A pictorial history of some of the chicken pens I've built over the years.
hope you can get some ideas for your own pen, and learn from some of my
This was my chicken tractor for most of 2008. I made it from mostly scrap wood begged from construction site scrap piles.
I recently gave this pen and three hens to my mom. We delivered them right to her house and set it all up.
She is really enjoying them! In November 2008 I bought six more baby pullets to make up a new flock.
So for the six new chickens my husband and I made this metal chicken tractor. Well, it's not done yet in this picture on the left. It is the first chicken tractor I've seen that is made out of a broken tent gazebo. You know those? See picture on the right. Well, we had two different neighbors give us their broken ones. They let them blow over in the wind and so all the corner connections broke. So we tried repurposing the panels as a chicken tractor! My husband welded the panels together and I'm going to add the nest boxes and hen house and roosting parts.
Here's the metal "gazebo parts" coop, almost done! The roof was made with two panels of plastic corrugated roofing as found at Home Depot. Since the gaps in the metal gazebo panels were a tad too large for containing chickens, I zip-tied plastic netting over it. I had to use 100 zip ties. The plastic hardware netting can be found in a roll at Home Depot, too. You can see a few of the 4 week old chickens in there. This is a double decker coop. The upstairs floor is just a board. I can slide the board out easily and scrape off the poop whenver I want. I have six standard-sized chickens in here. This is fairly crowded, but should be okay as long as I don't let the chickens stand in mud (put down wood shavings or straw, etc. to absorb standing water). This coop really needs wheels because it is too heavy to just drag around the yard. There in no bottom to this pen, as is the case with all chicken tractors. . . . Update March 2011: I gave away this coop and three hens! Now I am building another little coop for two new pullets.
I got to work on adding wood to the outside of the metal "old tent gazebo panels" chicken coop. Now the top part has an enclosed house part. This is where the adult hens will lay their eggs. Right now, however, I made it into a brooder! It's fairly wind proof, and it's rain proof, so I hung a heat lamp in there, added a feeded and a waterer, and there are six 3-week-old chicks living in there. I blocked off the door into the run part so the chicks will have to stay in the brooder part for now. That got them out of the house where the smell was starting to be a bit of a bother.
At a thrift store I found some roller blades for a couple bucks. They didn't work out for my son, so instead of throwing them away, I cut them apart and screwed the wheels to the bottom of the new chicken pen. You can see a close-up in the picture on the left. You can see through to the wheels on the other side. In the picture on the right, you can see the roller blade wheels peeking out on the bottom corner. Update: Roller blade wheels do not work well on grass! :) Great on concrete, though!
Here are a couple of coops I built around 2006. Both were made with construction site scraps. They were building a house right across the street from me so there were a lot of scraps to be had, and I couldn't help myself; I had to build more chicken coops. :) Both were roofed with vinyl house siding scraps. Both were what I would call "banty huts." They weren't that big but could house about three bantams. Which they did! I have since sold or given these two away.
March, 2005: Here's another chicken tractor I built. They are fun to build. You know when kids are little and the boys play with cars and the girls play doll-house? Building chicken pens and tractors reminds me of building a doll-house for little pets. I probably would enjoy building play-houses for my two kids, too. I have more tools than when I was little, like a cordless drill, a pneumatic stapler, and a Sawz-All. But Norm Abrams, that carpentry whiz on 'New Yankee Workshop'...He'd hate my style. I don't make plans, I just start building.
This is how my chicken pen looked as of July, 2004. Nice set-up. But...I took it all down! What gives? I tend to change things in my environment a lot. When I do, I'm always reminded of a Peanuts cartoon I saw when I was a kid. Linus was making tiny snowmen with great care, and then immediately kicking them over with force. Over and over he did this. When asked why, he replied, "I'm torn between the desire to create and the desire to destroy." That line has stuck with me, and might explain some of my behavior. :)
So the somewhat elaborate
coop shown above started with an old metal shed that was already there
when we moved int our second house. I thought, I'm gonna fix
that up to be a another chicken house! So I took off the door
(always the most annoying part of those cheapo metal sheds) and built a
wooden door on it. Then on one side, I built a run, and on the other
side, I stuck a used dog kennel. The fun part was cutting holes
in the two sides of the shed so that the chickens could go all the way
thru to each run. I made little portals. It was kind of like a HabiTrail
for chickens. After that, I went to my brother-in-law's
house and helped him make *his* old metal shed into a chicken house
the same way: An old metal shed, built hinged wood doors onto it,
butt a dog kennel up against it, use tin snips to cut a hole near
the floor level in the metal so that the chickens can go into the kennel
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From the summer of 2003: My son Bert modeling how to open an external egg collection door of a recent chicken house I built and played around with. These pictures can be a quick tutorial on how to turn a chain link dog kennel into a chicken house! I bought this used 6' x 6' x 4' tall chain link dog kennel for $30. One predator problem solved: A kennel is automatically dog-proof. Dogs can't get in. But raccoons still can reach through chain-link, and they will. So you need to make at least three sides solid somehow. Don't use plywood; it would be too heavy. I go to Lowe's or Home Depot and get paneling from their seconds bin or "cull cart." Paneling cuts easily with a utility knife. Paint the paneling to make it last longer in the weather. Drill holes along edges. Use wire to attach paneling to chain link. Now raccoons can't reach through. . . . . . . . . You can make your converted dog kennel chicken house as simple or as fancy as you want. Here I tried to make an external egg collection door. The plastic bins inside are dishwashing bins, and they are sitting in a long wire shelf that I scrounged. They are wired (I'm very fond of wire) to the inside of the chain link kennel about two feet off the ground. I then bent the chain link so my hand could fit through if I were holding an egg. . . . . . . . . . . Note: This type of hen house is not insulated. It would not be good for very cold climates. It rarely gets below freezing in Portland, Oregon so I can get away with uninsulated coops. (But when it got down to 16 degrees recently, I hung a heat lamp over the chicken's perch until the temps got back up into the 30's.) In other states, it can get regularly get below freezing and even into the negative temps. Even if chickens survive such temps, they will not be comfortable and can suffer frostbite of the comb and wattles. Chickens are descended from sub-tropical jungle fowl; a warm climate pheasant. I would recommend that chicken-keepers in colder climates have a well insulated chicken house or tractor, and then the ability to hang a heat lamp if the temp gets really cold.)
