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10 Steps to Convert a Horse Stall into a Chicken Coop

Converting a horse stall into a chicken coop can save you time as well as money.

Getting started with chickens can be expensive, especially these days with prices of everything going up across the board. And when you total the cost of the chicks and their feed, plus coop accessories like feeders and waterers, heat lamps, and a brooder, it can add up fast.

And that's not even talking about the coop and run - which will be by far your largest expense. 

But the good news is that if you have a barn with an empty stall, you can save money by converting an existing horse stall into a safe and secure home for your flock pretty easily. With the hard (and expensive!) part is already done.

And if you don't have a barn with an empty stall, maybe you have a garden shed, garage, playhouse or other structure that you could convert.

Why Convert a Horse Stall into a Chicken Coop?

So why convert a horse stall into a chicken coop in the first place? Well, there are several reasons why it makes sense, and the cost is just one of them.

Money Saver

Sure, the cost savings that come from not having to build a coop from scratch can be pretty impressive. Lumber and other  building materials are expensive, as is hiring a builder if you're not handy enough to build a coop yourself. 

Even the pre-made coops and coop kits are expensive to buy. So using an existing structure will save you a ton of money.

Time Saver

We've all done it. Gone to the feed store for something entirely unrelated and returned home with a box full of chicks. A dozen chicks doesn't seem like a big deal until you realize that in a few short weeks, they're going to need a place to live.

Building a coop from scratch is going to take a lot of time. Repurposing a horse stall is going to be far quicker when time is of the essence. 

Safety in Numbers 

In addition to saving time and money, there are other advantages to converting a horse stall into a chicken coop.

First and foremost, a chicken coop needs to be predator-proof, and a stall is already part of a secure structure with solid wooden walls, so you're automatically adding an extra layer of predator protection. 

Presumably other animals (larger animals) also live in the barn, such as donkeys, goats, cows or horses, and they’ll all help deter predators as well. 

If you live in an area where bears can be an issue, having a coop inside your barn will provide excellent protection from them. Bears can easily knock over, or take apart, the smaller, less well-built coops.

Protection from the Elements

A stall is also naturally well-ventilated, but out of direct wind and the elements. If you live in a cold climate, your chickens will stay much warmer in a converted stall, taking advantage of the body heat of other livestock and the shelter of the barn itself.

If you live in a warm climate, you might already have fans installed in your barn to move the air around and keep the flies down, so the chickens can benefit from that right along with your other livestock.

With a few minor modifications, your vacant horse stall can be flock-ready in no time. So now that you understand the benefits of converting a horse stall into a chicken coop, let's go over the steps.

10 Steps to Convert a Horse Stall into a Chicken Coop

Naturally, the specific modifications you need to make to your structure will depend on the size and style of your barn and the actual stall, but here are some things to consider when you're doing your renovation.

Note: An existing lean-to or open-front shed could be converted the same way, except it will need a solid front and door built in addition to the modifications outlined below.

1. Clean Out the Stall

First remove all the dirty shavings from the horse stall. Shovel or rake them into the compost pile or otherwise discard them. Then scrub the floor with a white vinegar/water solution. If you can, think about power washing the floor and walls to get them really clean.

The ammonia fumes in horse manure and urine will irritate chickens' sensitive mucous membranes, so be sure the stall is completely cleaned out and left to air dry before you move your chickens in. 

It's important to never clean with bleach. Bleach mixed with the ammonia in horse urine can create toxic fumes. I always clean my chicken coop with white vinegar which has nearly the same disinfecting properties as bleach - and is far safer.

Brush out the cobwebs and dust any flat surfaces to be sure the chickens are moving into a clean dust-free space.

2. Install Solid Flooring

If the stall has a dirt floor that could be easily breached from underneath by digging predators like rats, weasels and the like, then you'll need to create a solid floor first. 

Lay down some welded wire 1" or smaller gauge wire flat on the dirt floor. Then lay wooden pallets on top of the wire. 

On top of the wire, lay down sheets of plywood and nail them in place. This will prevent your floor from rotting and also prevent predators from gaining access to the coop by digging in from underneath. 

A sheet of inexpensive vinyl flooring nailed on top of the plywood makes for easy cleanup. Check the discount bin at your local home improvement store. They often sell the ends of rolls, or patterns that aren't selling well, at a huge discount. 

If the stall has a cement floor, then you're all set. You can move onto the next step.

3. Enclose the Sides and Top of the Stall

Next, you’ll need to extend the walls of the stall to the ceiling if they don’t already reach that high, and cover any windows, openings or vents in the back wall with 1" or 1/2" welded wire or hardware cloth. 

