So Rose & Blanche are rapidly outgrowing their digs (see The Sassy Ladies). They need a permanent place to live.
Most people agree that free-ranging is the best option to raise chickens. However, in our modest half acre lot, that’s not really an option. The chickens would be at risk for predation, since all that separates our back yard from an expansive pasture is a chainlink fence. Plus, I think Dean the Menace would have a taste for chicken. SO…we decided to build a chicken coop and run.
Now, I know chicken coops can be purchased as kits, but they’re pretty pricey. The cheapest one I found locally was over $200, and that was just the coop. Since the point of homesteading is to save money, not to spend more, we gave it a go on our own.
The biggest money saver for us was dumb luck. We have a friend who works for a fertilizer company, and he mentioned that they just burn their pallets at the end of the day.
That’s like burning money! Pallets are a hot commodity in pretty much every area right now. You can use them for crafting, building, anything!
Anyway, I digress.
He also mentioned that they let him take home as many as he wanted for free. FREE. He agreed to bring me NINE free pallets! I definitely owe him a six pack. These pallets were in good shape, so this is where most of my wood came from.
If you’re on a budget, find pallets. Go to hardware stores or factories and see if they have any they are willing to part with. Sometimes floral shops will as well. Post on your local classifieds or other online forum asking for extra pallets or wood. Lumber really adds up, so ask around!
The second bit of luck we had was from our parents. One day, they randomly dropped by with a truck bed full of treasure. They gave us three more pallets, three small sheets of tin, and a 100’x4′ roll of metal wire fencing! JACKPOT. They’re the best.
Now, in addition to this windfall of Manna, we did have to purchase a few things. We used a 4x4x8′ cut into 4 pieces for the base. We also got two 2×4’s cut in half for the framing. We also got a piece of 2’x2′ plywood for the nesting box lid, wood screws, and some dowel rods for the chickens to roost on. I got 6 1x2x8 pieces of wood for trim.
NOTE: If you are looking for a professional chicken coop with fancy blueprints stamped with an engineer’s seal of approval, keep on truckin’. I am not an engineer, and I don’t have much experience with building things. I just came up with this as I went with the materials I had on hand. So if you’re here to judge, get to steppin’.
The first step was tearing up the pallets. The best way we found to do it was to saw the board near the nails on each end, pry out the middle a crowbar, and then hammer out the nails. That took FOREVER, but free is free. We would rather have free wood that we have to tear up and cut than pay for pre-cut wood, but that’s just us.Then we built the frame. We took the four two-foot sections of 4×4 and screwed them to four pieces of pallet in a square. Our pallet boards were 30″ long because that was the size of pallets we had, but they can be however big you need. We then laid pallets in a line with the two boards on top of the square. This will be your coop floor. As you can see, we left about a half inch between each board. We did this both for droppings and for ventilation, but you can decide if you want to do this based on your property and needs.
After the floor was built, we took my 2x4s and cut them into 4ft sections. Leaving about a 6 inch overhang, we screwed them into the outside of each leg to make the frame. We then attached pallet boards vertically to the top to make the top frame.We attached pallet boards cut at a 30° angle for the roof (so the saw said – I’m not convinced). This pallet in particular split, so the roof isn’t perfect, but I would be willing to bet the chickens don’t mind. We attached two boards at an angle across the top so we would have a place to attach the tin later. Then we started attaching the siding. I believe these boards ended up being 34″ to go all the way to the end of the 2x4s, but the boards on the north and south sides of the coop were still 30″.
At this point we started hearing coyotes too close for comfort, so we abandoned our project until the next day. Ain’t no chicken worth getting eaten.The next part was attaching the nesting box. Some people just leave their nesting boxes inside the coop, but we wanted a way to access it from outside the run that we will eventually build.
Real talk, it’s so I can get away from the snakes easier. Just shut the lid and haul it outta there.
Let me tell you that this part was hard. Probably because I’m not an engineer and have no experience in construction, but this nesting box gave us fits. First we used the 1x2x8 pieces to build the frame of the box. The box is 28″ long by 18″ wide by 16″ tall. To attach the box to the coop, we left about 3 inches of trim hanging over on the bottom-inside part of the coop and screwed it into the coop floor (so two of the 18″ pieces are actually 21″). We also attached metal angle brackets to the top trim (not pictured) later on, because a heavy rain pulled it down. We then attached the siding as pictured based on the dimensions above.
E got excited and started painting. Kids these days.
Something else we did was give the coop ventilation. You can see toward the top of the roof that it’s open. We found an old screen door and cut out the netting to fit, and just stapled it on (#cheap). This will give the coop some airflow, but keep the big bugs and critters out.At this point, the coop was pretty sturdy. This is my little brother sitting inside to screw in the nesting box. I don’t condone child labor, but he offered, and he is small.
In the front of the coop, we cut about a 1’x1.5′ hole to use as the door. We went back later and attached trim to make it look nicer.The kids kept painting and I attached the nesting box door. For this, we used the square plywood board and pallet boards. We cut the plywood down to 18″x24″. The pallet boards were 5″ wide, so we layered them on top of the plywood to make trim. If you choose to have an external nesting box, you’ll need a hinge and a handle for the door.
We attached the tin to part of the roof. As you can see, we had to make an adjustment to the roof by moving up the roof trusses. To close the holes, we wedged a couple of pieces of pallet in there. Again, I don’t think the chickens will mind. On the front siding, a few pieces of my pallets were different widths, so we’ll fill this in later. FREE IS FREE. The trim makes the door look nicer.
We haven’t finished the coop yet – it still needs the roost bars, the ramp, and the second piece of tin for the west side of the roof, plus more trim, but I needed a break from this part of the project (aka: an adult beverage).
To be continued!