This homestead lesson is about the pallet chicken coop I built in a process to produce as much of my own food from my own property as possible. In previous years I made then expanded a garden for vegetables. This year it was time to step it up. My usual breakfast involves eggs so this was a no brainer. I had brief experiences with chickens while at my grandmothers as a child. First we got ducks then chickens. It's safe to say I didn't understand the efforts that went in to raising them so this was going to be an adventure.
Step 1: Locating Materials
My friend owns a store and he had pallets stacking up. My local hardware store sells them for a few dollars each also. Pallets are great for projectd and I use many of them to run my wood fired hot tub, see my other instructable, but I had been wanting to use some to make something big. There are plenty of resources online about picking good pallets, ones that don't have chemicals in them or anything else hazardous. Most pallets measures 40"×48". I used (8) pallets, (2) 4×4 8 ft long,a few 2×4s, a sheet and a half of weatherproof plywood. A roll of tar paper, 3 bundles of cedar shakes, and 2 rolls of chicken wire.
Step 2: Location and Base
First select a location. I decided to use a heavily overgrown area of my property rarely used. I spent the previous month driving my four wheeler through the area to break up the bushes an flatten them in preparation for removal. I cleared a spot and placed the cinder blocks in approximately a 38x70 rectangle. I leveled them with a 2×4 and a bubble level, first the ends then criss cross, making adjustments as I go.
Step 3: Building the Floor and Walls
The floor is easy it's two pallets layer out to form a 48x80 rectangle centered on the 4x4s that sit in the concrete blocks. One pallet forms each end, you can cut the top into a single or double pitched roof. I went with single for time. Two pallets trimmed make up the back. I then added a roof beam in the front so the whole front could open up for ease in cleaning out. I added a center beam to assist in holding the weight of the two hanging doors.
Step 4: Sheathing the Walls
After constructing the basic shape I filled all the gaps in the pallets with other boards. Then I wrapped the whole coop in tar paper. Finally I filled the cavity of the pallets with bagged hay, this way if there's a breach they just acess hay not fiberglass. My final layer was styrofoam and I only suggest using this with another layer on top. They quickly found out how enjoyable distorting the walls was.
Step 5: Accessories
I cut in the entrance door and build a nesting box out back.
Step 6: Cedar Shakes
Now with all structure done. The some what fun part of cedar shakes for full weatherproofing. Tar paper alone wouldn't last. A layer of naturally rot resistant cedar shingles looks great and the economy bundles are less than 20 dollars, I think I used 3 bundles. The roof is weatherproof plywood wrapped in tar paper with wood strips for rigidity and to hold the tar paper. I covered the roof with an old tarp as an extra weather barrier.
Step 7: Fencing
I built a small fully enclosed fence attached to the coop and a small fence in approximately a 50 ft circumstance around the coop.
Step 8: Final Notes
I built a simple she'd as a Manger to store food and hay. I added some water for the ducks. But my biggest issue was predators. They eventually found their way through both layers of fence and grabbed birds. The first year it was a skunk, news to me, but skunks aren't just scavengers apparently, lesson learned. Next year a racoon got several before I got wise to him. Try back burying the fence to prevent burrowing under.
The dog igloo is covering a sand pile for the birds to bathe in.
Here in the northeast it sometime doesn't break single digits like today 9 degrees Fahrenheit. I have 2 heat lamps going for extra warmth one might do. I use a heater water bowl. But on cold days like today I put their food and water in the coop at the entrance, the opposite end they stay, and they seem fine sitting cooped up, as the phrase I assume was created for, all day.