Sunday, July 28, 2013

Building a Hoop Coop, How to construct an inexpensive open bottom poultry pen.

Click images to view larger

     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.

     The basic concept is pretty simple, two cattle panels arched over a 2x4 frame.  There are, however, a ton of options in the details of how to put them together.  Our first hoop coop (above right), was built to be light and movable.  We used untreated lumber and sealed it with a homemade paste of beeswax and mineral oil.  The front and back panels are hog panels and it features flip down wheels and a trailer hitch allowing one person to easily move it.  Our second hoop coop (above left) is built for durability.  It is made from treated lumber and has no wheels, so it takes at least three people to move.  The front and back panels are cattle panels, which are taller and require less additional support.  The only downside of this is that due to the curve in the top, the front panels ended up spaced farther apart requiring a slightly wider door. 

     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.

Tools Needed:

Cross cut saw
Metal saw
Heavy duty pliers  
Hog ring pliers
Framing square


(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
Hog rings
Baling wire
1 set medium hinges
1 set small hinges
2 latches
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.

Use the remaining hardware cloth to close the space between the door frame and the top of the arch.

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 to let me know how it goes, especially if you find any errors or omissions in this post.

Update 11/27/13:

Click here to see a post about a different take on the hoop coop that a friend of ours built.



  1. Thank you for posting this. I found the link over at Homesteading Today. We've been wanting to do this for a couple of years now, and yours is the best and most well docomented design yet! I like that it is tall enough to go inside (some I've seen are not) and has a nice nest box/roost area. I may turn my teenage son loose on this project.

    1. Glad you like it, please let me know how the build goes for you.

  2. Thanks for the detailed explanation. We've built permanent coops in the past but we're ready to try a portable one. I've been eyeing the hoop design for a while but wasn't sure how we could insulate it for the winter...we're in upstate NY. Did you insulate with complete straw bales or create a thatched roof?

    1. We have gotten through the last few winters using a combination of straw bales and tarps. Maybe not the best coop, but it's inexpensive and it works.

  3. We used straw bale walls to block the wind and threw a large tarp over the whole setup.

  4. Thank you so much for posting such a detailed outline for building this coop. I'm hoping my hubby and dad can soon get to work on making me a coop just like yours! This outlines your 2nd "more durable" coop. Can you post the difference between the 1st more lightweight mobile coop and this one? is it simply the wheels? Did you attach the nest boxes on the outside of the coop? or on the inside? Thank you again!

    1. sorry -I just realized that you posted the difference between your 2 coops..treated lumbar, no wheels, etc.

    2. The door and door frame are also made of 1x in the light version and 2x in the heavy one. There are a lot of different ways to approach it, so have fun with it, make it unique, make it your own. Thanks for commenting.

  5. Glad to see something like this so local to me.
    I plan on following your progress from here. Very inspiring!

    1. Thanks Ryan! Now I just have to find time to post. :)

  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  7. I'm planning on building this coop but we are adding a perimeter elec fence for night protection against predators. We live out in the north Idaho wild and wooly. Our 2 bee hives will be located outside the coop around the back, but inside the elec fence to prevent Mrs. Bear visiting our hives at night as well.

  8. Would it be safe to use the white vinegar to clean my rabbit hutches too. I already use it for cleaning the chicken houses.

  9. Oh man . It will be therefore fantastic ! I really like that you choose to designed this with your own daddy feeling that he provides a thumbs up in his photos . He’s the perfect ! And that weather conditions vein ! Sacred cow Ashley ! That thing is amazing ! I can’t wait around to observe this place continue to keep grow up . I will be able to survive through you utilizing this until we certainly have a location of our personal back . PS : I have been seriously inspired once i look at six goats . After which you can damaged up at the zebus chicken coops for sale

  10. I would make sure you get the panels with the chain connectors and not the straight pin. I had heard of a horror story

    where a horse reared and came down between the round pen panels and got lodged. They were unable to undo the panels b/c the

    pin got bent. If it was a chain, they could have cut the chain and got the horse out.

  11. Its a good n Ideal design for removing dirt (chicken coop plans
    ) from ny corner

  12. Hi Joe, Thank you so much for such a great, detailed description! It has helped a lot and saved me a lot of time to have a materials list to start with and instructions and pictures from someone whos already made a couple.

    we made ours 12x10, so we could house more animals (ours is used as overnight housing for ducks on pasture), with three cattle panels spanning the length instead of 2 like your 8ft long design

    A few things we modified that others may be interested in: we mounted the panels on the inside of the 2x4 frame instead of on top. this gives greater structural support because the 2x4 is taking the outward pressure of the bent cattle panel and serving to reinforce everything instead of the staple taking all the pressure. because of this we had to change the position of the cross braces which meant they where slightly longer, we measured them in place to figure them out. we could have cut one wire on the cattle panel but liked how perfectly they fit through the wholes and the added structural strength. we mounted the panels 2 inches up from the bottom of the 2x4, this eliminates any risk of the panel dragging on the ground while moving the structure.

    we calculated the length so that we had a few inches overlap on the cattle panels, this added a little more strenght to the whole.

    we aligned the 2x4s so the front overlapped the sides instead of sitting in between them, we figured this way when it is dragged the pressure of the front 2x is pushing into the sides at 90 degrees rather then the screws holding all the pressure and eliminating any desire of the wood to pull apart. this of course means recalculating the length you need to cut your boards as this joining method will change your dimension.

    last tip is if you have bolt cutters, use them! we found them much easier and quicker then a sawzall for cutting the cattle panels, require no electricity and dont leave metal shards everywhere.

    thanks again for a great post

  13. 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 ...

  14. I built a pen/run similar to this but used PVC pipe (like you would for a greenhouse) as the "ribs" and covered with poultry wire then an outdoor heavy duty tarp for weather protection and shade. I'm seeing now that I probably would have had less stress and trouble if I'd used the cattle panels. I just didn't have any way to transport large panels across the state line. Taking notes for the next one. It serves it's purpose but now am trying to figure the best route for cold proofing as it does get cold down here in South Mississippi. Any other ideas for that? I did also think about the hay/straw bales. Any ideas would be great. And great instructions for my next coop!

  15. Chickens are no doubt great pet birds, but without protection they may be the reason for your tension. Hence get good chicken houses and protect them.

  16. Thanks for the information and links you shared this is so should be a useful and quite informative!
    raising chickens

  17. i would love to see more info on the pop up tires!

  18. For your information, I built my hoop coop by following this about 90%, with a couple tweaks here and there. I spent less than $300 and I'll be using it for years to come! Great tutorial, thanks for taking the time to put it together!

  19. Do you think 2x3s could be used instead of 2x4s?

  20. Thank you for a wonderful cache of information. This is my first chicken experience. I have a metal nesting box. How would you install a metal nest box in hoop coop???

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  22. How many chickens does this design hold? I have 9 hens and 1 rooster. I have been wanting to build my own chicken coop for awhile but I didn't know what kind of coop I wanted to build.

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