When we first got into chickens, we built a medium/small coop from scratch, after much research. Experience has a way of teaching that no research can quite match, so after almost seven years with the smaller coop, I had a vision for a new, larger coop, with improvements in mind. The old coop was very functional, very secure, and very cute, and it will be a great place for a chick nursery or to isolate sick/problem flock members, but it was time for an upgrade... both for the chickens' sake, as well as my own.
Our shed coop (main structure, right) with the old, small coop (left) attached. We had the area in front of the coop french drained to help with water runoff problems. All finished inside, we just need to paint the exterior in the spring!
The finished interior, which is much more cheery than the exterior.
We have an old shed on our property that is in good shape. You could re-purpose an old shed or building, or purchase one new with the intention of making it into a chicken coop. I did some research and if one were to buy all the lumber and supplies new from a home improvement store to build a coop the size of a comparable shed, it's almost always cheaper to buy the prefabricated shed! It's worthwhile to shop around and even check classified ads for a used one, as many sheds are built onto skids and can be moved. If you are shopping for a shed-to-be-coop, I suggest looking at it critically. Are there any windows? How easy are the doors to operate; can they be easily broken into by a predator? What sort of roof does it have (see below, this can be a headache!)? If buying a used shed, inspect carefully for water damage, insect damage, and dry rot. If used, make sure to have a plan to deep clean it if the shed was on a property with livestock, to prevent the spread of disease to your flock.
I re-roofed our old shed a year ago, anticipating the coop conversion. We had built the old coop directly onto the shed years ago. I opted to leave them unconnected inside, in case I need to isolate any ill birds. My mistakes on the first coop include: too small, too hard to get inside, too hard to clean well. Those were my "big three" that had to change! Have you looked at more than one coop build here on BYC? You might notice a theme: "I wish I'd built it bigger!" Do yourself a favor and build as big as you can.
Disclaimer: My needs may differ from your own. There is no One True Way; be inspired, take what you like, leave the rest! I am also "handy" and have built and assisted building many things, but am far from a contractor and I apologize in advance for any incorrect building or tool terminology I may use, as I am self-taught. Always be safe and follow best practices when building anything! Also, I have a few name brands listed in this to help those looking for a similar product. I do not necessarily endorse any brand!
Here are some of my requirements when I set out to refurbish/re-purpose the old shed, with explanations:
- Human-height. This may be self explanatory. I wanted to be able to walk into the coop to do cleaning, feeding, watering, and interact with my chickens. After 7 years of crawling into the short older coop to do these things, my knees and back will thank me! If you have the room and ability to do so, in the long term, you will be so happy you can walk into the coop, trust me!
- As easy as possible to clean. I find that removing hurdles to cleaning means you are more likely to do it often, and do it right. Climbing into the old coop and hunching to do cleaning, and contorting oneself to do a deep clean once to twice a year was a really awful chore! Make it easier on yourself to clean your coop, and it will stay cleaner, because you won't be fighting it.
2a. A sealed floor (that can be hosed down without causing water damage). I want to be able to really get things clean, for the health of my birds as well as myself, if I wish to spend time in the coop with them.
2b. A poop tray that is easy to clean. It should be easy to scoop and can be removed for a yearly deep clean.
- Mite resistant. There's no such thing as mite-proofing a coop since the mites can live on the chickens themselves, but after having dealt with mites once, it became clear that giving the mites as few places to crawl into as possible would be very helpful with their control.
- Pest resistant. Remove all access points for mice, rats, etc.
- Predator resistant. I want the coop to be locked up at night, and electric fence to deter bears and other powerful animals that might try to "break in".
- Bright. As in not dark inside, even in the dreary winter weather. This may seem like a silly requirement, but I have seen so many dim, depressing coops inside! Brightness is easily achieved by adding windows and using a bright paint color inside.
