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From Ugly Old Shed to Trendy Chicken Coop
Building My Chicken Coop
This spring I transformed an ugly, old metal shed to a trendy, open-air coop for my six young hens. The shed was in my yard when I bought my house seven years ago. It has some dents, compliments of the rowdy children of former neighbors, but for the most part is structurally sound. I decided to turn it into a cozy home for my poultry.
I was inspired by an article in the Mother Earth News and the coop a friend of mine had built on his urban farm. With the encouragement and assistance of a helpful friend, I dove in. In all the process took me about a week, but it could have been done in a couple of days.
The total cost for the project was around $200.00, which included buying a new drill. If I had had all the tools I could have done this for around $150.00.
This small photo shows the shed before work began. Just an ugly old metal shed in my backyard. The large photo shows the transformation to a coop.
All photos property of author unless otherwise specified. All rights reserved. May not be republished without permission.
The Way My Shed Looks Today
The Picture That Inspired My Chicken Shed
My neighbors, David and Caroline Van Slyke, turned an old metal storage shed that was once an eyesore in the corner of their yard into a stylish urban backyard chicken coop for their three hens, Charlotte, Cinnamon and Henny Penny.
Read the rest of the article here.
- Clever Shed-to-Coop Conversion
The article from the Mother Earth News that inspired the changes to my shed.
The Shed to Chicken Coop Conversion that Inspired Mine!
Mother Earth News Archives
Purchase Mother Earth News back issues and archives for your kindle on Amazon.
Get all of the 2012 issues. Download immediately on your Kindle. Other years are available too.
Please Take Moment to Answer My Poll!
Do you keep backyard chickens?
Art of the Chicken Coop - A Fun & Essential Guide to Housing Your Peeps
If you want more ideas for an artsy and fun coop, you must check out this book! Not only does the author give plans for building seven different designs, you get a pictorial tour of other people's colorful poultry houses to inspire your own unique creation! This book is so much fun for experienced poultry owners, as well as beginners and those just in the dreaming about it stage. Highly recommended!
Keeping chickens—even for city dwellers is a trend that just keeps on growing. With this book, today’s modern farmer will find plans and construction techniques for making seven different chicken coops, fun chicken facts, and recipes for eggs. Experienced farmer, woodworker, and author Chris Gleason's hip eye for design, combined with sound woodworking techniques make the coops both attractive and sturdy. Practical information such as how to properly size a coop and how to source reclaimed materials is included. Don’t miss the authors “tour de coop” where he visits coops from other backyard farmers to find out why they keep chickens and what lessons they have to share with others interested in doing so.
Why a Fresh Air Coop?
Why I Chose to Build a Fresh Air Coop
Many people have asked me why I decided to make most of two of the walls of my chicken coop nothing but hardware cloth. They express concern about my hens being cold in the winter.
In thinking about how to house my birds, I did a lot of reading and talking to people. It seems that in our area, at least, heat is more of a concern than cold in terms of threat to a chicken's health. Especially in a metal shed, the danger was that the birds would overheat.
I was also concerned with ventilation. Having the chicks in my bathroom, I quickly realized how fast ammonia levels build up in a confined space. I was determined that the space would have more than adequate ventilation. I learned that fresh air coops are more healthful for poultry, and as long as the birds can stay dry and out of drafts, that the cold air does not bother them.
By winter the shed will contain a huddle house where my flock can go to roost and get out of the wind. The huddle house will be heated by the birds' body heat and I estimate will be as much as 10 degrees warmer than the outside temperature.
Fresh Air Chicken Coops
Chickens need more ventilation than most small poultry houses allow. Poor air quality is harmful to the birds' delicate respiratory systems. Damp litter breeds disease. Darkness causes birds to be inactive. If they do not feed, their bodies cannot produce the heat needed for survival. Removing one wall of the structure can result in immediate improvement of bird health, even during frigid weather!
