5 Useful Farm Projects Made From Used Shipping Pallets

Monday, November 7, 2011

I’m always on the lookout for inventive ways to reuse materials to build what I need on our homestead. Years ago my sister and I had an agreement with a local glass company in town to haul away the packing crates that held windows and doors during shipping. A few weekends a month sis and I would drive across town in our pick up truck and load up what ever would fit in the bed. We would then use the wood from the crates to make feeders, fences and we even used some of the more substantial wood to build or repair our sheep barns.

Shipping pallets are used to transport a wide variety of consumer items, from cases of big box store groceries to home improvement supplies to televisions and stereos and radios, even livestock feed and supplies are all stacked and shipped on wooden shipping pallets.

We probably don’t think about how many times we see trucks unloading goods on a pallet, but it’s important that we begin to take notice of this huge use of natural resources and how we as homesteaders can benefit.

Why is it important?


  • Approximately 40% of all hardwood harvested in the U.S. is for making shipping pallets.
  • About two-thirds of pallets are used only once before being thrown out. (Approximately 150 million per year)
  • 1/4 of all wood in landfills is from used pallets.

You can help prevent deforestation and keep pallets out of landfills by finding creative alternative uses for them. Pallets can be found everywhere. Once you start looking for them, you’ll see them scattered all over your town or city.

Contact a local warehouse, supermarket, or any business that receives large shipments, and get permission to pick up their used pallets. Most companies are happy to give their pallets away for FREE.

For larger wood like 2x6s and 2x8s, contact local glass or door companies for their policy about giving away shipping crates.

Below are a few of our favorite pallet projects.

Compost Bins:

My very first compost bin was built with used pallets. It was very simple to make. I bolted together 3 pallets at the top a bottom to make a “U” shape, then hinged the forth pallet on the front as a door. The slatted spaces on the pallets provided great air circulation and the hinged door made it easy to remove the finished compost.

To make a multi-bin compost system simply add more bins on the side, making sure to stabilize them with wooden stakes or “T” posts.

Small Chicken Coop:

Chickens are not too particular about their housing as long as it’s warm, dry, free from drafts and protected fr om predators, they are happy campers. The partially finished coop below was made using several pallets for the floor, sides, nesting boxes and eventually the roof.

To make a simpler version that is adequate for a smaller flock of 3 to 4 hens use one pallet for the floor and four for the sides, hinging one to use as a door. The top can be made from another pallet or scrap materials like corrugated roofing, plywood or 1” x 6’s. Nesting boxes can be made from more scrap lumber or you can use wooden crates, cat litter containers or square buckets found a most donut or bakery shops. Use your imagination for this one.

Small Livestock Feeder:

Modified pallets can also make sturdy hay feeders for sheep and goats. Remove all the slats except those on the top and bottom. Use the removed slats to fill in the spaces on the back side. Now bolt the pallets together, side-by-side, at the top, middle and bottom to make a longer feeder or use just one pallet for a smaller feeder.

A welded livestock panel, purchased at a livestock supply company, or a cement reinforcing panel, available at most home improvement stores, is cut to size and placed on the inside of the feeder and nailed to the front slats. This allows animals to eat through the openings, but won’t let them climb into the feeder or walk on and soil the hay. You can attach hangers on smaller feeders so they can be hung on a fence. Larger feeders can be made stationary with “T” post supports.

Sheep/Goat Barn:

One of the best projects I’ve seen using salvaged pallets is a full sized sheep barn. The walls were built with pallets around a portable 10’ x 20’ carport, available at most home improvement or big box stores. 2’ x 6’s were laid out as the footing.

The carport was then bolted to the footing which was secured into the ground with rebar pins. This helps keep the carport form shifting laterally. The carports guideline anchors were attached high on the structure and placed several feet away from the building to stabilize it in high wind areas.

The interior walls were made by lining up similar sized pallets, the length of the carport, and capping them with 2” x 4’s. This project used 13 pallets, 5 for each side and 3 for the back wall. Once the walls were built they were fastened, top and bottom, to each carport post using flexible metal plumbers tape.

 The front of the barn was built using m more pallets and scrap lumber to mirror the shape of the carport opening. A salvaged door and windows were used for access to the barn and to bring in more light. The entire front was bolted to the wooden footing and fastened to the carport using the metal plumbers tape.That’s what I call farm girl ingenuity!

Stabilize the walls by screwing them together or use 2” x 4’s vertically on the front and screw it into the pallets. Dismantled pallets can be placed at an angle on top of the walls so the roof will be slanted.

Depending on the size of your shed, use a 2” x 4” or a 4” x 4” as a header on the front. At this point you can roof the shed with plywood, scrap lumber or salvaged roofing materials.

Firewood Shed:

Another great use for pallets is a firewood storage shed. Depending on the size of your wood pile, lay pallets side-by-side in either one row or two to make the floor. You can fasten them together by laying a piece of plywood over the top and screwing it into the pallets or you can screw them together from the underneath side as you lay out the floor. More pallets can be placed vertically around three sides to make up the walls of the shed. Leave the front open for easy access.

For more ideas on how to build with used pallets, Google “building with pallets”.

Your only limitation is your own imagination!

4 Responses to “5 Useful Farm Projects Made From Used Shipping Pallets”

  1. Julia says:

    These are great ideas. I’m going to show my husband the one for the firewood shed. We could really use it. Thanks

  2. chris @ backacrehomestead.com says:

    I love the chicken coop! Your compost bins look just like ours, you just have a bigger operation. We’ve been using pallets for our compost bins for 4 years or so.

  3. Donna Underwood Owens says:

    I am seriously considering building a pallet barn for my mini goats/ I wish to use six pallets on each side, 12 ft apart. One end will be closed off for hay. The other end will be the front end and wish to use cattle feed lot panels for the roof. Will lap them over half way on each. My question is how will this type roof fair in heavy snow country. ?

  4. jenn says:

    The cattle panels will give the roof stability, but will need a covering of some kind. Since writing this piece I’ve seen someone take the frame of a portable carport and attach corrigated roofing to it. That would be sturdy for snow and maybe less expensive than the cattle panels.

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