- Large and comfortable for the chickens. The smaller coop was nice, but I noticed that my chickens don't like to spend much time outside if it's snowing. Where I live (Northeastern USA), that can be up to six months of the year! They seemed crowded and bored in the small coop during the snowy months. Sometimes this led to them inventing exciting new chicken games such as "relentlessly strip all the paint off the walls" or "pluck my sister", despite providing enrichment and foraging for them. I wanted to give them lots of space, and have room for new birds in the future. As a new chicken keeper, this was one thing I really didn't anticipate: how much time they would spend inside during a bad winter. I wish I'd built larger to begin with. Everyone wishes this! Build as big as you can.
- Include a space to store chicken feed/supplies. This makes it easier to take care of them all in one place, and gets all of it out of my home.
- Well ventilated. Ventilation is one of the most important considerations in building a coop. Not sure why? Make sure to read up on it! A great article on ventilation.
Because the shed we had on the property was what I had to work with, I didn't get to choose the roof type. If you have a choice, and intend to do some finishing work inside, I strongly recommend going with a simple/standard (gable) roof instead of a gambrel roof. Our shed has a gambrel roof (see all those funky angles?) and it added a lot of work and materials to finish it the way I wanted to inside. You'll see more on that below. All of the angles on the gambrel roof made for a more complex problem indoors.
Fewer angles means less work inside! Keep it simple, if you can.
SUPPLIES (for this specific project):
Recycled/re-purposed lumber from a playhouse my family tore down (mostly 2x4s, 2x6s). This made the bulk of our building supplies and saved a lot of money as it was free. We just had to pull a lot of nails!
Crowbar (for pulling nails out of used lumber)
Epoxy sealer (for gaps in floor)
PVC trim boards
Power circular saw
Power Jigsaw or Sawzall (to cut holes into existing shed siding)
Drywall square and chalk line (for marking paneling)
Screws and nails
Caulk (latex for interior, silicone for around windows etc)
Exterior primer and paint, and painting supplies such as brushes and rollers
Respirator, safety glasses, gloves
Hardware (hinges and handle for closet, magnetic latch, spring hinges for pop door)
Heavy weight plexiglass piece (for pop door) and rope
Electric fence supplies (we had these on hand from the existing coop)
Electric outlet boxes (gfci), outdoor rated electric wire & supplies*
Simple shed vents
Simple Styrofoam sheet insulation
Simple single pane storm window with screen
* ALWAYS use care when working with electric! I highly recommend working with a professional electrician or someone that is very knowledgeable about what they are doing. If you don't know exactly what you are doing, seek the help of someone experienced. Electrocution and coop fires are no joke! Be safe!
Cleaning out the shed... yikes! Note how dark it is inside, even with the double doors open. The flooring was old, stained with oil, and had to be replaced before using any waterproofing treatment.
Our shed had been used to store everything from lawn mowers, to old oil cans, and who knows what, for years before we bought the property. We don't even know how old it is, other than "more 10 year old". The bones of the shed were solid, with no water or insect damage, but the floor was in bad shape with oil stains and who knows what. Our first order of business was to replace the floor. We used plywood and ring-shank nails to nail it into place.
Next, I crafted a very simplistic floor plan of what I wanted to do inside. Since the structure already existed, I didn't get too technical! I opted to put the roost and poop tray directly above the nest boxes, so that the chickens couldn't poop into the boxes. A clean box usually means clean eggs (as long as no one gets muddy feet and goes in there!). I wanted to frame in a small, totally enclosed closet area where I could store their feed and any supplies I had. I wanted it totally enclosed so that chicken dust wouldn't settle in there and cause more of a cleaning headache. This would also keep the chickens from getting too clever and messing with stuff in there. The plans also call for a removable dust bathing area, and a small platform to put their waterer on that would be as spill proof as I could make it.
I'm definitely not good at blueprints, but it gave us an idea of what we were going to do. I did a second hand-drawn one with exact measurements, but I think it got tossed when we cleaned up after building.
