Chicken Housing – how to choose your chicken coop
Chicken housing is called a coop. There are many many designs on the market however there are a few desirable traits that chicken coops need in order to be good for chickens and ALSO good for you. Make no mistake, don’t choose a coop on looks alone or cost. If it is not good for you then you will waste precious time and money trying to make a silk purse out of a sows ear.
The givens are – in order of importance
- Ease of access to all internal spaces for cleaning
- Quick to clean
- Perch spacing
- Nest box position
- Red mite prevention
- Resale value
Wood or Plastic – which is the best chicken coop?
A traditional material for a chicken coop is wood. Wooden coops can be bought from a supplier or they can be easily made by a keen DIYer. If you make your coop yourself then the design opportunities are limitless. A plastic coop is not so easy to make at home. Wooden coops range wildly in price from very cheap mass-produced, to very expensive. Plastic coops tend to be on the more expensive end of the market.
Most chicken coops are made to look twee and cute in the garden. There is a strong argument for having a visually appealing chicken coop as they need to be pleasing to look at in your garden. Believe me, cute and twee does not cut it when you have to clean them out when it is tipping down with rain. Thanks to our wonderful British weather, rain is factor to take into strong consideration. The rain is not going to hold off because you have left your coop for too long to clean out because it is a pain to clean out unless the weather is dry. What if the rain does not stop for days? Therefore it follows that easy to clean and quick to clean is a major deal-breaker.
Wooden chicken coops
Wooden coops are rarely made with chickens and their owners in mind. A lot of wooden chicken coops are made by folks who have never even owned chickens. DIY wooden chicken coops often fall into this category.
Red Mite Habitat
By its very nature, wooden coops are full of framework that the outside cladding is attached to. A wooden chicken coop often has a felted roof also. All very nice, however the more ledges you have, the more little corners, crevices, grooves, nooks and crannies that red mite can hide in. Red mite just love wood and roofing felt. To be fair, they also love plastic, especially those with double skinned or insulated sides. Red Mite are not terribly fussy when it comes to being as close as possible to their favourite form of food – your chickens.
A lot of wooden coops have restricted access to clean. This is a major “given” that will mean the difference between happy chicken keeper and unhappy chicken keeper. One thing that we dislike about product views for buying wooden chicken coops are their lack of clear pictures on access for cleaning. This makes choosing your wooden coop somewhat tricky. We would advise always seeing one “in the flesh” as it were before you buy.
Maintaining your wooden coop is needed probably about once a year to keep the wood from rotting. Chicken poop is remarkable stuff, as it can render most materials stained or rotten in a short amount of time. It can also be used for building houses – we reckon – as its adhesive power once it is dry is phenomenal. Scraping poo off multiple ledges, joins and fastenings is not for the faint hearted, especially if access is limited or you have need of rubber arms.
Plastic Chicken Coops
In recent years there are many manufacturers of plastic coops. Some look more space-age and “designer” than others. Plastic coops can come in a variety of colours which adds to their visual appeal. Recycled plastic is most often used which adds to their green credentials. They are long lasting and look like new for much much longer than a wooden equivalent. Recycled plastic is becoming more common with recycled plastic fencing, recycled plastic decking and other garden fixtures and fittings. Plastic is easy to clean and does not rot. To be honest there is not a lot to dislike about plastic coops. They obviously don’t look as traditional as the wooden version because traditional looking coops do have more kerb appeal.
Recycled plastic chicken coops are mostly maintenance free. You do need to check the fastenings for signs of deterioration though. Fastenings on any coop can turn from “solid” to something that would not be out of place on a sunken ship.
Red Mites in chicken coops
The difference between most good plastic coops and a wooden one is the lack of framework and those perfect havens called crevices. Remember us saying that Red Mite love crevices?
Read our blog article on these “delightful” creatures and what to do about them. Give yourself a Red Mites eye view. Imagine if you were the size of a fullstop, and then imagine all the places you could hide in most coops. To be able to keep on top of Red Mite you need to be able to get at them.
Ease of cleaning
We have had wooden coops in the past but now we are mostly plastic fantastic. They tick all the boxes for the givens above. Even so, not all plastic coops are made equal. Some have to be dismantled in order to clean (remember our British weather). Others you are FORCED to clean virtually daily with a hose or pressure washer (remember our British weather and chicken poop has concrete qualities). Yet more are just plain silly and have even more corners and crevices than your average wooden coop.
We are not totally against wooden coops. There are a lot of really nice looking and solidly made coops on the market, however just make very sure you take account of the “givens”. One size does not fit all. Coops that require crawling on all fours to clean an attached run for example will not suit anyone over 2 feet tall or indeed anyone who is not skilled in the exotic art of limbo dancing. Slithering along on the floor commando fashion humming the theme tune to Mission Impossible makes this task sound a lot more exciting than it is. Getting your belt loops and hair tangled in hooks and chicken equipment is not fun. This in our opinion (and bitter experience) is most definitely a deal-breaker.
