22 February, 2011

How to build a chicken coop for free

Several weeks ago, I found an ad on Craigslist - 5 laying hens for $30.

There are women in this world who dream of fancy clothes, perfectly manicured nails, and beautiful shoes.  I dream of...chickens.  And how could I pass up a deal like that?

Problem the first:  Chickens need a place to live.
Problem the second:  We're poor.

Someone (was it Bell, or Einstein?) said that all you need to be an inventor is a pile of junk and a good imagination.  So we pulled out our pile of junk and looked it over.


This is what we came up with.  We also found two sheets of plywood (one long and skinny, one 4'x4'), and two rolls of linoleum that had been left here by the previous owners.  It seemed like a good start.

We took the platform that is there on the ground, and decided to make that our floor.  It was originally screwed to the crib ends for a loft bed for our oldest, and I thought we could just screw it back on further down, and close in the sides.  However, my husband had other ideas.

The 2x4s were different lengths, so he sawed them both in half, then used some strapping he'd saved to add a bit of structural integrity.   My baby helped:



I will say at this point, we looked at a web-site that said you should never start to build without a detailed plan for what you're going to do.  We didn't listen.  It worked out just fine, but the disadvantage of doing it that way is, you have to keep pausing to figure out what you're doing next.  I don't think it probably takes any longer in the end (planning takes time, whenever you do it), and it seems easier to me when you're trying to work with what you've got.  But I'm kind of a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of person anyway, and you might prefer a bit more forethought.  So there you go.

Anywho, at this point we decided more wood was called for, and headed over to the local building supply store.  They have a pile of pallets out back, available free to whomever wants to pick through them.  We came home with these:

Can you believe all that wood was just going to be thrown away?  Pulling apart the pallets was a pain; my shoulders are still sore.  But they were free!  So we used those to cover over the walls.  We put another piece of strapping across the middle of each wall, and just screwed the boards to that, top, bottom, and middle.


The screws were a bit too long.  Fortunately, my husband got a dremel for Christmas, and he used that to cut off the ends flush with the wood.

We cut the 4'x4' piece of plywood to cover the floor, leaving it hanging out one end for egg boxes (we had to piece it to make it long enough).  That was where we left it Saturday night.  There wasn't a cloud in the sky, and so we left it out in the yard to finish Sunday afternoon.

Sunday morning when we woke up, it was raining.

We moved the coop into the garage, hoping it would dry quickly.  We didn't want to put the linoleum down on wet plywood, but (this is how I work) we were picking the chickens up THAT afternoon, so the coop sort of needed to be done.

We came home from church and continued working under grey skies, but the floor had dried, and we went ahead and tacked down the linoleum.  We finished the walls, and used a sheet of heavy plywood off one of the pallets to make egg boxes.  They were inserted into the end of the coop and screwed to the 2x4s, and then the floor was screwed to the bottom of the box.

Then we took the long, skinny sheet of plywood for the final wall.  Cut in half, it perfectly covered one long wall.  We hinged it at the bottom (with hinges we found in the basement) so the entire side can be opened up for cleaning.  To let the chickens out, we'll open one half, which will then work as a ramp.  Actually, the coop is low enough that I'm sure the birds don't need a ramp, but that was easier than figuring out how to prop the door open if we had hinged it from the top.


We finished that up about 9 o'clock, so we left the roof for another day.  The only cost for the coop was $3 for the tarp, plus hasps and latches for the two doors and the egg box.  We haven't put those on yet, so we're holding the egg boxes closed with bricks in the meantime.  The doors are held shut with screws, until we get those latches on.  So, to water the chickens, I have to get the drill, unscrew the door, and then screw it shut again when I'm finished.  That's a project for next weekend.

Here's a view of the egg box end:


Next up:  "It's not about what you have in your closet!  It's about who your friends are, and what they have in their closets!"  (Name that movie.)

1 comment:

Halfpint said...

Lovely looking hen house, I can't wait until we live somewhere with a big enough garden for chickens, so you are not alone in your chicken based dreaming