The shed did have one small crank open window. Still, it was very dark inside and I wanted not only more light, but more airflow in the warm months! Carefully, we removed the small window from the back wall, and cut out a larger area to frame in the larger window we purchased. We moved the small window to the front door that we didn't plan on using frequently, where it fit perfectly with some framing! This would create a lovely cross-flow of air in the warmer months, and two windows let in much more light than one. We also cut a hole at the floor level for the chicken pop door, as well as opposing holes to install vents near the peak (note: We installed hardware cloth atop these as well, just as a safeguard against raccoons). A well vented coop is a must both in summer and winter. We framed in all of our cuts with the recycled 2x4s. We opted to use screws often, in case we had to make any adjustments or move things. I used a silicone outdoor rated caulk to seal the windows and vents to prevent water from leaking in and damaging the interior.
Installed windows. The small crank window that you see in the door used to be the only window in the back of the shed. The window in the back is a new one. The pop door (below and right of back window) was temporarily covered to keep the chickens out until we were done!
The same view, but with the door open to show window framing. The floor is also replaced in these photos. It's already getting much brighter inside.
Next, we framed in the nest boxes/roost combo, and the closet area with 2x4s. From the floor to the top of the boxes (which will be the roost) is 24" maximum; I keep larger, heavier breeds, and I don't want them jumping down from any higher than 24". I find that jumping from higher roosts not only increases the chances of a foot/leg injury, but also increases the incidence of bumblefoot as they land on their feet harder. We used 2x6s at the floor level, to create more depth. This would help hold the bedding down low; it's very hard to swing open a door through 5" of pine chips and feathers, trust me! Because of this, I built the bottom of the door for the closet a full 12" higher than the floor, so I'd have good swing clearance.
The floor is in, windows installed, boxes and "closet" are framed in, paneling is starting to go up, and PVC trim boards are installed along the floor. The poop tray (above nest boxes) has also been built and is temporarily put into place to make sure it fits.
My plan was to completely seal the floor, and seal the walls against the floor, for ease of cleaning. I wanted to be able to get into the coop and hose it out, quite literally, if I wished! This meant that any gaps where water could flow under boards or flooring had to be eliminated, so that I wouldn't experience any long term rot. Removing any gaps or cracks also removed places for chicken mess to get packed into-- trust me, they find a way to get bedding, dust, poop, and dander crammed into every crevice. I did some research on flooring that would seal to a waterproof finish, that scratching chickens wouldn't accidentally peel up. In the end we went with a product called Rust-Oleum "Rock Solid". This is a pourable / rollable Polycuramine that is advertised as being stronger than epoxy paint (which was we were considering at first). It's made for use on garage floors, and ultimately we went with it because it specifically stated it could be used on wood flooring (which is what we had!). Many of the other products we researched could only be used on concrete floors. I'll elaborate more on my experience with this stuff below.
Since I wanted that oh-so-nice sealed floor, I opted to panel the walls at that time. We had to put some 2x4 cripples in to panel against, and cheap paneling is... well, it's cheap. It hates atmospheric moisture and will ripple like crazy. You can't get it wet or it will fall apart. Still, it fit the bill and as we were using it in a coop and not in our home, we didn't mind the ripple effect. Why panel a chicken coop? Well, in addition to wanting the floor to seal up against the wall, the straight walls are so much easier to paint and keep clean than a bunch of exposed studs! Additionally, by giving mites fewer places to crawl into, I hope to be able to keep them in check much easier. We used ring-shank nails with larger heads for ease of nailing and gripping power, since we were not worried about aesthetics. Note: Leave a very small gap between panels to allow them to expand/contract a tiny bit, and they will ripple less. If we had wanted to spend a bit more, rigid paneling would have prevented this look.
My husband helping to cut paneling. Always be safe and protect yourself, the dust from this stuff is awful to breathe! Always be safe.
The floor and poop tray after two coats of "Rock Solid". It dried hard and shiny, like plastic. Perfect for what I wanted! Note that it sealed right up against the PVC trim boards and the "walls" of the poop tray.
