When we moved into our house back in 2003, we had seen plenty of DIY pole barns, and the one that was located on our new property was wonderfully built. But this pole barn had been built to cover a large recreational vehicle, complete with a concrete pad. We had no idea what we were going to do with it, and so it sat vacant for the first five years after we moved in.
Getting backyard chickens wasn’t part of the plan when we bought our house. We were more interested in using the heated workshop located in the garage as a place to make things – my husband makes rustic furniture and I worked with hot glass at the time. But all that changed one cold winter evening when my husband’s best friend came over and suggested that it might be fun if “we” got chickens in the spring.
Since our friend wasn’t allowed to have chickens as part of the homeowner’s association rules where he lived, it fell to us to provide permanent housing for the chickens. The insulated and heated garage workshop was the perfect place to brood our first batch of baby chicks, and we had the perfect DIY pole barns for conversion into a chicken coop mansion!
The baby chicks arrived on a cold March morning. The high temperature that morning hovered somewhere around -7o Fahrenheit, so I hurried the chicks into the workshop and got them right under the heat lamp. Our friend was off work that day, so he came over to help me get the chicks settled and watered straight away.
As soon as the weather warmed up, we started work on turning our DIY pole barn into a chicken coop with enough space for at least 27 birds. The retaining wall at the far end of the pole barn made the perfect foundation from which we started to build, adding additional posts at about the halfway mark of the pole barn so we could start building walls and a ceiling.
We created a raised floor and a set of stairs to allow for air circulation under the coop, and left a space at the top of the pole barn under the roof to allow for more circulation. This helps to keep the coop warm in the winter time when temperatures in our part of upstate New York get down to -30o Fahrenheit, and cooler in the summer when the sun hits the metal roof of the pole barn. We scavenged in the woods on our property for trees that we could use as rustic additions to the overall design, and our friend bartered for some beautiful slab wood siding for the DIY pole barn to chicken coop project.
Because we worried about keeping the birds warm during our extreme winters, we insulated the entire inside of the coop. In the winter when the temperature dips down to the sub-zero range, a simple red heat lamp keeps the interior of the coop at around 40o and the chickens stay relatively comfortable inside. We also stack our firewood into walls in front and alongside the coop to provide a little more outdoor insulation. The walls made of stacked wood make a great substitute for a garden shed, too — we can easily store tools, extra bags of chicken feed, or anything else that we need just outside the door to the chicken coop.
As spring arrived, the chickens got bigger and bigger, and pretty soon, we realized they would be ready to be moved outside into their new home, so we started planning the final touches to the DIY pole barn to chicken coop project. We added a chicken door with a little ramp on the side of the coop that let them out into a large fenced-in run. The fenced-in chicken run was dual purpose: we didn’t know if we’d be dealing with chicken predators at all, and we didn’t want the chickens digging in the gardens after we transferred seedlings and planted seeds. (Chickens are great for churning up the soil in the early spring before planting season, but once planting and growing season starts, they stay in the chicken run until we pull the last of the plants from the gardens!)
On the interior of the DIY pole barn chicken coop, we added some more sturdy branches as natural chicken roosting bars, and completed the roosting area with a slide-out poop deck so that we could easily clean up the droppings every few weeks. Who knew that chickens pooped so much when they roosted at night?
Because our friend was going through a divorce at the time of this project, he started spending a lot of time at our house working on our DIY pole barn to chicken coop project. And I mean, a lot. My husband and I would come home from work and find the garage doors wide open, the power tools in the driveway, and all of the dogs romping in the yard or sleeping under the chicken coop. One afternoon, we came home to discover that our friend had built a set of beautiful chicken nesting boxes that we installed on the wall of the coop. Perfect! The chickens took to them immediately, even if they weren’t exactly sure what they were for. A couple of those ceramic eggs placed strategically in the soft pine shavings gave them the idea, and soon enough, we were collecting two dozen eggs a day from those nest boxes.
At one point, I suggested we install an inner door just on the inside of the people door to prevent any rebellious chickens from escaping every time we opened the door. Our friend laughed. “What, are you afraid that you’re going to get bum-rushed by a chicken?” he said. And then the first time he went to feed our very hungry adult chickens, he was indeed bum-rushed as they all made a mad dash for the door and the smell of the Adirondack summer air. So we used chicken wire and a few 2x4s to create an inner door. Do I know my chickens or what?
The last modification to our DIY pole barn to chicken coop project came when we got our second batch of baby chicks a few years after our original venture into the world of backyard chickens. By that time, we had started new projects in the garage workshop that didn’t allow us to brood a batch of baby chicks in there, and we weren’t about to repeat the mistake we made when we brooded half a dozen ducklings in the kitchen. (Let’s not go there.) My husband had the bright idea to build a raised platform in the last corner of the chicken coop, fence it in, and hang a heat lamp from the ceiling to provide warmth for the baby chicks. Voila! An almost-instant brooding area in the coop for our baby chicks. The temperature stayed constant through the chilly Adirondack spring weather, and we successfully raised a second batch of baby chicks that year.
Over the years since we finished our DIY pole barn to chicken coop project, we’ve enjoyed raising our backyard chickens and adding a few whimsical outdoor decorations to the coop. My father-in-law gave us a “Fresh Eggs” sign to hang next to the door, and my husband displays his deer skulls from his successful hunts every winter. All in all, I’d say we pulled off a pretty successful DIY pole barn to chicken coop conversion project!
Do you have a DIY pole barn to chicken coop on your homestead? Have you successfully converted an unused structure on your property to something useful? Share your story here and tell us how you did it!