If you want to let your hens free-range, you need to be careful where you put your coop. Chickens poop, a lot and they do it anywhere they want without any concern for us barefoot walking people. If you are not careful, in no time at all, walking through the grass is like navigating a minefield. Because of this, you will want to choose carefully the location of your chicken coop.
Years ago, we used to house our pigs in a 10 x 13-foot shed but as we soon found out, raising pigs is an addiction as well and we outgrew that shed rather quickly.
The good news is most things on a homestead can be resued and this was true for our pig shed. I knew right off that I could reuse that old shed as our new chicken coop. The bad news was it was in the wrong spot and needed to be moved to the other side of the property. That task alone was going to be a day-long event since our property is very wet and moving a large shed ran the risk of damaging our lawn.
All in all, the whole project took a week from pig shed to the finished hen house. One day to “de-pig” the shed (AKA, shovel, hose, scrape, hose, sweep and hose once more), one day to move it to its new location, one day to build the inside pen transforming it into a coop, two days to build the outside run. Luckily the cost was minimal, just $25 in lumber and $15 in chicken wire. The rest of the materials we had on hand already.
I pride myself on repurposing anything and everything I can. I would much rather use up the scraps and supplies we have on hand rather than buy new. Above all, for me at least, functionality is my number one goal rather than looks. This means I would rather have our flock of chickens in a safe and warm coop without putting all of my focus into if it will grace the covers of Better Homes and Gardens.
So back to the topic of actually converting our old shed into our new chicken coop. I like to do things in steps and I think it is easier to read them that way as well. Below you will find the exact steps we used to set up our backyard chicken coop for our chickens.
Converting a Shed Into a Chicken Coop
Step #1. Pick a Location.
When choosing where to keep your chicken coop and run, location really does matter. Especially in our case, since moving a building this size was only going to happen once.
Before choosing the location for your coop there are a few things to remember.
- Chickens love to scratch, meaning they use their feet and nails to scrape at the ground like a rake. They do this to pull up any bugs and worms to the surface so they can eat them.
- Chickens have no regard for your plants. This includes flowers and vegetables and fruits. They are scratching and eating machines in a sense and they will pay absolutely no attention to what they may destroy in the process.
- They can be quite helpful in areas that you do want to be cleared out and cleaned up. They are like mini rototillers when they scratch with their feet and if guided just a bit with net poultry fencing you can use their scratching as a benefit.
Remember, chickens can quickly and quite efficiently destroy a newly planted garden or flower bed in record time so taking precautions is advised if you plan to house your chickens near a flower bed or garden. With that being said, chickens are a dream at breaking up a garden in the spring turning solid ground that sat all winter long into fine and wonderful soil that is perfect for spring planting.
As long as you have an efficient fence on your outside chicken run you will be fine housing your hens next to your garden. If you free-range your chickens, then you will want to change tactics a bit and instead fence your garden in to keep your hens out.
Step 2. Move the Shed
First, as I said, we needed to move the shed to the other side of the property. Not an easy task when you are talking about roughly 850 pounds. To help we used heavy chains that we were able to attach to reinforcement boards that were underneath the shed. Those chains were then attached to the bucket of our tractor.
Next, we used logs as a sort of rolling bed to better help with the movement of the shed. This also helped to keep the damage to our yard to a minimum. As the shed progressed we would shift the back log to the front and so on. This was a very slow process but it allowed us to move this heavy shed more easily.
Step #2. Stabilize the Base
Having a coop that is level is important not only for us but for the weather and upkeep as well. First, you will want to use shovels to remove any hills in the ground along with any large roots, rocks, or stumps. You can then use sand to level the ground tamping it down for a more even base. Concrete blocks placed where the corners of the shed will sit adding a few throughout the middle. Yes, this may allow preditors to get below the coop but it will also allow you to keep the underneath more intact as you will be protecting the floor and base from deteriorating on the moist ground.
SLCG PRO TIP: Be sure you have no holes or cracks in the floor of the chicken coop that may allow in predators. If you do you can take scrap pieces of wood to cover them up and secure the hen house before you add in your chickens.
Step #2. Set Up the Interior
When you set up the inside of your coop you will need to make sure you have room for a roost, feeder, water, and nesting boxes. As a guide, a hen needs 2-3 square feet inside of the coop and 8-10 square feet outside in the enclosed run. Keep this in mind when choosing the size of your coop for your flock’s size now and for any future growth, you may have as well.
If room allows I suggest an area for storage to make feeding time easier but this is not necessary. When our flock was smaller we housed the food in our coop inside of a steel barrel to keep out pests. Now, however, we keep food for all of our animals in a feed room inside of our barn that is about 50 feet away. Yes, that means I need to bring all the supplies with me each time I do chores in both the winter and the summer. Again, something to keep in mind when choosing the location of your coop.
Step #3. Construct a Wall and Door
Once the shed is leveled and settled into place you will want to customize the inside to help your chickens be more comfortable. This is crucial to ensure that your hens lay their eggs where you want them. Lucky for me, my wonderful father who was visiting us on vacation at the time stepped in to do the interior renovations. He built a framed wall with a door that was all covered in chicken wire that we stapled into place.
When you build your coop it is important to make sure you have enough room for all your birds to prevent hen-pecking.
Step #4. Have Safe Access to Your Outside Chicken Run.
Next, you will need to have a door or other access to the outside run. One that you can close up at night to ensure your entire flock is safe inside. Not only do you want to make sure your hens can’t get out unless you want them too, but you also want to be sure that nothing can get in that may harm them.