In this reprint of a 1924 classic Dr.Price T. Woods, a leading poulty-health expert, describes the features of his own chicken houses as well as those of his clients. An interesting read for anyone interested in keeping their chickens as healthy as possible!
Why a Fresh Air Coop?
- Patandchickens' Big Ol' Ventilation Page
Why is ventilation such a big deal?Because chickens are amazing producers of moisture, ammonia and heat, that's why. Small but mighty! (Mighty messy anyhow) Click to read more!
Auburn University Poultry Ventilation & Housing
A blog by a homesteading family keeping a flock of chickens in a fresh air chicken coop.
- Natural Ventilation for Livestock Housing
There are two methods of ventilating livestock housing--mechanical (fan) and natural (gravity or non-mechanical). This publication will deal with natural ventilation, its advantages and drawbacks, where it can be used, principles that operate in a na
- How to Build a Chicken Coop
I use open-front houses, and these work great. They're airy and stay dry. A less-open house that I built doesn't have the same kind of airflow and stays wet and nasty, even though I took its door off its hinges. Enclosed spaces are bad for chickens.
- Tennessee Open Air Chicken Coops
Our chickens are kept in open air coops. This means that they have roofs, but the walls are minimal and mostly made of screens or wire. We believe that allowing fresh air in the coops during all seasons is the best option in our situation and more sp
My Flock's First Winter in the Fresh Air Coop
January 2012 Update
After researching this issue some more and having an experienced poultry breeder look at my chicken coop, I ended up covering the open sides of the coop with some heavy gauge plastic for the winter. The plastic is attached at the top and weighted down at the bottom, but open at the sides. This allows for ventilation while blocking the heavy winds.
So far we have had several nights when the temperature has gotten into the teens, with the windchill in the single digits, and the girls are no worse for wear. I found the shed to be quite comfortable whenever I went in to tend to feed, water or eggs. The shed does a good job of blocking the wind and stays dry. The birds seem to be happy. It feels cold to me, but I am not covered with layers of feather! As long as they are happy, then I consider things to be fine.
How do I know the hens are happy? During the coldest weather I still continued to get four eggs per day from my five birds.
How I Converted My Shed to a Cool Chicken Coop!
First Things First
After cleaning everything out of the shed and trimming back the overgrown bushes that had grown up around it, the first step was to remove the panels on two walls. I decided to remove two panels on the south-facing wall and one panel and one door on the east-facing wall. This would allow for good ventilation, but would also provide protection from winter blasts.
The panels removed easily. They are held on by small screws at the floor, ceiling and a metal brace that is halfway up the wall.
A friend had come to help me with the framing. We decided to keep the brace on the long wall for stability.
These photos were taken after the panels were removed and a frame built for the front wall to increase stability of the structure.
Removing the wall panels
Building the Frame
Most of our time on this day was spent building the framing for the east- and south-facing walls. The framing is pretty straight-forward.
After careful measuring, we built the frames out of two by fours and screwed them into the holes already present in the metal shed frame at the floor, ceiling and mid-level brace. We used dry-wall screws to attach the two by fours into the metal frame.
We used a lot of screws and fastened the framing in everywhere we could. This is important so predators cannot get in. In addition to neighborhood dogs, we have raccoons and possums who sometimes visit our yard.
Putting Up Hardware Cloth
The screen serves two important purposes besides ventilation. It keeps your flock in and just as importantly, it keeps out predators. Backyard chickens are vulnerable to attack from a number of predators that are present in urban and suburban neighborhoods.
I live in a densely-populated suburban neighborhood that was built in the 1950s. We have a raccoon living in the storm drain on our street. I have also seen a possum on my carport showing interest in my garbage can. Either of these critters would have a field day in my hen house, so I am determined to keep them out.
