So you’ve finished your masterpiece of a chicken coop, but now you’re wondering about chicken coop doors, where to put them, and how to make them work.
I will cover where to put the door, a few coop door secrets that will make it easier to keep your henhouse clean, how to build a small hardware-free door for the chickens, and a big person-sized door for you.
The Steps Involved in Building Your Chicken Coop Door
- Consider Your Coop’s Needs
- View Plans To Gather Ideas
- Making a Checklist of Tools & Equipment for The Chicken Coop Door
- Building The Door
- Mark And Cut a Hole
- Measure And Cut Building Materials to Size
- Assemble the Door
- Attach the Door To The Building
- Test And Make Adjustments If Necessary
- Attach Hardware
- Attach Locks (Optional)
My coop uses a recycled exterior door for the man door.
I made this man-door for my tiny goat barn.
Building a Chicken Coop Door: Considerations
As you begin researching your door project, you’ll quickly realize that there are a few hundred different designs, styles, and options for chicken doors.
No one type is perfect, but some styles are better suited for you, your flock, your area, and your henhouse than others.
Let’s cover some factors you should consider before deciding on the door. You visit this coop at least once a day every day and will interact with the door a lot, so it needs to be functional and thoughtfully made.
How Big Should A Chicken Door Be?
If you plan to keep a variety of chicken breeds of all sizes, go with a size that is accommodating for your largest bird, usually a rooster.
A 4-inch wide, six-inch tall door is sufficient if you’ll exclusively house bantams or quail.
For larger birds, like Brahmas or Jersey Giants, the door should be 12-inches wide and 14-inches tall.
Many people make the coop door bigger than it needs to be. In warmer climates, an oversized door can help ventilate the coop.
For colder climates, you want a small door that chickens have to squeeze through to help maintain the coop’s warmth.
Where Should I Put The Chicken Coop Door?
Doors on the south, east, and west sides of the coop will allow sunshine inside, which can help naturally kill off harmful bacteria, as proven by trusted researchers at the University of Oregon.
Doors affixed onto these sides will also warm the coop throughout the day.
Coop doors on the north side of the coop will limit sunshine and may keep it marginally cooler throughout the day.
If you live in a cooler climate, you don’t want the door to face prevailing winds, as this will really chill the henhouse. But in a warmer environment, that breeze could be a cool relief.
Another thing you should consider is nesting box and roosting perch placements.
You don’t want to reach under birds to shut the door because there is a good chance your precious fowl will leave a smelly gift on your arms, back, or head. You also don’t want to bump your head on the boxes or perches.
I am speaking from experience here.
Lastly, take a moment to consider how high up you want the door hole to be. If you ever want to use the deep litter method, lift the door a few inches off the ground so it can accommodate the litter without it spilling out the door.
My goat barn has the door on the ground, but my chicken coop’s door is better elevated.
I like to have an elevated entry where chickens have to walk up a ramp to get into the chicken coop.
If the run ever gets muddy (here’s a pro-tip, throw down these sawdust pellets to soak up mud), the ramp will act as a “rug” that will prevent the chickens from tracking it all into the coop.
Should a Chicken Coop Door Swing In or Out?
Chicken coops should open outwards so it’s harder for predators to force them open. It’s much easier to reinforce a door that opens outwards rather than inwards.
Chickens may roost on the door if it swings inward. You’ll have to relocate a chicken or two before you can shut the chicken coop door each evening.
As for “man doors” or “people-size doors,” each direction has pros and cons.
When the man door opens inwards, it is easier to keep chickens from sneaking past you and getting loose.
However, a door that swings indoors must have a threshold at least a foot off the ground to accommodate the deep litter method.
Otherwise, it will be a struggle to close.
If the door opens outwards, it may be slightly more difficult for predators, especially larger ones like bears, to force it open.
You can reinforce the inside of the door to take a few heavy hits without bursting open on impact.
If you plan to put electric wire on the outside of your coop as predator defense, it is easier to make the door swing out rather than in.
You can attach the electric wire to the exterior of the door pretty easily.
https://youtu.be/lacs9Rw0BRc?t=925 (demonstration of an electric wire being attached to a door opening outwards)
Do I Want To Open The Door From The Inside or Outside? Both?
If the chicken coop door leads to an enclosed chicken run that you can’t access, you should operate the door from inside the coop.
If the door leads to free-range and not a run, you may want to be able to access it from the inside and outside, but make sure predators can’t figure out the latching mechanisms.
If your coop is small enough that you can’t walk into it, it should only be accessible from the outside.
Should I Add a “Man Door” To My Chicken Coop?
If your coop is large enough to have a person-sized door, then you should absolutely add one. It is much easier to clean and monitor a coop if you can walk inside it. Just because you can reach all corners of the coop with a shovel, rake, or power washer does not mean that you’ll enjoy not having full access to the coop.
Most people underestimate how messy chickens are and how often they’ll need to get inside the coop to pick up loose containers and clean up litter and manure. Save yourself the trouble and add a man door, even if you don’t think you’ll use it that often.
