directly off the back panel. The upper back panel will have a lot of fasteners to the side beams to provide a lot of strength. I’ll also recess the hinges into the back and top using a plunge router for the best possible fit.

And that’s the panels! By now your coop should be looking like this:


Next time we’ll take a look at the doors. These are the main door we’ll be using to enter and exit the coop run area, and two smaller doors under shelter box that will allow us access to the water and food areas.


2 Responses to “Coop Shelter Box”

  1. Suzanne said

    The coop is fantastic dear. Thank you!

  2. […] « Coop Shelter Box […]

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