I chose to use 1/4-inch hardware cloth to screen in my coop. Chicken wire is too flimsy to provide good protection. It will keep poultry in, but it is not strong enough to keep predators out. It also allows gaps large enough for raccoons to reach in and grab an adult bird. Unable to pull the entire bird out through the hole, a raccoon will tear the poor creature into small pieces through the chicken wire.
I cut the hardware cloth with tin snips and fastened it to the two by fours using drywall screws. I initially tried using poultry utility staples, but it was pretty difficult to work with them on a vertical surface. I think this could have been done more easily if I had applied the screen before the frame was attached to the shed. The screws worked great and I may have used more than was really necessary, but I wanted to be sure nothing could get in.
After I got all the hardware cloth fastened onto the frames of both the walls and the door, it was time to turn my attention to the coop interior, where the hens would actually be spending their time.
The shed had a concrete floor, but it was covered with dirt. I estimate the shed had been in place around 15 or 20 years, long enough for a lot of debris to build up on the floor. I cleaned this up with a flat-bladed shovel and a broom.
During this cleaning process we got a lot of rain and I realized that water comes in on the floor of the new hen house. Before deciding to turn the shed into a chicken coop I had installed a rain barrel at the bottom of a nearby downspout. During a rainstorm, water was overflowing from the rain barrel onto the patio and then seeping into the structure and spreading across the floor.
I tried hooking up a hose to take care of the overflow from the rainbarrel, but it was not successful. The water from the downspout was coming at a faster rate than the hose could carry out, resulting in water spilling out from the top of the rainbarrel.
I never have solved this problem, but for the time-being I have disconnected the downspout from the rainbarrel and directed the stormwater toward the driveway.
Because the floor of the shed frequently gets wet I made two decisions to deal with this inside the building. I built a platform on one side of the coop that gets the most water. This is also the side that is most protected from the weather otherwise, the side where the birds sleep and where I will build them a huddle house for the winter.
I had some landscape timbers I had purchased from cheapcycle. I laid four of these down on the floor. One by the west wall, one by the east wall and two side-by-side in the middle. I had a sheet of plywood cut to fit, and place this on top of these to make a raised floor. With the two center supports, the floor can support my weight when I need to get up there to gather eggs or clean. I laid one landcape timber across the edge of the platform to prevent woodshavings from falling off.
I chose to use two timbers in the center so that I could use this area for feeding. The piece cut off from the plywood floor fit perfectly on top of the two side-by-side center timbers. I screwed this into place with drywall screws. This works nicely for keeping the water off the floor. Theoretically it was going to keep the food off the floor also, but the chickens routinely knock over their food dishes and the food goes into the substrate there.
Because of the rainwater that comes in, I put sand on the floor. I started with six bags of leveling sand and that has worked very well. I have also purchased additional bags of play sand that were on sale Memorial Day weekend, but have not put them down yet. My goal is to have two or three inches of sand on the floor, but it does not have to be done all at once.
On the platform I started putting wood shavings. I put down the woodshavings I had left over from the brooder, and I bought a big bag of wood shavings. I did not like the shavings in the big bag. The bag contained a lot of sawdust and I was concerned this would cause the birds to have respiratory problems so I did not put it down.
I noticed that the birds are perfectly happy with having just a bare floor and a little pile of wood shavings in one corner. It is much easier for me to keep clean. I just go in and scrape up the poop off the wood a couple of times a week. It only takes a couple of minutes.
During the winter the wood shavings will probably be needed for a cozy place to snuggle, but for the summer it seems that they are probably not necessary.
Here are the chickens inside their finished house! They love it!
The white one is Hilda, the lead hen. She is a Columbia Rock. She does a great job of looking after her flock. Behind her is one of the australorps, probably Alma, the youngest of the flock. Alma is outgoing and curious, and can usually be found near Hilda. The two araucanas, Goldie and Hazel are in the corner. Blanche, the other australorp is standing by herself.
