Build a chicken coop out of salvaged materials – Mother Earth News

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Photo: Rath Pepper

A practical addition to your backyard or farmhouse, built for practically nothing.

One day a friend who works in a construction company asked us, “Can you use some damaged garage door sections?” Of course we said yes. We’ve built our reputation for being “hackers” and will accept (as long as it’s free) anything useful that people get rid of. The discovery of these door sections coincided with the need to build a new shelter for our chickens. Some real possibilities became apparent, and all we had to do was take them home.

This was the beginning of our 16×16 chicken shed, which we built for almost nothing. The only money we spent was about $100 for the 18-degree rafters (we simply couldn’t find used rafters), some 2x4s and 1x6s, and gas for the truck when we moved the materials.

The foundation is built from old railroad ties, which we got for free from a friend earlier. The window was my sister’s “discovery” – she spotted her in her neighbor’s trash heap. The metal roof and sawn wood came from an old shed that was demolished. The roof had many holes and rust spots, but with a pail of tar we were able to seal most of them. The roof at the time was about 95% waterproof, and the chickens never seemed to mind it. The indoor nesting boxes we got from a nearby farmer no longer need them. The only element we’re lacking is a front window, and as soon as we spot an unused one, the chickens get a view. We found garage door partitions an excellent siding material. We had 18 pieces that were 16″ long, 21″ wide, and 1 3/8″ thick. These “Flowing Garage Door Partitions” have a hollow core and are made of a hardboard covering. The sections have tongue and groove joints. Once the framework was done the door sections were fun to work with because they fit together so well. The doors provide good insulation, too. Usually, chickens don’t lie well in cold weather, but our Rhode Island Reds did well even during subzero weather. Of course, the chickens didn’t have all the shed to themselves; We used it for storage too!

material list

8 rail links (8′ long)
3 9 ′ 2 x 4 s
8 8 ′ 2 x 4 s
4 7 2 x 4 s
9 18 ′ 2 x 8 s
18 section flush garage door
1 window

10 16′ 1 x 6s for the ceiling (blanked wood)
1 x 6s and 1 x 4s to trim the door as needed
1 x 10s for the eaves (we also used scrap plywood)

Metal Roofing Sheets (27 1/2″ x 10′) Hinges and Hardware for Doors

construction steps

1. Lay the foundations. We put relationships halfway on the ground. (This was the hardest part of the entire project, as we had to make sure they were all on a level.)

2. Studs nails for rail ties. We put them in the corners and at 4 distances, except in the places where we wanted the doors and windows. The door sections are very solid and do not need any more support than this.

3. Toenails joists to the studs.

4. Garage door nail. We chose the “best side” where they will appear. Five sections were placed in the front and four in the back. One section was cut on the diagonal for the slope of the roof. This exposed the hollow core, which we attached to the wood and then glued and nailed it.

5. Cut out doors and windows. We put in two Dutch doors that are wide enough for a garden tractor.

6. Install the rafters on the ledge.

7. Ceiling panels screws into place. These were placed across the rafters with spaces in between.

8. Nail to the metal ceiling and patch holes with tar.

9. The finishing touches. We wrapped the cornices and installed the window, then built and hung the Dutch doors. We used the cut sections to open the door.

10. Paint shed. This only took one coat, as most of the door sections already had a primer.

You probably won’t be as lucky as we were to get a lot of material “at the right price”. But the point is, we get the materials and then fit our building plans around it, not the other way around. If you are going to save money on buildings of this type, you must be creative and open to the many possibilities (always keep in mind your local building codes). The greatest fun in any project like this is making something out of nothing.

Posted on June 1, 1992

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