Building A Chicken Coop: 11 Cheap Ideas

Building A Chicken Coop: 11 Cheap Ideas

Reading Time: 4 minutes

By Chris Lesley – Building your first chicken coop can be fun. It can be daunting. It can be exhilarating and stressful, but ultimately extremely satisfying. The one thing it does not have to be, though, is expensive.

While you can certainly lay out hundreds of dollars for a pre-fabricated coop and come away, you can also spend next to no money and build your own coop with results that are just as satisfying.

So long as you do not cut corners on the important things, like having appropriate ventilation to prevent respiratory diseases, there are many ways to cut costs on a chicken coop without jeopardizing the final coop.  

Use free chicken coop plans online. While you can purchase the perfect chicken coop plan or pay someone to design one, there are lots of coop plans available online for free. Just make sure it meets all of your needs in terms of flock size, roosting space, and nesting boxes.

Plan carefully ahead of time. Anyone who embarks on a lot of DIY projects knows this one by heart, but planning how you are going to use your materials, where you are going to place the coop, and what you are going to build ahead of time will not only save you a lot of stress and headaches, but also save you money by allowing you to buy exactly the materials you need and not shell out for extras that will not get used.

Build for the weather. Knowing what weather you are expecting and what stresses it will put on your coop will help it last longer and save you money on repairs. If you build for floods in an area known for blizzards, you will have to concede with a lot of frost heaves and snow piles that your coop may not be designed to handle, and those repairs will add up.

Borrow or rent tools you do not already own. Even if you do not have an electric drill or a staple gun, one of your friends or neighbors probably has one you can borrow. If not, many hardware stores will rent them to you for a few days for significantly less than the cost of purchasing one.

Consider purchasing or renovating a second-hand coop. With so many fly-by-night chicken coop keepers embarking on a backyard flock on the back of a trend, this is a legitimate option. Cruising Craigslist or Facebook forums may turn up a wide variety of used chicken coops for affordable prices. This can certainly be economical, but should also be approached with caution. Make sure any coop you purchase used has been thoroughly cleaned and is in good enough condition to protect your girls.

Use scrap wood and other free materials. Scrap wood is easier to find than a lot of people realize, even if you do not have a pile sitting in the backyard from your last attempt to build your own bookshelf. Many people will have leftover wood from their last project that they will be happy to give away or sell very cheaply. Another option is businesses, which may have leftover scrap wood or old pallets that you can use.

A single 2×4 makes a perfect roost. This should be the cheapest part of your coop, honestly. As long as you have a foot apiece for each hen to call her own, the cheapest building material here is, for once, the best.

Laying hens going to roost for the night.

Consider any extras carefully. While accessories like chicken waterers and chicken feeders are non-negotiable, many companies are interested in selling you products for your coop that may not actually be necessary. For instance, is an automatic coop door crucial for managing your hens and your work schedule, or is somebody home all the time to perform the same function? Considering this before purchasing extras will help you cut down on unnecessary costs.

Make your own predator deterrents. While there are plenty of fancy, purpose-built predator deterrents on the market, there is no need to pay for them. If you are tired of the CD and DVD collections you have not played in years, you can string those up from the trees to frighten off hawks and owls. Hand mirrors and reflective tape also work wonders without breaking the bank.

Find and repurpose as many elements as you can. Odds are you have several elements of the perfect chicken coop lying around your house or yard already, and you did not even realize it. Milk crates make great nesting boxes. An old bookcase or kitchen cabinet can be a great wall or starting structure for a chicken coop.

Build exactly what you need. This sounds obvious, but building a coop that exactly serves your needs — even if it is more expensive in the short run — will save you money and grief in the long run by keeping your hens happy, healthy, and safe. It will also prevent you from having to shell out to renovate or build a new coop when you realize that something in your first build was not quite up to par.

Starting your first backyard chicken coop is certainly more than expensive enough already; there is no reason that a chicken coop needs to raise that price tag any further.

Luckily, careful planning, clever sourcing of materials, and a few common sense cost-cutting measures can keep it from breaking the bank. It just needs a little resourcefulness and creative thinking to see the coop that is not there yet, but will be soon.

Chris has been raising backyard chickens for over 20 years and is the Chickens and More poultry expert. She has a flock of 11 chickens (including three Silkies) and is currently teaching people all around the world how to care for healthy chickens. Her new book, Raising Chickens: The Common Sense Beginner’s Guide to Backyard Chickens, is available in paperback and eBook form. Download it for FREE until Sunday, March 27th.

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