Build a Timber Frame Chicken Coop 

By Mahlon Kriebel

My wife, Monika, and I were recently surprised to find 18 chicks huddled in a cardboard box under a lamp in our Washington state garage. Our granddaughter, Kati, and her husband, Niko, had bought us the chicks; they knew that we had tended chickens as children, and they guessed we’d welcome fresh eggs. Niko suggested he could build a lean-to against the garage for the chicks. Because space was no consideration, the idea of a lean-to changed to a free-standing chicken coop. Kati sketched her idea of walls based on those familiar to her from her childhood. The chicken coop plans morphed into an Austrian mountain hut measuring 10 by 10 feet. The idea was to build from the land as much as possible, as a homesteader might've done 140 years ago. Niko and Kati wanted the structure to have a small energy footprint and only rely on a 500-watt lightbulb for winter heat. Here are the steps they took to build that structure.

Photo by Mahlon Kriebel

Along our old fence line, we have piles of stones gleaned from fields by my dad, my grandfather, and my great-grandfather. Niko and Kati used these stones to build the foundation. Many of the rock piles are at the opposite end of our farm, so it took Kati and Niko a week to move the 3 tons of stone to the building site. Then, Kati and Niko dug out a 3-foot-deep, 18-inch-wide foundation trench. This depth is required to prevent frost heaving from disturbing the foundation, and it amounted to moving 2 cubic yards (about 8,000 pounds) of dirt.

Photo by Mahlon Kriebel

We purchased 1 cubic yard of crushed basalt gravel from a local building supply company and used it to create a 3-inch-deep bedding in the trench. We then began dry-laying the courses for the foundation. We placed treated 4-by-6-inch timbers on top of the stone foundation to act as the sill plates.

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