Building a Chicken Coop from Recycled Materials
A few years ago when Amber and I moved to our current homestead, besides spending all of our free time remodeling our house, we also made time to work on projects that would help serve our goal of becoming more sustainable. One of the first projects was building a chicken house. In the past we’ve had all shapes and sizes of chicken houses on our properties, from a deluxe 150 sq.ft. coop to a 15 sq.ft. chicken tractor that I moved daily. Since remodeling our home was our main focus and money draw, we wanted to build a chicken coop that was quick and inexpensive. We decided on a small coop that we could build in a weekend and would house about 6 hens and only use “scrap” or recycled materials that we had accumulated along the way. We knew that as time and circumstances changed (like if we wanted to get into selling eggs on the side) we could upgrade later, but at that we only needed enough eggs to supply our small family.
My inspiration in the main building materials came a few years earlier when I stumbled upon several websites that showed folks constructing all kinds of amazing buildings with pallets (skids). From that day on I had a desire to build some kind of outbuilding with pallets and our chicken house criteria fit it perfectly!
Here is the material list (roughly) that we used to build the coop:
• 9 free pallets
• 1 piece ¾ OSB or Plywood
• 1 recycled window
• 1 recycled door
• Scrap 1 and 2 by’s of various widths
• 4 free cinder blocks
• Several pieces of scrap plywood and T-111 siding
• Used metal roofing we reclaimed from an old shed
• Leftover paint
• Dead Tree branches for the perches
• A variety of nails and screws we had at the time
• Decking boards (purchased)
• Tyvek leftovers
• 1 tube silicone caulk (purchased)
I’m not going to go into a step-by-step detail of how to build this chicken house, but I do feel like it is important to give a general explanation of how I put this all together. Our coop is on a small hill so I dug out four swallow holes to make the base even. I put the cinder blocks in the holes then attached a 4×8 base that I framed with recycled 2×4’s and 6’s. Next, I nailed down the sheet of OSB to it. I had my base ready to go then screwed down two full pallets on each side (front and back) and then put pallets on top of them. I used taller pallets on the front so I could have a slopping roof when I was done.
The pallets I used weren’t perfectly 4 feet wide so I definitely had some space on the base when I was done (that I later covered with extra wood and siding). Then, I used some more 2×4’s to frame small walls on the ends/sides for the door and window. By the time I got to the roof I was getting very low on scrap lumber so I used all the 1 by’s I could find to connect the front pallets to the back pallets (I was worried about the snow load crushing the roof if I didn’t use a lot). I then screwed down the metal roofing and used some silicone caulk to plug the holes from the old screw holes.
That was basically day one and I was happy to have a roof on it. Day two started with wrapping it with some Tyvek I had left over from a previous project (not really necessary, but I thought it would help with wind penetration since I wasn’t going to insulate it) and we began piecing together the various pieces of plywood and T-111 siding I had. We didn’t have enough scrap to do the whole coop so I decided to buy some inexpensive decking boards for the front of the house. At this point the house looked like a real shanty and it kinda made me feel better that at least the front would like “nice”. We ended by painting ¾ of the house with some left over brown paint. I was happy to see the brown paint really helped to blend everything together.
The coop is a modest 32 sq.ft. and works for our girls. We let them free range during the day and shut the door at night after they make their way back in. So basically they are just using it to sleep at night, but we do go out of town from time to time and I do feel like they would be much happier if I built them a run.
Even though this coop was pieced together and working with the pallets was somewhat frustrating I am happy with the end product. It’s not pretty, but it was cheap, quick, and easy and has been serving us well for the past two years. I’ll take mostly free over pretty any day (at least for chicken coops anyway).