Advice on a chicken shelter?


May 16, 2010
Washington State

In the NW we are expecting a wet winter. During rainy days my chickens seem a little miserable, but don't go into their coop. Instead, they huddle under a table I have that has holes between the tiles, so it really doesn't do much to keep the water away from them, and definitely doesn't protect them from wind.

So I was thinking of building a shelter. I have in mind using corrugated plastic sheets for the walls, floor and roof; it would be completely open in the front. I don't want to build it out of wood, because I won't have a place to completely protect if from water, and I don't want the floor to just soak up the water from underneath (though it will probably have 2x4s under the floor plastic. I figured I won't make it too big, because it will only be for hanging out in.

I'm wondering if anyone has any advice on this idea. Also, I'm not sure what bedding to use. Wood shavings seem messy for an open space, so I was thinking of cotton batting (which can be thrown away when it gets dirty)- I also want to be able to keep them a little warm and make them comfortable.

I'd love to hear what you all have to say!


You could make a large open-front dog house type structure with a peaked corrugated metal or plastic roof that would keep the rain off. You could put a couple of low roosts in there (think 2x4 across cinderblock) along the walls that they could get up on if they chose. I wouldn't put a floor in it- just put a board across the front and put down sand which would drain any water that did blow in and could easily be raked clean. I think cotton batting would get soaked and filthy very quickly and the birds might eat it.

I think the whole thing could be built simply and very inexpensively, especially if you use salvaged pallet slats or other wood. They would probably use it in the summer to for shade or just to hang out in. Mine have a large dog crate in their pen that they like to pile up in even in nice weather.... we call it the "chicken gazebo".
I like the dog house-shape idea, and I hadn't thought to put a roost in it! Usually when they are outside they're all huddled on the ground, but it's probably because they don't have somewhere to roost! Duh on my part
Thanks for the input lleighmay!
I'm down in Olympia and have heard too that it's going to be cold and wet due to El _______ (whatever).

A couple weeks ago, I redid my run because it was getting wet. I have dog kennel panels. 12' x 24' total. I had put one extra panel on top and had a tarp on top of that for shade in the beginning and to keep them dry however, it would fill with water and weigh down to the point I was afraid it was going to collapse. I then had 4 x 6 posts holding the tarp up.

I took that all a part. Went and got some PVC 3/4" piping with elbows, threaded the PVC through the chainlink creating an arch - PVC 4' a part and draped a HUGE pretty spruce colored outside/blue inside tarp over the arches and ziptied the sides to the chain link.

It kind of looks like a green house with tons of head room and the water runs right off. I have huge branches that are resting on logs for roosts and they love it.

I get free wood chips delivered for FREE from tree trimming companies that wood otherwise have to pay the landfill. I wait for it to dry out and then spread it in the run and then I sprinkle stall dry from time to time and it stays fluffy, stink free, and the birds like to dig holes and dust bath in it.

Around the edges where it does get wet from the rain run off, they like to dig for worms and bugs.

Works great for my quickly growing flock that started with 10 and now up to just over 30. (I have a 12' x 12' coop that could hold 36 if you go by 4 sq ft per bird math). I wouldn't want to put many more in there.
I'm definitely considering doing something involving a tarp over their run, but that's good to know about the water pooling... The girls have room under their coop inside the run, and I'm thinking of attaching a tarp around it to at least keep the wind out. I like the idea of putting a roost on logs! I have to do something soon; it's supposed to rain for the rest of the week. I wish they could tell me what they wanted!
Thanks for the advice!
If all you are looking for is some shelter from the rain and wind, I suggest you look at a lean-to structure. You can leave the front open, slope the top so that any water and snow runs or slides off, fill it with sand which drains well and gives them a place to dust bathe, and is pretty easy to build. Position it so the water runs off the roof and away from the area, not into it. I'd probably put some type of edging around the bottom to slow them down in scratching the sand out and so the sand can be built up a little so it will drain better. Just put in two posts for the front, put a cross member between them, then use whatever material you want for the top and the two sides.

I'd be a bit careful with a tarp long term. Wind can damage them, snow can build up a lot of weight or water can pool on them if they sag.

Just a thought.

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