Free Chicken Coop Plans…and lots of other useful tips too!

CHICKEN COOPS GENERAL INFORMATION

So you’re thinking about building a chicken coop but don’t want to spend a fortune on
coop plans and building materials? This was my thought when I built my own coop a
few years ago. I’ve read that the average person spends $300.00 to build their coop
and I didn’t want to spend that much – I scoured the internet to find free (or cheap)
but well made chicken coop designs that I could either build myself or buy.

I’ve included the links to FREE coop designs on the right side of the page.
the links contain plans to big or small chicken coops, depending on your needs. I’ve
also added some ideas for cheap or free chicken coop supplies i.e. building
materials, chicken feeders, chicken water containers, chicken nest boxes, chicken
roosts, and a few recommended books on how to care for chickens. I’ll be adding more information to each of these topics as time goes on. For now, I wanted to give you the basics and show you some pictures of the coop that I use and some of the supplies that have worked for me.

Coop Building Materials

CHICKEN COOP MATERIALS
Chicken coops can be made from almost anything – revamping an old shed or camping trailer, using scrap lumber, PVC pipes, 50 gallon barrels, tarps, kits, and the list goes on. Wood is the most commonly used material for coop building. Depending on the size of your coop, buying new lumber can get expensive.

I was able to find a couple of businesses which sell used or scrap lumber and this worked nicely for my 4’x 8′ coop. I even found some used windows and a couple sets of unused shingle there. If you decide to build your coop with used lumber, be prepared to pull out some nails, cut out some broken pieces, and to be creative with what you find. It takes extra time and TLC to build a coop using “recycled” or used wood – but I found the extra time well worth it in how much money I saved!  I also appreciated that it’s environmentally friendly.

 

Another view of my coop (left) – I lucked out in finding a few stacks of new shingles to use! I also saved extra space inside the coop by building the nest boxes on the outside – you can see the row of nest boxes in the picture, jutting out on the right side (which is actually the back of the coop). There are 8 total boxes for them to choose from.

 

Where To Find Coop Building Supplies

There are many options for finding some great building materials for your coop.  Craigslist can be an excellent option for just about anything!  In doing a quick general search in the “Materials” option of Craigslist, I found a few things that can work nicely such as used plywood, used lumber, tin, old windows, a large barrel, nails and screws, and the lost goes on.

Also, don’t forget to check the “free” section – you never know what goodies are lurking there for your coop!  I have also done specific searches for chicken coops and occasionally see some great used coops people are just wanting to get rid of – this could be a great way to get a used coop at a great price!

Used Building Materials – 

Almost anywhere in the country, you can find a place that sells used building supplies such as lumber, nails, windows, etc. The movement to go green is huge now and many people are looking not only to save money, but also protect our environment.

I am a huge supporter of businesses that sell used building materials.  Having said that, I must also add that it can be challenging to find the right amount of what you need.  These stores rely on donated materials and the amount and variety changes all the time.  For example, when I built my own coop I purchased nearly everything from a building materials salvage place near my house (Portland, Oregon).  I had it in my head I wanted metal siding for my coop.  Although they had a few pieces of nice metal pieces, it wasn’t nearly enough to build an entire coop.

Lots of Choices for your Coop!
Lots of Choices for your Coop!

So because of this, I had to revise my plan or buy the metal siding new, which wasn’t in our budget.  After talking to one of the staff working there, describing the size of the coop I wanted, and what features I preferred, he showed me some old siding.  We estimated it would be about the right amount, taking my into account some of the imperfections that had to be removed from the boards (large cracks, gouges, short piec s etc).   Luckily for me – it worked out great!

A Few Other Ideas to Help build Your Coop

Perfect for a Hoop House!

For the Perimeter of your Outdoor run, Yard, or Pasture.
For the Perimeter of your Outdoor run, Yard, or Pasture.
Perfect for a Chicken Tractor Coop!
Perfect for a Chicken Tractor Coop!

Pictured above are just a few ideas of things you can use in your chicken coop – visit your local rebuilding store today and start planning!

Thanks for reading and please leave a comment below.

Chicken Coop Designs

My own creation..
My own creation..

CHICKEN COOP DESIGNS
There are hundreds of different designs available for your coop. A picture of my coop is posted here – It’s made of scrap lumber and left over house paint. If you’re looking to build a coop with the links to free plans below, you’ll be limited to only those designs…but at least they’re free, functional, and actually quite lovely! And you can always add your own design twists too.

How you design your coop will, of course, depend on your needs. If you are planning to have a small flock and want to build a smaller coop, you may want to consider a portable chicken coop. These are also called chicken tractors (see photo, courtesy of VanTucky)

They often do not have floors and can be moved every few days or weeks from one part of your lawn to another so the grass does not get trampled down. This is ideal for raising chickens in urban areas where there may be limited space for them to run around. It’s also beneficial for both your chickens and your lawn. The chicken droppings provide great fertilizer for your lawn and, by moving the coop often, the chickens get access to new bugs and fresh grass. Plus, you don’t have to worry about cleaning up the droppings!