Our No. 1 advice
When buying a coop is definitely NOT to buy one on price. Now I am a girl with an eye for a bargain and when we first got chickens, I hunted the internet for coops which were big enough for the chickens I wanted and also was the cheapest for the number of chickens I wanted. BIG MISTAKE. There a lot of very cheap wooden coops around which claim to be big enough for your chickens BUT THEY ARE NOT. Many come with integral runs which are not even big enough for one chicken let alone the 6 that most coops claim they can house. Advice No. 1 is to buy a chicken coop on function therefore and NOT cost. Buy cheap buy twice. It most definitely applies when buying coops.
Advice No. 2
Is to go big. Chickens are addictive and although you think you only want a couple of chickens, you WILL WANT MORE. Unless you have been beaten into submission by buying a coop on price alone.
Advice No. 3
Avoid any coops which have a pull-out droppings tray. A droppings tray is a complete waste of time and more importantly, an easy access for a fox or other predator. Once you have bedding in your coop (to catch poo) the drawer will not be able to be pulled out. How does that so called easy clean coop look now? Not so appealing. This means you have to clean out through a tiny door or pop hole or even through the nest box. NOT ideal
Advice No. 4
Get a walk in run and make sure it has 2 square metres of space per chicken. If avian influenza happens (and it does from year to year) then you will be legally obliged to shut your chickens up for a few months over winter. Your chickens will therefore need enough space while they are confined. Chicken runs need cleaning, but crawling in the mud on all fours is something you will have to do if you buy a low level one. A walk in run with a roof covering is best because your back, your knees and your hairdo will thank you for it and refer to the British weather referred to above. 🙂
Advice No. 5
Chicken housing that will fit an automatic coop door opener is an absolute blessing that you will never regret purchasing. If you only buy one piece of extra equipment, make it an automatic pop hole opener. Did I also mention that we are now a stockist of Chickenguards in our online shop?
We have 2 types of Coops for Sale
The Henlays Roost Coops designers have cleverly created chicken housing which incorporates all the best ideas in their coops so that they are perfect for chickens and perfect for you. They reuse 70Kg of waste recycled plastic so are good for the green credentials also.
Nestera (previously Green Frog Designs) coops were the first we tried at our Henporium and we are very pleased with them. Our Green Frogs (we have a medium lodge and a large at ground level) still look as good as new. Not bad after 15 years usage.
We have both Nestera and Henlays in our shop and we think they are pretty darn good. They tick every single box on the givens list with honours with the exception of the run element. For additional security you will need to place your coop inside a suitable run. More details on each of the coop types are on their own pages.
You Can Even Paint them to make totally personalised
Pimping them up with a DIY paint job is easy so that they can look twee or fit better into your garden design if you want them to be. At the top of the page you can see how good they look when painted. Those coops have been painted in Thorndown Paints wood colours.
Our Choice Shortlist
Nestera and Henlays Roost coops
Henlays Roost coops were the first we started to sell. We were taken by the solid construction and brilliant attention to detail. We couldn’t pass up the chance to field test them for ourselves. They get a thumbs up from us.
We particularly like the height of this coop as it is table height. This makes it easier to clean out especially for those with limited mobility.
The coop above is a DIY paint job using Thorndown Paints in sedge green. Black is the normal colour.
Nestera coops are lined up here. All three variations of the Large coop. A wagon is also shown on the right.
Additional beneficial features to look for
The height of the coop is important if you need to get inside to clean. If you have mobility or bending issues then a raised coop is the way to go. Ventilation is key to your hens health. Vents take away the dust and any fumes and combat condensation. Check where the doors are if you have limited space. If you cannot get behind your coop and the only way to clean is through the back door then you need to think of human access. Forget pull-out droppings tray as they are useless once the bedding is in the coop. Removable perches are a boon when you need to clean the coop and the perches themselves.
Also compatible with Automatic Pop hole openers
Chickenguard automatic door openers are a useful option, which we think should be an essential on all chicken housing. An automatic pop hole opener is worth its weight in gold as far as we are concerned. Any other opener that will suit a vertical door would also be suitable.
Simple to transport and Build
It is for collection only as it is very heavy. The coop comes in flatpack form which takes around 45 minutes to build without special tools. We found a hammer and a pair of pliers was helpful however for tightening up the bolts.
Some coops have colour options or can be painted if you are of a mind to.
How long does it take me to clean mine?
Any coop that takes longer than 10 minutes to clean is not worth the effort. You should not have to take up valuable time for a job that should be quick and easy. Your coop choice is critical to this. We cover coop choices in depth on our online chicken keeping course.