Do you want to make a DIY chicken coop on a budget? See how we converted our existing garden shed into a chicken coop with nesting boxes.
One day earlier this year my daughter and I were heading to the craft store. On the way, we stopped at Tractor Supply to pick up birdseed for the feeders outside our bedroom window. Somehow, we ended up bringing home a few chickens and ducks. We never did make it to the craft store that day.
Mike immediately set to work (after shaking his head at me) and built a makeshift pen for them in the garage. We added bedding, food and water dishes, and a heat lamp.
This small pen in the garage smelled so bad. It didn’t matter how often we cleaned it, the odor was awful. As quickly as we thought they could handle it, we moved them to the coop with a DIY chicken pen (which I’ll share shortly).
Converting a shed into a chicken coop
When we purchased our house, there was a yellow garden shed with a blue roof in the backyard. Behind it was the gas tank for the house. The first step was to have the gas tank relocated behind our garage.
We initially had plans to turn the garden shed into an outdoor bar for movie nights, but then the chickens and ducks came along and plans were changed.
Our garden shed was pretty basic inside. There is a door in the front, a wood shelf running around the inside of the coop that’s a little higher than waist height, and beams up across the top.
DIY nesting boxes
It wasn’t until the chickens got a little bigger that they could get up into the nesting boxes. At first we made a ramp for each side, but all they did was poop all over it and they took up so much space that I had Mike remove them.
We have a set of 5 nesting boxes on each side of the coop. Sometimes the chickens like to snuggle at night and we’ll find up to 3 inside one box, but during the day they like privacy to lay eggs in only 3 of the nesting boxes. He also added a roost for the rooster to perch on that’s by the door.
Mike built the nesting boxes out of a large sheet of plywood from Lowes. This particular one has a white finish, which makes it so much easier to clean. We use this wood for a lot of DIY projects at home.
I clean the nesting boxes out once a week. The ledge in front wipes clean for the most part (with a little scrubbing), and the straw in the boxes just gets replaced.
The ducks still love to sleep underneath the nesting boxes and I’ve recently found eggs hiding underneath too.
Are chickens afraid of the dark?
For the first month, we hung their heat lamp from a beam on the roof of the coop. Most websites will recommend you not leave a heat lamp on inside the coop because if it falls it could catch the straw below on fire. We tied our heat lamp to the beam on the roof and we had the wire cage underneath it. Mike then drilled a hole at the top of the wall to run the lead for electricity out which was anchored as well. We haven’t used the heat lamp in months but have left it there (unplugged) just in case we need it in winter during freezing temperatures.
It took us three days of chasing the chickens and ducks into the coop at night for them to finally start putting themselves to bed. I realized though that they didn’t like being in the dark and would crowd together underneath the nesting boxes. Apparently, chickens can’t see at night. As you can see, there’s one small window up high and although the moonlight does shine in, it didn’t seem like enough light for them. I gave it a couple of weeks, but they still wouldn’t get into their nesting boxes at night, or up onto the shelves to sleep.
We strung tiny, very dim solar lights across the inside of the roof. They are not bright at all but do light the coop up just enough that the chickens are happy and now love sitting in their nesting boxes (or on the shelf) to sleep. The rooster normally stands guard by one of the doors or on his perch (at least whenever I check on them he is).
Adding pen access to a chicken coop
At the back of the chicken coop, we cut out a door for the chickens and ducks to access the pen. We keep them locked in the coop at night and open the door in the morning. I started with a door inside, but as the chickens (and cranky rooster) got larger I found myself tripping over them getting to the door. So we have since moved it outside (not shown in the image below).
Fresh eggs from a backyard chicken coop
Our chickens are now laying eggs. We are getting about 6 a day, and surprisingly we’ve had quite a few with double yolks. I’m not sure if diet has anything to do with it, but I think they eat better (and healthier) than I do.
What we feed our chickens and ducks
They have a feeder in their pen that is constantly stocked with poultry feed. We rotate treats every afternoon, including:
- Poultry feed (for ducks and chickens) that’s 20% protein.
- Oyster shell
- Rolled oats
- Fresh fruit – strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and apples (no seeds)
- Vegetables – corn, peas, cooked carrot (and the peels from raw carrot), broccoli, cabbage, and zucchini
- Scratch grains
I’ll be sharing more ideas below as we continue with our chicken pen and chicken coop DIY projects.
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