You can use any design you want, or create your own – the chickens won’t likely care. But do keep in mind your skill level when building it. I used a design of my own creation – now this worked just fine in the end, and I had fun building it. But I didn’t have a lot of experience in wood working or construction so it took me a lot longer to come up with a blueprint, to figure out how much wood it would take etc. I also encountered problems while constructing it since my blueprint wasn’t perfectly polished and ready to go – so the construction process didn’t always go smoothly either.

In hindsight, I wish I would have simply used an already available design that I found online since it would have saved me a ton of time and energy. But like I said – I do take great pride in my little 4’x8′ creation and the chickens seem perfectly happy in it! You’ll figure out what will work best for you.

If you want (or already have) a large flock of chickens, you will be looking at bigger designs.  A coop designed for a large flock is less likely to be mobile, but I have seen pictures of some very large coops that are on wheels and can be moved.  Generally speaking though, it’s more likely to be stationary which also has its advantages.

A coop similar to the one pictured above can likely house up to 50 or more chickens. You may not want that many chickens, but it never hurts to build your coop a little bigger than you think you’ll need. I realized this very early on in our chicken raising adventures.

Our original plan in 2006 was to house 8 – 10 chickens. So our 4’x8′ coop allowed plenty of space for that flock size. But we quickly found out that raising chickens was a lot of fun and we suddenly wanted more!   We were fortunate in that we also had an another shed on our yard that we were able to convert into another coop.  This allowed us to grow our flock size to nearly 60 chickens over a span of 9 years.

Perhaps you are more disciplined than we were in keeping your flock to a certain size…but I wanted to share our experience as something to consider when designing your own coop.

If you’re OK with using a plan or picture as simply a guide for building your own coop, that can really open up a lot of design possibilities. For example, you can check blueprints of coops online or try to simply replicate a design just from looking at a good picture of a coop.  That’s essentially how I made my own coop.  As I mentioned earlier, there were a lot of points during the project where I felt overwhelmed and had to go back online or check in with a carpenter friend on what to do next.

My own creation..
My own creation..

But the advantage of using this type of method is that I can adjust the width, length, and height to suit my own personal needs.  For example, if you see a design for a coop online and decide you want to build one similar but, after checking the dimensions, you realize it’s way too big or small for your purposes.  Then you can simply adjust the dimensions to the size of coop you’re wanting to build. By really studying a good plan or picture of a coop, you can get a pretty good idea of what it will take to make a similar structure.

Obviously this will make building the coop a bit harder, but it still allows you to build a coop of the same design but to your own specs! If the thought of making these modifications scares you, I don’t blame you! We all come to a project like this with varying building experience. So if you want a detailed plan, you can simply find a free or cheap alternative on this website or pay for a detailed plan.

One such place to find great plans is here.  There are an overwhelming number of plans to choose from on Ted’s site, but I like the detailed yet simplistic coop plans he provides.

If you have other ideas or feedback, please add a comment below. Thanks for visiting!

Chicken Roosts

CHICKEN ROOSTS
A 2″ by 4″ or 2″ by 2″ board works nicely as a roost. You can also use a tree branch measuring between 3″ to 6.” I used a 2 x 4 and rounded off the edges with a circular saw, and these are working like a champ. This step is not necessary, but I’ve found that they are able to grip onto the roost better when it’s slightly rounded. A view of my roost and walkway leading to the roost is pictured below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I made sure to place the roosts where the droppings are not in my way when I enter the coop so I don’t have to clean it off my shoes after being inside. Depending on the type of coop you build, you may also want to consider positioning the roosts where you can easily clean up the droppings.

Chicken Ladder

Chickens seem to like roosting higher in the coop at night, so I positioned mine about 4 feet off the ground. I then constructed a ladder (or walkway) leading up to the roost.  Since we clipped their wings (more on this in a bit), they are reliant on walking instead of flying.  So it’s important to build a ramp that will allow them to climb.  The design is very simple – basically an 8″ wide board which angles up from the floor to the roost with some make shift “steps” nailed on and spaced every 5″ or so.  Basically – just something they can use to “grip” onto as they walk up.  Also pictured is a cool idea of simply using roofing shingles – very clever, and perhaps less work to put together!  (See images below)

Ladder
Ladder
Ramp using shingles

Wing Clipping

Back to wing clipping, just briefly – we clipped the outer part of the wings – on one side only. Don’t worry – this does not involve pain for the chickens in any way, and it prevents them from taking flight.  The wings are clipped toward the outer part of the wing where there is no blood supply. We didn’t clip their wings at first because we thought it would hurt them. They kept flying over the fence, however, and and we lost one to a neighborhood dog. Thus, the wing clipping, and consequent ramp from the floor to the roost inside the coop. There is a great illustration on wing clipping on the Backyard  Chickens website link below.

How-to-clip-chicken-wings
As you can see – it’s pretty darn simple to make a roost!  Feel free to comment below on roosts that have worked for you.  Thanks!

