Which is best for you, to buy or to build your new coop?
I have wrestled with this question before, for quite some time; you may be doing the same now. And of course, along with the question to buy or to build your new chicken coop, comes many other questions!
How much money do I want to spend on my new chicken coop?
Is my new chicken coop location going to be permanent or temporary?
What size chicken coop and how many laying boxes do I need for my current and future flock?
From what type of predators do I need to protect my flock and how do I do that well?
What style, design features, and specific functions do I like in a chicken coop?
valid concerns any chicken owner may ponder about a new chicken coop
And the list can go on. Fortunately for you, I have been there too!
I’m here to share all the questions I encountered while processing my decision to buy or build my new chicken coop and the resolve I came to for each!
Acquiring a new coop can be such an exciting time for any chicken owner, new and experienced! So let’s make sure you have some fun along the way! For example, there’s not a thing wrong with wanting a cute coop, that is also practical and functional!
What I learned at the beginning of Chicken Parenthood
When I first started out as a chicken mom, and for the next few years to follow, I “repurposed” odd ball spaces into chicken coops: an old horse stall converted into a coop, an old shed converted into a coop, and so on. Repurposing could definitely fall into the category of building a coop, because it usually involves some sort of minimal construction at the least; laying boxes, roosts, and fencing most likely.
I describe the beginnings of my chicken motherhood to say: when it comes to the question of how much money you would like to spend on your “new” chicken coop, this is probably the most cost effective way to start out in the chicken biz.
Although this may be the most cost effective, not everyone who wants to start out with chickens has the option of a vacant space suitable and safe for new feathered friends.
Buying vs. Building your new coop:
So here’s my breakdown of cost levels, least to most expensive, for acquiring a new chicken coop: repurposed already existing space (shed, stall, etc.), DIY chicken coop, and then ready-made coop. Now, when comparing the DIY chicken coop and the ready-made coop, you need to make sure it is an apples to apples comparison in regard to coop size, nesting box quantity, structural quality, aesthetics, and run space (if needed).
Also, while taking cost into consideration, the chicken owner’s level of experience needs to play a role as well. From what I’ve observed, commercially made chicken coops are already built with most of a chicken’s needs in mind. Some of these needs take years of experience owning chickens to learn.
So if your new to these fantastic food producing creatures, you may prioritize purchasing a ready–made coop to start out. This way you can pretty much rest assured that your chickens will have everything they need in their new home.
You will be able to take the time with the ready-made coop to observe and understand exactly what your specific flock prefers as well. Chickens are quite quirky characters and each has their own personality. You’re going to have so much fun learning all about them!
buying vs. building your new coop:
Location, location, location: a very important consideration when mulling around your new coop ideas. My thought on this matter: most DIY coops are heavy. In the paragraphs below, I will explain this thought further for you.
Is your new coop location just for a little while or a forever place? The answer to this question will play a major role in which type of coop may be best for you and your flock. If you’re having to think about location, then you most likely are not repurposing an existing space; so it’s safe to assume you are comparing the options of buying or building.
Permanent Coop Location
DIY coops, not wheeled chicken tractors, are typically built with a lifetime in mind. If done well and with quality materials, these fortresses have the ability to last for years on years. With structural stability and stature also comes a lot of weight. You definitely don’t want to attempt moving one of these puppies too often! But this does not mean you absolutely can not build your own coop. Just read further for your hopes to be revived!
Temporary Coop Location
If your heart is just longing for that project coop and you don’t have a permanent location in mind, there are ways to build lighter weight or at least mobile DIY coops aka Chicken Tractors. A chicken tractor would fill the need for a temporary coop location, and be very handy for keeping your flock on fresh flora. Chicken tractors suite well for locations that free ranging may not be a good option because they allow for that free range feel while still providing constant protection when predator activity is high.
The other option for a more temporary location would be to purchase a coop. Ready-made coops are inherently light weight because of the type of material used to manufacturer them. The only downfall to this lightweight material is that it will most likely not last as long as a made-from-scratch coop. If you’re looking for a more temporary or starter coop setup, this may not be too big of a concern for you.
