Last year, as part of a science project, my partner’s third grade class hatched a dozen eggs donated to the school from a local breeder. After seeing the little babies come out of the eggs, the children fell in love with their chicks and decided they wanted to keep them until adulthood.
To convince the ‘uppers’ at the school to allow them to keep their chicks, the children rallied, on their own, passing a petition around the school. Eventually gathering over 100 signatures from fellow students, they gained the approval to keep their birds! As the chickens grew the kids learned many valuable life-long lessons; they became compassionate about the birds, the garden and in-turn one another.
Towards the end of the school year; every lesson involved chickens, every reward involved chickens, every conversation involved chickens. The kids could not get enough.
After so much success, my partner decided that she would try to have chickens at the school every year. Surprisingly, it was not that difficult for her to convince Aberdeen’s principal to allow them to set-up a permanent coop and run. This summer, using a grant awarded to the school garden from Wholefoods in collaboration with Good Food Sandhills, we built Aberdeen Elementary’s chicken coop and run.
The idea behind the coop build was to demonstrate to the community that building a chicken coop does not have to be an expensive undertaking. Therefore, the coop was constructed out of 100% pallet wood, donated and recycled tin roof and repurposed hardware cloth. The only thing purchased was a handful of hinges and nails (which I already had).
The run of the coop was made so that a group of students could interact with the chickens inside the run. It also had to be made structurally sound enough to please any neigh-sayers or possible inspectors that happed to come across the project. The run cost about $450 to build (this is where the grant came in).
We started by gathering pallets...
We were fortunate enough to score a few longer ones and a single one that was made from 4x4 lumber.
The hardest part about building with pallets is breaking them down. I have found that for me the easiest way to tear the pallets down is to use a saws-all with a nail in wood blade. However, its still not easy....
Keep in mind that if you break them apart like this, there will still be nails in the wood that you can't pull out to make cuts down the road. I use older tired blades that I use for projects like this so its not a problem if I hit a nail.
After what felt like hours and hours, which was probably more like 20 minutes, I had enough to get started. I opted to tear the pallets down in waves, doing a few at a time to reduce my frustration - not to mention my saws-all batteries are on their last leg and only hold up for a few cuts per charge.
The base is 40" by 72". This allowed me to use a single slat (pallet board) in one direction and two slats in the other (on the walls) while cutting off bad ends to help reduce waste.
The framing is not quite up to the standard. I had to come up with a way to frame the walls using minimal lumber - the more lumber I wasted, the more pallets I had to gather and tare apart...
This is the front, the center board is 36' on center with the front being 72" wide, not including the nesting boxes.
I'm not sure what the pitch of the rafters is, I just held a 2x4 where I wanted it to be to mark and cut.
The back wall is a very scientific 48" tall (length of your average pallet runner) and the front was made to clear the apex of the hoop run using the longer pallets; which I'll explain in a minute.
This is the back where the human door will be.
Not shown, I ended up adding some cross ties (1.5 x2's ripped pallet runners) between the rafters to help provided extra support for the roof.
A shot of one of the windows framed up.
Once the framing was done the siding stated going up rather quickly. The good part about the 40 x 72 dimensions is that there was minimal cutting involved here.
The thing with creating things out of pallets is you can't really get attached to straight lines and tight corners. Pallet wood is ALWAYS crooked, warped, misshaped, has holes and is rough. What ever you are building is going to look rustic, without having to try to make it look rustic.
The good thing about creating things with pallets, is an off cut here and there, a split board here and there will look totally natural!
Sorry about the crooked picture, I couldn't figure out how to rotate it.
Once all the siding was up, my lovely partner went to town with her paint brushes. The kids fancy calling themselves chicken farmers, so we thought it would be fun to paint it barn red.
The roof and doors are not attached at this point, we just laid them in place for taking pictures.
After about 2 weeks or so of working on this for an hour or two a day it was finally time to get it out of our front yard. Moving day!
A friends landscaping trailer and a few buddies made this easy work. To the school we go!
I have to back track a bit now. We made the run prior to making the coop. We did this with the help of Food Corp in about a day (two half days). Unfortunately, there was a lot of other things going on with the garden that were being done at the same time, and we forgot the camera, so we we not able to take any pictures of us building the run.
The run is a 16' by about 9' hop house. This thing is STURDY! We wanted it to be safe to withstand kids leaning on it and bumping into it.
It is made from mostly 2x6 treated lumber, 4x4's, cattle/combo panels and hardware cloth.
If anyone wants the complete build instructions for the hoop house, I used Chook-A-Holic's build plan as a guide.
The coop is attached to one end of the hoop house, remember where I said the front of the coop had to clear the top of the hoop house earlier. We made an apron around the whole thing to help protect from predators.
Some of the framing details of the hoop house:
I made the base from 2x6's all the way around skimping on the 4x6's as the Chook-A-Holic's plans call for. I also skipped on some of the finer details, like the sill plate gasket and furring strips on top of the hardware cloth around the base. I did not use loxit rings and went with zip-ties to hold the hardware cloth on, something I would not recommend. I only ended up using 5 cattle/combo panels, and opted to only cover the bottom 48" or so with paneling on the front and back wall, leaving a foot or two towards the top with hardware cloth only. You can see this in the following picture.
I also cut the center beam and flushed the panels up with both the front and back wall so that it would be easier to attach a coop to one end.
If I were to do this over again I would most likely not wrap the entire hoop house with hardware cloth and just go with a single row around the base instead so that there would be 48" of cloth up the walls from the base around the whole thing and then cover the remaining parts not covered with hardware cloth with aviary netting. The hardware cloth was easily the most expensive part of the build.
I'm about 6', showing how tall the coop is.
My partner showing off the nesting boxes.
Doors installed. The windows are filled with hardware cloth left over from building the run.
I made doors for the vent windows at the top to, but they swelled a bit after we painted them. So they will get trimmed down and installed later.
The inside of the run is tall enough for the average person to stand in. Not that I'm calling my DW average, lol
All done and ready for this years hatching!!