Chicken Nest Boxes

Chicken Nest Boxes 
The suggested size for chicken nest boxes is 15″ wide, 15″ high and 11 1/8″ (see picture for example). This can vary to a certain extent. My nest boxes are about 2″ smaller than this and work just fine. You can fill your boxes with straw or place some type of padding down on the bottom so the eggs won’t crack when they lay them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Addition to or Alternative to Straw Bedding

A picture of a couple of my Nest Boxes above – I originally put only straw in the bottom as cushioning for the hens to lay in so the eggs won’t crack once layed. The only downside of straw or any type of loose bedding is that they often scratch and kick it out of the box, meaning more clean up and (possibly) cracked eggs.

If you’ve ever had chickens, you may have experienced this before – you reach into the nest Boxes to grab the eggs and suddenly your fingers are dripping with wet, gooey egg yolk!  To remedy this, I added a piece of artificial turf.  It’s the “fake” grass material that you see at miniature golf courses, putting greens etc.

I was fortunate in that I found this material at a used building materials business while searching for lumber.  There was just enough of it for me to cut out a few squares to line the bottom of my nest Boxes with.  I stapled it into the bottom to prevent the hens from scratching it out like they often do with straw.

However, I added straw on top of that because I think it’s a softer, natural bedding that the chickens prefer over turf alone.  When the turf got mud or droppings on it, it cleaned up pretty well.  I definitely noticed it provided a sufficient amount of cushioning to reduce the number of broken eggs I was finding.

Above is a picture of a similar product that will cushion the eggs.

I’m sure there are other options to cushion the bottom of your Nest Boxes  as well, like an old towel, blanket, clothes you no longer wear, a folded burlap sack, a double layer of cardboard box perhaps – the list goes on.  I’m guessing you have ideas of your own.

 

If you are interested in purchasing turf, you may be able to find some at a used building materials store, Goodwill etc.  You could also find some at your local lawn and garden center, or online:

 

 

Other Considerations For Nest Boxes

I started off with 8 chickens and made a nest box for each chicken. It turns out they all used the same 2 nest boxes for laying eggs! I’ve even seen 3 chickens in the same nest box at the same time – therefore, you don’t need to make too many boxes. They tend to gravitate toward the same box. If you have a big flock – obviously you’ll need to make more.

Another thing that can happen is once you get into raising chickens, you’ll realize it’s fun!  Of course when this happens you’ll want to buy more of those feathered creatures.  At least that’s what happened to us.  We were happy with our original 8, but loved the idea of getting more, selling the eggs etc.  So over the span of 10 years we gradually increased our flock size to nearly 60.

Needless to say, I had to build more Nest Boxes.

In some of the links I’ve provided for building chicken coops, there are some excellent pictures of nest boxes, diagrams, and “how-to” instructions for building nest boxes.  I hope you will find them useful if you build your own nest Boxes.

If you decide you’d rather not go through the effort of making a nest box, there are many other places to buy Nest Boxes like your local farm store or online:

 

Thanks for visiting. Please leave a comment below.  I appreciate any ideas or comments you have about building nest boxes!

Chicken Feeder

CHICKEN FEEDER
The farm stores all carry a nice selection of chicken feeders and water containers but they can be rather expensive. I made a 5 gallon feeder and waterer using two 5 gallon buckets I got for free at our local grocery store – usually the bakery or deli section – and two 20 inch plastic planter bases. The plastic planter bases cost around $5.00 – I purchased mine from a garage sale. Of course, any local retailer such as Walmart, Target, or your local hardware store or nursery would carry them as well. The 5 gallon feeder I’m currently using is pictured above – after filling it with feed, it will last about 3 weeks for 13 chickens.

How it’s done: To make the Chicken feeder – drill several holes about 1 1/2″ in diameter around the bottom of the bucket. Make sure the bottom edge of the holes are no higher up than 1/2″ from the very bottom of the bucket.

Next – place the bucket in the bottom of the plant base so the top of the bucket is still up. Don’t throw away the lid – you’ll still need it. Make sure the bucket is centered as best as possible in the plant bottom and then screw it in place using 3 or 4 screws until it is secure.

That’s it! Just pour in the feed and put the lid on and you’ve got 5 gallons worth of feed. I’m guessing this would be roughly 20 lbs of feed since it holds just under half of a 50lb bag of chicken feed in my feeder.

I placed my feeder on top of 2 concrete blocks – chickens are sloppy eaters and this helps prevent feed spillage. I’ve seen other people hang their feeders a few inches off the ground with rope. The suggested distance off the ground is about the height of the chickens back.

UPDATE: You can also make a feeder double the size with 2 buckets! This will double the amount of feed you can provide. As our flock grew, we used this one. It will easily hold a 50 pound bag of chicken feed. To put it together, you simply have two 5 gallon buckets. Just cut out the bottom of a second bucket and screw it about 2-3 inches from the top of the first bucket (as pictured).

Then drill in 4 – 6 screws around the perimeter, which works great to hold it in place (see picture). The screw length I used was 2 1/2 inches. Don’t forget about those screws in there if you ever need to reach in the bucket. You don’t want to get cut! But that’s all there is to it! You now have an extra large chicken feeder.

Thanks for checking this out!  Please leave a comment below about your ideas for a great feeder!