Ideally, we would have finished all the paneling in one go (and done the tricky areas first, so as not to goof ourselves up later). We were fighting the weather though; I knew that the epoxy floor had to be poured at a certain temperature in order for it to cure properly, so we had to hurry and do that part before it got cold out. After we paneled to the floor, I realized that we might still have a hard time achieving that nice seal I wanted, and I envisioned the chickens spilling their water and the paneling wicking it up and getting ruined... oh dear. Fortunately, the home improvement store had just what I needed. We were happy to find very inexpensive PVC trim! It looks like wood and is made for high humidity areas such as bathrooms. Since it's PVC, it's impervious and waterproof. PERFECT! We bought enough to do all along the floorboards, and bought some extra to help with the construction of the poop tray (more on that soon). Using screws, we found it really pulled the paneling in tight against the studs at floor level.
Next, before the weather got cold, we poured the floor. I really slopped the Rust-Oleum Rock Solid into the corners and against the walls, so that it flowed into any tiny gaps and sealed them up. I will say that this stuff is expensive, and probably a bit excessive for a chicken coop, but I really wanted that waterproof floor! We purchased the box labeled for a 1 car garage, since our shed is much smaller than a full size one car garage. We didn't account for how much the plywood would soak up (perhaps cement floors are not so bad) and ended up having to buy a second box and applying a second coat to get that plastic-smooth waterproof finish I wanted. This stuff is pretty tricky and you need to apply it and leave it to set within about 30-45 minutes. It's also pretty toxic to smell; I used a respirator and gloves. I also crafted the poop tray ahead of time with a leftover sheet of OSB and the PVC trim boards as walls. I poured the Rust-Oleum stuff into the poop board as well, to waterproof the inner surface, so that it's very easy to keep clean. We were happy with how this stuff worked, but it was expensive and didn't go nearly as far (for coverage) as advertised. I have no complaints; most of the problems I see from online reviews have to do with it getting scratched in a garage, which I don't care one bit about scratches in a coop! Note: we opted not to use the decorative paint flakes provided in the kit, as I imagine my hens would spend hours trying to peck them out of the floor!
The floor, all poured, cured, and shiny! Yay! This will be easy to clean, and the chickens can't scratch it up as they could with paint.
After the floor was all set up, we finished paneling. I decided to put some simple sheet insulation under the roof paneling. The roof really gets baking hot in the summer from the sun, and the insulation should help keep the worst of that heat from transferring inside and making a chicken oven! We used the cheapest Styrofoam insulation we could get, as the only real purpose was to keep the roof heat out of the coop. I had extra, and used it in the sunward-facing wall, for the same reason. Paneling the gambrel roof inside was very tricky, and involved a lot of problem solving (on providing ourselves cripples to nail the paneling into, as well as the angles) and curse words. To make things more problematic, the entire shed had been lifted once for a repair to the skids, and all of the corners were somewhat out of square.
Before finishing paneling, we had electric power run to two outlets inside the coop. One outlet is so that we can power an electric outdoor dog water bowl (it sure beats chipping ice out of frozen waterers several times a day!!) and the second is because we intend to install an outdoor fan into one of the peak vents for added summer ventilation on hot days. I am not an electrician so I did not do this part; please, be safe, and only have a qualified electrician (or someone that genuinely knows what they are doing) do electrical work. We had outlets with dust guards in them installed to help keep dust out of the plugs. We will also cover any plugs not in use, and all components are rated for outdoor use. Do use great care; coop fires are terrible! This is one part you absolutely can not be cheap or lazy with! BE SAFE!
Paneling and caulking all those angles on the gambrel ceiling... ugh! Not a fun time. Note the PVC trim pieces (white) to cover the gaps in the paneling. Then I caulked against them. If necessary, you can mark your paneling before hanging with where your studs are, to help you place your nails. We did on the gambrels, because there were complex areas with cleats.
Finally, the interior was paneled. I did not panel against the peak vents, so that we can install fans later if desired. We had some minor gaps between the weird paneling we had to do to follow the gambrel angles. I really can't stress how much I want to be able to combat mites and keep things clean, so I bought some more of the inexpensive PVC trim boards and screwed them over the gaps to close them. Then I caulked everything with a paintable acrylic caulk to completely seal any gaps, cracks, etc. We built the door for the closet out of the scraps of plywood we had left over from the flooring, and installed it with hinges, a simple handle, and a magnetic cabinet closure so that my chickens didn't get into mischief! We installed a simple shelf inside as well as a few J-hooks to hang tools from.
