Think of The Garden Loft as a box within a box — a large, raised henhouse loft that spans the full width of the coop and opens into a secure, covered, enclosed run. Building your chicken coop like this has many advantages.
One is that it puts the henhouse at a comfortable height for access and cleaning, where everything is within reach. You can then hang your feeder and waterer beneath the henhouse to save space.
It also means that the full footprint of the coop is available for the chickens' run, a secure outdoor space where they can scratch around, relax in the sun, take dust baths, and make the best compost your garden has ever seen.
But one of the biggest advantages of The Garden Loft's integrated design is that, since the run is fully secured, you can leave the opening between the henhouse and run open all the time.
Your chickens are free to come and go as they please — and so are you. No having to let them in and out each morning and night.
Everything you want in a coop. Every step explained.
We designed The Garden Loft so that you could build it with easily accessible materials — and the plans show you how to make the most of these materials. They spell out exactly what you need to buy or borrow and exactly what to do with it. So you get a gorgeous, professional-looking coop at a doable do-it-yourself price.
Full-sized. Fully secure.
From the ground up, The Garden Loft protects your hens from predators, pests, and the elements. The frame is clad with both wood siding and heavy-duty hardware cloth. There's a hardware cloth ceiling above both the henhouse and run and a hardware cloth skirt at the base. The skirt prevents rodents and predators from tunneling in while leaving the ground in the run open for your chickens to scratch in.
Explore The Garden Loft large walk-in chicken coop. . .
The Garden Loft's open-air design lets in sunlight and fresh air to help keep your flock healthier and happier year round. It also affords you a spectacular view of all the goings-on in the run.
Two outer perches span the full width of the coop. . .
And there are two more long perches inside the henhouse. It's plenty of space for a large flock to roost. You can play with the configuration of the roosts to fit the number of hens you have. You could also partition the space for storage or to separate out members of the flock as needed.
There are four removable nesting boxes inside the henhouse (with room to add more, if you want) and a latched door that opens from the outside for egg collection.
Hang a waterer and feeder off the ground beneath the henhouse.
Everything inside is easy to get to — the full-height people door and the two sets of double doors to the henhouse put the entire space within reach for care and cleaning.
When the bedding in the henhouse is soiled, we simply lift the two-by-four holding it in place at the front and brush the bedding down into the enclosed run to begin composting along with the rest of their deep litter. Of course, you could do a sand floor or some other type of floor if you prefer.
Remember, the entry into the henhouse via the chicken ladder does not need to be closed at night. The outer perimeter of The Garden Loft is fully secure, with bolted doors and a hardware cloth skirt on all sides of the chicken run. This also gives your hens the choice to roost in the secure outer run at night, which our flock prefers almost year round in the Pacific Northwest.
The Garden Loft frame is made from standard dimensional lumber/timber. It rests atop concrete pier blocks set partially in the ground, which provide a stable, level foundation that elevates the frame off the ground.
Up top, there's a secure ceiling, and above that, the translucent polycarbonate roof adds to both the form and the function of the coop, providing light (and shade), ventilation, and protection from rain, snow, heat, and UV. You can partially cover the ceiling over the henhouse for added shade or for more enclosure, depending on the season.
Here's a quick video tour. . .
To add even more secure space to your chickens' day yard, check out our plans for The Garden Run modular enclosure series. These designs let you add a little or a lot, while creating new ways to blend your chicken keeping with your gardening.
Most chicken keepers will only ever need one chicken coop to start and sustain their hobby. But if you ever want or need another — to expand your flock, brood chicks, separate out a broody or sick hen, or to add the function of a mobile tractor to your existing walk-in coop — all of our coop and run designs go great together. And we offer a discount when you get mulitple plans at the same time.
The best thing about building your own chicken coop — you get final say on how to do it!
Since 2008, we've been helping backyard chicken keepers around the world build exactly the coops they imagine. When you set out with these plans, you enjoy the benefit of the collective knowledge, ideas, and examples of this community of builders.
Paint it your kids' favorite colors, repurpose salvaged building materials, add a gutter to collect rainwater, keep bees in an adjacent run, generate solar power, attach a tool rack, make it a duplex for storage or to keep other pets — these are just some of the ways others have built upon the foundation of our plans. What will you dream up?
The plans are written for beginners, so if you've at least used a circular saw and a cordless drill before, you can build this coop. That said, given the scope of the project, it would help if you or a building partner had some DIY building experience already, otherwise, you could get frustrated at points along the way, and that's no fun.
If you work patiently and safely, you should have no problem. All the cuts are simple and straight. All the joinery is explained in the plans. There is some digging involved, and some wrestling with rolls of hardware cloth, but you won't need any special skills there, just maybe that extra pair of (gloved) hands.
Prices will differ by region and by store. What I can tell you is that if you'd bought what's on The Garden Loft materials list new at 2016 Home Depot prices, you would have paid around $1,450 USD pre-tax. If you shop around a little for hardware cloth (check Amazon, see link below) and for siding (check local lumber specialty stores), you could get this down to around $1,250.