My friend built a little popdoor for the birds to get out to their run, but I have screened over the opening for now. I will be removing this little door. It was made out of a piece of scrap plywood we found in the old shed and it is coming apart. I do not think it is a safe door; raccoons could tear it apart. After building the run I will make a better popdoor.
Need More Inspiration?
If you need more inspiration for turning your old shed into a chicken coop, check out this website!
- Pictorial history of chicken pens I've tried
The City Chicken will help you get started keeping chickens in your backyard, even if you live in the city.
I Love This Coop From the City Chicken Website!
For More Information about Chicken Coops, Check Out This Great Title!
Customers give this excellent guide five stars. It is full of helpful advice!
Chicken Shed Update
I found out that the landscape timbers I used on the floor of the chicken coop are pressure treated. This is good for the timbers, but not good for the chickens and definitely not good for the future eggs. I am going to have to remove them, because the chemicals from the pressure treatment can get into the eggs. I do not want to eat that!
I will probably have to remove and replace the sand also. I am glad now that I did not put all that play sand down yet!
This does not sound like a fun job, but eating eggs containing chemicals from treated wood is even less appealing.
Ready Made Chicken Coops - If you do not want to make your own
Here are some chicken coops that are available commercially, for those just starting out or needing a place to house a mother hen and her brood. These pens cannot be expected to have the quality and durability of a shed conversion or a pen you build yourself; but, these are good for what they are and should last a few years.
This one has lots of photos of the interior so you can see what you are getting.
Looking for More Ideas?
- Chicken Coop Ideas and Pictures | TheGardenCoop.com
You can build The Garden Coop and The Garden Ark chicken coop plans as is - or use them as a jumping off point for your own creativity and resourcefulness. Here are some examples...
- Chicken Coop Inspiration | The Art of Doing Stuff
So I'd like a chicken coop that's kind of a combination of contemporary and country. So far, this is what I have for inspiration.
More Chicken Coop Ideas
Here is a sample of the coops available on eBay today. There is quite a lot of demand, so they tend to go quickly.
Why Doesn't My Chicken Shed Have a Roost and Nesting Boxes?
Questions from visitors
Hurray! I made Lens of the Day! Thank you to everyone for this honor! The hens and I are so excited! (Actually, when I told the hens they were more interested in the leftover French toast I was putting in their dish, but I am sure they are happy too. Really).
We have gotten a lot of visitors today and many questions, especially about why there are no roosts or nesting boxes in my chicken house. I thought I would give an update and try to answer some of the questions that are appearing in the comments.
My birds do have a roost, but they are not using it much. They are all between eight and ten weeks old this weekend, so they are still very young and still like to sleep in a pile on the floor. The roost is there when they are ready.
I have posted a photo of the young hens using their roost. I went into the coop earlier this week to take photos and they got up there and started posing for me. Then they hopped back down. I never see them up there hanging out. I do have some small tree branches on the floor they like to hang out on and play with.
The chicks will not start laying eggs until they are around six months old, so we will not be needing nesting boxes until the fall. I will add them when it gets closer to time. In the meantime, the cardboard box they came home in from the feedstore is on its side in one corner. They slept in it the first few nights and now I never see anyone using it. I will probably remove it when I take out the landscape timbers.
Several people have mentioned predators, and they are a fact of life. Having chickens puts you closer to nature, and part of nature is the food chain of which chickens are definitely a part. Chickens eat insects, small rodents and even small snakes. Some will even eat other chickens! Predation is a part of life we do not like to think about, but it is part of raising chickens, or any livestock really. You have to be aware of it and do whatever is possible to protect your flock. The reality is, even if you do everything you can, you maystill lose some or all to predators, injury or disease.
Poultry are no safer in an urban or suburban setting than they are in the country. You do what you can to protect them, and realize that risks are part of life and part of nature. I think anyone who has an interest in chickens can find a way to do this, as long as it is legal in your community. It may take a while to figure out the logistics. I thought about getting some for several years before I jumped into it. If you want a backyard flock, go for it! They are great!
