Common Materials Used to Build a Chicken Coop

The type of material you use for your chicken coop will make a big difference in the overall design. We’ll take a look at some of the most common materials need to build chicken coops, how much they cost and where to find them.

Creating the Main Structure

The main structure is where the chickens will spend a great deal of their time. Although they don’t need anything elaborate, this structure must be safe and sound while protecting the animals from the elements.

coop made from wood with slanted roof

Flickr @ Gord Webster via CC 2.0

A variety of materials may be used to build the structure, and each has its advantages and disadvantages.

Lumber – A Great Choice, but can be pricey

Lumber is the most common building material used for creating a chicken coop, yet it is also the priciest. Pressure treated wood is relatively maintenance free and resistant to pests, but there is some concern over the chemicals injected into the lumber.

Tropical hardwoods and redwood are naturally resistant to rot and make a good choice, but can be more costly than manufactured wood. So it will depend on your budget and the size of the coop you have in mind.

Many chicken owners select a softwood, such as pine, spruce or hemlock. Sealing the lumber with a nontoxic treatment or sealer will keep it from deteriorating over time. When using plywood for the sides, be sure to choose pieces designed for exterior use and follow up with a paint or stain to further protect the wood from the elements.

Source: Flickr @ Allan Hack by cc 2.0

Building a chicken coop from wood probably gives you the most freedom for the design. Wood can easily be cut and painted to fit almost any design choice.

Plastic Chicken Coops – Low Maintenance & Pest Free

Individuals worried about the time needed to clean and maintain a chicken coop often choose a plastic coop to minimize these tasks. Many of these structures require no more than 30 minutes to wash and dry them out. This can be important when the weather turns bad, as nobody wants their chickens left outdoors in the elements or animals sitting in a wet house.

photo of two chickens grazing outside their coop

The Snap Lock Chicken Coop from The Clever Coop Company

There are a few companies that sell kits which are easy to put together and are a great idea for first-time chicken owners. The Clever Coop Company, for example, sells both a four and a twelve hen coop made entirely of an easy-to-clean plastic material. These coops are light enough to move to a different area of your homestead without the need for a tractor. The water-resistant material is also very hygienic and perfect for chicken owners who have experienced a troublesome mite infestation.

For a farm with a large chicken population, this type of coop is a great way to provide a second house for any chicken that may need to be separated from the flock temporarily as it recovers from an illness or injury.

Building a Coop from Recycled Materials

Recycled materials are great for making a chicken coop. However, examine each item to check the quality. If you are new to building, stick to plain or simple items like the ones described below. Trying to repurpose fancy materials, such as an abadoned car or old water tank can be hard to work and present unique challenges.

PVC Pipe – Cheap & Flexible

Source: Backyard Chickens Hen Hideout

PVC pipe is a great choice for a chicken coop. Not only is it inexpensive, but many configurations can also be made using the pipe to create the ideal environment for the animals. As more chickens are added, the pipe can be disassembled and reassembled with ease to meet the owner’s changing needs. PVC pipe works especially well for chicken tractors which are a favorite of chicken owners since they can be moved to different parts of the property in need of fertilization.

Here is an example of how PVC pipe can be incorporated into the overall design. The PVC was used to create a skeleton and provided a lightweight durable frame for both the hen house and the chicken run. The hen house was built inside the PVC frame using plywood. Wheels were added at the end of the project to make the whole structure portable.

Pallets – Free, May Require a Little Creativity

For those who have limited funds to spend on a chicken coop, one made from pallets is the perfect solution. These items are readily available and are typically free of charge. Furthermore, they make a solid structure that will protect the chickens while keeping them dry.

Pallets are commonly used to ship boxes of consumer products between warehouses or during an overseas shipment. You can find free wooden pallets in many places. Any retailer or store that receives regular deliveries is likely to have an extra supply of pallets. Ask your local UPS store, big-box warehouse store, local contractors, storage facilities or even small business owners if they have extras. In many cases, they are happy to have you take them off your hands.

Pallets can be used in several ways when building your chicken coop. You can keep them intact, of course, but many folks take the pallets apart and merely use the boards – that’s a great way to get free lumber. Or the pallet can be used as the building’s frame then finished with external shingles for a more polished look.

Dog Pens – Good for Small Flocks

An outdoor dog pen can be converted to a chicken coop with very little time and effort. However, any concrete slab attached to the pen should be removed, as chickens prefer a softer surface to walk on. Furthermore, the pen will limit the size of the flock, thus individuals who plan on a large flock need to consider other options.

You can find used dog runs for a reasonable price on Craigslist or freecycle. Watch the below video to see how one man turned his existing dog run into a chicken coop. He gives a lot of great recommendations to make the chicken run predator proof, provide shade for the birds and more.

Adding a Chicken Run

Building a chicken run gives your flock room to roam and forage without getting too far from home. There are several choices here as well depending on your budget and what type of predators are in your neighborhood. See our article on common chicken coop building mistakes for more information on predator-proofing your chicken coop.

Wooden Fences

Wooden fences, as with wooden coops, are strong and sturdy, yet costly to construct. If predators are a significant issue, this is one solution the owner should consider. Otherwise, alternative solutions tend to be more economical.

Chicken Wire

white chicken behind nettingMost individuals new to poultry use chicken wire for the fencing. However, this material rusts quickly, and it won’t help to protect the chickens from predators. For this reason, it’s best to limit the use of chicken wire to a daytime yard for the poultry. Their main structure needs something more substantial.

Chain Link Fences

Others believe a chain link fence is ideal for protecting poultry from predators. What they don’t realize is raccoons can reach through the openings and do a great deal of harm in a short period. If chain link fencing is used, make sure the chickens can move to a safe space out of the reach of the raccoon to protect themselves.

Electric Netting

A large flock benefits from electric netting, as it allows them more room to roam. This is an economical way to keep poultry contained while ensuring predators stay out. Keep in mind the fencing must be connected to a power source at all times, however, to be effective.

Additional Coop Building Tips

Selecting Roofing Material

Flickr @ vickywatson by cc2.0

As with the materials used for the coop, there are multiple roofing options available to poultry owners. Corrugated tin used to be the preferred material, but people are now finding other roofing materials to be cheaper and easier to obtain. The reason some opt to use this material today is it is lightweight, durable and will keep the predators out.

Others decide to go with PVC roofing for the coop, as it is also lightweight and durable. This type of roofing material can also be easily obtained and meets most construction codes. Tarred roofing isn’t as popular today, as it is best for short-term use due to its lack of durability.

Other popular roof materials include: asphalt shingles, roll roofing, and corrugated roofing – pretty much anything used on your house, can be used on the hen house as well. Be sure to build the roof on a slant to prevent snow or rainwater from sitting on the rooftop for too long. The coop will be needed for the lifespan of the chickens, and no poultry owner wants to be constantly replacing a roof.

Spend More for the Base Structure

hen and roosterInvest money in a solid base structure, as this will help to keep predators out. Some individuals opt to use electric net fencing or something of this nature to ensure raccoons and other animals don’t make it into the coop, but a sturdy floor remains the best option. However, keep in mind it will be covered with chicken poop in a short period of time, so don’t go fancy here.

A chicken coop can be as elaborate or plain as the owner desires. Chickens typically don’t care where they live so long as they are warm, safe and dry. Safety of the poultry must be the top priority always, nevertheless, as these animals are easy prey for other creatures. Don’t let the chickens be harmed. The right coop and a good design plan ensures they won’t be.

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