This estimate does not include wood treatment, paint, or any kind of sealer as your choice of what to use will vary, but you can budget around $200 for that if you are buying it new. It also excludes whatever you're covering the hardware cloth perimeter skirt with — sod, mulch, etc. Also, add in your local sales tax.
Here's the approximate (2016) cost breakdown by category, in USD:
» Hardware cloth, $140–265 (Worth comparison shopping for. Check with the large farm/feed stores or wire distributors in your area. They sometimes stock bigger rolls, which may be more economical. Often you'll find a deal on Amazon too — see our Buyer's Guide for links.)
There are many ways to save on — or add to — this cost. I chose polycarbonate roofing at around $33 per 12-foot panel. Clear PVC is much cheaper, though far less durable, so steer clear of it. You could build an economical roof out of plywood decking and asphalt shingles if the transparent roof is not critical to you. You can make decorative door pulls and handles out of wood scraps or hardwood branches, instead of buying the metal ones new.
We also offer a Hardware Quick Kit for The Garden Loft (U.S. only) that includes all the hardware you need to build the coop — basically, it's everything except the bulky stuff (wood, hardware cloth, roofing, paint, pier blocks, etc.). It's priced competitively with what you'll find locally, but it's pre-shopped and pre-packed in one easy box. It also ships free with no sales tax added.
There's no easy way around the cost of hardware cloth, but that's something you DO NOT want to skimp on. (Check your nearest farm & feed stores for local deals on longer rolls, or see our Buyer's Guide for links to it online.) Do not use hexagonal chicken wire!
Also, you might already have some of these materials, like two-by-fours or screws, that you can recycle from other projects, neighbors, and so on.
What will save you money on your coop for sure is having a clear idea of what you're building and not overbuying, mis-measuring, wasting time, or making costly mistakes. A solid planwill help you with that.
If you've read through the plan, have your materials together, and allow time for treating or sealing the wood, you could build The Garden Loft in about 2 weeks. That's if you stay busy and are working mostly alone. Help from a friend or two should speed things along. And of course, factor in some extra time for any changes or additions you make to the design.
As with any project worth doing, hopefully you'll learn some things as you go along. There's a good mix of steps too. That is, there are steps that are easy but give you a dramatic result, like framing the coop. There are some, like staining or painting, that can be meditative. There are some that require more attention to detail, like the doors. Then there are those steps where you are just so excited to see it all coming together that you get into a groove and go, like installing the wire mesh or the roofing panels or whatever finishing touches you dream up.
What tools will I need to build this chicken coop?
We designed The Garden Loft large walk-in chicken coop and plan for someone with beginner to intermediate skills. The cuts are all straightforward, and the tools are pretty common ones that you likely either have or can easily borrow or buy. Here's the list from the plan:
» circular saw (you may prefer a miter saw for crosscuts and a table saw for cutting siding, if you have access to these as well)
» power drill/driver, with various bits
» tape measurer at least 25' (7.5 m) long
» standard level and optional cross-check level
» combination square or speed square
» clamps (2) with at least a 6" (150 mm) capacity
» wire/metal snips that can handle 19-gauge wire or heavier
» bow rake
» step ladder
» sanding block and sandpaper, or a power sander
» rubber mallet
» personal protective gear: work gloves, eye & ear protection, dust mask/respirator, work boots, etc.
» pneumatic narrow crown stapler, with compressor (optional, but helpful given the size of the project)
» an extra pair of hands, on occasion (best if attached to a strong body)
The Garden Loft will comfortably house up to 16 hens, or you can add run space for more. The coop is an integrated henhouse and run, so your hens are free to move between the two areas as they please. There is actually enough roost space in both the henhouse and run to accommodate 20+ hens in each area, so you have some flexibility if you want to house even more.
As with any sub-/urban backyard flock, it helps if you have only hens (no roosters) and that they have all been raised together. If you have an extra fenced-in day run to provide, your flock will appreciate all the foraging/grazing space they can get. See The Garden Run plans if you think you might want to add secure run space down the line.
Yes. More than anything, what chickens need year round is proper ventilation and protection from the elements, and The Garden Loft provides this. The henhouse is ventilated at the top, which minimizes drafts blowing through in the winter. You can also regulate the amount of ventilation by inserting shadecloth or a thin panel over a portion of the open-air ceiling.
To see some of the extreme climates where people are successfully keeping chickens in our open-air designs, and for information on preparing your chicken coop and flock for the winter, see the winter-tagged posts at our blog, Coop Thoughts.
You say protection all around from rodents and predators. What does that mean exactly?
The predators and pests you have to deal with will vary, but let's stick with two for now: rodents and raccoons. Rodents will look for any hole to crawl through to get to the chickens' food, and they can squeeze their bodies really small to do it. The Garden Loft is completely enclosed, top and sides, with 1/2-inch (13 mm) hardware cloth. Anything wider, like poultry netting or rabbit fencing, will not keep rodents out. Anything smaller, like 1/4-inch, could be too brittle to deter predators. At the base, the hardware cloth is flared out over top the ground (or slightly below, if you prefer), then staked down. This makes tunneling down a tough prospect for even the most determined pest or predator.
