TL;DR : We built our chicken coop from scratch using material we “scavenged” from our carpenter roomate and from pallets from the nearest supermarket.
Ok, this was one of our biggest challenges. Chickens need a place to sleep, to lay eggs, to brood and to shelter from the rain sometimes. I mean, sure they can sleep outside, in the rain, unprotected, but then, so can we. It’s not the healthiest way of going down.
Building from scratch or buying a kit?
We didn’t want to buy one of those pre-made kits that sell at around 200€. They usually limit the chicken’s outside living space to a tiny wired-in box, like this coop kit for example.
These kinda of coops are pretty awesome if you don’t wan’t to go through all the trouble of having to go to Home Depot (or a similar shop) and use power tools. They aren’t excessively expensive (buying your own material often take longer and costs just as much). They protect your chickens from outside invaders but unfortunately they also lock them in. Since we wanted our chickens to by able to roam around we decided to make a tailor-made chicken coop, made by … ourselves.
So we got creative and went to a french Home Depot like store and got construction materials. We built a chicken coop that was waaaay too big for four chickens, that ended up costing us just as much as a coop kit (on the plus side it was 3 times bigger though we never needed the space) and that was pretty much impossible to move in one piece when we changed city.
Moving with a chicken coop
We ended up rebuilding it (it was much less stable or appropriate) in our new garden, only to burn it down a couple months later because of a red mite infestation. By that point it was too late. The mites were there to stay. They were, and still are, our biggest problem. We’ll talk about these pests a little lower. The first chicken coop we built helped them thrive because it was sheltered from sunlight and had many hiding places that kept the population going.
It was also not the easiest chicken coop to clean either. This wasn’t really motivating to clean it as regularly as we should have, especially in the winter. It still got a good cleaning at least once per week.
Winter cleaning kinda sucks, because it’s cold (sometimes freezing), your hands are wet, it’s not the greatest time to be outside and nothing dries. You can’t give the coop a good rinse through because it will just rot from all the moisture. Luckily most parasites are also kept at bay by the cold.
Building our second coop
So after burning the first one, we built a second coop. We’d learnt quite a lot from our experience with the first one. Second time around our chicken coop cost us exactly : 0€. We should have started up with this one. It is entirely made of recycled material, pallets, and much easier to clean and to transport. It’s painted so red mites have much more difficulty making their nests in it. The bottom is easily removable for optimum cleaning.
Here are some pictures :
Personally, since the beginning, I was hoping to transform a garden shed into a chicken coop once we moved into a house with a larger garden. This would make it much easier to clean out (as it would be human sized) and would accept a large population of chickens. But we’re not there yet!
Upgrading chicken coop
Later I discovered the chicken tractor, solar powered automatic doors, miniature gardens on the top of chicken coops, … So we’re still looking into this. We remain amateurs at building coops but we’ve found websites that give great plans. You can read about these in our tips post.
You can quickly do some research on the web and find some pretty awesome stuff. For example at Urban Chicken Tractors they make custom made chicken tractors to which you can add quite a few options. You can get ideas from their website and others if you feel like doing some handiwork or you can find a shop which will make you your own chicken tractors / raise beds / …
This is a pretty awesome image of a chicken tractor I found browsing on Urban Chicken Tractors
Our advice is still to not get carried away or to spend too much money on a chicken coop because you might have to move, your chickens might catch a bug or you might get infested with parasites and have to break it down and burn it. If you can build chicken coops from reused material you’ll have more fun, it will be a great experience and can help you save quite a bit of money.
If you really want an exceptional home for your chickens, trust an expert to build it! There are many things that are important for a great chicken coop. One of them being a proper isolation. If your chickens sleep in a humid place with constant drafts they are very likely to end up weakened and to catch one of those nasty illness chicken may get.