How to Build a Backyard Chicken Coop—No Experience Necessary | Architectural Digest

Until recently, the decision to maintain one’s own chicken coop may have been considered rather granola, but nowadays it’s not unusual to spot one, even within the property lines of Hollywood’s most glamorous stars. Take Nicole Richie’s Beverly Hills home, for example, where a custom coop was designed to match the home itself. In upstate New York, Isabella Rossellini’s property includes a 120-strong chicken coop. While the outdoor fixtures have quickly gone from bucolic oddities to glamorous aspirations, it’s certainly still a doable backyard project and one that’s attainable for folks with space to share. 

Designer John Sharp used Sophia Bush’s patio as inspiration for his midcentury coop design. 

Photo: Sean Hazen

“I would say a key element in the increased popularity of backyard chickens came during the pandemic, as it was a time when people felt the need to become more self-sufficient and build a greater sense of connectivity with nature,” says John Sharp, the principal designer of Studio John Sharp, in Los Angeles, who’s worked with a number of clients on backyard chicken coops, including Sophia Bush, for whom he crafted a midcentury inspired coop to complement her classic California bungalow.

See what four chicken coop enthusiasts share when it comes to the most important steps for backyard chicken coop creation.

Consider your geographic location 

For Stephanie Cleary, cofounder and creative director of Morrow Soft Goods, in Los Angeles, planning out a backyard chicken coop meant assessing the specific needs of Southern California living. Considering the heat and the existing wildlife was essential. On the other hand, if you live in a place with long, cold winters, create a plan to keep your chickens warm and cozy when the temperature dips. 

Think about property layout

Before building a backyard chicken coop, remember it can take up a good portion of a yard. “The overall size of your coop is dependent on how many chickens you will be housing; the rule of thumb for the run is 10 feet per chicken,” Sharp says. “This can be slightly smaller if you have free-ranging chickens, and are letting them out to forage in your garden during the day.”

Sustainability expert Shelbi Orme, known as Shelbizleee to her 300,000+ YouTube subscribers, and based in San Antonio, Texas, was excited to have a backyard chicken coop, even though it did eat into her gardening space. “I think maybe people don’t realize that it’s going to take up space where you might want to be growing other things,” Orme says.


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Sustainability expert Shelbi Orme walks you through her garden and chicken coop condo.

Choose the right number of chickens for you

The number of chickens you hope to raise will greatly affect every detail of your backyard chicken coop. 

Douglas Friedman recommends counting your chickens before you decide to build the coop.

Photo: Douglas Friedman 

“Start with a manageable number of chickens,” says Douglas Friedman, a photographer based in Marfa, Texas, who raised his chickens from baby chicks, and underestimated how much space he’d need. When he started the coop, he thought, “Oh, I’ll start with 30 chicks.” However, he soon realized that’s a lot of chickens. “We actually had to expand the size of the coop and make it bigger to accommodate them,” he says. “I really messed it up. We probably would have been fine with like half as many birds.” Friedman’s coop (documented on Instagram @thebestlittlehenhouseintexas) was restored from a derelict coop on his neighbor’s property, so the excess of chickens meant expanding the existing structure. 

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