Rearing chickens can almost be like raising children. One, both names have almost the same letters. Two, you worry about housing them and keeping them safe. Three, you worry about when they fall ill. And four, you worry about feeding them
, ad infinitum. No doubt, a huge burden of responsibility comes with raising chickens even though it isn’t without its rewards: collecting fresh eggs for poaching
and other recipes, environment-friendly (and free!) manure, some fun, learning opportunities for the kids, etc.
But when it comes to choosing a coop, is it us or does it feel like the burden of responsibility triples? We know well that it’s so easy for the worst to happen; you could choose a coop with a poor security system and your chickens end up being doomed to predators. Choose one that’s not large enough, and your chickens become rascals, probably even physically ill, and worst-case scenario, handicapped. Or choose one that requires high maintenance and you spend the money that you should have used on your brood to take care of a coop that should actually be taking care of your birds.
It’s so easy to get the wrong chicken coop, especially with fakes all over the place like viruses. There are so many things to put into consideration before choosing a coop for your precious birds; birds vary in their type and needs, so one bird’s coop might be another’s prison. But generally, all birds can thrive in the same coop.
Also, chickens have an actual pecking order. There’s always the alpha bird, so if you want peace to reign, we advise that you give your birds space (about 3 or 4 feet per bird) and don’t cramp them. If you don’t, you might just be setting up the opening act for a free-for-all, that you’d have to be a certain kind of evil to enjoy. And you’re not that. So watch it.
Predators! We do not want them anywhere near our chickens. So, we will ensure that all doors and other entrances (the nesting box for instance) are lockable and the locks work! Galvanized, heavy-duty bolts are a great idea that we will definitely implement.
And who says that you can’t get your “va-va-voom” on, even with your chicken coop. Because, a “va-va-voom” is an absolute most, you can get your backyard popping with an attractively colored coop that’s of course well able to perform its duties. The good thing about painted coops (they mostly come in wood) is that you can be sure that they’ll stand not just the test of time, but the harsh test of elements too.
Just before you go, a word on BS (lol). Replace “bull” with “bird” and you’re safe. So, you will definitely need a compost bin
. You certainly cannot “va-va-voom” in a stinky yard. It’s physiologically and “va-va-voomically” impossible. With a good compost bin, you can generate enough safe manure for your farm (if you run one) and/or for your neighbors. Go across the street and gift your neighbor with a well-deserved serving of composted BS, won’t you? (Strictly the one we discussed, of course).
There’s a wide range of prices for chicken coops depending on what you (and your pocket) would like. We didn’t even bother with cheap chicken coops because the ones we found looked frail, like they could be brought down even by a gentle breeze. And many of them looked very tight and unsanitary for the birds, too. So, no, don’t even think about them.
Rather, save up, if you must, and get your birds a coop they’ll be grateful for (they could even lay you a couple more eggs out of gratitude!). Prices generally range from about $150 to about $700 plus, if you factor in the type of materials used, the capacity, and the works.
Chicken coops differ from brand to brand, no doubt. But then again, there are some basic ground rules that a chicken coop must obey before it qualifies to even be called a chicken coop. Listed below are some of the features that you might want to check and ascertain before you make a choice of where your chickens will be spending a good part of their lives:
- Size and Capacity
- Nesting Boxes
- Lock System
- Ease of Cleaning and Egg Collection
- The Run Area
We will go into detail shortly.
Construction and Design
When it comes to construction and design, there are two main types of chicken coops:
- Portable Chicken Coop: Sometimes called a tractor chicken coop, this is best used with a small space and a few chickens. It usually comes with a fence surrounding a living area, handles, and wheels on one end of the house, much like a wheelbarrow. Ensure that your tractor coop is light enough to be lifted; otherwise, it defeats the entire purpose of getting a tractor coop in the first place.
- Stationary Chicken Coop: Also called a fixed or permanent chicken coop, this kind will work with almost any amount of space since they come in different sizes. Smaller coops, though, should only be considered if you only intend to keep the chickens in at night alone, as the space will be too cramped for them to stay in perpetually.
Either type of coop can be made from a wide variety of materials such as metal, plastic or wood, but whichever you choose, it is essential that you choose materials that can both withstand the elements from the weather on the outside, as well as the "elements" from the chickens on the inside, and proper ventilation is an absolute MUST!
What if your intended coop doesn’t have a good ventilation system?
