Weekend Backyard Chicken Coop




Introduction: Weekend Backyard Chicken Coop

About: I am an escapee from modern life, now living by the sea in a forest garden in France. After over 20 years industrial experience, I quit my managerial position to study for a degree in Engineering. That done I …

The name of this coop and its design was suggested by the nature of the specific task at hand. Our friend had been invited for a short break and was leaving her normally free-range mini-flock (4 bantam hens and a young Polish cockerel/rooster), to be looked after by a neighbour, who was not totally confident around backyard chickens. However, the design would work for anyone wanting a coop for a similar sized group of backyard poultry and with the option that because they are organised, then it is more likely that someone would offer to take care of their poultry when they wanted a break.

For the coop design and manufacture, the following criteria needed to be met:

  • it had to be built quickly - in the event we built it in a weekend,
  • the coop had to be safe, comfortable and interesting enough for the hens to be happy in it for a few days,
  • it needed to be movable (it was all to be screwed together in 'kit form') so it could be moved to another area so as to allow the grass to rejuvenate when the flock went back to free-ranging,
  • it needed to cover all the birds usual activities, whatever the weather, dust bathing, sunbathing, laying, eating, roosting, scratching for food...and
  • it needed to open easily for a nervous neighbour to put the food in without anyone escaping!

A plan with essential dimensions is included in an annexe at the end of this Instructable.

Step 1: How to Identify Untreated (or Rather Heat Treated) Pallets

Understanding pallet 'seals' is an important factor and something you should mug-up on, is your own countries standards before you set out on your first collecting trip. There are many sites, which will explain these but I'm posting a few seals above to give you an example of what you are looking for.

This 'seal' will be located on one of the pallet blocks:

The 'wheat stamp' denotes IPPC compliance, confirming the pallet to be made of de-barked wood. Useful if you were unsure whether the wood was real!

DK - the country code i.e. in this case Denmark.

8C - the pallet manufacturer.

S5 - the treatment company.

HT - Heat Treated

on the second example, the British pallet, you will note that there is and additional code

DB - Debarked

All wooden crates and pallets in 74 countries of the world have an International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) seal on them. These denote several things but the most important are the bottom two letters - you are looking for pallets with no chemical treatment. For example, in the US fumigation with methyl bromide, coded MB, is more common than in Europe, where we live, heat treatment (HT) is the norm. However, treated pallets do occur in Europe even though you will find several internet sites informing you they don't! In the case of chemical treatment you will also see the resultant discolouration. Many garden centre suppliers, for example, dip items or conveyor spray them and their carrier pallets simultaneously and you will see immediate evidence of this in the blue-green 'dye' infusing the whole pallet.

The other seal above is something that is becoming more and more frequent. It's the eco label for managed and sustainable forestry.

More information and tips on sourcing, transporting and breaking down pallets can be found on my site: https://thegreenlever.blogspot.com/p/using-repurposed-materials.html#.YOGiNbpvaV6

Step 2: Materials

Untreated Pallet Wood Planks:

52 from Standard Length Pallets ( 48" or 120cm)

8 from Long Length Pallets ( 59" or 150cm) -

Tongue & Groove Panelling - 13ft² or 1.2m²

Heavy Duty Tarpaulin - 43ft² or 4m²

Chicken Wire: (½"pitch or 12mm pitch), approx 1 yard wide or 1m wide) - 4 yards or approx 4m

Hinges - 3 pairs



Linseed Oil & Natural Pigments

Door Furniture - I make all my latches/fasteners from pieces of pallet wood

Step 3: Starting the Coop Construction - Preparing the Planks - Creating the First Side Elevation (Solid Wall)

I started by cutting a small rebate into each long edge of the pallet planks.

Each of the walls of the coop were made up of a frame cut to 1" or 25mm square timber from pallet wood to which were nailed the prepared planks.

I began the build with one completely covered side and then went on to construct the opposite elevation to this, which was to incorporate the nest box and a bob hole or sliding door.

Step 4: Second Side Elevation: 'Bob Hole Door'

This could be used by the temporary keeper to place the food and water in the run before remotely opening the roost bob hole door to let out the chickens. This second elevation was also hinged at the top and bottom so that the whole side could be opened for easy cleaning of the roost area.

The door itself was made up of three cut pallet planks which were nailed to upper and lower battens of pallet wood.

