I acquired the shipping crates in typical Woodsbum fashion; by being friendly. A “Custom Installation” company that installs specialty doors in fancy buildings and cooperate offices rented some storage space in the building where I work. These are the kind of doors that are worth more than a used pickup truck, and that most Woodsbum folks seldom encounter, let alone walk through on a regular basis. Needless to say without such doors, the shipping crates that safely transport them from overseas would not exist, and I would not have been able to save them from the dumpster, or burn pile. I simply asked where the crates were headed, and they wound up on my trailer instead.
These crates were about 9 foot long, 40 or so inches wide and about the same deep. The bases were familiar pallet type construction, but rather than the thin slats that are sometimes used, they were 4” plus pine boards, set tightly together. The sides were 3/16 plywood, and the lid was the same but framed with some more pine board to give them some rigidity. The fact that there was more than a dozen of them, really got my Woodsbum blood pumping. Think of all the things I could BUILD!
I am not the first one to use shipping pallets or crates to build a shed, small barn, or structure. Up until recently I had avoided the idea for one main reason. Anyone who knows a bit about pallets and their tougher qualities knows how hard it actually is to pull one apart; let alone pull one apart so that you don’t damage the wood slats beyond usability. Armed with that knowledge, it wasn’t until I happened upon this cash cow of particularly large, particularly nice shipping crates that I weighed the cost/benefit and decided to give it a shot.
Often times it has been said that one’s actions when in the public eye do not define them truly, but rather what you do when other folks are not looking. After banging out the several hundredth nail from the last pallet I was using, buying 2x4s from the store seemed like a much better option than the reclaimed wood I got for free. Plus no one was watching and I could still just knock together a stick frame coop in an afternoon and be done with it. And no one would have known the difference. Except me, of course. But the woodsbum side kicked in as usual and I stuck with the project for better or worse.
The first course of action for my little coop was to establish a location, and set some footings. I had some spare block laying around, scraps from other projects, that would serve well as footings. I needed to make up for the slope in the yard as well, so getting the stacks just right took a bit of work. I used the pallet sections for the floor as a guide, along with a 4′ level and shovel to get everything as clean as possible. It is just a chicken house of course.
Before I set the two floor pallets down, I hit them with a coat of outdoor siding stain, Cabot brand. Normally the Cabot is about $40 a gallon, but I happened on a few gallons at Lowes some months before. They were in the “oops” section, and at $10 a gallon I picked them up not knowing what project they would end up on. Perfect for helping coat the coop and protect the underside from the elements. I used a cheap air sprayer from Harbor Freight. It worked well, but you need a serious amount of pressure from the compressor to keep it running (Check out the product review HERE).
Unfortunately, I had to setup out in the yard, to keep over spray from blowing onto my house and car. I dragged my compressor into the yard, but the draw was too much for the cord and the motor would not kick on. So then I dragged the generator out into the yard, thinking in my head what a production this was becoming. After firing up the generator, I was able to keep the compressor running, but found that I the sprayer was outrunning the compressor. Despite the ensuing cluster F of generator-compressor and wait times, I was able to coat the pallets with two coats of the exterior stain and it was time to lay the floor.
Once the floor was laid and leveled on the block foundation, I tied it together with some boards to keep it from moving and started with the walls. Each wall was another section of pallet with the “bottom blocks” removed. Basically they were rows of slats tied together by cross pieces, much like a plank barn door. I was able to cut them to size easily with a circular saw, then stand them up and tie them into the pallet base. I overhung the walls relative to the floor to allow for easy tie in to the structure. Temporary braces are your best friend when working alone on a project such as this. Each of the walls was tied to the previous, but they all wanted to fall apart until they were fully secured in a cube. I checked and rechecked the square and level as much as I could, but in the end there is always a bit of tweaking that is necessary.
Once the 4 walls were erected, I was jumping over them to get in and out of the coop; no easy task mind you but I wanted to cut the door out after the roof frame was up. I felt that tying the entire structure together with the roof frame would eliminate any more of the shifting that might be caused by removing a significant part of one wall to make a door. I used 2×4’s to sturdy the top of the structure and frame out the roof. Once that was completed I framed out the entrance door and cut out the wood. Framing the door first kept the structure sturdy and didn’t allow for any shifting once the planks were removed.
With the ability to get in an out of the coop without scaling the walls, it was time to lay the roof. The roof went down easily, as I had saved all the largest pallet slats for that job. They were long enough to overhang front and back, and nice and wide. I nailed them down to the 2×4 frame and suddenly the coop took on a whole new feel. I finished the roof off with a layer of tar paper, followed by overrun shingles a neighbor donated to the cause.
I sheathed the whole structure with the thin plywood from the sides of the shipping crates. This would help eliminate any wind moving through the copious spaces in the pallet surfaces, and help keep insects and other pests out. The process was made more complicated because the final structure was a bit off square, but I was able to mark and cut the pieces to fit easy enough. They were tacked up to the structure and gave the coop a more finished appearance. I also did the same with the interior floor. The sheathing inside would sure up the floor, seal any gaps, and help keep out unwanted visitors.
After sheathing was complete I needed to finish up my doors. I figured a double door would be best, interior of frame and wire, and exterior solid. With the remaining scrap I was able to bang out two respectable doors, and hung them with some hinges I had picked up at a garage sale.
With the doors completed, the last step before winter would be a few coats of Cabot to make sure the wood was protected. This time I was able to rustle up a battery powered airless sprayer. WOW! The difference in performance was astounding, but then again so is the price tag (review HERE). With the final coats drying I could hang up the hammer on this project until spring.
I let the coop project sit over the winter, using the extra space for storage. Once spring rolled around it was back to work finishing up the final touches, and getting the pen constructed. Though not necessary for chickens, I wanted to have the option to house quail. A flight pen would be necessary for the quail so it was back to digging holes and setting posts.
After the posts were set I used treated lumber to grid out the top of the pen to support the 1″ chicken wire. I got creative with a chainsaw on some of the posts so that I could fix the assembly to the cedar posts with some deck screws. I framed up a door and made a sill with scrap 2x4s from the roof support beams. A chicken size hole was cut in the coop, and I made some nest boxes for the egg layers. The nest boxes have hinged access doors to allow for egg collecting without entering the coop.
Pallet Chicken Coop