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[This article is part of a series.  Start with part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, and part 6]

When we first got our chickens, I read online that you can make a chicken coop out of anything, but I didn’t believe it.  Now that we’ve had chickens for a while, and they’ve sometimes been able to wander all over our backyard, I’ve seen how they have made themselves comfortable in places other than their chicken coop.

You don’t need much to make chickens happy.  That’s the truth.

The most important thing about a chicken coop is that it provides your chickens with some shelter—it should protect them from the elements, and give them a place to roost (or, perch) while they sleep.  You should also give them a good place to lay eggs.  Really, that’s all you need.

Types of chicken coops

Tractor, or mobile chicken coop
A lot of people who live in cities or suburbs really like “tractor” or “mobile” chicken coops.  These chicken coops are usually relatively small—I think they would usually only provide enough space for 4-6 birds, maximum.  Some of them are probably only big enough for two birds.  The idea behind a mobile chicken coop is that it is…well…it’s mobile.  These chicken coops are usually enclosed on top, and then they have a little plank to go downstairs into a chicken run area that is open on bottom, with chicken fencing to enclose the sides.  These chicken coops are great for people who don’t want (or can’t have) chickens roaming all over the yard, or for people who want to limit the areas that the birds can access without putting up a whole lot of fencing throughout the yard.  The chickens are still able to enjoy grass and peck around (the way chickens should), and your lawn is fertilized with their waste.  When you’re ready (usually before they completely tear up your grass), you lift the chicken coop and move it to a new area of the lawn so that they can fertilize and scratch up another area of the yard.  They don’t damage the lawn like they do if they are confined to a small area.  This is a great option for people who have a limited amount of space and want their birds to have good access to bugs and grass.

A small chicken coop.
We have a fairly small chicken coop that we bought from a local guy who used to be a construction worker and started building chicken coops when the economy went bad.  You can buy these from a local country store for $400-600, depending on whether you want an attached chicken run or not.  These coops are usually meant to stay in one place.  When we bought ours, it was unfinished, so we bought some reddish paint that was supposed to withstand heavy weather, and we painted our coop.  If you buy one from a store they are usually already painted.  On ours, both halves of the roof lift up, and that’s how we collect eggs.

A medium or large chicken coop.
If you want a medium or large chicken coop, it will certainly stay in one place, and you will probably need to build this yourself.  (Or pay someone a lot of money to make it for you.)  Some people go all out, and they make chicken coops tall enough for people to enter.  You could also convert any sort of shed into a chicken coop.

How to get a chicken coop
You can:

  • Buy a used chicken coop from someone who used to keep chickens but doesn’t anymore.  (This is a very good option, if you’re able to find something like this.)
  • Buy a brand new chicken coop either from a local store or online.  Some places will ship pre-assembled chicken coops.
  • Build a chicken coop.  If you’re handy (and even if you’re not), there are many, many free plans online for chicken coops.  Sometimes you can even find instructions that come with pictures.  There are also several sets of plans out there that you can buy online.  If you really like those coops better than other ones, by all means, go for it, but I would never pay for chicken coop plans–there are too many good free plans.
  • Recycle something not meant for chickens.  I’ve heard of people using an old kids’ playhouse as a chicken coop.  With a few modifications this would work fine.  A dog house could also be modified to be a good chicken coop.  Any sort of shed could be turned into a good chicken coop.

So, this has just been an overview of chicken coops–the most common kinds of chicken coops, and where you get them.  We will continue looking at chicken coops next time, in greater detail.

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