How to find the tools you need to build your own backyard chicken coop

Wood clamps holds wood together to be drilled.

So you want to build your own backyard chicken coop, but you’re afraid you might not have the right tools for the job. Luckily, it doesn’t take that many tools — a few common hand tools and power tools. And if you can’t find them in your garage or tool chest, don’t despair. Here are some other places to look, and a few tips should you decide to buy them new or used. 

1. Borrow tools from a neighbor or friend.

The easiest way to find the tools you need for a one-time project like building a chicken coop is to borrow them from a friend, family member, or neighbor. Unless that person uses the tools professionally, they’ll most likely be happy to see them put to good use. Just ask. The promise of fresh eggs or homemade cookies may sweeten the deal.

Even better, borrow the owner of the tools as well! Building a chicken coop — even just preparing your yard for the arrival of your new flock — is the ideal occasion for a work party. Snacks and refreshments fuel the fun, and if you offer to exchange your labor for theirs, you can all work out a swap and get a lot of projects handled faster than if everyone worked alone.

2. Find a tool-lending library near you.

Cutting plywood with a circular saw.What if your neighbors aren’t entirely sold on your chicken keeping venture and none of your friends have a tool collection to speak of? Turn to the larger community and borrow your tools from a tool-lending library!

A tool-lending library is just like a book library, except instead of books, you can borrow tools — all kinds of tools. Many tool-lending libraries require only basic identification for you to take part (for some, your regular library card will do).

There are established tool libraries in many cities and more are popping up all the time. Check out this list of tool-lending libraries to see if there’s one near you. If there isn’t, think about getting one started, as these people did in Portland, Oregon. After all, if you do end up buying some tools for your chicken coop project, why not use them to seed a small tool library when you’re done?

How exactly does a tool-lending library work? Each one is slightly different. While some charge a rental fee, most are set up for community sharing and are free of charge. Generally you sign up for the tools you need and wait for them to be available. Or you stop in on the morning you need something and see what’s available. This is actually better than it sounds. Other DIYers will be waiting in line to borrow tools too, so you can talk to each other about your projects. Often you’ll get great tips and maybe even find someone willing to do a work swap.

3. Buy your tools at a local hardware or home improvement store.

Drilling holes with power drill for chicken coop.

I know, I know, you were hoping for more alternatives to buying tools, and here I am suggesting that you buy them. Hear me out. . .

I’m of the belief that most of the tools you need to build a backyard coop are essential ones to have around anyway. These include a hammer, a tape measurer, sawhorses, a handsaw (for reference, here’s a complete list of the tools you need to build The Garden Coop). Those essentials also include basic power tools like a good cordless drill/driver and a circular saw.

Why buy them? Well, you might think a chicken coop is simply your next and final project, yet once you’ve felt the satisfaction of building something beautiful and functional for your yard, you’re gonna be looking for new projects to take on. At the very least, you might add more chickens down the line. . . which means expanding your coop or building a new one.

I’m not going to get into specific tool reviews here. Suffice it to say, price is usually a decent indicator of quality. As for power tools, I’m partial to the Ridgid brand, available at Home Depot and other retailers, in large part because of their lifetime service agreement. If you’re willing to do the paperwork and online registration, you get free service for life. On cordless tools, this covers batteries and chargers, which, I can tell you from experience across brands, often fail well before the tool.

Two basic tools for building: a level and a pencil

(Head’s up: if you do bring a Ridgid tool in for service and you receive a replacement tool or component, you have to re-register each new item for it to be eligible for the continued lifetime service. They’re sorta counting on the fact that most people will overlook this. But now you know better, right?)

So if you shop for the best deals and factor in the value of lifetime service, you can stretch your dollar while gearing up your tool chest. But if you’re still not convinced to buy your tools new, then check the resale market at garage sales, estate sales, or on Craigslist. And remember, if you do buy new, you always have the option to sell them “barely used” after the fact to recoup some of the cost.

Now go grab some tools and get excited about building that coop!

For those of you’ve who have already built your coops, did you borrow tools, use a tool lending library, buy them new or used, or some other arrangement I haven’t considered? How did it go? 

Also, if you have any advice for others looking to borrow tools or know of any tool libraries not on the Wikipedia list, please share it in the comments below.


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