Working glass window adds charm and protects chickens. Features six large nesting boxes. Easy assembly. Owners rave that chickens love climbing the ramp.
While assembly isn't hard, it takes between 2 to 8 hours.
Fits up to four smaller chickens. Removable bottom tray for easy cleaning. Lightweight and quick to put together. Doors lock to keep out predators. Easy to add attachments.
Must weatherproof the wood with stain or outdoor paint. Some owners added a base and replaced screens.
Comfortable fit for up to four chickens, depending on their size. Features galvanized mesh-enclosed run so chickens can exercise. Stylish design that's easy to assemble with just a drill or screwdriver. Easy access to eggs.
If you don't plan on free-ranging, you may need to attach more walking space.
One of the least expensive models on the market. Fits between 2 to 4 chickens. One section of the roof comes off so you can easily clean the coop. Easy to put together.
Thin wood means you may have to replace the coop in a few years.
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Thanks to the growth in popularity of locally grown and sourced food, the backyard coop has made a comeback – even in urban areas. Along with homegrown vegetables, the lure of fresh, warm, organic eggs just waiting to be collected every day means more people are getting into keeping backyard chickens.
If you have a desire for the pastoral lifestyle with chickens clucking in the yard, you’ll need to invest in a good coop that will fit your budget, lifestyle and backyard situation as well as being a happy house for your hens. Keep reading to learn all about chicken coops, and check out our top recommendations when you’re ready to buy one.
There are two types of coop: movable (called chicken tractors or arks) and standalone.
Movable coops are on wheels and are perfect for anyone interested in permaculture. They can be moved around to give the chickens fresh ground where they scratch up the soil and eat the bugs and weed seeds. They never have to be cleaned, either – you simply move the coop and let the manure act as fertilizer for the garden (or even lawn). While this can work for some urban garden backyards or suburban or rural homeowners with lots of property, it’s not suitable for very small yards.
Standalone coops are the more common option, and the variability of size and style means you can find one to fit any size yard or landscape. Usually they are built on a frame, which adds protection against predators and weather. Some sit directly on the ground, although if made of wood, the contact with the soil could lead to rot or rodent infiltration.
Chickens only use the coop at night, so unless you are free-ranging your hens, a chicken run is an important part of the setup.
It’s important to get the correct size for the number of chickens you have. It’s not just a question of creature comfort – cramped conditions lead to stress and all sorts of undesirable behaviors, like pecking other chickens, eating eggs, and even death. Disease and parasites are also more likely.
For happy, healthy hens, the rule of thumb is about 2 to 3 square feet per chicken for the coop, with 8 to 10 square feet per chicken in an outside run. Larger is always better, if you have the space. Note, however, that you don’t need an individual nesting box in the coop for each chicken – chickens lay their eggs at different times, and several hens will use the same nesting boxes throughout the course of the day.
Most coops use rot-resistant wood such as cedar, redwood or hardwoods. Other woods like Douglas fir, spruce, or pine should be treated with a nontoxic sealer. Pressure-treated wood is rot resistant but is best used only where it comes into contact with the ground and not where chickens roost, since it may contain chemicals. Wooden coops can also be stained or painted to to protect them from weathering and to match your home.
Fiberglass and plastic coops, however, are economical, extremely low maintenance and highly durable, although they may not have as much visual appeal as a wooden coop.
Consider how much work you want to put into your coop. Some come fully built, but for the most part there will be some assembly required, with a varying degree of effort needed.
Coops should offer protection from the elements in all seasons so consider the climate where you live. If you get a lot of rain or snow, consider a raised coop that gets the hens off of damp ground. Make sure you place the coop in a well drained area and not in a spot where water will pool. Roof material is also key depending on the weather in your area.
Good airflow is essential, and not just for warm weather. Dampness from the moisture of hens’ breath and manure will result in cold temperatures and even frostbite in cold weather. Rooftop ventilation gives good airflow without causing drafts. Consider items like louvre doors on the roof, or hardware cloth screen doors. In cold climates, chickens may need a heat lamp inside the coop during the winter, so keep this in mind when selecting a coop.
Chickens need access to clean, fresh water at all times, as well as food. Putting the water and food inside the coop ensures other animals won’t get into it, so make sure your coop has enough room for both food and water containers, with easy access for you to check and refill the containers.
