A well-built chicken coop can wreck your chicken budget (I know I’m not the only one with a monthly budget entry for chickens). You need your flock to be well protected. You want your chicken coop to be sturdy and not be an eyesore in the back yard. You also need to make sure your hens have enough space, and never forget to leave a little room for the chickens yet to come. You know you are going to get more. So, how can you accomplish all of this without spending a fortune on chicken coops? Well, it’s not easy, but I am going to cover a few ways I have found to save a little bit of money on my chicken coops.
The biggest expense for any chicken coop is the large flat surfaces, floor, walls, and roof. The lumber used for framing the entire chicken coop can come in less than one piece of plywood to use for the floor. This is where we can have the biggest impact on the cost of our coops. Plywood is the old standby for these surfaces. I am not going to knock the use of plywood for chicken coops. Nothing makes the job quicker and easier than using plywood, but plywood gets expensive fast.
I will be honest, every chicken coop I have built (except my first), has a plywood floor. I always build a frame and nail down plywood on it, to have a good solid base to start with. I dirt floor is a great option to save money on the floor, and I am not going to tell you not to build a chicken coop with a dirt floor. However, I find that a painted plywood floor is a breeze to shovel out. I also always build my coops up off of the ground, sitting on blocks to keep the wood out of the wet ground.
However, you can save money using the right plywood. For the floor of a chicken coop, you do not need 3/4″ plywood. The floor is not going to be supporting that much weight. With a few 2×4’s placed every two feet under the plywood, 1/2″ or just under that is more than enough to support even my weight when I walk in to clean the far corners, or to get a chicken for inspection. I wouldn’t go to 1/4″. I haven’t tried it, but I have a fear that eventually I would just go right through. I have also tried OSB for the floor, and it does a decent job for a while, but it eventually begins to warp and come apart just from soaking up all the humidity here in North Carolina.
An easy way to save money on the walls is to use what you can find. I have used old pallets, which you can get for free if you just ask around. You can use them as I did here, or you can break them down and use the slats to build the walls. The best walls I have made came from some old tongue in grove that had been pulled out of an old house during a remodel. It made for great walls, and gave the coop a fantastic old weathered look. In lieu of some great find, you can use thin plywood, or even some old paneling. Just be sure to give it a good coat of paint to help it withstand the elements. If you are less interested in the appearance of the coop, you can also use any old sheet metal you can lay your hands on. Also remember, your building a chicken coop, not a new house, 2×3’s do just as good a job as 2×4’s and are significantly cheaper, when they have them on sale.
The roof has to be hardest area to really impact your savings. Plywood and shingles look great and will last you a very long time, and honestly it’s hard to get significantly cheaper. You can save some money with a metal roof. You can pick up some metal roof sheets at your local home improvement store, but you have to be careful. Some of that metal roofing can get more expensive than plywood and shingles. But there are some that will save you some money and a lot of time. There are also asphalt roofing sheets that aren’t too expensive. They are light and easy to work with, but can be damaged in the installation. The cheapest roof I have ever built on a chicken coop came from an old stack of tin I discovered under a pile of leaves. They were beaten, battered and rusted, but by cutting out the good sections and overlapping them strategically, they made a good roof that gave the coop an old rustic look.
There’s a short list of the ways I have found to save money building chicken coops, I am sure there are plenty more. The key is to keep your eyes open for something that you can use to fill in those large flat surfaces.