The door opened and shut by way of an upper and lower guide, each made from selected thicknesses of pallet planking.

Step 5: Second Side Elevation: 'Nest Box'

Supported by the centre rail of the door, the nest box was made up of two side sections which were made from horizontally-laid planks. These are screwed to the door frame, a pallet wood stringer is then fixed to the base plank of the side. These then form the frame work to support the base of the nest box. A front panel was preassembled using just a top batten to which the vertically oriented planks were attached. The batten was the exact internal dimension of the nest box and the planks at the two ends extended at least 2cm (1") beyond the batten. This panel pushes straight into place and is then screwed to the sidewall edges and then to the lower batten.

The surplus on the front of the nest box could then be trimmed to width in situ with my jigsaw.

A tarpaulin cover was then added. A small retaining plank was screwed onto the inside of the door to prevent straw and eggs from being in danger of falling when the door was opened. I attached an inner tube rubber along the hinged side of the lid for extra water-proofing due to our very wet climate. The lid of the nest box, however, was further protected by the large overhang of the main roof.

Step 6: Front Elevation - Framework

The centre rail for the framework was wider than the rest of the frame timber, this to provide a support for the flooring planks.

This centre rail was made from a pallet stringer.

The planking at the two vertical sides of this elevation were the full height of the panel and extended beyond the timber frame so as to furnish a means of screwing this elevation to the side walls. This same technique was used on the rear elevation.

Step 7: Front Elevation: 'Bob Hole'

The construction of the bob hole was the same as on the side elevation except I added a staple to each side edge of the door, so as to allow the attachment of a cord to open and shut the door from the outside of the run. Furthermore I also added a threshold (see above) to the frame beneath the bob hole to attach the ramp.

Step 8: Front Elevation: Rainy Day Area

The wall of the front elevation only extended down as far as the centre support of the sides, so as to provide a sheltered area beneath the coop. This also meant that when the birds were in free-range mode they would still be assured of a dry area in which they could dust bathe.

Step 9: Rear Elevation

This was similar in construction to the front wall, except obviously the pallet planks extended to the ground and the dimensions followed the slope of the single pitched roof.

Step 10: The Roof

Because the roof was to be single pitched i.e. sloping to the rear of the coop, the front and rear elevations of the roof were angled so that when the roof was in place, these faces would be vertical. This to ensure runoff of water from the roof was effected.

The entire roof had an overhang of approximately 3" - 4" or 75mm to 100mm on all edges. The front and rear frames of the roof were spaced so as to fit over the front and rear coop walls and two additional side planks were attached so as to do likewise. (pointing photo above)

The frame for the roof was such that there was an inner plank on the two side elevations, so that when fitted the roof could be screwed through these to the side walls.

Once the frame was made the top face was clad with the tongue and grooved panelling, which itself was covered with tarpaulin.

The roof simply pushes on to the walls of the coop and because of the tongue and groove is light though solid and easy to handle. No other securing is necessary as it is deep enough to fit snuggly to the coop.

Step 11: The Run

The sides of the run, as with the coop were based on cut-down pallet plank frames, with chicken wire stapled to them. The front of the run was a frame within a frame, as this allowed for the whole front to open for easy access during free-ranging. I fitted two hinges to the front door frame and used a simple hook and eye fastening for the door to open and close

The top and bottom rails of the run on each side elevation extended beyond the profile of the side panel to allow for the run to be screwed to the coop. This was done to allow for the run to be easily removed, if and when the whole unit needed to relocated and also to allow for an extension to the sides of the run if the flock became larger.

As already mentioned the side elevations had an extra plank added to the bottom rail to allow for a wind proof area for the birds to lie down and take sun baths.

Step 12: The Run Roof

This was made with a slope to allow for our climate, which can be stormy and particularly, as here, on the ocean front.

As previously mentioned the roof was first fitted with a chicken wire top, prior to adding the tarpaulin, in order to avoid rain puddling on the top.

Step 13: Fixtures and Fittings

The interior of the coop had a stand alone roost with detachable droppings pit for ease of cleaning and to stop the hens from walking in their own droppings when in residence. This was made from pallet wood and chicken wire.

We had thought of using a plain plank as a ramp up into the coop but as we had to think about the definite eventuality of chicks, we added little steps which would be easier for little feet to negotiate.

