By Don Hoch – My fascination with chickens started when I was just a boy of 13 years. I tended the chickens, gathered the eggs, cleaned the chicken run and coop. Dad also gave me 25 chicks to raise for eating. When they were big enough Mom and I butchered the meat chickens and prepared them for the freezer.
Our farm family of 13 people needed a lot of produce, chicken, eggs, and other meats to sustain us. On this same farm with 11 children, tending the chickens was an effort that we all took part in. We had a flock of around 300 hens on our 600-acre farm. Mom and I took the eggs to a local grocery store and traded them for other grocery items.
Even though the boy left the farm, the farm never left the young man. Now in my early retirement years, I decided to fulfill my dream of again tending the flock.
The opportunity came when we finally moved to the country 11 years ago. About three years ago the chicken run and coop plans were starting to develop. I started salvaging 2x4s, plywood, windows, doors, and anything else I could get my hands on. I was determined to build this chicken castle as cheaply as I could. I initially made the trusses with the 2x4s that I had salvaged. A lot of the material came from shipping crates that had carried a huge printing press from Germany, that my employer had just purchased.
As time went on, I continued my quest of being cheap, and to repurpose everything. I found the four antique windows at a flea market and bartered with the vendor until the price was right. ($30 for all). I then made the frames for the windows with more salvaged lumber. I was able to get a set of French doors for the entrance at a rummage sale for a mere $5.
As my pile of goods expanded I decided it was time for the chicken run and coop plan to start taking shape. I was able to get a lot of 2x6s for the floor joists and the skids on which it is built (which were seconds). Again cheap! The floor joists and the floor came together quickly. Now it was time to get the walls to go up on this 10×16 coop. My brother helped me with the heavy part and soon the walls were up. We then put up the trusses, which were assembled two years earlier. After the framework was done I sheathed the whole building in salvaged material. Now the building was up!
At this point, I did not know what or where the roofing material and siding were coming from. I found some shingles at next to nothing. Later I found a person who had taken 1×12 cedar siding off of his house and again got it on the cheap. Now the building is up and weather-tight. We decided to paint the coop the same five colors as our Victorian farmhouse. My wife wants me to name the coop “Grandpa’s Chicken House,” or something similar, but I don’t want to get too corny (pardon the pun).
Everyone that has seen the building thinks that it should be a playhouse for the grandkids or a potting shed for my wife. So it gets a little chicken poop everywhere. The stuff isn’t poison. As a boy, I had more of the stuff between my toes than one could imagine, having gone barefoot most of my childhood.
Next were the electric and the insulation. The insulation was the biggest expense, but still cheap at sale prices. I covered the inside walls with the same cedar siding but put it horizontally using the back side. It has the look of a log cabin on the inside now. As time progressed, the nesting boxes were made from more salvaged stuff. A chicken wire wall was also put up toward the front entrance with a door so I have a place to store the feed and other necessities.
An access door was cut for the chickens to get outside. Three dog pens were salvaged ($0) to make the outdoor chicken runs. I still need to get the last chicken run up to complete the pen. Plastic netting will be placed over the pen to keep out any invaders. The chickens will be kept in the outdoor chicken run because of the large number of coyotes and other chicken predators in the area. They will be locked up at night.
I still came in at under $700 for this little gem. $700 was the goal because the township codes require a permit over that amount or anything over 300 sq. ft. I think if I had used all new material and had the coop and chicken run look the same, it would have cost me $2,500 to $3,000.
By the time this is published the chicks should be well on their way to being the best laying hens. The satisfaction of this project was a joy and a personal quest for me.
The sound coming from the coop is one that only a chicken enthusiast can fully appreciate. You city dwellers don’t know what you are missing. The look on my grandkids’ faces when they got to see the chicks will be one that I will remember forever. The chicken eggs will be sold or even given away—just having the chickens is satisfaction enough for me.
Have you built a chicken run and coop from salvaged materials? We’d love to see your pics and hear your stories!
Originally published in the August/September 2010 issue of Backyard Poultry and regularly vetted for accuracy.