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We have built two hoop coops so far. I like the concept due to it's low cost and mobility, though we do need to add protection for the winter months. Last winter we used straw bale walls and a large tarp to get through the winter. Eventually we plan to build a permanent coop, but having a totally mobile setup allows us to figure out the best location for that coop. It also gives us some more time to learn what we are doing and what we want in a fixed coop. The chickens seem to like them quite well, and so far they have been sufficient to protect our flock. I prefer the open bottom design to any type of floor, not only is it cheaper and easier to make; it allows for pasturing or deep litter method use.
There are many other differences, but this post will be mainly focused on how to build the second version. It is not intended to be the "end all be all" of hoop coop construction, as there are numerous design options and many other great versions out on the web. My hope is that this post can serve as a guide that allows a beginner to get the job done.
Cross cut saw
Heavy duty pliers
Hog ring pliers
Materials:(2) 10' 2x4
(3) 8' 2x4
(2) 8' 1x4
(4) 8' 2x2
(3) Cattle panels
80' of 36" Poultry netting
48" x 5' ¼" hardware cloth
U shaped fence nails
2" wood screws
2 1/2" wood screws
1 set medium hinges
1 set small hinges
Tarps (16' x 12' & 8' x 10' or close sizes)
Step 1: Build the Base
Cut 2 of the 2x4s at 8' 3" and 2 at 10'. Screw together into a rectangle with the 10' sides overlapping the shorter ones as shown below. Use 2 of the 2½" screws per connection.
Be sure that the base is square before step 2. Check for squareness by measuring the diagonals, when both diagonals match, you will have a perfect square.
Step 2: Add the corner braces
Cut the 1x4 into 4 corner braces with 45° angels measuring 18" on the long side.
Trace the outline of the brace on the 4 corners. Cut 3/4" deep along the two lines, then make several more cuts inside them. Use a sharp chisel to remove the rest of the material creating an angled recess to receive the brace flush with the top of the 2x4.
Install the corner braces with 3 of the 2" screws on each connection. Pre-drill to avoid splitting the brace.
Step 3: Install the cattle panels
Lay the two cattle panels side by side with the short side of the panels on the short side of the frame. center on the 2x4 and attach one side using u shaped fence staples.
U shaped fence staple
Attach the panels on one side, let the other side hang over.
center the panel on both 2x4's and attach using u shaped staples.
Bend the panels one at a time up into an arch and attach the other side the same way. (it is a good idea to have someone to help hold the panel in place for this step)
Once both panels are up, use the hog rings to tie them together. Alternately you can use baling wire.
Hog ring and pliers
Step 4: Attach the back panel
Lay the third panel across the back 2x4 with one corner lined up with the arched panels and attach to the base using fence staples.
One the bottom is securely attached, stand the panel up and use hog rings or wire to hold it in place. Use a metal saw to cut the excess off, leaving a few inches of panel wire overhanging the arch. Where a corner meets the arch, simply cut it off flush.
Using heavy duty pliers or channel locks, fold over the excess wire creating a secure connection. Be careful not to pull in on the arch while doing this and change it's shape. It takes considerable hand strength for this part.
Take care that the sharp ends are tucked back were they can't catch you or your chickens.
Step 5: Attach the front panels
Use the remaining cutoff from the back panel for the two front panels. Count the spaces to determine where the center will be and create to equal length panels with straight ends toward the middle where your door will be. Attach in the same way as the back panel.
Step 6: Build door frame
put a 2x4 vertically along the inside of one front panel and mark the top at an angle where it meets the arch. Cut along the mark so the 2x4 fits under the arch. Do this for both sides. Be sure to keep the 2x4 square with the frame, if you are on a level surface then a level works well, otherwise use a framing square.
Attach the bottom of the door frame by "toe nailing" or driving screws at an angle into the bottom 2x4. Use 2 of the 2 ½" wood screws. Then check for squareness and attach the top to the arch using the fence staples.
Do this on both sides, making sure that the width at the bottom of the frame is consistent with the top of the frame. Then cut the frame top to fit and "toe screw" into place. I don't give exact measurements for these steps. As long as it is square it will be fine, you can build the door to fit the opening you end up with.
The last step of the door frame is to install the stop. Cut a 1x4 to fit from the bottom 2x4 to the top of the door frame and install ½ way over the inside on one side of the door frame. I did this on the right side of the frame, but it needs to be opposite of the hinge side, which ever side you want that to be. Attach the stop using 2" wood screws.
