Friday, October 12, 2012

Cool Coops! - Re-purposed Trailer Coop

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by Rebecca Nickols

As this series of awe-inspiring chicken coops continues, I'm continually amazed at how creative, resourceful and imaginative some chicken keepers are when it comes to constructing their coop. It reminds me of how one person might look at an abandoned house and see only its pitfalls; while another person views the same neglected structure from a different perspective--they see potential! It's one thing to have a vision of the end-product, but it's those industrious, motivated folks that actually follow through and get the job done that I admire!

This month's chicken keeper is a wonderful example of how with a little imagination and some self-driven enthusiasm anything is possible!

The story of this unique coop begins with Marge Freeman's retirement...  She had wanted backyard chickens for some time and now that she had more time to care for a flock, she began planning their housing arrangements. She knew of one feature in a coop that had to be included; she wanted it to be mobile. Marge states, "I started showing pics to my hubby, Andy, on buildings and campers to convert into a chicken house (since I wanted a mobile style). This was actually a constant hint...  He told me to "buy a new one," since he didn't want an old camper or anything that looked like "junk" on our property."

Marge did some research on the cost of a mobile coop that met the size and requirements she needed and realized that she'd have to spend close to $1200. Her husband then agreed to build or convert an existing structure into her dream coop! Marge threw this idea his way, "What about a horse trailer?" She continued, "It could be parked in one spot, or pulled around the property with the tractor! He bought into the idea as long as I found a decent one that we could pull or haul home."

It took Marge several advertising requests through (free) local Internet and radio sites until she finally found the trailer she had envisioned! Continue reading as Marge shares how a horse trailer that had been abandoned in a cow pasture for over 5 years became the home of her happy colorful flock!

"When we first saw the trailer--the axle was buried in mud, mice made several homes inside, the roof leaked and it smelled pretty bad from sitting so long. We made an offer to the owner which was about $50.00 less than what he was asking.  He agreed since he said he had no use for it and would just sit for many more years. The landowner’s hired hand was generous enough to pull it out of the mud and pump up the tires. The rear lights didn't work, but we were able to put on temporary traveling and brake lights to legally pull it from the location to our home (about 20 miles).

At home it was cleaned inside and out; we removed the rubber mats they had on the floor for the horses and pressured washed everything. My husband removed the center plywood board that was used to divide two horses in the trailer when they were transported. The next day after the trailer had dried, my husband put in new pressure treated 1/2" plywood boards over the existing floor and cut the center horse divider in two pieces for the roosts.

The left over plywood from the new floor piece was used as an additional base below the nesting boxes in the upper nose of the trailer."

We removed the louvers from the side openings and on one side and my husband installed Plexiglas so that the girls would have some light during the winter months. On the other window side, he installed small galvanized wire for airflow and security. He put one of the louvers back on this window that it can be opened and closed for airflow. On the inside of the tack door, I requested holes be drilled and wired across for more airflow. On the back of the trailer for security, he cut up a piece of plywood we had laying around and cutout two squares for Plexiglas windows and bolted the plywood on top of the doors.

We made all of the nest boxes from materials we got from a building and lumber supplier. We also had an old dresser that we cut apart and used three of the drawers as "extra" nesting boxes, giving the trailer-coop a total of 14 nesting boxes. We fixed the front window that was not closing very good; removed the busted glass and replaced it with Plexiglas. The back doors were bent and would not close and had to be adjusted by installing a 2 x 4 on the inside above the two large doors for a better adjustment. The holes in the roof were sealed with silicone to stop leakage. All wood pieces are secured with wood screws for added strength.

I had left-over "barn red" paint from another project and decided two coats would do wonders!

Base cost was $450.00 with about $120.00 more for new parts (Plexiglas, screws, plywood and pressed wood for boxes). Though the new parts were a little pricey, we could have spent about $40.00 less by shopping around and requesting damaged Plexiglas and odd pieces of wood. Also, 1 and 2 axle trailers can be at a premium price, but will last many years. This trailer was made in 1971 (now 41 years old), but with a little maintenance it will last a long time. For the price, we were looking at long term use and security for the chickens and goats. I estimated the project would take 1-2 days, but it turned out to be about 40 hours of total work!"

Marge's Top 10 Features of a Horse Trailer Coop:

1.  Two back doors for ease of cleaning out waste (shovel or fork) and comfortable "walk-in" room.
 2.  Side door and back door for the chickens to jump in easily.  Front window access--I secured a pail upside down for them to jump on first.

3.  Depending on the weather I may only leave the side door and front window open or just the back    door since they seem to like their privacy and quiet when they go to lay eggs.
 4.  Another special feature is the tack door where we keep extra food stored--it stays dry and secured.

 5.  Chickens roost in the middle and their dropping fall on the floor only in that general area. The roosting bars can be moved down or up to waist high and easily removed with two pins if needed.

6.   Security: Almost 100% metal (except the Plexiglas and some galvanized wire)--critters can't get in! We put up dog kenneling wire around the back side in case we have to leave home for several hours, they have access to the back door and we close the side door and front window.

7.  Can be easily moved; hooked to the trailer hitch with the tractor or pickup.
 8.  Can go through side door or back doors to gather eggs.

9.  The coop currently houses 8 chickens (7 hens, 1 rooster), but can easily accommodate 20 chickens. There will also be enough room for our two pygmy goats in the winter (they all get along very well).
10.  Since everything is secured inside, we could pack up the chickens and pull it down the road to my sister’s house if we decide to leave town.

Before Marge began the trailer-to-coop transformation, she searched the Internet for examples of any other converted horse trailer coops and found none. However, Marge had a vision--and the help of a willing husband! She states, "I asked my husband if he understood my vision when we first started, he said, "Not really," but as I told him more and more of what I wanted he said the "light bulb" finally came on!"

Thanks Marge for sharing your coop with the readers of Community Chickens! By following through with your vision and original concept of re-purposing, I'm sure that you'll inspire more trailer-coops to begin popping up across the country! And thanks to your detailed instructions, photos and advice, future DIYers will have your coop as a wonderful example of what it takes to make the ultimate recycled chicken trailer!

Click on the link below for previous entries in the "Cool Coops!" series...

Cool Coops!

Do you have a "Cool Coop" you'd like to share? Email me at:

To view what else is happening at our Southwest Missouri property visit: the garden-roof coop

If you enjoy bird-watching (in addition to chicken-watching), I invite you to "like" my facebook page:


  1. I showed my husband this coop as it is what I want to do with my daughter's trailer(it is one for 4 horses). It was a gift from her grandparents to hold wood shavings for her horse stalls. She won't give it up.LOL

  2. One really nice coop and it will most likely last longer than any commercially built wood coop. Looks great it's functional it's mobile and most importantly it's secure for your birds. Genius!!

  3. Thanks so much, the girls and Mr. seem to like. We never worry at night about them since they are very secure and coon or critters cannot get in. We keep live traps in the area just in case, so far no problems!

  4. Put two blocks under the frame to save the tires just turn the handle and set it back down just a thought great job the paint makes it look great.


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