While not every chicken needs a nesting box, there needs to be at least one box for every four chickens. At night, chickens like to roost elevated above the ground and huddled together, so providing a horizontal roosting pole or branch inside the coop ensures your flock feels cozy and safe.
There are a lot of critters who would like to make the eggs – as well as the hens – their lunch, too. Coyotes, dogs, raccoons, skunks, weasels, foxes, owls, and hawks are all enemies to your backyard flock. A coop that can keep these predators out is essential. The hens will also need to feel safe in order to keep laying. Make sure windows are covered in hardware cloth (mesh-welded wire) or screen, not chicken wire which is easily bent.
A raised coop that’s off the ground keeps out animals that approach low. (This also has the benefit of keeping any wooden frame parts off the damp ground and helps prevent rot.) A metal predator-proof hen door, preferably with a bolt, is also a must. Automatic doors are available that will shut and lock in your flock at night.
It happens, so make sure your coop is easy to access for cleaning. Some models have removable manure trays, so you can scrape out the waste straight into the compost pile.
You’ll need a door for you to get access and provide food and water, collect the eggs and for cleaning the nesting boxes. If the door for chickens to access is off the ground, providing a ramp is helpful, especially for smaller chickens or as they get older.
The hens’ laying cycle is dependent on the length of the day, so for short winter months, consider a hanging light, which will keep them laying longer. If you are using a heat lamp, the light it emanates should be sufficient.
Make sure there are no gaps for mice and other critters to squeeze through. Rats, moles, and voles have been known to dig under from the outside of the coop, too, and find a way through the floor, so make sure your floor doesn’t have any access points, either.
You don’t need a rooster for hens to lay eggs – they will naturally produce an unfertilized egg every 24-48 hours. Keeping roosters may require permits in some areas, and can cause issues with your neighbors if they don’t like early morning alarms. The only reason to have a rooster is if you are breeding fancy hens.
You can get a basic coop for four hens for about $150. Large walk-in enclosures for around 25 hens will run about $5,000, although the sky’s the limit for custom poultry palaces. For a good coop for 8-10 hens expect to pay about $400.
Check with your town to see if backyard chickens are allowed, and if so, whether you need a permit. Luckily the move to local, organic foods has given rise to a liberal approach in many areas, but there may be limitations.
Some ordinances may limit you to only hens (roosters are loud and many neighbors don’t like the early wake-up call), the size of the flock, and the dimensions of the coop, and there may be design constraints, too.
You may also be limited in where you can keep the coop (e.g., within 15 feet of your property line). You may also need to get your neighbor’s approval before installing a coop. If you have a homeowners association, you’ll need to check those rules, too.
Nesting materials are usually made of straw, wood shavings, sand, or hay, but if you want to be really eco-conscious you can get creative and use grass clippings, shredded leaves, or recycled paper.
The Merax coop is a great choice for a small space, with room for up to three chickens. It’s a traditional design that’s well made, assembles easily and comes complete with a fenced-in outside run. Some customers use multiple coops for larger flocks. For your more modern urban hen, check out New Age Pet’s ecoFLEX Fontanta chicken barn. The design is contemporary, it requires no tools to assemble and the recycled wood/polymer blend is non-toxic and durable. It’s also small (for just two or three hens) and an enclosed attachable chicken run can be purchased separately.
Q. How many nesting boxes do I need?
A.Allow one 12x12 nesting box per four hens, with one or two inches of nesting material. Overcrowding the flock can have negative consequences, since the hens may accidentally break the eggs. If that happens they are inclined to eat them, and when that starts it can be a hard habit to stop.
Q. What age do chickens have to be before they can use the coop?
A.While fluffy chicks are cute, they will need special care indoors before they can go outside. Pullets (12-16 weeks old) can safely go in outdoor coops. They should start laying eggs at age 22-28 weeks. If you live in a colder climate, make sure you have adequate heat in the coop, especially for young hens.
Q. Will the chickens go into the coop by themselves or will I have to tempt them in?
A. It’s best to confine them in the coop for a few days so they can feel safe and recognize it as home. (Don’t do this in the heat of summer or hot spells when the coop will overheat during the day.) The hens will imprint the coop as home, and you’ll soon see the meaning of the saying “going home to roost” as they happily take themselves to bed each night, usually when the sun goes down.
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