This chicken house is a work in progress. I still have more work to do and will be adding to this page as work proceeds.
The next project is to build a temporary run. Whenever I go out to feed the hens, Hilda and sometimes one or two of the others will run out the door and start munching on weeds in the yard. I plan to use two by four wire fencing, existing fence posts and metal posts to put up a temporary and mobile fence for the summer.
Future plans include building a permanent fence from the corner of the chicken house across the yard to the back fence. Another fence with a gate will run perpendicular to this to fence off the garden. The gate will be open after the garden is harvested to allow the chickens to range in there. This is a long-range goal and will not be completed this year.
Before winter arrives I need to build a huddle box for them to go into to cuddle and get warm. I plan to use my old chicken tractor as a frame, cover it with plywood and put a roost inside. This will go on the platform area, in the northwest corner of the chicken house.
Finally, when the weather cools off, I plan to paint my chicken coop to make it more attractive. I have not decided on a color scheme yet. Maybe you have some suggestions!
Chicken Coop Plans for Sale at Amazon
Check these plans for building your own chicken house!
Chicken Coop Plans for Sale on eBay
Need some plans for building your chicken house? Try eBay for a great price! These sellers have some great ideas!
Y'all Come Back Now! Ya Hear?
Summer 2012 Update on my Backyard Flock
How are the Girls Doing in Their Shed?
I have let a lot of the vegetation grow up around the hen house, and now it feels cool inside even on hot days. We have not yet had any extended time over 90 degrees, but on days when it gets near 90 the interior of the coop is still cool. Shading the metal and having damp sand on the floor makes a big difference in the temperature!
Update: June 27, 2012 - We are getting a big heatwave tomorrow. Temps will be in the 100s for about a week. So far the coop has stayed quite cool this summer. This will be the real test!
Update: July 7, 2012 - There is no cool place in Kentucky these days. Today the weatherman says we could break our all time high temperature of 107 degrees. My birds are staying cool under the bushes. I set up a water sprinkler for them on a low trickle. They love to drink out of the puddles and walk through to cool their feet. The bushes and vines growing over the sides and roof of the chicken coop are keeping it fairly comfortable. It is much better than it was last summer when it was like an oven inside. I highly recommend plenty of shade for any metal shed you plan to house fowl or other livestock inside!
Please leave a comment with feedback and suggestions or a question! Thank you!
Everything Else About the Chicken Shed
This is everything I know about chicken sheds all in one place. My experience is delineated throughout this webpage, along with links you can follow for more information. If you would like help with your project, send me a message. I am always happy to exchange ideas. Best of luck with your project!
The chicken coop is my favorite place to visit. While Hilda began laying in late summer, the rest of the hens took their time. The last one finally laid her first egg in December. I usually get four eggs a day now, from my five hens. I frequently get five, and sometimes I inexplicably get more than that. I am not arguing with nature. Will take what she and they will give me!
I will be adding updates soon with information about winterizing the fresh air coop.
We have made it through the winter in the open-air coop just fine. The hens and I are very happy to see the arrival of spring!
Update on the Chicken Shed
The weather is getting warm now. It should get up close to 100 degrees this weekend, and we aren't even to June yet!
The chickens are still loving their chicken shed! All are healthy. I am still getting between four and six eggs per day. This tells me my hens are healthy and happy.
One of my hens went broody earlier this spring, but since there is no rooster, nothing came of it. I will write a lens about it someday. It was a fiasco and a sad lesson for me.
Someone came by the house today. He had lost most of his flock to a fox, and after looking at my chicken shed said he was going to do the same thing at his house. It feels great to help someone else with their chickens!
If you have been inspired by this webpage to convert your shed to a chicken coop, I hope you will leave me a note and let me know how it turned out!
Should my chicken coop be all one color, or maybe a main color with accents? What colors should I use? Neutrals? Natural tones? Bright hues? I have not made a decision and value your input.