Buying vs. Building your new coop:
laying boxes, chicken coop & run sizes
In furthering the previous thoughts on DIY coop weight, the majority of this implied weight also depends on the size and materials you choose for your DIY coop. So, let’s talk a little bit about the living and laying space needs for your flock.
Firstly and quickly, I want to introduce you to one of my favorite resources for anything chicken. Backyardchickens.com has been the top site from which I have gained most of my chicken knowledge. Backyardchickens.com not only has a great search engine but also provides wonderful connections within the chicken tender community.
Specifically, on the topic of chicken coop size and laying box needs for your flock, Backyardchickens.com provides real time perspective from all different types of chicken owners. You are welcome to read a specific article here in regard to the best coop size and laying box needs for your flock.
number of laying boxes
In summary, from my personal experience and from reading about the experiences of other established chicken owners, the general consensus for recommended laying boxes per hen is 1 box for every 2-3 hens.
I have had great success and very happy hens when following this suggestion. Laying hens are funny little gals! For example, they will all decide they prefer one laying box over the other 6 they may have available. It is still important to make sure they have plenty of options nonetheless. Now let’s talk about coop and run dimensions, the most important space requirements for your flock.
Chicken coop & Run dimensions
As I have learned, and sometimes the hard way, it is extremely important to have enough room for your chickens to live; because chickens are like teenagers in the summertime, they get bored easily!
When chickens get bored, they get stressed, which leads to illness and failure to thrive. That is why I want to make sure to impress the utmost importance on the topic of coop and run dimensions.
The information available on the topic of coop and run size requirements varies from one end of the spectrum to another. With that said, I will speak strictly from what I have learned from personal experience and, therefore, witnessed with my own eyes.
The general rule I follow is a very minumum of 2-3 square feet of coop space and 12-14 square feet of run space per chicken. This is absolutely on the roomy side of most of the suggestions you will find elsewhere, but I have seen the difference just a few square feet of living space can make in the overall health and happiness of a flock.
Here is an example of a lesson I learned, the hard way.
Remember my horse stall-coop repurpose I described earlier? Well, lets just say my little excited chicken momma heart got a little too excited when I was placing my bitty order to establish my new flock in my newly renovated chicken coop stall.
The horse stall coop was approximately 8 feet wide by 20 feet long, which is 160 square feet. This cutie horse stall coop had an open concept floor plan, with the laying boxes and roosts on the interior wall of the coop and a shared run space throughout. Once this sweet little coop was all set up I couldn’t place my hatchery order fast enough! Surely my awesome 160 square foot, blood sweat and tears chicken coop was plenty roomy enough for the minimum 15 chick order, right?
Things were going great for the first few months of my quickly growing, now pullets’, first adventures in their new coop! Then they grew, and grew, and things changed. As my hens matured and became bored with their slightly too small space, they became stressed. They started pecking each other, molting a little too often, and not laying eggs as well as they should have. They were not happy and it broke my heart!
Not only because they were obviously unhappy, but I quickly figured out that I would have to let go of some of my girls. I was able to rehome 3 of my hens to a fellow chicken momma. Sure enough, it wasn’t long until my remaining hens started to relax. Their feathers got their fluff back and the yummy eggs were back in production! All they needed was a little more room!
Free Range Chickens
Nowadays, I love to free range my gals. I don’t have to worry about them getting bored and, because of all the variety in their diets from foraging, their eggs taste amazing!
However, this is not necessarily a safe option for everyone. I would only recommend free ranging your flock under certain circumstances:
- if you have a safe, predator free, daytime yard or pasture for your flock to forage
- supervise your flock’s outings
- have a trustworthy guardian dog, donkey, or mule, that you feel could protect your flock from predators
- have a safe place for your flock to escape from birds of prey
Another top priority when contemplating the best coop for you and your flock, equally as important as living space, is predator protection. Chickens are basically defenseless, especially at night when predators are most active. So let’s talk about how to keep your precious producers safe and sound!
