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Coop doors

Posted by joeabbott on February 8, 2010

Looking back you can see the coop has openings and doors all over the place. As discussed in the last entry, the nest box lid will lift, the two sides to the coop shelter will swing open, and the vent door on the front of the shelter will drop down. Additionally, we’ll have two access doors below the shelter box and a main door at the far end of the run.

So let’s talk about those doors!

I wanted to wait until the overall structure was completed before I built the doors. That way I wouldn’t have to guess at exact measurements and whatnot. But, because it was easier to build the doors in the garage rather than in the backyard (and they required a bit more time to construct), I created them from the best estimates of the “holes” they would fill. I’ll be able to plane or cut things down or adjust in other places if the sizing isn’t just right.

The measurements were fairly easy … or my estimate of the measurements was easy. I knew the access doors (as I’ll refer to the smaller doors under the shelter) would fit below the floor of the coop but above the lower trim; and span from inside the front leg post to inside the rear leg post. Simple … for my coop that was just about 21 1/2″ high by 25″ wide. I took these measurements from the dry-fitted parts but to the left you can see a picture of the model. Then reduce those dimensions for a nice reveal around the door and I had my cutting measurements. Diminishing about a half inch should be fine.

For the main door I did the same thing … here the width was whatever I wanted it to be (it wasn’t fitting “between” anything, so I chose approximately 2′ wide) and the height was the distance between the lower and upper trim … for the coop we’re building, that’s 64″. Again, reduce these about a half inch in each direction and we have our dimensions (see picture to the right).

To create a strong frame, I wanted to do more than just butt the door parts together. Butting means either driving a screw or nail through end grain or relying on a gusset to create a tight fit. Either a saddle joint or lap joint would be vastly superior.

So, like we did for the posts where the trim attaches, I carved away part of the wood so we could build a lap joint. Now, previously I used a circular saw and chisel to clean things up; this time I used my router. Why? No real reason … it was handy (we’ll need it later) and I could have used either method with success.

For the door frame we used 1×4 cedar. This was oversized to 5/4 (five-quarter) dimension so the actual size wasn’t far off 1×4. As you can see in the pictures below, we line up the edges, clamp the boards down, determine how deep and wide we want the cut (that’s half the thickness deep and the width of one of the frame parts … about 1/2″ x 4″), then run the router across. Then, flip the boards end-for-end and do it again. That’s it!

After that, you just need to mate the ends, apply glue liberally, and clamp things up!



While the main door was drying I went to work on the access doors.

For these, I ripped the 1×4 cedar in half so we effectively had approximately 1×2 lumber. Then I repeated the same steps as above: line up edges, clamp in place, mark off the width, and router away half the end; flip the boards and repeat. I glued them up and clamped tight and let sit.

While the glue went to work, I found some 1/8″ plywood and built some gussets. With a lap joint on light cedar for reasonably small doors, a gusset isn’t really required. But, I’m a nut about things like this and figured the extra strength woudn’t actually do any harm … so I built a few gussets.


For the main door, I used a 4″x8″ blank, laid it on the corner of the door, and figured where I needed to cut away to leave an ‘L’ shaped part. When I had that, I built three more, nipped off the corners to avoid pointy parts, and set them aside to attach when we put on the screen.

For the access doors, I used the same process but my blank was 4″x4″ or so.

By then the door was dry enough that I took the next step and routed a rabbet around the entire inside. My plan was to lay the chicken wire inside this recess, add a retainer shim, and staple down. I even glued up the main door gussets and tacked them down with staples. Straight forward stuff. But, it was time to call it a day. And to let Suzy paint things!

When I started up the next day I pulled the clamps off the access doors, smeared glue on the gussets, and stapled them down … Suzy then started painting. Next step, cut the wire to size for the main door.

Now, we live next to a vacant lot and even though we have a 6′ fence around our yard, we see stray cats, racoons, an oppossum or two, and have even seen a dog back there! Not sure how this menagerie of fauna is finding a way into our yard but the fact is, they do. So we opted against regular chicken wire and went with galvanized hardware cloth. You may not know it by that name but you’d recognize it: stiff screen with roughly 1/2″ holes. Wonderful stuff and really really hard for stray animals to work through when trying to eat your chickens. So that’s the fencing I worked with.

I started with the door and immediately realized something was amiss. If you read carefully above, you’ll notice that I routed a rabbet on the inside of the main door but not on the access doors! While it’s not the end of anything, it’s a bummer to have things off or different. Just because. So, rather than try to route on the access doors while the gussets were on them, I just decided to leave things as they were and just staple the fencing directly to the frame.

So, for the main door I cut two pieces … the hole we want to fill is roughly 19″x59″; that’s from inside the rabbet. I cut the pieces about an inch bigger and then folded over a half inch on every side. This isn’t necessary on the door as we’ll have a retainer shim but I did it anyhow. I cut two pieces because the fencing I got came in 36″ width … so I rolled out the fencing and cut two 20″ lengths (remember, I just said I cut them an inch bigger) and then cut 12″  off the second piece. I then “stitched” the pieces together with a length of galvanized wire I had in the garage.

With the two pieces acting as one and fitted for the inside of the cut-out, I placed it in, laid a little trim over it, and started stapling. The finished product was OK but not great. First time I did something like this and wish I’d found a way to pull the wire tighter. I’m sure it’s fine but it would be better if it were taut.

The access doors were a snap in comparison.

Here I just measured about a half inch off the outside frame, making that about 16″x21″. I then folded over about a half inch on each edge, laid it on the inside of the access door (inside is the side with the gusset on it), and ran staples around the outside every inch or so. I don’t know if you need it attached that much but, in a bit of frank honesty, I have a box of a bajillion staples and I can’t see going through them in my lifetime. May as well batten down the coop wire!

And that’s it for the doors. For something so simple, it ended up being a lot of words … I’m hoping with pictures it makes better sense and falls into place.


2 Responses to “Coop doors”

  1. joeabbott said

    One more note … you can see in the picture of the main door drying up (while being glued) that I added a door handle. I’m not sure if this will be the main handle for opening the door, but it was actually added to cover the place where the screens are joined in an effort to avoid exposing an edge.

  2. […] I realize I got a bit ahead of myself on this one. We built the door earlier but I didn’t detail the wood we’d use on the assembly […]

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