Step 14: Finishing

The woodwork was painted with linseed oil, which had first been tinted with a mixture of natural mineral and earth pigments. Information about using these can be found on my site here:


Hope you enjoyed this project and all the very best from Normandy,


Step 15: ANNEXE - Essential Dimensions

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1 year ago

Ery nice, where's the vote button though


Reply 1 year ago

Hi there, sorry to be late in replying but my computer has died on me so only have town library computer to use on rare occasions!
There is no voting any more - I checked with Admin - it is all done by judges. Thanks for thinking of me though!! Cheers Andy


1 year ago

Andy, could you post those dimensions in inches in your pdf (perhaps, reload to Instructables?) as my daughter would love this chicken coop! If not, would you mind emailing to me: pkosborn@una.edu? Thanks so much!


Reply 1 year ago

Hi there, Have just sent off an email to you with the dimensions. All the best from Normandy, Andy


Reply 1 year ago

Sure, no problem, I meant to do it when I uploaded the Instructable but as I explained to Thomas below, we have had severe storms with flooding here and apart from all the extra work that entails (we have a mini farm here). As usual we get internet disruption when that happens - go figure because they put all the cabling underground here about 10 years ago!
However, I will try to get that loaded up asap and I will send you a copy anyway. i
It is a great fun coop to build and the chickens really love it too. The friend who has it moved recently - so the coop went with them and that gave the hens a home base ready-made. The move was to deepest rurality from a seaside town - so the chicks were a bit overwhelmed but they are actually better organised in their coop than our friend is in her new house. She is still surrounded by crates and boxes, whereas they have their whole home, just as it was and several hectares to explore.
All the very best from Normandie, Andy
P.S I've included a couple of pictures of our birds you and your daughter might like to see

Thomas Ralph
Thomas Ralph

Question 1 year ago

Sorry googles playing games with me I downloaded weakened backyard chicken co-op from instruct a bles . com and my dad needs to actual co-op dimensions and the length of measurements for the boards in materials needed to build it if you would please let me know where I can download the dimensions from or you can send them to my email@brandonralph656@gmail.com

I appreciate you so much for your time and your hard work in putting this on instruct a bles . com thank you Thomas Ralph


Answer 1 year ago

Hi there, Have sent you an email with the info. All the very best, Andy


Answer 1 year ago

Hi there Thomas, I do have a hard copy of the plan of the coop (you can see it in the film) but it is in metric units so I'll have to translate it into inches if that is what you need - I'll do it anyway. The materials length can be calculated from the amount of pallets, as is in the 'Materials' list. They are sized and the amount of each type is given but if you are using lumber then you will need to know the actual amount of planks in the structure of each pallet - I can work that out for you approximately. You'll have to give me a couple of days, we have severe flooding here!! All the very best Andy


1 year ago

Nice work.
You may not have to large a collection of FEED BAGS on hand, but they ave made a reasonable substitute for Tarpaulins on our coops, wood (fire) crib, an so forth. Also use 50+ Lb Dog Food Bags.
Suggestion on using tarps as roofing material: Instead of fastening them along the 'sides' using strips of wood as battens, try wrapping the (NARROW/slim/THIN) 'batten' inside the tarp (dog food bag) such that the tarp material lays over the top edge of the batten \ and the bottom of the wrapped batten forms a 'drip edge.' Then nail in place.


Reply 1 year ago

Hi there Charles and thanks for your kind comment and for the greats tips - much appreciated.

We do get feed bags but they are paper and we can reuse them for other jobs, however the idea of reusing is a really good option to get the cost down to around zero and I know with my greenhouses, the option would be to use plastic from bedding/mattress stores which will give you yards of the stuff, which otherwise they have to dump.

With regards to wrapping the tarp around the laths, this is a good idea and one I've used on my greenhouses, unfortunately because the greenhouses are a closed environment, condensation can and does collect around the lath, finally resulting in the lath rotting (we live in a climate that can be very wet during the middle of Summer so ideal for rot). However, for an open sided structure like the run, this would be a great improvement and also on the coop roof if you have the right climate.

Thanks again for these excellent suggestions.

Cheers from Normandy, Andy

Thomas Ralph
Thomas Ralph

Question 1 year ago on Step 1

So I downloaded your file Weekend backyard chicken co-op from instruct a bles. com And there's no actual co-op dimensions


Answer 1 year ago

see above for answer