Buying a chicken coop can be an overwhelming process with so many styles and designs to choose from. The first time I bought a chicken coop, I had no idea about the choices I needed to make. I was clueless and would have benefited from a coop buying guide! Size, mobile or stationary, fenced run, vents, nesting box styles and the list goes on. Here are some tips to help you figure out the best type of chicken coop for your needs to make the coop buying process a success!
Buying a chicken coop vs Building a chicken coop
Before we go even further into tips on buying a chicken coop, let’s make sure we rule out that you want to buy a chicken coop instead of build your own chicken coop. We previously bought a chicken coop and we also built a chicken coop so we have experience with both of these options. If you are trying to decide which is the best option for you, my biggest question for you is do you have the time and resources to build a chicken coop?
My husband is quite handy so we embarked on building a chicken coop for our new batch of egg layer chicks a few years ago. We looked up some tutorials online and got to work. Unfortunately the project took a lot longer than we thought and ended up costing more money than we anticipated. We were trying to save money by building our own but in then end I think we would have been better off with buying a used chicken coop!
Chicken Coop Styles to Consider
- Coop Size: The first thing you need to think about is the size of your coop. Do you want to house four chickens or are you planning to go big and raise 40? Coop size is very important since it isn’t healthy to have too many chickens packed into a coop. The standard size ratio I’ve read is a recommendation of 3-4 square feet per chicken.
- Mobile Coop: A mobile coop is just that: one you can move around so the chickens can have access to new ground to forage. We had a large chicken coop built on an old camper trailer frame that could be moved around by the hitch. We also had a chicken coop we built out of lumber and a second hand dog kennel fence on skids that had a chain attached so it could be hauled by our four wheeler across the pasture. My new chicken coop is smaller and built with two front handles and two wheels in the back so it can be moved by human power. I have always preferred a mobile chicken coop since we’ve lived on acreage and have the space to move the coop around so the hens have a variety of ground to forage.
- Stationary Coop: If you have a small yard or let your chickens free range without an enclosed run, then a stationary coop may work well for you. A stationary coop does not have wheels or skids to make moving easier.
- Enclosed run or free range: If you have a small yard or don’t want your chickens out all the time with free reign to peck and dig wherever they choose, then an enclosed run might be a better choice. At our old homestead we had a large mobile chicken coop that we kept inside our 1/4 acre fenced garden 9 months out of the year so we let them free range inside the garden fencing. At our new homestead, our property is not fenced and we have had issues with neighboring dogs coming onto our property. We don’t want to take a chance with an unknown dog killing our chickens so we now have a coop with an enclosed run for safety reasons.
- Coop kit requiring assembly or pre-assembled: Buying a chicken coop kit like one of these that is shipped to your homestead is an option if you don’t have any local options. A coop kit should arrive with all the parts and pieces plus instructions to guide you in assembling the coop. If you don’t have the time to assemble a coop, buying a pre-assembled coop may be a better choice for you. I’ve always bought my second hand chicken coops on Craigslist. I know other people who have had success buying chicken coops in local Facebook buy/sell groups.
- Material quality: In Montana, we have a lot of heavy snow so need to have a durable coop that can withstand a variety of seasons. The first time I was shopping for a chicken coop, I went into the local farm supply store. From a distance the kit coops they sell looked so cute and I was smitten! Upon closer inspection of their store model, we were appalled at the low-grade quality materials used and the poor craftsmanship. That coop would not withstand the heavy snows we get in the winter! These kit coops also came with a steep price tag so we quickly realized our money was better spent elsewhere. We have seen much higher quality chicken coops for sale that have been hand made by local wood workers or Amish built coops. There are also a fair share of DIY-gone-wrong chicken coops on the local Craigslist; often these are sold for cheap or in the “Free” section. When looking at a coop, pay attention to the type of material it was made out of and the craftsmanship. Sometimes the cute chicken coop kits are nice on the eyes but not worth the money so do your homework and inspect a coop before you buy it!
- Nesting Boxes: The first two coops I owned did not have nesting boxes that could be accessed from the outside of the coop. Our biggest mobile coop had a back door where we entered the coop and went inside to collect eggs from the nesting boxes. I had multiple chickens, including our rooster, jump down from the upper roosting bars onto my head or back while collecting eggs so this was not a pleasant experience! Our second homemade coop had a big front door that lifted up so we could reach in to collect eggs. The only downside was if a chicken laid an egg in the far back corner of the coop just out of reach! My new coop has an exterior access door on top of the nesting boxes and makes collecting eggs so much easier. I won’t ever own another coop without exterior access to the nesting boxes!
- Pop Door style: Every chicken coop will have an access door for the chickens to exit/enter the coop. Our first chicken coop had a big back door we had to prop open. We eventually cut in a small door and installed one of these automatic door openers. They are an investment upfront, but so worth it!! This meant that morning and evening we didn’t have to go out and open/close the coop since the door opened when the sun came up and closed after it went down. It also saved us from having to pay someone to come take care of our chickens if we went camping for a few days so really it paid for itself! Our new coop has a string we pull from the exterior that opens the door to the run without us having to go inside the run. I have a feeling we’ll eventually invest in another automatic opener like we had on our old coop since we loved it so much!
- Ventilation: The coop should have some type of ventilation to allow air flow. This could be in the form of a window or a vent. Our first coop had a large window covered in chicken wire with a piece of Plexiglas fit in that we could remove in the summer. The coop we built had a vent like this on both ends. My new coop has a sliding window with a screen so it can be opened and closed just like the window in a house.
- Roosting bars: Chickens love to perch and most of my chickens prefer to sleep perched on a roost. The coop should have a roosting bar; the standard I’ve read is to have about 8″ of roosting space per chicken. Our first coop had multiple roosting bars at different heights throughout the big coop. The coop we built had one long roosting bar lengthwise across the coop.
If you’re shopping for a chicken coop, hopefully the tips in our coop buying guide will help you make the best coop choice for you and your flock!