Cheap Cheap Chicken Coops
Reading Time: 5 minutes
“We just picked up stuff that we thought was useful and made it work,” Melissa Miller tells me as I admire her cheap chicken coop made from scrounged materials. Miller and I live in Tampa, FL. I live on the city’s limits approaching farmland, where she lives in historic Seminole Heights. Her neighborhood is full of 20th-century bungalows, eclectic shops, epicurean dining, and backyard chickens. Poultry in this part of Tampa is fashionable. In addition to fancy chicken breeds, people in this area are raising pheasants and quail. Many of the residents are also growing vegetables and fruit trees in their city lots.
Chickens are not only trendy, they’re practical. The birds themselves are cheap, as well as their feed. The most expensive cost that you will endure is their housing. While a premanufactured coop is convenient, they are also pricey. Having some basic construction skills is valuable.
“My spouse is very handy,” Miller explains. “We based the coop on my height since I go in to clean it. Safety was very important which is why we purchased wire. We did find wire, but I wanted a specific size to keep critters out. We used a pallet to make it pretty on the outside and my brother in law had some leftover paint we used to make it look nice as well.”
Miller and her husband Bryant Tonkin built it for three chickens and included three nesting boxes inside. Since their initial build, they’ve made some updates like an automatic door and a motion sensor light, but otherwise used materials they had or found.
How to build a chicken coop out of pallets
A few blocks away another chicken keeper also built his cheap chicken coop predominantly out of pallets.
“A friend had several pallets of pavers delivered for their patio pool deck,” Kenny Gil recalls. “I made sure they had an HR stamp, so they weren’t chemically treated but rather heat treated.
He also ended up paying for a roll of hardware cloth, some supporting lumber and screws, and washers. If you calculate the chicken coop cost these Tampanians built, they are nearly free as chicken runs and coops are different. A chicken coop is where they sleep and lay eggs. A chicken run is a fenced area that they have access to during the day to get exercise and enrichment. On my acre, I have so many trees and bushes that my chickens can use for shelter, that I feel confident in allowing my bids to free-range. I only have a chicken coop.
Gil says in reference to his build, “Everything else was reclaimed. A neighbor was throwing out the plywood. Same with a few boards and the shingles.”
The first thing Gil considered, like many backyard chicken owners, was cost. He comes up with the design as the project evolved, by calculating how many resources he had. He first installed the posts and built the sides of the raised coop.
“It is one pallet wide by one and a half long. We got our chicks a few days before I finished building it. It took a long time to build because I was constructing it during summer and there were on and off showers.”
Gil had some building experience but was working alone, which can pose some challenges, especially when things are heavy or hard to balance. He added a side door to access the roosts and chicken bedding. They use pine shavings as they found it keeping things neat and he can easily rake them out and add them to the compost pile.
Here in Tampa, FL, we don’t have to worry too much about winterizing chicken coops. Occasionally, it does dip into freezing temperatures. On that day(s) and for the rest of the country in winter, it is important to keep your cheap chicken coop (or expensive one) draft-free and well insulated. Adding extra layers of pine shavings to the floor and nesting boxes will keep the coop warm. It is advisable to have a thermometer in the coop that records max and min temperatures. Freezing temperatures in the coop can result in frostbite and death.
“We were really nervous about getting into chicken raising because neither of us had experience,” Gil recalls. “But it has been fairly easy.” He and his wife enjoy looking back at the chicken’s baby pictures and reminiscing.
It’s not important the design you choose when building a cheap chicken coop out of pallets. If it is safe from predators and esthetically pleasing to you – it’s a good coop. Be mindful, there are a few essential elements that are needed.
|Chicken Coop Must-Haves|
|Protection from predators|
|Food storage containers|
|Nesting boxes and bedding|
|Protection from the elements|
|Water and feeder|
Elsewhere in historic Seminole Heights…
Originally published in the August/September 2020 issue of Backyard Poultry and regularly vetted for accuracy.