All primed and painted, wood chips in, feeders ready (5 gallon buckets with feeding holes, set on landscaping blocks), ready for chickens! The white paint made it so lovely and bright. Note kick-board across the entryway to help keep shavings in place.
Everything got two coats of an exterior primer designed for smooth surfaces such as paneling, then two coats of a quality latex exterior grade paint. Do you remember the chicken-invented game of "peel all of the paint" I mentioned earlier? Lesson learned: I used a better quality paint that they should not be able to peel this time! I got cheap in the old coop and just used leftover interior paint. As the temperatures and humidity outdoors changed, it didn't "flex" enough and it got loose enough that my hens peeled it all off. Oops! This time they shouldn't get that chance!
Why white? Yes, it will get dirty. Chickens have a way of flinging... well, everything! But white serves a few purposes: It brightens the coop up by a huge amount, it allows me to see if there is a Problem (if someone gets a wound, you better believe blood is gonna get on that wall), and it allows me to see if there are any.. ergh.. mite problem areas. Paint is cheap compared to the ease of mind it gives! Someday it will probably need re-painted. I'm okay with that.
And... yes, I got cute with the ceiling. Let me have my fun!! This was achieved by dipping a torn up sponge into the white exterior paint and dabbing it onto the ceiling in cloud patterns. I'm pretty sure the chickens don't care, but it amuses me.
What?! I'm an artist, I can't help myself...
Whew. All that was left to do was install a 2x6 kick-board across the entry way, to keep most of the bedding from getting pushed up against the door (which makes for a mess, as well as a problem to open and shut). I used screws on this backboard across the threshold, so that when I want to clean, I just need to unscrew it and I can shovel all the bedding out easily. We used a clean, smooth 2x4 on its side for the roost itself; this allows the hens to hunker down and sit on their feet/keel, which keeps them warmer in the winter and creates fewer pressure points for bumble foot. Attached with screws, it can easily be removed for cleaning and sanding once a year or as necessary.
Chicken closet (left) to hold supplies. Main shed doors (center). Roost, poop tray, and nest boxes on the right. The tray is filled with granular horse stall freshener and can be scooped like kitty litter.
The poop tray is filled with a horse stall freshener in granular form called "Sweet PDZ". It's readily available at feed stores, and while it's not inexpensive, if you keep it scooped regularly it lasts a long time. I can get 6+ months out of a single bag with my 7 chickens. Why a poop tray? Chickens do a lot of their pooping while on the roost; this is a simple way to "capture" a lot of their droppings in one place, which helps keep the coop clean and odor-free! I use a kitty litter scoop to scoop their droppings every morning (it might take me two entire minutes to do in total). The droppings go into the compost, and the coop stays fresh. I placed the roost approximately 6-7" above the tray; the idea is to discourage them from sleeping in the tray itself. If the roost board is much higher than 8", there's room for them to scoot underneath it, which I don't want. So far this works very well for my large fowl hens, as they will hop directly up onto their board and not spend time in the tray. If you have bantams or smaller breeds, you might wish to consider less space between the tray and the roost board. Sometimes it takes a bit of work to educate the birds where they are "supposed" to sleep, but if you are patient, they will get it in time!
Poop board after a week of use; very easy to scoop and keep clean. I brought an old plastic patio chair in so that I can sit with them when I need some company!
The nest boxes are not finished in these photos, but you might notice that I did not install solid separators in between each of the four boxes. I know that realistically, this area will require the most work to clean (because I will need to stoop down), and based on my experience with the old coop, cleaning small squares out is a pain! I am installing fabric separators with Velcro stapled to the 2x4 studs, so that I can easily remove them (and launder them) when it comes time to clean the boxes out. Then I just have one long area to clean, instead of a bunch of frustrating small areas! The poop tray "roof" also is removable, so I can access the box area from above during cleaning. I found that the chickens mostly need the wall separators for visual privacy (so that a bossy neighbor doesn't deliver harassment!), so the fabric works well. Removable rigid plastic would also work well.
