Coop Choices: How to shop for your backyard birds’ home

Published on Mon, 03/05/2018 - 8:45am

Spring is approaching, and if you are planning on starting a new flock with baby chicks, you have about eight weeks from the time you get them before they are ready to head outside to the coop. So, what coop will you choose? The coop is the most expensive item when it comes to your backyard flock. It’s also arguably the most important.

The top two questions to ask yourself when choosing a coop are:

  • Is it predator proof?
  • Will it be easy to clean?

With those two guidelines in mind, read on to learn all about the different coop choices you will encounter when you start shopping around.

Build your own

If you are handy, have the necessary tools, and extra time on your hands, you might want to consider building your own coop. This way you can incorporate things in your coop that you can’t find in any mass-produced coop, like roll-away nest boxes. I personally think every coop should have these, but unfortunately, they don’t.

By building your own, you can have the size, style, and quality you want, and it may even save some money—I have even seen some coops that were made from all recycled and repurposed materials, and while somewhat functional, most were not all that pretty to look at.

This may or not matter to you, but it is something to consider, especially if you live in a subdivision with close neighbors. Needless to say, building a coop can be a great experience for the family and makes your backyard chicken journey that much more memorable.

Buy your own

If you’re not handy, you will probably just purchase a coop, and that is just fine. The first thing to consider is your budget. Chicken coops on the market today range from $199 to well over $3,000, and some of the chicken coop mansions are upwards of $4,000 to $6,000.

That’s still nowhere close to the $100,000 chicken coop featured in the Neiman Marcus Fantasy Christmas Catalog a few years back, but coops can vary in price considerably.

So where do you start? Well, just about anywhere! Amazon sells chicken coops. So does Costco, Tractor Supply, and yep even the gourmet chef’s store Williams-Sonoma sells them. It seems that it would be much easier and a much shorter list to name who doesn’t sell chicken coops these days! So, let your fingers do the walking on your computer.

Price-sensitive prefabs?

First, lets talk about the less expensive prefab retail boxed coops that are flooding the market from China. These will range in price from $199 to $499. Some may work their way up to the $750 range, but that is the exception, not the rule. These coops do have a purpose, and they sell a ton of them. Considering the old saying, “You get what you pay for,” at the end of the day, price is still king, and these coops are winning the price war.

That said, you really do get what you pay for. If you look at the reviews on these coops, they are all over the place. So, what have I seen firsthand about these coops? I have seen some last for several years, and I have seen some ready for the trash pile in less than a year. I guess this explains the mixed reviews, but it’s true.

I will say if I were to purchase one of these coops, I would do two things the day I purchased it. First, I would coat it with some good water-seal, and then I would do what I could to enforce it to make it more predator proof. I will say, if this is your first try at backyard chickens, have a very limited budget, and don’t want to dump a boat load of money finding out if this new hobby is for you or not, these coops may be the way to go. Just know upfront the challenges these coops will have over the months (and possibly years if they actually last that long).

It’s a snap!

Next, lets talk about the plastic snap together coops that have recently entered the market. I have tested these first hand in my backyard, but I have also seen them in action and spoken to a number of people that have these.

It seems like people either love them or hate them. I do, however, hear from women who that purchased them because they just snap together in a matter of minutes with no tools or very limited tools. Many say they loved the fact they were easy to put together, but they soon find out they are quite small, seem to get very hot in the summer, and have very limited ventilation.

Priced between $350 and $750, they are in-line with the prefab retail boxed coops coming from China, but appeal to some folks because they are a “snap” to put together. I successfully raised flocks in these coops even in the hot summers of south Georgia without any issues. They are marginal when it comes to being predator proof. I never had a predator attack, but my backyard setup would not allow for that anyway.

Custom-made coops

Finally, lets talk about the custom coops that are out there. Most are made out of wood, but there are some fiberglass ones out there too! Back in the day, most of them were built by the Amish, but now days, there are a number of companies building them all over the country. There are classic designs you see everyone making, but some are very unique!

These will start around $499 for a small 3’x4’ coop, and go up to around $3500 for a 6’x8’ coop. At this price, most will be quite predator proof based on the higher-quality materials used. They will also have all the necessary items included like roosts and nesting boxes. (However, none that I know of are including roll-away nest boxes, and that’s unfortunate.)

They will also in most cases have real windows that open and close, provide poop trays under the roosts, and even a floor door to make sweeping out the old bedding a breeze! They will also have a ton of options and upgrades you can choose from. It all depends on hoe much money you want to spend.

Kicking the tires

I guess one could say that coop shopping is not all unlike car shopping. There are a lot of options out there, you get what you pay for, and they can range greatly in price. Just remember those top two questions I mentioned above when choosing a coop, and that will be a good start in choosing the right coop for your backyard.

Until next time,

Power to the Poultry!