For us, an old doggie door was perfect and we installed it in the back corner of the coop. This allows me to easily close things off at night keeping any nocturnal predators out and away from our precious flock.
The chickens took to that door right away and it has really worked well all these 8+ years. Easy to let the hens in and out and secure enough to keep them safe each evening. It does let in a bit of cold air during the winter months, but we have since learned to insulate for the winter and that has helped quite a bit.
Step #5. Nesting Boxes
I suggest adding these in first since your nesting boxes are going to be the biggest item inside of your coop.
What is a chicken nesting box?
A nesting box is where your chickens will go to lay their eggs. This can be a box, bucket, wash tub, or even an old milk crate. Hens prefer a bit of privacy when egg-laying so by having a few nesting boxes inside of your coop you will keep those eggs safe and protected until you can collect them.
You will want to have a slightly private area yet make it somewhat easy for your hens to get in and out of. Don’t worry too much about height, hens can fly surprisingly high and will easily be able to “jump” up to a box that is off the ground a bit.
When choosing the location for your nesting boxes try to place them in a spot that is free from drafts, rain, and snow. A corner may work for your set up or off to the side as we do in our own coop. Knowing the direction of the wind will help you to better choose a dry and warm area for your hens to lay their eggs.
Step #6. Chicken Roosts
Next, you will want to add in a few roosts for your chickens to perch on.
What are chicken roosts?
A roost is a place for your hens to stand on so they can sleep safely at night. Chickens prefer to be up off of the ground while they sleep. It is their instinct to do so and helps them to feel safe after dark. For this reason, you will want a roost that is large enough to hold all of your hens.
You can use a multi-leveled roost if you have the room or one straight long roost if you are short on space. Even a ladder in a corner or a cinder blog with a board slide through the middle will work. We built two separate roosts in our coop using scrap pieces of wood to build both. Our first roosts were ladder-shaped and held the girls quite well.
We used this ladder system for many years but have since moved to a one-leveled border-style run that frees up a lot more space in the chicken coop. Overcrowding can cause hen pecking in a flock, something we try hard to avoid. By freeing up plenty of space in the coop we have cut down on aggression with our hens.
Step #7. Hang the Waterer and Feeder
I highly recommend hanging both your waterer and your feeder as this really cuts down on waste. You can also use a cinder block and water bowl. This is a great option in the colder months as it is easier to clean out and reduces freezing.
Chickens like to scratch all the time and when they do they kick up bedding that can get tossed into their water or feed.
What is chicken scratching?
Scratching is how chickens forage for food in the ground both inside of the coop and outside. Chickens use their feet to rake at the ground to uncover bugs, worms, and bits of discarded food. Scratching is also relaxing for the chicken. So if you see lots of scratching going on, odds are you have healthy and happy chickens.
Raising the height of your chicken’s feeder and waterer will help to keep both free of debris and dirt. Try to choose a height that is easy for them to reach without having to stretch too much. I like to keep things about 8-10 inches off the ground for full-grown hens.
In the summer I use a plastic hanging waterer but with the frigid cold temperatures of winter, I prefer to use a thick rubber water bowl. Water freezes quite easily in the winter and the plastic waterers tend to crack easily when this happens. By using the thicker water bowls I can easily bend it to break up the ice and fill it with fresh water.
You can see why in How To Winterize Your Chicken Coop.
Step #9. Set up an Outdoor Run
Even if you plan to free-range your chickens I still highly suggest you build an outside chicken run as well. This will allow you to have an area where you know for sure your chickens will all be able to scratch and relax in safety.
Chickens still like to be outside at dusk when it is starting to get dark. They also like to be out first thing in the morning before the sun is up. This can be a time when there are quite a few predators out at that time so having a safe outdoor chicken run for them to browse in is always a good idea.
Make sure to include access to the run from outside so you can get in and out as needed. Where we live, our chicken run needs maintenance quite often since we live in a very wet area. A wet chicken run can be very muddy and messy so having easy access for us to get inside and do maintenance is key.
SLCG PRO TIP: When adding a door for you to use be sure it is a high door so your chickens can not fly up over it and get out. Ours was a waist-high gate like you see in the photo above. We quickly learned that our chickens could very easily hop up and back down to freedom making them vulnerable to all sorts of hidden dangers.
Step #10. Bring in Your Chickens
Once you have everything set up inside you can then add in some bedding of your choice. I have tried many things over the years in our chicken coop. This includes wood shaving, sawdust, straw, and even sand. For me, wood shavings by far work the best and do a great job keeping the dust down a bit without making it a heavy choice come spring when it is time to clean the coop out.
CONVERTING A SHED INTO A CHICKEN COOP SUPPLY LIST
- Chicken Wire – Be sure to get a good sturdy wire that will keep your chickens in and predators out.
- Plastic Chicken Waterer – This one works great if your weather is mild.
- Metal Chicken Waterer – Better for winter months.
- Chicken Feeder – This feeder works great and will last the longest.
- Bedding – I prefer wood shavings because it really soaks up the moisture.
- Doggie Door – A great way to let the chickens in and out quickly and easily.
And here is the final product. Little did I know 8 years ago when we bought this shed for our boy’s 4H projects that it would someday be a chicken house for our hens. It’s funny how things evolve on a farm. 🙂
Why is it so important to have a strong, sturdy, and safe home for your chickens? For many reasons and one of them being so, you can leave knowing your animals will be safe while you are away.
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