One of the biggest trends that bloomed over the past year? Cottagecore—the embrace of countryside living and the activities that go along with it, like baking bread, gardening and even raising chickens. If you’re just starting off with the latter and about to get your first flock, this beginner’s guide to chicken coops for your backyard will help get you going.
Selecting a proper chicken coop is one of your first steps to fulfilling your cottagecore fantasies and raising chickens, whether for companionship or for the freshest eggs you can imagine.
Read on to see how to choose the perfect chicken coop for your backyard and first flock.
What to Look for in a Chicken Coop for Your Backyard
Treat your new feathery friends to a well-made chicken coop that provides them with adequate space to live comfortably.
Structure and Size
“Chickens don't take up a lot of space, but they do need both a coop to sleep in and lay their eggs, as well as a pen (also referred to as a run) to spend their days,” explains says Lisa Steele, a fifth-generation chicken keeper in Maine and founder of Fresh Eggs Daily.
At the end of the day, there’s no “perfect” chicken coop design, but every good coop shares the following structure features, according to Steele:
- At least 3 square feet of chicken-coop space, per adult chicken
- At least 10 square feet of pen space, per adult chicken
- Year-round ventilation so the chickens can get fresh air
- Windows that open and close depending on the weather
- Roosting bars to sleep on (wide branches or 2x4 boards both work)
- At least 8-inches of roosting space per hen
Be especially mindful of the ventilation (look for a coop with ventilation slats). Steele says that chickens are fairly cold-hardy and actually prefer cooler climates—warm weather, however, is more of an issue with chickens, as they’re prone to heat exhaustion starting at around 80 degrees, making proper ventilation in the chicken coop essential.
Steele also urges prospective chicken parents to look into their town’s ordinances (that chicken coop may require a permit!) and “setback” requirements, which outline how far away a coop must be from your property line.
Protect your chicken coop from predators like hawks, dogs and foxes, by outfitting it with predator-proof latches (such as padlocks or carabiners) and surrounding it with a sturdy mesh wire fence. “The fence should be constructed of welded wire—not chain link or chicken wire,” Steele instructs. The fencing surrounding the coop should be sunk into the ground, says Steele, and the coop should have a roof, as well, to prevent predators from both digging beneath the fence or successfully leaping over it.
Steele recommends a wire mesh whose holes are no more than 1-inch, as predators may be able to make the holes even bigger and squeeze on through. Try Garden Craft Galvanized Wire Hardware Cloth.
Outfit your coop with nesting boxes to give your chickens a secure place to lay their eggs. “The rule of thumb is that you need one box for every two to three hens,” says Steele.
According to Steele, the boxes should be about 12 square inches and filled with soft nesting material. You can purchase ready-made bedding like HempAlta Premium Hemp Small Pet Bedding, or use soft pine shavings or straw. Whichever you choose, you can use the same bedding to cushion the floor of the coop, as well.
Chicken Care 101
As far as time commitment, chickens are actually pretty low maintenance. Every morning they’ll need to be let out of their coop, and you’ll also want to do a quick wellness check to ensure they’re happy and healthy. At this time, water should be refreshed, feed refilled, eggs collected, and soiled bedding removed.
“Plan to do another check for eggs midday, and maybe offer a snack break,” suggests Steele, who recommends treating the feathery fellas to scratch grains (a type of chicken feed) before bed and goodies like cucumbers or watermelon every so often. “During molting season in the fall when chickens are regrowing nice new feathers, protein-rich treats like dried grubs or sunflower seeds are also beneficial,” she adds.
Around dusk, your chickens will need to be locked in their coop to keep them safe from any wandering wildlife. On the weekends, plan for a more thorough cleaning of the coop, including refreshing their bedding, scrubbing their water and feed dishes and lots of TLC.
Chickens benefit from spending time with you, so head out into the sunshine and watch them mill about whenever you can. (We’re sure you could use a break from those Zoom meetings!)
Premade vs. DIY Chicken Coops
If you’re on the hunt for your next DIY project, you can build a DIY chicken coop. This way, you can be sure that it meets every one of your exact specifications and the needs of your chickens. But keep in mind you won’t necessarily be saving money: Unless you look for inexpensive building materials (like reclaimed wood), your supplies may end up costing you the same or more than a premade chicken coop.
You can learn how to build one here, but if you aren’t handy with tools or are looking to save time, you can purchase a premade chicken coop. Just be sure to look for the specifications laid out above. The options below are a great place to start.
Start Your Coop Search Here
Need help narrowing it down? See some chicken coops for backyards below that can serve as the perfect home for your flock.
Petsfit Chicken Coop
This rustic chicken coop features everything your chickens could ever need. It's built from a robust wood that's been painted with red, waterproof paint, and it has a removable bottom for easy cleanup. There are also two doors so you can access food and eggs, a nesting box and a ramp for your chicks. Plus, the roof is endothermic to help regulate the interior temperature.
Ware Little Hen Big Red Barn Chicken Coop
How cool is this chicken-sized barn? It’s crafted from durable wood and boasts internal nest boxes, full access doorways, and a convenient slide-out pan to make cleaning a breeze. And despite its roomy size (it can accommodate up to 12 hens), the handles on all four sides make it easy to move whenever you want to give your chickens new space to graze, or if you have to move the coop to a shadier area in the summer.
New Age Pet ecoFLEX Fontana Chicken Barn
Constructed with ecoFLEX, a non-toxic recycled wood and plastic polymer composite,
this chicken coop is both sturdy and eco-friendly. It features a ramp, roosting bar and large pen area for chickens to strut their stuff. It’s also built with multiple nesting boxes that are easy to access for egg collection.
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