Introduction: Pallet & Recycled Wood Chicken Coop
We raise chickens and the coop we had (a 6'Wx6'Lx4'H) was a pre-fab made in china coop. Originally the pre-fab coop was 3'Wx6'Lx4'H, however i was forced to double the footprint because there is no way the original size would comfortably fit our, at the time, 8 chicken. Sadly this coop only lasted about 1 year from assembly until now (Aug 2016). That was unacceptable for the amount I paid for it (~$300). So instead of purchasing something that wouldn't fit out needs or was astronomically expensive, I began designing a new coop that would fit out needs both currently and future (growth). before the new coop was built we had 8 hens, 1 rooster and 13 newly hatched babies. Safe to say this new coop couldn't come quick enough. Luckily the coop was mainly for sleeping as the birds free range all day in out backyard.
Anyway, back to the new coop. I designed it to our own specs and needs. One of the main requirements was to be able to comfortably stand inside to make for easy cleaning and maintenance.
I am not a professional builder, however I have had a fair amount of experience building things. This project is not for a novice nor is it a quick weekend project. Please make sure you are adequately prepared for this project, physically, mentally and financially. If not, consult a professional. Always be safe. Use common sense and dont do anything stupid that could hurt you, your loved ones or your property or the property of others. I started this build in Late June 2016 and did most of the building on weekends ONLY. I just finished it this last weekend (August 2016) and there are still; odds and ends left to do. The design took me about 2 weeks and several versions before I landed on this as the final design.
Make sure you are zoned for chickens and be sure you know what it takes to keep. Also, be forewarned that you may need a BUILDING PERMIT for something like this, in certain areas/cities.
I will not be responsible for anyone who does not follow their own city ordinances, planning departments, HOAs, etc. Also, I take no responsibility for those of you who want to build this or something similar. You do so at your own risk, caution and knowledge.
Always be safe!
Step 1: Step 1 - Design
The new coop was designed to be 12' long, 6.5'wide and 6' tall at the entry side, sloping down to 5'8" on the backside (sloping roof drainage away from the door entry). If you calculate for 4 sq.ft per bird we get to a manageable size of 72-78 sq. ft - this coop can easily support 18-20 adult birds. Again, since we free rage daily the floor space is much more than we need. All of the birds can comfortably occupy this coop if for some reason we needed to keep them inside for a day or more.
Note: When it comes to coops, design it for your future needs not your current needs. You will always appreciate the larger space, and likely grow into it!
Make the design your own! Custom is fun, original and unique. Be yourself, Be unique, build unique.
Step 2: Step 2 - Cost, Selecting Materials and Collecting Materials (Little by Little)
We wanted to be economical in this as coops of a similar size can easily reach $2000 -$3000, and that is for a flat pre-fab coop, not one build into a hillside. We are on a hill so flat ground is at a premium.
When you have a hill, and don't want to dig it out to a level pad, build a elevated platform! Aldo for cost is building material. These can easily go through the roof and kill the budget. I did not really set a budget but I wanted to keep it reasonable (Max $500). I was more than able to do that using pallets, recycled lumber, and items I had at the house. Craigslist is invaluable for these cost saving items.
Our main costs were the concrete, hardware cloth (wire mesh), the semi-transparent corrugated roof panels and building screws. The rest were all re-purposed free materials. When on a budget, or to keep on track, you need to buy things incrementally and collect your materials. All at once these could have hit hard on the pocket book.
Step 3: Step 3 - Get to Diggin: Post Holes, Setting Posts and Pouring Concrete
Post hole digger - borrowed Concrete and leveling sand - cost (cannot re-use old concrete for this part haha) 6 4"x4"x8' pressure treated lumber posts Manual labor - always good to get free labor from friends and family. you should feed them for their help. Pick your first post location and all others are based on that one.
Make sure you use a level, string and stakes to ensure straight lines, parallel post locations and get things square. If you don't get the posts square everything else will be out and this will get compounded more and more as you build.
Dig posts at least 1/4 total length so 1/4th is in the ground. 8' should be at minimum 2' in the ground. This goes for the 6 post configurations. If using less posts - 4 for example, more of the post must be embedded in the ground for the structure to be sound. Since we used 6 posts, we could share the load across more posts and decrease the total embedded depth without sacrificing structural integrity. Use leveling sand in the hole. True up the posts with a level and use supports to hold them as the concrete sets. Repeat for all posts.