Here's the "chicken closet", where the feed and supplies are stored. I have their feed stored in a heavy duty trash can, not only to keep it fresh, but to somewhat reduce the odor temptation to bears. This will also keep mice out, in case one ever gets into the coop (though they shouldn't, with how I have it sealed!).
Chicken "closet", to store food and supplies. Secured with a magnetic catch, so that they chickens don't get into trouble! Note the high placement of the door, so that it won't catch on bedding.
The pop door was constructed with plexiglass so that the chickens get more light when it's closed. It's also the only "chicken-level" window for them to look out of, which they do seem to enjoy. The hinges are spring loaded so that it is held firmly closed when it's not pulled open (via a rope on the exterior). The chickens have a small landing, and a ramp. I used more of the PVC molding to create traction slats for them, which seems to work better than wood, and does not cause foot splinters.
The pop door, made out of a heavyweight piece of plexiglass. Held shut with spring loaded hinges, opened via rope. The extra holes were an "oops" when we got interrupted when drilling!
We built a simple platform for the waterer. One of my biggest groans is when I'd go out to the coop in the morning and the chickens had spilled an entire gallon of water into their bedding. Soaking wet bedding is not okay as it causes odor, mold, and more, so I'd have to shovel it out and replace it. The platform, built out of scrap pressure treated lumber, not only elevates the waterer above the bedding to help keep it clean, but we put scrap lumber triangles in the corners, to keep the chickens from pushing it off of the platform. This simple design holds both the red gallon waterers in the summer or their heated dog bowl waterer in the winter, and they can't push it off. It works great!!
This simple platform was built out of scraps, and has simple corner triangles screwed into place. This elevates the water (to keep bedding out... mostly) and prevents the chickens from knocking it off and making a spilled water mess! Shown is an electric outdoor heated dog bowl, for winter, which keeps ice from forming. We use standard plastic red-and-white waterers in summer.
Chickens: all moved in!! It's so bright and cheery inside. I snapped a photo, don't worry... it will never be this spotless again. But, due to the design, it will be easy to keep clean!
Not shown: Enrichment
Really... chickens are clever animals (some admittedly more than others). They get bored, especially when the weather is bad and they like to spend time inside the coop.
I'm building a removable bin to pour sand into for dust bathing. This will stay dry (unlike their outdoor dustbath area) and allow them to bathe even in the winter when we have several feet of snow. This allows them to keep themselves more hygienic, also!
I also have some large suet cages that I fill with greens for them to work on in the winter, when they can't reach the ground under the snow.
An empty plastic jar with a few holes drilled into it makes a great foraging "toy"... fill it with a healthy treat such as black oil sunflower seeds, and watch them roll it around and work on how to get the seeds out! Make sure the holes you drill are large enough to allow a few seeds to spill out, but not all at once.
Shown in first photograph at top: Electric Fence
As we have existing electric fence on our old coop and large fenced run, we simply extended it onto the new shed-coop.
I didn't keep track of our exact costs, but for those trying to budget and plan, here's some approximate numbers. If you have ever done a home improvement or construction project, you know that it always, always goes over the amount you plan on spending! For example, we thought we could do the floor treatment with one box ($120) but ended up needing two.
Shed: Existing, purchased with property. Unknown cost.
Recycled lumber: Free. Just had to pull a ton of nails!
New flooring and bottom-of-the-barrel paneling: Approximately $220
Hardware (screws, fittings, hinges etc): Approximately $60
Waterproof flooring treatment (two boxes worth, eek): $240
Caulk and sealants: $25
Exterior grade primer and paint (2 coats of each worth) + brushes/rollers: $75
Electrical supplies: Approximately $35
PVC trim boards (lots): Approximately $80
Tools, electric fence supplies, etc: Borrowed or had on hand already.
Approximate total for this specific project as shown: $785
I will be sure to update once we install the dust bathing area and the nest boxes are all pretty! Thanks for reading, and I hope this was helpful to those of you that are trying to figure out how to retrofit a shed into a chicken coop!
"Thanks for the great big new coop!!"