Raccoons and foxes will dig, pry, and even undo a latch to get into your coop. Unlike rats and mice, they don't want your chicken feed. They want your chickens. That's why it's important to staple the hardware cloth properly and to use the lockable latches on the access door and the egg door. In many cities and suburbs that require a permit to keep chickens, a rodent-proof design is a must.
Does the plan include instructions for nesting boxes?
Yes. The plan does include specs for four nesting boxes (two on top of two), which fit inside the henhouse at the left side. Each is accessible from the egg door. Four boxes should be plenty for 16 hens (they only go in them to lay eggs). If you wanted more for some reason, you could add a couple more in the henhouse. It's quite roomy.
If you're interested in adding external nest boxes to your chicken coop, see our free exterior nesting box plans for guidance. (Review these plans before framing your coop, as it will alter how you frame the left wall of the henhouse.) These were written for The Garden Coop, but the same principles will apply. You can add these nest boxes to the sides or back of the henhouse.
Cleaning the waist-high henhouse is done simply from the two sets of double doors inside the coop. Just brush the litter down into the enclosed run and add fresh bedding. How often depends on the season and how often your chickens roost in the henhouse. You can paint the henhouse floor or top it with a layer of linoleum flooring to make cleanup easier.
We use a deep-litter method in the enclosed yard. Basically, just adding additional bedding as needed and letting everything compost in place. I may get in there and turn the stuff once a week, adding water if it's too dry (in the summer), then remove about half of it every 6 months, taking it to a compost pile to finish decomposing.
Is the coop suitable for raising baby chicks also? Can I use it as a brooder?
If the weather is warm enough, and/or you can provide ample warmth with a heat lamp, you can section off part of the henhouse to use as a brooder for chicks. You could also fashion a brooder from a cardboard box, set it up in the henhouse or in the garage, and keep your chicks in there until they are fully feathered.
Chicks need warmth (from a heat lamp), water, food, and fresh bedding. Don't give them too much space at first, because they get used to it and come to expect it. So if you're using a large box, insert a divider when they're small which you can remove as they grow. Also make sure they have room to get away from the heat of the bulb. That's how they regulate their temperature. If they're cold, they'll move closer. If they're too warm, they scoot farther away. You can search for "chick brooders" online to get some more ideas.
Can I get the lumber or plywood pre-cut at my local hardware store, Lowes, Menard's, or Home Depot?
In my experience, the cuts a hardware store will make for you are often not the most precise. Also, there are many cuts in this plan, and while they're simple enough to do, you'll need to do them on site as you assemble the coop. That said, you can certainly get the store to make some cuts for you so that your materials will fit in your vehicle. The plan indicates where it's safe to cut the plywood for transport.
Can you send me printed plans instead of the eBook (PDF file)?
We only offer plans as eBooks in the PDF format. This lets us get them out quickly (and always in perfect condition), and it keep costs down for everyone. Some past customers whose computer setups were not ideal told me that they forwarded the file to a friend or relative to view and print. You'd be surprised how much help a dozen fresh eggs will get you.
Is there a metric version of the plan. And do you accept international orders?
Yes to both! The Garden Loft plan is universal, actually, so it includes both U.S./imperial and metric materials lists as well as U.S./imperial and metric measurements throughout. So whether you work in feet/inches or millimeters (or a combination of the two), this plan has you covered.
What They're Saying About
The Garden Loft Chicken Coop Plans
"Thanks for a great plan and hardware kit! It was easy to follow and largely possible to do solo, though I roped my husband into helping when he was available. I started the first weekend of April and finished the first weekend of May."
—Elizabeth F., Shirley, MA
"What a fun project! I've never built anything other than IKEA furniture and baby toys/cribs, so this was a little intimidating, but your plans were so well written and thought out that I didn't ever feel something wouldn't get done. I'm a 4'11'' mom of five, so if I can do this, anyone can! Thank you for your kit as well, that made the process so much faster."
—Deanna S., Waitsfield, VT
"I just wanted to send my gratitude for your wonderfully written plans. You have every detail laid out so well, even I was able to build this thing! I was impressed by the foresight in the plans every step of the way."
—Danny S., Knoxville, TN
"We considered this our summer vacation — money well spent. I am truly amazed by the level of work you put into creating these plans and kit. We feel pretty comfortable after building this that we could take on most projects!"
—Julie and Steve, Wrentham, MA
"The Garden Loft plans were exactly what I needed to do this project right — a great-looking coop design and a set of plans that a novice could follow. I now have a lot more knowledge and confidence in my building skills, new friends, and a stronger sense of community among my neighbors."
—Steven M., Harrisburg, PA
Be one of the first in your town to build The Garden Loft for your backyard flock. Then send in a picture and let us know how it went!