Two chicken tractors I built in the summer of 2003. I used my new pneumatic stapler! It's very fast and fun. Both tractors are made from scrap wood and stuff I had around so I painted it all with some stain I had which makes things look more cohesive. What's a chicken tractor? It's city folk's ticket to keeping chickens! Click here to find out more!
Info about raccoons: I learned about raccoons via my very first chicken pen and my very first batch of chickens. My "pen" was made out of all chicken wire. (Not the coop pictured above.) So there were no solid corners, and raccoons just reached right through the wire and grabbed the chickens. The raccoons were smart; there were about five of them and one got on each corner so no matter where the chickens ran, they got nabbed. If the chickens would have stood in the middle, nothing would have happened. But chickens aren't too smart and will run up against the sides and/or into the corners.
The solution is simple; always have a solid-sided corner, preferably two, for the chickens to run to.
One of my fave pictures of Bert and me, from some time in Winter 2000. I like it because in this picture, it was really cold outside but that doesn't stop us! In Portland if you wait for a warm day with no rain, you'll never get outside. We just pretend it's England and the soggy days are lent a romantic, pastoral flair. :) In Portland, you either think the weather is bad so you can't garden much, or you think the weather is mild so you can garden year 'round. I'm of the latter mind.
The picture is of yet another chicken coop I made from a used CraigsList dog kennel.
At our old house, I was going crazy with scrap wood and my new cordless drill (love that thing). I couldn't stop making chicken tractors and pens! Some of them turned out pretty funky looking, like the one above left. The top was made of tarp that I then painted. What?? I wouldn't do that now; it looked a tad too trashy. The picture at right is a brooder with a dozen chicks. Note the Rubbermaid container, the newspaper, the light fixture hanging over it for heat, and the waterer and feeder that you can pick up inexpensively at a feed store.
A row of chicken tractors I built. It looked like "chicken shanty town." I built all of these when my first child was about 7 months old, back in '98. I got some sort of weird energy at that point in my life and just kept building pens. Maternal instinct gone awry?
I think this was my very first chicken tractor. It was a long rectangle. It housed four bantams. Two golden Sebrights, one black Silkie cockerel, and one red Frizzle. Note the Rubbermaid container as a hen house. They'd hop into it at night and be safe from grabbing raccoon hands. This, however, is not an optimal chicken tractor design.
This particular set-up was just metal stakes in the ground with nylon poultry netting strung around them. It had no top on it. Not predator proof, although I suppose the chickens could run into that triangle coop at the end. This arrangement didn't last long. At this point I had about 23 chickens, mostly youngsters. I had a wide assortment of bantams. So pretty! But I also had a hawk that would try to nab the bantams. Yes, I was in the city but had a lot of wild predator problems! Raccoons, dogs, hawks...
Chickens eating apples that fell from tree. At right is a triangular coop thingy. At night I was sure to shut the triangle door so dogs couldn't get the chickens at night. However, it's a pain to have to shut your chickens in every night and let them out every morning. It's much easier and safer to have some kind of set-up where they can put themselves to bed in some safe place. And that's a proper chicken tractor!
It was sure wet and messy this day! A picture of the dog kennel, with a dog house inside for a hen house. Looking back, I can see I was quite paranoid, because although the chickens were in a dog kennel (no dogs or raccoons could get in), I still shut them in their house at night so nothing could get them. They walked up the ramp themselves at nightfall and I shut the door.
A nicer picture of the dog kennel coop, with its "petting zoo" straw. Quiz: What's wrong with the kennel coop in the above picture? That's right; four open sides.
No solid corner for the chickens to run to when raccoons come prowling.
Watching chickens is very peaceful. They are not like people; they are very simplistic. While watching them, some of your human tensions and complexities tend to melt away. :) Also, I keep going back to chickens as pets because once you get used to turning your kitchen left-overs into eggs, it seems odd to go back to buying eggs and throwing food away. The picture at right shows two more chicken tractors I made.
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A picture of a PVC pipe framed chicken run. I could easily move this ultra lightweight chicken yard around. But it was far from predator proof. Nylon poultry netting instead of chicken wire made the walls. It looked kind of neat, and was an experiment, but a stray dog still got in! See? I'm passing on all the lessons I learned the hard way! A dog got a hen in the middle of the night from this coop, and the feathers were strewn across three front yards. :(
So this pictorial history of some of my chicken coops is so that you might get ideas and also learn from some of my mistakes. Have fun! Hopefully you won't be as hyper as I was and you will be able to stop at one or two chicken coops. LOL!
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