Don’t forget to make the door operable from both sides; you don’t want to get trapped in the coop with no way out.
Should I Padlock the Door?
Padlocked chicken coops come with several pros and cons.
- Unwanted visitors, like people and predators, cannot access the coop.
- Padlocks are strong and good reinforcements. If the latch and door are as strong as the lock, then your coop will be nearly impenetrable.
- Your chickens will be extra secure and won’t be able to escape through the door by pushing it open
- You have to keep track of the key and bring it with you on every visit
- Other people will have to have your key to access the coop, you need to make extra copies
- It takes a moment to unlock padlocked coops. The padlock will briefly slow you down if there is a disaster, like a fire (I know, I don’t like to think about that either).
What Kind of Predators Should I Plan Against?
Usually, hawks and other birds of prey pose the greatest threat to backyard chickens, but luckily they aren’t likely to break into a coop at night. They prefer to swoop down during the day to steal chickens.
Stray dogs, wolves, and coyotes are also predators, but they aren’t a threat so long as your coop doesn’t have any unsecured openings for them to nose into.
Raccons and some black bears will be able to figure out certain latches. They have hands and intelligent little minds that let them open almost anything a human can. Black bears are also smart critters who have the mental and physical abilities to be a menace to you and your coop.
These two can figure out even something as complicated as a carabiner clip or dog leash clip.
Strong Grizzly Bears
Some animals don’t have the patience or the thumbs to work a latch or lock, and will instead use brute force to attempt to break in.
Grizzly bears may be deterred by having an extra-strong solid wood door, a strong electric fence, or using mounted unwelcome mats (plywood with sharp nails running through them and pointing outwards every two square inches, so the bear can’t push to force the door open).
What Kind of Climate Do I Need to Prepare For?
For cold areas, you should get a heavy door that is either insulated or made of a thick material like solid wood. The door should also be as draft-free as possible. Draftiness is usually worse for chickens than an outright cold snap.
For hotter climates, a screen door can provide safety while promoting healthy ventilation in the coop. Make sure you use hardware cloth or even stronger materials to keep the predators out at night. You can also pair a screen door with a solid door, so the screen can be open during the day while the heavy door closes and protects at night.
Livestock Strip Curtains
If the door has to stay open during cold weather, consider attaching livestock strip curtains. This will retain a considerable amount of heat while giving your animals free access in and out of the coop. I strongly recommend pairing these curtains with a sturdy door you can securely latch at night.
Should I Add a Ramp To The Chicken Coop Door?
Adding a ramp to the chicken coop door acts like a built-in rug to catch a lot of the sand, dirt, and mud from your chickens’ feet as they enter the coop. It keeps the coop cleaner.
Plus, if your coop door sits more than a foot off the ground, it can help your chickens, especially heavier breeds like Wyandottes and Cochins. Heavier birds can’t hop like lighter birds, so they will appreciate the ramp.
Ensure the ramp has some traction so they don’t slip (chickens can fall and break bones just like people), and it’s at least as wide as the door. You can lay shingles or chicken wire to the ramp for easy traction.
Should I Use an Automatic Coop Door?
Automatic coop doors are a game changer. Perhaps I just live under a rock, but I have kept chickens since 2010 and only recently learned about doors within the past three years. What an amazing invention.
Automatic doors open and close at dawn and dusk (or whenever you program them to), which means you don’t need to be outside, awake, or at home during those two parts of the day. They allow your chickens to keep a consistent schedule, reducing their stress and increasing their safety.
Building Your Chicken Coop Door: Designs and Plans
Here are a few chicken coop door designs to consider.
Vertical Sliding Door
Vertical sliding doors are easy to operate, easy to reinforce, and quick to install, and you don’t have to worry about chickens roosting on them.
Horizontal Sliding Door
Horizontal sliding doors are easy to install and operate. Still, the tracks can get dirty pretty quickly with discarded chicken feed (chickens love to scratch) and chicken manure. You may need to clear out the path every now and then, but on the bright side, they are easy to reinforce against predators.
Manual and Automatic Pop Hole Doors
Pop hole doors are the classic chicken coop door. They open in or out and attach at the top of the hole, not at the sides.
You can make them open inwards or outwards, but they need to be fastened up, or they will fall closed. Don’t try to use a stick to prop them open because your chickens will inadvertently knock that down on occasion.
Double Dutch Door
Double doors, or dutch doors, are dual-purpose and allow you and your chickens to enter the run. Most of the time, you’ll just open the bottom portion for the chickens, but if you ever need to catch a chicken or clean the run, they make it easy for you to get in and out. You do not want to crawl through a small chicken door or take your chicken run apart in those situations.
Curtain doors should probably not be used alone, but they can be a great addition to another door type. Curtain doors retain heat while giving animals free access to the coop and run (or free range).
Swing doors open via hinges on the left or right of the door. They are easy to install and operate but are not as easy to reinforce if something pushes on them. Still, most people don’t have to worry about large predators, and this is sufficient.