Short answer: Avoid! Long answer: You are setting your birds up for disaster, and yourself up for a major heartbreak. Why? Because your chickens will poop and their poop contains ammonia. And ammonia, if left in a tight room, can accumulate till it gets to a toxic level. And toxic and your chickens should never co-exist in the same sentence, much less in the same room. You’re getting the picture now, aren’t you?
Your coop should have at least two ventilation points for the sake of cross-ventilation. Even more preferably, ensure that your coop has a vent close to the roof; chickens don’t fare well in a draft. Still on your vents: Some will be adjustable, some won’t. If adjustable, opening or closing your vent will really be more a matter of common sense than any straitjacket rule. But then, if your vents are widely spaced, reinforce with wire mesh to keep predators out. Some of these animals are animals. ‘nuff said.
Hens normally perch higher up. Apparently, they took that from their wilder relations. Based on this premise, therefore, your perches should be high enough, wide enough, flat enough on the surface, and round enough at the edges for a good grip. Your perches should be long enough to take more than one bird as birds like to roost closely together in the cold. A good idea might be to go for a removable perch so cleaning is easier.
Nesting boxes should ideally be lower than the perch in position. Remember that birds love to perch as high as possible, so if the nesting box is higher than the perch, guess where they’ll roost? You got it. And you can be sure that your darling eggs will be all messed by poop and all if they aren’t already broken or cracked by the time you get to them. By the way, eew!
No gainsaying, your coop should be properly constructed from durable materials that will stand the test of time and many other things. The wood should be finished, galvanized steel and metal hinges should be rustproof and not defective, and the coop itself must sit on a solid base and be of a sound structure.
Performance and Ease of Use
Usually, hens prefer to lay in a dark, quiet place due to their vulnerability during their laying period. So, since you now know this, you might want to try to get a nesting coop that’s easy to clean, and maybe divided into compartments. Many brands provide compartmentalized boxes, so that more than one hen can comfortably lay at once. If they don’t, just get one for yourself or construct one. They are pretty easy to get.
Since you’ll be collecting eggs every other day, you sure won’t want to have too much difficulty doing so. Really, it’s just egg collection. It should never be difficult. Well, thankfully, most coops come with direct access to the nesting box so you can collect your eggs without stress.
Also, your coop must be kept clean for the sake of your chickens’ health. A rule of thumb is to clean on a weekly basis at least. During your cleaning, you’ll need to change the old beddings, the dirt, and give the whole coop a total hose down, generally. Understandably, this sounds hard and time-consuming but a good coop should give you little or no issues cleaning out the place.
If a coop comes with removable perches, detachable nesting boxes, and easy access (a roof that opens wide, a large door, etc), it will facilitate an even easier and faster cleaning. If a coop with such features falls within your budget, we advise you to get it. Pronto!
Generally, treat your coop annually with preservatives even if they come pre-treated. It’s wood after all, people. Wood! These things age with time. So, for the love of birds, treat your coop. And make sure the treatment is non-toxic to you, your animal, and your environment. Don’t go blaming the manufacturer for something that’s the fault of time and nature. Not cool. Coops age with time so get ready to repair leaking roofs, broken latches, rotten timber, etc. If the coop becomes too dilapidated, just change the entire thing and invest in a new and stronger one. Learn to draw the line between when to fix what’s broken and when to, you know, just crush it to bits and get new stuff.
Now this is the reason you might need a run. Your birds need to stretch; you know that already, but you also know that your garden or yard does not need to stink at all. So that’s where the run comes in. It gives your birds an outdoor feel in a safe environment. So, if your coop doesn’t come with a run, getting one might not be so bad.
On protection, we know that you need all your doors, hinges, and latches secure, but they should still be easily accessible to you. If not, cleaning? You’ll hate it. Also, in times of an emergency, reaching your chickens might be impossible (you’re panicking and all, and therefore not functioning at max capacity). Keep all openings well-secure, but easily accessible.
Finally, to get the best out of your coop, combine it with accessories such as: feeders, waterers, and cleaning supplies. These things are usually affordable and almost always pay off in the end.
So now you’ve read through the guide we put together just for you. Your question now might be: where do I get a coop with all these features? Don’t worry; we’ve added a comprehensive review of the best chicken coops immediately after this section. Grab your checklist and pick the coop that works for you and your birdies.
You’re a good farmer/pet owner, deserving only the best coop available. We know this because you’ve stayed with us throughout this review. Thank you. Now, your chicken coop awaits you, ready to serve. Make that purchase!