When it comes to housing, chickens are not terribly fussy. So you might want to consider alternatives to traditional, wood-built coops this year. Credit: Julia Bayly / BDN

This story was originally published in April 2021.

Building a traditional four-sided wooden coop can be expensive when the costs of wood and lumber are high. That’s why using recycled materials to build a poultry coop might make a lot of economic and practical sense this year.

But how?

Anyone can have a standard chicken coop. But why would you want to when there are so many other creative options out there? Just make sure the finished product provides shelter from the elements, protection from predators, is properly ventilated and is roomy enough for your birds.

Here are six ideas for things to use as a coop that may surprise you.

An old trampoline

Some trampolines have built-in enclosures around the perimeter. This safety feature makes it really easy to morph into a ready-made chicken coop. By inverting a trampoline the jumping pad becomes a roof with an enclosed, fenced-in area below. You can add a smaller structure — a dog house would even do the trick — inside the fencing where your chickens can sleep.

An old swing set

Speaking of childhood toys. If you can get your hands on an old, metal swing set, you have a perfect frame for a coop. Remove the swings, slide or any other attachments and cover the frame with mesh or wire fencing available at most hardware or farm supply stores. Don’t forget to leave an opening into the fenced area so you can get in and out of it. A small, pre-built gate would do the trick for. Like the trampoline coop, you need to place some sort of enclosed shelter within the swing set for your birds. Or use metal roofing to cover part of the frame to provide shade and shelter. And, frankly, if you want to leave a swing or the slide for your birds to play on, they might really enjoy that.

An old baby crib

If you only have two or three chickens who spend most of their time ranging around your homestead, a crib may just be the thing you need. Piece of metal roofing can be cut to cover it and then just cut a small doorway on one end, install a ramp for your birds and you are good to go. For added security, you can staple chicken wire to the sides over the crib’s slats.

An armoire

Your chickens will be the talk of the neighborhood if you can find an old bureau or armoire to upcycle. Start by removing any drawers and shelves. Then cover the spaces those leave with chicken wire. It already has doors built in, but you can cut a smaller door into the side and fence in an area off of that to give them space to get fresh air.

Cable spools

Once upon a time the large wooden spools that hold industrial wire or cables were de rigueur in college dorm room decor. These days they can also make basic chicken housing. Figure one spool for every two or three chickens and place them in an enclosed, fenced area on your homestead. Then cut an opening into the center of the spool. Place the spools on their ends and you are done. A good way to find cable spools is contacting your local utility companies — phone or electric — to see if they have any for sale or even to give away. If you happen to spot some at construction sites, you might ask if they are available as well.

Ice fishing shack

If you know an ice fisherman who is looking to trade up their fishing shack, see if you can get their old one. It’s a fully assembled, ready made four-sided shed that may even already be insulated.

Old wooden pallets

Pallets have been used to create everything from lawn furniture to wine racks. Why not use them as the building blocks for a chicken coop? You can nail them together to create a shelter and the spaces between the wooden boards on the pallets can act as the windows for your coop. To make a pallet coop safe from predators, staple chicken wire over the pallets.

A trip to your local junk yard may yield other ideas for DIY coops. Just remember you need to be able to access the inside to clean and collect any eggs. Other than that, let your imagination run wild.

Watch more:

Julia Bayly is a reporter at the Bangor Daily News with a regular bi-weekly column. Julia has been a freelance travel writer/photographer since 2000.