When we acquired our 5 new chickens last week, it was interesting to see the former owner's layout. She had quite a few chicken coops (runs/pens) laid out in almost a maze, made out of various sizes of dog kennels (mostly chain link, most of them with ceilings). She had only one semi-large one (she called it "chicken town") that was made with actual fencing and no ceiling, which meant the chickens often escaped to either be eaten, tormented by their dogs, or to fly back home at dusk.
She got most of the dog kennels free, or from craigslist, or from neighbors.
As far as the housing goes, several of these coops had just an upturned dog-carrier half. A few had just a wooden box with a hole cut in it for chicken access and egg collecting. I don't recall seeing a "proper" chicken house there.
We've got two different kinds of chicken houses, and working to go the cheaper route.
What you need:
-DON'T get caught up in the chicken housing hype.
-DON'T spend a lot of money if you don't want to.
-DON'T think your chickens need airtight housing for winter (cold climates).
-DON'T think the chicken house has to be pretty; it's YOUR choice, not theirs
-provide a place with good ventilation (to avoid respiratory problems)
-waterproof (at least the house part, not the run)
-easy to clean out (rake, shovel, move the coop, etc.)
-nesting box should be off the ground (in house)
-easy access to nesting boxes to collect eggs
-bar (broom handle, dowel rod, 2x2) to roost on, at least 1 foot up
-4.5 square feet of space per chicken (in house)
-9" of bar/roost per chicken
-1 nesting box/area per 3-4 chickens
-space for chicken feeder under cover so it doesn't get wet
-an easy way to fill feeder on a regular basis
-waterer can be outside house but still in pen/run
-an easy way to fill waterer on a regular basis
-safe so put poultry netting or screening or tarp over pen/run
-protection from sun, wind, rain, snow (that's where the tarp is handy)
We use 6'x10' chain link dog kennels for our chicken runs/pens/coops. Over the top we place tarps but they collect rain water and dip in the middle. Working on a solution to that BEFORE the winter snowstorms come.
Also, we have ferocious winds out here on the plains, so we rope the "dog kennels" together, and them to the perimeter fence which was set in concrete). If we didn't, the tarps will make the kennels into kites and take off for parts unknown. Or you could drive swing set anchors into the ground.
Don't buy those pre-made boxes if you don't want to. We bought some and our hens don't like them. We used the golf ball and plastic easter egg trick (placed them in the nest so the hens would get the hint) but the hens kick them onto the ground and lay their eggs where the plastic eggs fall. Go figure. We dealt with it, left the egg where they put it, and just collect the eggs from the haypile on the ground!
Still, we have hope. We bought some cheapo plastic "laundry" baskets from the dollar store. I also found some file boxes at the thrift store. Use whatever you can find because, again, the chickens just don't care. Just make sure it has some hay there and a lip (edge) so the egg won't roll out.
We're also (possibly) going to use some buckets like shown in this pic I found on the internet. Needs a lid cut in half, and a way to sturdy the bucket to keep it from rolling around. I actually saw this at someone else's farm and her girls loved it. Plus the plastic makes it VERY easy to clean.
= = =
The moral of the story is that the chickens DON'T CARE what their coop looks like ... they roost in trees in the wild, and peck all day on the ground. The aesthetics is for YOU, their human.
We're challenging ourselves to build a cheap chicken house this weekend. Will start with a $189 6x10 dog kennel and an 8x10 tarp over that. We might use some shelves we found in the workshop when we moved here. And possibly a dog kennel we got at a yard sale a couple of months ago.
I'll post pictures when it's done.