Frame top in place
Door stop in place
Inside view of the door stop.
Step 7: Build the door
The images below shows the dimensions of our door and are for example only. Be sure to make your door fit the opening you end up with. Measure the inside dimensions of your door frame, then subtract ½" from each direction to allow for door operation. This should be the outside dimensions of your finished door.
Door Step 1: cut 2 2x2s to the height of door frame opening minus ½"
Door Step 2: Cut 3 2x2s to the width of the door frame minus 3½" Attach one to the top, one to the bottom, and one 12" above the bottom as shown below. All of the connections for this frame are made using 1 2½" wood screw. Pre drill to avoid splitting the 2x2s.
Door Step 3: Cut 2 2x2s at 12" and attach them 8" apart in the center of the bottom opening in the door frame. (Note: This creates an 8" wide by 12" tall chicken door frame in the middle of the big door. Perfect for chickens or ducks. If you plan to keep geese or turkeys, you need to make a bigger door.)
Door Step 4: Cut a 2x2 for diagonal brace. This will have an angle on both ends and extend from the hinge side down to keep the door from sagging. Be sure the door frame is square, lay the 2x2 on top in position, and you can trace the angle cuts needed.
Door Step 5: Create the small chicken door. The door should measure 11 3/4" x 7 3/4" to fit in the small frame. I made mine by ripping left over pieces of 1x4 in half and screwing them together into a rectangle. Alternately a solid board or piece of plywood could serve as a chicken door.
Door Step 6: Cover door with 1/4" hardware cloth. Attach using staples or pan head screws. Leave the 12" x 8" chicken door frame open.
Door Step 7: Attach chicken door using small hinges and install latch.
I use hook and eye latches with a spring clip to prevent easy opening by raccoons or other predators. (The above pic is actually from our brooder build, so don't expect it to make sense for this project)
Door Step 8: Hang door in frame using Medium hinges and install latch.
Step 8: Cover the outside with poultry netting
Cover the front and back walls with poultry netting, folding the excess over the sides and around the cattle panels. Then cover the arch by stapling the end to the side 2x4 and unrolling over the arch. It will take three courses of 36" netting to cover the top. Use lots of small loops of baling wire to attach the netting to the cattle panels. Take care not to leave sharp points of wire exposed.
Step 9: Add the Tarps
This part requires a bit of creativity as there does not seem to be a "best way" We used a combination of small bungee cords, screws, rope to get the job done. Remember that chickens need a lot of ventilation, so don't close it up too tight, but make sure they will have shade throughout the day. Be careful not to create pocket that will trap water, or loose flaps that will catch the wind.
Back Brace: Often people put a vertical brace on the back wall of a hoop coop to help support the arch. With the panels securely wired together, I didn't feel this was necessary but may be needed in areas with significant snowfall.
Roost: Chickens need some kind of roost. We used a 10' 2x4 with one side rounded off with a belt sander. It was cut to fit just longer than the coop so it would sit snugly in the corner of the squares on the front and back cattle panels and secured with baling wire. This provides enough space for about 20 birds to roost. (This is way too many birds to be stuck in such a small space, but works alright if they have daily yard access.)
This pic is from our first hoop coop, but you get the idea.
Nest boxes: We use homemade wooden nest boxes. They could be attached to the back panel for a mobile setup.
Predator Skirt: To prevent protect the coop from predators that can dig under the sides, put 2' hardware cloth around the outside. Fold it in half with a 90° bend so that it extends 1' up the side and 1' out around the coop. The predators will tend to try to dig in the corner and get discouraged, not being smart enough to back up a foot and get under it. We did this on our first (mobile) coop but not the new one that we keep inside fencing. So far we have not had an issue either way. (knock on wood)
Wheels and Hitch: For our first hoop coop, I came up with this pop up wheel assembly and a custom hitch for the front. We use a trailer dolly which allows one person to easily move it through short grass.
The wheel assemblies go on the front of the hoop coop and can be levered upright and pinned in place for moving or lay down so the frame sits flat on the ground.
I am really proud of this custom hitch. It is the first functional thing I have made with a welder.
So that's it. I hope you find this useful, but please remember that there are a lot of other designs out there and a lot of options and room to get creative on your build. If you do use this guide, please leave a comment or drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to let me know how it goes, especially if you find any errors or omissions in this post.