Building a Pallet Wood Hen House Chicken Coop and Prototype Tiny House Part 1 Design & Construction

With our house up for sale, we have two main priorities, one is having all the hen houses upgraded to ones that can be easily dismantled and moved with the hens and the other is having a plan for the tiny house we are going to take with us when we move.

We've thought this over and decided that it will be more ecological, less costly and more permanent than buying an RV or caravan to live in whilst constructing our new Eco House. To this end we designed the hen house not just as accommodation for the hens but as a prototype for something we could build here in the workshops and then take in kit form to our destination. As you will see, when you watch the film on construction and assembly, this design can be made with an extra inner skin of cladding and the gap between filled with straw or hay for insulation. A couple of years back we built just such a tiny wood and straw house with a friend and his three boys, whilst they waited to build their own main house. The design of incorporating an insulating layer of straw and hay is often coupled with building the house on pillars. This latter, to leave an air-gap underneath, which can then be boxed in, is a popular way of building a tiny house both here in France and Quebec. It will be of particular use to us in moving to Brittany, where in the Winter months it can be 'slightly' damp!

The Hen House

As if to prove my previous statement, when we had constructed all the parts of the house we had to leave the assembling of it for a couple of weeks due to torrential rain. In the meantime, Sue made up this artist's impression of the final design!

This design was tried and tested. We had already had one up and running for two years and the hens loved it. The main cost (total of which is around  25 Euros (Dollars), was the price of the roof covering - a heavy duty tarpaulin. This is necessary if, like us, your hen house can be subjected to all types of severe weather conditions.



We used twenty-four standard (120cm x 80cm), untreated pallets in all. These included the four which were used for the base. Obviously, if you only have a few hens the base can be cut down but for ease of cleaning and access the height should be kept the same. 

To complete the complement of pallet wood, we also used twenty-four planks (1800mm in length and 23mm thick). These were cut down to a width of 40mm. These planks were obtained from the uprights of pallets used to transport furniture and can be found at most outlets selling sofas, beds and larger items. They are also used by companies making or transporting glass and double glazed window units - look around your area to see what's on offer.

The Base


Start by prising the planks from the four foundation pallets.


Then reposition and renail with additional planks.




Bend over nails. Using long nails is a secure way of anchoring the planks to the support frame.


Alternatively, if the planks are difficult to remove for repositioning and you have plenty of pallet wood available, nail a layer of planks on top of the pallet at right angles to the original planks.

Wall Panels and Doors

Each side has two panels of different lengths to avoid the wall joints coinciding with the base pallet joints, which would weaken the structure.


Use the pallet as a gauge to ensure the correct height of the wall panel frames (standard length of 120cm) is attained. In the film you will see that I chose one panel of 1.40m length and the other 1.00m.


Once made and checked for square, add cladding.


On both gable end walls, provision is made for a door. This is needed for a good through draught in hot weather and also for ease of cleaning and removal of perches.

Make door frame and check for fit.


Clad door and fit hinges.


Gable Ends


Cut base of triangle to the exact width of wall and cut a 45° angle at each end.



Mark and cut other two sides of gable end panel and screw together.






Roof Panels

Make up four roof frames using foundation pallets as an assembly bench

Cover with tongue and groove cladding.

Sit back and watch the film..

Bob and friend looking forward to assembling the house. The assembly is shown in the following three part blog posts and includes the demolition of the old hen house and the laying of the new foundations - the first one can be found here

Thanks for dropping by and please feel free to share this article, comment, ask questions and if you'd like to be assured of getting the next post, then sign up to follow this blog.

All the best, Andy

© Andy Colley 2014


  1. Replies
    1. Thank-you Dale! Much appreciate your comment, we are just about to build another one of these houses for the Polish hens and their friends, as they are the last of the 3 flocks, who live in the garden, to get an upgrade! All the best from sunny France, Andy

  2. Fabulous design, repurposing and video! Thanks to Homestead Survival for sharing your post, that's how I found you!

    Kathy Shea Mormino
    The Chicken Chick

    1. Hi Kathy, Thank-you for your feedback, much appreciated! It was great to see this post shared on Homestead Survival, which is exactly what we are trying to do here in France. We have 1000 square metres of organic forest garden, with three hen houses of free-range organic poultry, mostly Polish, Ardenner, Cochin and Sebrights and loads of mixes of other old and rare breeds too. We also have quail, which Sue raised under bantams and fantail pigeons. Our food is grown in home-made repurposed material greenhouses, both to avoid be eaten by the chicks and also to give us an all-year-round food production and to enable us to grow tropical vegetables and spices.

      Have checked out your site, it looks really interesting. We will both have great fun going through the posts.

      All the Best Andy and Sue (Pavlovafowl Youtube/Pinterest and The Holistic Hen blogspot)

    2. How do you protect the wood from rotting(from water) and insects if not staining or sealing the wood in some way. How long would you project this hen house to last?

    3. Hi Nicole,
      The design of the hen house evolved over several years. The first incarnations that I made were poorly protected from the rain because I had not made the overhang of the roof large enough. With the last design shown here the walls stay reasonably dry even in high winds. Plus, we have an enclosed garden and have planted hedges, bushes and trees which act as a buffer to the harsher winter weather.
      The large roof also means that there is always a dry strip on at least one side of the house where the birds may have a dust bath whenever they wish.
      Also, by laying a rudimentary foundation of building blocks, the house is raised clear of the ground by at least 75-100mm (3" - 4") so water cannot be in contact with the structure.
      I have treated the end elevations with one coat of linseed oil, this is so that the door is protected. This is the one area which may be more exposed to rain due to it being open during the day.
      Here in Normandy there is very little risk of insect damage but i would consider that most coatings to deter insects would not be good for the poultry either. Even so, I would expect the hen houses to have a life of at least 10-15 years. The only area that may need rplacing in that time would be the roofing tarpaulin.

      Many thanks for visiting the Green Lever and for your question. If there is any more information you need please don't hesitate to ask.
      Best Wishes from France, Andy.

  3. At least if you are going to spam, try and read the post first so at the very least you know what it's about!!!!! This is about the farthest you can get from marketing on the Planet.

  4. Great for the hens, but as a prototype for a tiny house, what about windows and light?

    1. Hi, the idea was to look at the practicality of constructing a tiny house based on this method. Shortly, we hope to be moving to a much larger piece of land to build an Eco house. Rather than buying a caravan or Portacabin-like unit we are thinking of erecting something along the lines of the above. Obviously, a dwelling the size of the hen house could only function as a 'hard tent' so we would be looking for a larger home-made kit comprising prefabricated wall and roof panels. Provision for glazing would be made at the prefabricating stage. We have already been involved in erecting such a house with a friend of ours, the walls in his case were clad with ecological particle board and the void between the inner and outer walls packed with straw for insulation.
      On completion of the project we plan to either use the tiny house as a spare room for guests or maybe to use as the outside laundry, provided I can get the bicycle inside.
      Thanks for visiting the blog.
      Best Wishes, Andy.

  5. I like this henhouse! You still have to impregnate it properly.