Step 4: Step 4- Lateral Framing and Floor Joints
Used 2"x6" pressure treated for all horizontal perimeter framing. Used 8" lag bolts through 2x6 and through 4x4 to for perimeter fastening. Used 2"x4" pine for all floor joints. 12" spacing for best support and least amount of lumber. Used joint hangers (Sampson strong ties) for 2x4's and lots of screws. Used plywood sheeting for floor covering (over framing).
Step 5: Step 5 - Deconstruct Pallets and Collect Other Lumber and Begin Building Structure.
I did this piece by piece to fit my needs and to ensure the least amount of cutting/waste possible. No wall in there is the same as any other. All are custom. Also built in hinged bottom panels on the backside for egg box access and easy cleaning: open panels and sweep out contents. Coop is clean! Can also work for hosing it out if you have the right flooring.
We got a section of laminate flooring (FREE) from a local flooring vendor. it was a small scrap that ironically was 12'x6.5' - just right for us. We promised the owner and associate a dozen eggs each for their kindness. They were very happy as were we. I used pallet slats for the entire exterior of the coop and used the 1x4 and 2x4 framing from the pallets as wall framing to attach the slats to. used a combo of nails and screws.
Please note - pallet wood is very very hard and nails will often not penetrate and will likely bend. Need to pre-drill nail holes. Also, cannot use screws as the wood is very thin and a screw will most certainly split the wood. must find a happy medium. trial and error is the only way.
Step 6: Step 6 - Roof Framing and Installation of Corrugated Roof Panels
These were a fairly costly but well worth it. Keeps the coop well lit for human and chickens. They need 12-14hrs of daily light to consistently lay eggs. Bought special screws w/ the panels. They have rubber washers on them to ensure no water intrusion.
Step 7: Step 7 - Build Chicken Sleeping Area
Again, recycled lumber. Used hardware cloth for the floor to allow waste to fall thru for easy cleaning. framing is crucial! I based it on "if it can hold me, 20 chickens is no problem". I am 5'11" 230lbs. I laid down on the sleeping platform and it held me no problem. I then used old fence panels (from craigslist) to enclose the sleeping area. Built a back access door to aid in cleaning.
You will need to also build elevated perches. We used old 2x2 and this past weekend changed it to 2" bamboo poles. We now have enough space for all bids to perch comfortable and 3 different elevations. Will post photos of that later.
Step 8: Step 8 - Laying the Sheet Flooring
This is optional but is highly recommended for cleaning purposes. Chicken poop is not the easiest clean, unless its on a smooth surface then its a piece of cake (i don't recommend eating it - our dog loves it though!). The sheet flooring was just stapled down in case it needs to be replaced or need to access any flooring material later (think repairs, maintenance). Plus you can not only sweep the floor, but hose it out for those big cleaning needs. Plywood does not do well exposed to water, let alone chicken poop. This will make the floor last much longer.
Step 9: Step 9 - Finishing the Wire Mesh/hardware Cloth Installation on Walls
You will need to use a staple gun, wire cutter and gloves. Hardware cloth is sharp and will stab and cut you.
Step 10: Step 10 - Make the Egg Box and Coop Door
I built in the egg box. had only planned to do a 2 box setup but my better half suggested a 3 box setup might be better. As such, we now have a 3 box setup, all made from 2 pallets. Dividers are pallet slats, framing is pallet framing and slats and roof is a single sheet of 1/8" smooth ply from the top of a pallet (42" wide x 28" long). Build to the size of your material and what your space will allow. This makes for fewer cuts and less wasted material!
We added some privacy curtains for the laying hens. Many benefits to this!
Coop door was fairly easy - measure your opening, get your 2x4s and make a rectangle. Make sure it square. Put lateral and corner bracing in there to keep it square. I added a little custom flare with my 2 octopi in the upper door corners. Then cover in hardware cloth to match the coop.
Step 11: Step 11 - Build an Automatic Door (optional).
I made an auto door that opens and closes using the Chicken Guard programmable door opener. I used some aluminum J-channel as the track and some heavy duty expanded metal as the door. Attached to the chicken guard and boom! auto door. I had the chicken guard on our old coop so no extra money spent there. The expanded metal was $13 at OSH.
Step 12: Step 12 - Enjoy Your New Coop
All the hard work is done. Now you and your chickens can enjoy it. Make sure you keep it clean and you will get happy eggs.