I love my chickens. They give me fresh organic eggs every morning and hours of mindless entertainment watching them strut around the chook yard during the day.
Today I will show you how I built a simple chicken house from completely recycled materials and started my small family of chickens.
I’m into recycling things. For one thing they’re free. I like free. For another, they’re avoiding ending up in the tip. When It came time to build my chicken house, I wanted to make sure I could do it ALL without buying anything (except a few screws and nails).
First stop – get some wood. I use pallets often on my mini-farm. They’re pretty easy to come by. Go to any white goods shop, some fruit and veg grocers or the best – a shop that sells large batteries for cars or boats or forklifts (these pallets have to be made of better quality wood to handle the heavy batteries). Take the pallets home and get out the old crowbar and hammer. I don’t mind the breaking down of the pallets. To me it’s a bit of a mindless meditation and I get to be outside working with my hands. I can break down a good pallet in less than 30 minutes. This entails prying the boards off and removing the nails (don’t loose your nails in your lawn for someone to come step on later!) If you don’t want to use pallets. look in skips for 2×4 wall studs or other timber pieces that you could use.
Next you’ll need some cladding and a roof. I was fortunate enough to be on a little beach holiday with some mates near Lake’s Entrance, Victoria where there was a lot of new homes being constructed. I noticed several skips in the neighborhood and I went to a building site and asked if I could raid one of the skips for materials to build my chicken house. They happily consented (they have to pay for the skip disposal by weight!) I was lucky and found some random pieces of metal roofing (Kliplock – similar to corrugated iron) as well as some extra timber bits.
NOTE: Technically taking anything from a skip without permission is stealing. Don’t steal. Also don’t ever climb into a skip. It is dangerous and stupid.
Next I headed to the tip. I was after some chicken wire. Sure enough in the scrap metal section was a perfect little roll of the stuff someone had thrown out due to grass growing up through it. I took it home and pulled the grass out.
NOTE: It is often illegal to remove anything from the tip. Fortunately, many tips have areas where useful items have already been removed and you can ask them and buy what you need for very reasonable prices.
When I had all of my materials I grouped them together and took an inventory. I did a bit of quick research online for designs and then made up my own based on the materials available.
A Few Considerations for Design:
- Chickens need protection at night from predators and good protection from the elements such as wind and rain.
- You’ll be gathering eggs everyday – so make some sort of easy access for yourself!
- Chickens will need a safe place to lay their eggs (a nesting box). Some of the fancier designs have custom built nest boxes with access doors for easy extraction. I just used an old lawn mower catchment box filled with straw and they LOVE it.
- Chickens need to roost at night. I used pieces of bamboo, but this could be any pole like material.
- If you don’t have a dedicated chicken yard (like on my mini-farm) you’ll probably want to be shifting your chicken house around your yard so they don’t completely wreck the grass in one little square… so MAKE IT LIGHT enough to move
NOTE: Chickens will absolutely wreck any grass or ground vegetation that they have access to for long periods. Not only will they scratch it up and or eat it, they will also find all of the seeds underground and eat those too so it will never grow back without help. It’s best to shift them around to different places. One benefit is that they will also be excellent pest control and will fertilise your yard in the process.
I ended up building some simple modules that I then moved into the chicken yard one my one. I used a cordless screwdriver to attach them all together, put the roof on and set the wire mesh. The door is completely free and comes right off when I want to let them out. It is held in place by two pieces of wood that swivel to form a latch (of sorts).
I let my chickens roam freely in the chook yard and only put them in at night. If you were doing this in a smaller yard, I would probably make the whole house a bit longer (more access to the ground and then shift the house every week or two.
Raising animals is fun, but is serious business. They rely on you for food and water, protection from the elements and can very possibly get sick or injured and may required expensive medical attention. You should research raising poultry (or any animal) before buying any. There’s lots of things you’ll need to know about feeding, clean water supply and general health and maintenance. I can’t give you all of the necessary advice here. Read up.
That said: I have never had any problems with my chickens. They lay like clockwork and they cost only $10 per month in good quality organic feed. One suggestion I would make is to get a heritage breed if you can. They’re much prettier than the commercial hybrids and we all need to help continue these old breeds or they will die out. There are many resources for heritage breed poultry online.