Tools and Materials Needed To Build a Chicken Door
- A saw, like a circular saw (Skilsaw) or a reciprocating saw (Sawzall). Don’t have one? Preplan your door and ask someone at your local hardware store to cut the wood you buy to size for you.
- Screws or nails. A drill or impact, or a hammer. Screws have better strength, but nails are acceptable too.
- A tape measure
- A try square
- A level
- A pencil
- Hardware and Hinges
- Wood planks
Your door is only as solid and stable as the hinges it hangs on.
You can go as simple or fancy as you would like here. If you’re also building a man door, check that the hinges and the screw you use are strong enough for the door’s weight.
T-hinges are my go-to, but other hinges work too.
Make sure the latch is strong, easy for you to maneuver, but not so simple that a predator can figure it out (or choose a latch to which you can add a lock).
This chicken coop door latch automatically locks when it closes. I do not recommend it for coops that you can walk into because it will lock you inside. It is excellent for small hutch-style chicken coops, though. especially if you frequently forget to latch the door.
My dairy goat barn’s man door uses a stall-style latch. I did alter it, though, so the bolt slips directly into the doorframe rather than the small metal piece. I also used longer screws than the ones provided for added reinforcement.
The simple cabin hook and eye latch are perfect for locking coop doors from the inside (if you will be walking back outside via a man door) or holding open the coop door during the day.
If you have a sliding door, you’ll probably want a latch like this one for your coop.
T-Handle door locks work well.
You can also get a traditional home exterior door knob; it works as a latch and a lock.
If you’re prone to misplacing your keys, try a door knob with keyless entry.
Padlocks are another simple solution.
How To Build a Chicken Coop Door: Step By Step
Measure the hole for your coop. Most people opt for a 10 x 12-inch hole, but this can vary depending on your breed size and climate. Colder climates need smaller holes; warmer ones need larger holes.
You should also measure how far up you want the coop door to sit. Twelve to eighteen inches is usually a good placement.
Mark And Cut a Hole.
Decide where you want the hole, and mark it with a pencil. Cut the hole out. You can use a manual handsaw or a reciprocating saw to get this done.
Measure And Cut Building Materials to Size
Cut the boards to frame the hole, and then the boards to act as a door on that frame.
Assemble the Door
Screw or nail the door framing up first. Then assemble the door. You can cut out a square piece of plywood for the chicken door or attach a board or two to create the door.
If you’re making a man door too, make sure it is about a half inch smaller height and width-wise so that it fits within your doorway without scraping.
For this door, I laid three ten-inch wide boards on level ground, side by side. Then, I screwed two short two-by-fours to the boards’ top and bottom so they would run parallel to the ground.
Next, I cut a two-by-six at an angle so it would create a Z pattern, with the top of the board facing outwards to support the top of the door when it swings open. I also added a two-by-four that ran from the top left side of the Z down to the bottom left side, just for added support.
I attached a square ten-inch board to two two-by-six boards for the little door. I just lift it in and out of place every day. There isn’t any hardware needed for this type.
Attach the Frame and Door To The Building
My henhouse and goat barn doors both work on a vertical slide.
I just screwed two vertical boards to the sides of the hole and then two horizontal boards to the tops and bottoms of these vertical boards at the top and bottom of the hole.
To close these doors, I just drop my sliding door down into the hole I created with the door frame.
For the little goat barn, I slipped a thin board between the bottom of the door and the threshold and then screwed in the hinges.
This was a bit of a trick because of their weight, but that thin piece of wood supported the weight and ensured that the door wasn’t sitting directly on the threshold. After I put the hinges up, I removed the board and tested the door. Success!
Test And Make Adjustments
It may not work perfectly immediately, but that’s alright. Centering doors isn’t easy; it may take you a try or two before it clears all four sides and sits level.
When I first closed my barn door, I realized it was difficult to open from the inside. I screwed the leftover two-by-four piece from the brace on the inside of the door, and now it works as a good makeshift handle.
Either drill a hole into the framing of your door, or screw the catch piece onto the side of your coop. Then, carefully line up the bolt with the hole, and attach it firmly using screws. I always replace the manufacturer’s screws with longer ones.
I also attached a cabin hook and eye to the back of my door, so I can effortlessly keep the door open when I muck the barn out. If it isn’t held open, it closes on its own, which is not convenient when you’ve got a forkful of manure.
Attach Locks (Optional)
If your latch or knob does not come with a lock, attach that now. Most just clip right on.
Try the door, and then lure your chickens over and get them to check it out too. You put a lot of effort into this; it’s okay to try to convince them to think it’s as cool as you do.
How To Make a Chicken Coop Door: Final Thoughts
Building a door for your coop should not be intimidating; many people have done it before, and it is not a complicated process.
You’ve now been armed with all the information you need to choose where to put your door, make the door frame, build the door, attach it, and even automate it once it’s in place. Now it’s just a matter of putting it together.
Are you wondering how to build the rest of the coop? We’ve got that covered for you too.