You can build solid side walls out of plywood, but for better air flow, use 1" or 1/2" welded wire to cover the open sides. Since barns can get stuffy and hot in the summer, using welded wire on the sides is the best option to be sure your chickens have enough fresh air day and night.

If the solid wood walls of your stalls are high enough that you could easily get around inside, another option is to attach the welded wire horizontally across the top of the walls instead to create a "ceiling" on the stall.

Weasels, raccoons, and foxes all can - and will - climb as high as necessary to get your chickens and might even be able to gain access through the barn vents, cracks and crevices even when the barn doors are closed. 

So don't be lulled into a false sense of security that your chickens will be safe inside the barn. Their "coop" needs to be 1000% predator-proof, and that means covering every hole that's larger than 1-inch.

And whatever you do, don't use chicken wire. A weasel or owl or raccoon can rip right through it, so even though it's pretty unlikely one would get into the barn, it's best not to take chances.

4. Secure the Front of the Stall

Depending on the style horse stall you have, you might need to add some welded wire to the front and door of the stall as well, or board up the front of the stall above the door. Either way, you'll need to make sure that not only can't your chickens hop over the door and get out, that nothing can get in.

And don't forget to check to be sure there's no space under the stall door that a predator could sneak in through. If there is, setting some pavers along the inside all along the length of the door can block that access.

5. Replace the Existing Stall Door Latch

Speaking of nothing getting in, remember that raccoons can easily undo most types of latches, including sliding bolts, so you'll need to install an eye hook with a spring-loaded latch, a deadbolt with a carabiner, a padlock, or other type of predator-proof latch on the existing stall door. 

If you’ll be cutting a small pop door for your chickens to exit the stall directly into an attached run (see below), such as along the back wall of the stall, you’ll need to install similar latches on that door, as well.

6. Add Roosting Bars

Now for the interior modifications. You will need to build roosts for your chickens to sleep on. The easiest way to do this is by using 2x4 boards. 

With the 4-inch side of each board facing up, construct a wide slanted ladder with the "steps" far enough apart that your chickens can roost one row above the other without pooping on each other. About 15" apart should do it.

You should allow for 8 inches of roosting bar for each chicken. And while we're talking about space, you can figure on needing about 3-4 square feet of floor space for each chicken. 

So in a typical 12 foot x 12 foot stall, you theoretically can fit 36-48 chickens comfortably as long as they will be free ranging or have a nice large run to play in during the day.

For a low-budget option, you can just install wide branches in the corners of the stall for the chickens to roost on. Just be sure the branches are about 4" in diameter. Chickens prefer to roost nearly flat-footed, not with their toes wrapped around a thin branch like a wild bird might.

7. Add Nesting Boxes

You will also need to provide your chickens a place to lay eggs. Figure on needing one nesting box for each three or four hens. The boxes should be approximately 12 square inches high by 12 inches wide x 12 inches deep. 

You can build simple boxes out of plywood and secure them the wall in a row, at floor level or slightly higher (just be sure your roosting bars are higher than the boxes or the chickens will want to sleep in the boxes and that leads to dirty eggs).

Even easier, you can also repurpose similar-sized containers such as 5-gallon plastic pails, kitty litter tubs, milk crates, storage totes or wooden boxes, set on their sides on the floor. They don't need to be fancy, they just need to provide your hens a safe, private place to lay their eggs.

Add some nice soft bedding to the boxes, like these aspen nesting pads, straw or pine shavings, and then place some fake eggs or golf balls in the boxes to encourage and teach your chickens to lay their eggs in the boxes.

8. Add Floor Bedding

Add a nice layer of hemp bedding, pine shavings or straw to the floor of your coop so the chickens have a nice soft floor to walk on.

9. Add Waterers, Feeders and Grit/Shell Dispensers (Optional)

If you’ll be feeding and watering your chickens inside the coop, either mount the feeder to the wall or hang it from the ceiling. Set up a waterer.

Since chickens need both supplemental calcium (either crushed oyster shell or crushed eggshell) and grit to help them digest their food, installing small dispensers of each to the wall of the coop is also a good idea.

10. Add a Small Exit Door (Optional)

If you plan on free ranging your flock, then you can just let your chickens in and out of their new coop using the large hinged door that the horses would have used. 

Or if you want to keep your chickens penned up (or have the option to do both free ranging and using a pen when you're not home, for example), cut a small opening in the back wall of the stall, build an enclosed run (or pen) out back, and let your chickens go in and out through the small door. 

Just be sure to install a locking door, as described above, to seal up the opening that can be secured at dusk to keep your flock safe.

And now your horse-stall-turned-chicken-coop is open for business! And in case you're wondering... chickens and horses can happily co-exist and in fact get along remarkably well.

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