Buying vs. Building your new coop:
Safety & Predator Protection
As I mentioned in the paragraph above, our feathered friends seriously lack in the defense department. They are extremely easy prey for all types of predators, which vary depending on where you live. These are the predators we Louisianians have to protect our flocks against:
- hawks and other birds of prey
- chicken chasing domestics, such as dogs and large cats
The location of your coop and the inherent predator activity of that location will be the determining factor of what type of reinforcements you may need to add to your coop, if any.
The advice I provided when discussing free range chickens applies here as well. If you have some sort of guardian animal that shares the same area as your flock, you will have a little less to worry about when it comes to predator activity. Therefore, the need for extra reinforcement wanes.
If you decide to buy your new coop, the most common type of reinforcement any ready made coop or run may need is just a larger gauge wire around the areas that are fenced. It’s even more effective if you dig a trench 6 to 12 inches into the ground and allow the heavier gauge wire to continue into the ground.
Birds of prey are a little easier to protect your flock from. If you have your chickens in a run, you just want to make sure you have , at minimum, some sort of netting, wire, or roofing over the run.
Whether you buy or build your new chicken coop, and if you decide to free range your chickens, you want to make sure they have ample opportunities to hide from their adversaries. When it comes to hiding from hawks and such, chickens are actually very much aware of their flying foes. If they hear a hawk, they are heading for the coop or under the closest bush!
buying vs. building your new coop:
Next up, the most fun part of a new coop for my architecture loving self: style and functionality! Read on my friend! Find out how easy it is to have a super cute and functional chicken coop, whether you buy or build!
First, an important point: sufficient size, functionality, and safety should be at the core of your decisions when you’re buying or building your new chicken coop. This is very important. When it all boils down, it is much more important to have happy, healthy chickens and efficient chicken care capabilities.
All that to say, you can check all of these boxes and have an aesthetically pleasing coop too! Woo hoo!!
There are so many different styles of chicken coops out there today! Below, I will discuss my method of choosing a coop style.
As many of you may have done, or plan to do, I scoured Pinterest and Google for the perfect chicken coop. I searched ready-made options and DIY plans galore! This was actually one of the major factors that led me to decide to build our most recent coop, as pictured above.
I love this coop so much I shared all of the details in a recent blog post, DIY Farmhouse Chicken Coop!
This love grew from the hours upon hours of research that led to me finding “the one”. I have a feeling you will know what I mean soon when you find your “one”!
How to find your Chicken coop style
Here are my suggestions for narrowing down your chicken coop style:
- Once you have figured out the size coop you need, as we discussed earlier, you can perform a google image search for that size coop. For example, “6×6 chicken coop with 4 laying boxes”. This image search will help you narrow down the proportional look that your coop will achieve.
- You will notice, once you start to scroll through your search results, your style will most likely be more prevalent with a certain supplier (i.e. Tractor Supply, Amazon, etc.)
- If you have decided to buy your new coop, start clicking on links!
- If you decided to build your coop, notice the titles of the coop images you are fond of from your image search. Use these style descriptions (i.e. farmhouse chicken coop, modern chicken coop, etc.) to bring on over to a plan search.
- Google search, for example, “farmhouse style 4 laying box chicken coop plans”, then follow the links you love! You will most likely find yourself headed to Pinterest, just like I did.
Make sure to check out our DIY Farmhouse Chicken Coop if your thinking about building. The tips offered in this post are helpful for any chicken coop build, regardless of the set of plans you decide to use!
Whether you decide to buy or to build your new coop, these products are super helpful when caring for your flock!
Just in case you’re new to the world of chickens, I wanted to make sure to share these staples with you. I know I always wished I would have had someone share a go-to chicken care kit with me when I first started out with my girls!
If you’re an experienced “chicken tender” already, then you have probably used most of these products or versions of these products at some point. If you haven’t used these yet, it’s just a matter of time until you will need them. I always keep these items on hand!
So here you go, my go-to chicken care items, all in one handy list!
Just click the image to shop the item!
Thank you again for stopping by, I’m so glad you did! I sure hope you have found this post helpful!
Make sure to subscribe to our newsletter below to follow along as I share more tips, tricks, to-do’s and what-not-to-do’s about our home, growing farm, & family!
To learn more about the gal behind Home on Magnolia Hill, click here.
For more helpful posts from Home on Magnolia Hill, check out the links below!