Fate has a way of changing your path when you least expect it and such was the case for me in 2012. In November I moved to a new home for the second time that year and found myself without chickens. I missed them quite a bit and by March of 2013 I was scanning Craigslist for chickens - any chickens. By May I had acquired a light brahma roo, a delaware hen, a buff orpington hen, and 3 black copper marans hens.
Now I had chickens but no coop so I slapped together a coop made from some warped wood and two large dog crates and some tarps. Not pretty but extremely functional for the warm months.
This gave them a safe place to sleep and they all free ranged during the day. But I knew I would have to build a more permanent coop for the winter. Having to play with the hand Fate dealt, I needed to make a very CHEAP coop. Pallets seemed like a good option as I could get many of those for free. This is how Fate's Crooked Chicken Shack started - a pile of pallets and crates which the chickens just knew had to be for them:
Then I started frequenting the local Habitat for Humanity Restore looking for additional building materials. I found the tin for the roof and the paint and some various scraps of wood there and the cost was minimal. I also decided that I would use picket fence boards for the siding as pickets are very inexpensive ($1.19 for a 6' length).
Sadly I forgot to take pictures of the beginning but here is what I did. I made a base out of two full pallets and a partial pallet - just enough to make it 4' x 8' in size. I bolted the pallets together with carriage bolts:
And also added some gang nails to help stabilize the base:
The base was put together upside down on my porch. I then added five 4" x 4" posts (about 2' long each) to the base - these were screwed onto the pallets and also stabilized with brackets. Also note the 2x12 that got added to the front and back legs to help further support the pallets as more weight was added to them:
Once the pallet base was together, I had a friend help me flip it right-side up and move it to it's "permanent" location. I then screwed on a 4' x 8' piece of sheeting/plywood and then covered that with a scrap of vinyl flooring (which you can see overhanging the left edge above).
After that, I leveled the base using some lovely (i.e. cheap!) red brick paving blocks (12" x 12"). My yard has an undulating tendency so the front left leg is on three pavers while the back legs are only on one as you will see in the next picture.
Then it was time for the walls. Using pallets and help from my dad, I put two pallets along the back 8' side to make the back wall and one pallet along each of the 4' sides for the side walls. Now the great thing about pallets and the reason for the 4' x 8' base is that pallets typically are 40" one way and 48" the other. So with their 48" sides down along the base, they easily create nice 40" walls. I screwed the pallets to the base and also screwed them to each other.
For the front wall, I had a couple of smaller pallets that I used and left room for the main access door in the center. Then, in order to have a decent slope to the roof and plenty of ventilation, I added a framed 12" addition to the front wall. And then on went the rafters and roofing support:
Here is a picture of the front joint for the rafters - they sit at the top of the wall addition and are notched to fit well:
The tin was added to the roof and screwed onto the purlins which sat across the rafters. There was a slight miscalculation and the rafters were made the full length of the tin. Fortunately I had enough tin so some pieces were scabbed on at the top and the bottom so there is now sufficient overhang to protect the wood.
A gutter will be added to that back board and rain will be collected in a barrel for potential use in a future fancy watering system.
As you can see above, the gaps between the pallet boards have been covered with pickets and painted. I have also stapled hardware cloth over all the ventilation areas at the front roof line, on the front raised wall section and along the side triangles and then covered the edges with trim for further security:
Here you can see more boards have been added to cover the gaps between the pallets and painting has occurred with the help of a good friend! You can also see the main door and the chicken door (first picture), and the egg door and ramp (second picture) - more details on these will follow:
The chicken door which latches up and also closed:
The egg door - I just cut some of the pallet slats out to fit the piece of wood for the door:
The main door and it's latch and handle - inside:
And outside (I had lots of the rounded edges from pickets left over so I used them as functional decorations - they also hold in the plexiglass that covers the top part of the door for the colder months):
The far side of the coop - I may add a window there next summer but since the pickets are screwed on, it should be too hard to remove one or two and cut out the window hole, screen it with hardware cloth and cut the pickets to the new required size:
And the ramp (sideways of course!) - left over trim bits and an old warped piece of wood:
The roost is a couple of 2x4s with pieces of some tree branches - the unit is attached to the pallet wall via a thin piece of 1x3 and some screws:
You can better see the pallet walls from the inside at this point - this is the far short end wall:
This is the wall with the egg door in it:
This is the front wall - side wall corner:
This is the front wall corner where the chicken door is - I just left a 15" gap between the end wall and the front pallet and then filled it in to frame the chicken door:
The coop is still undergoing minor modifications but the hens moved in this past weekend and seem to like the new coop!
I am still working on a nest box so the egg door has a reason to exist. In the meantime, the chickens continue to lay their eggs in a cat carrier set on the porch.
And this is what is left of the pile of pallets:
I hope to add some color to the coop once warmer weather returns in the spring. And I am still designing and redesigning the roosts in my head - the current roost takes up some floor space so I may end up having a one-level roost around the perimeter inside with a small ladder to get to it.
I will also be adding hinged plexiglass to the vents - these will not ever completely close but as it gets colder and windier, I will lower the plexiglass some to help regulate the airflow.
As with most things, a chicken coop is never done but at least this one is inhabitable before winter sets in!
I also have to say that building this was a terrific learning experience - I did a lot of the work myself and am now fairly confident using a circular saw and a drill. I did have some help from a talented carpenter friend with the roof and the framing for the doors; another friend helped with the painting; my dad provided an extra set of hands when needed and also supplied some tools I didn't have; and a good friend helped get the pallets and some of the larger lumber to the house with his truck. I did learn that my little sedan is quite capable of hauling 8-10' lengths of lumber.