While the total investment in your chicks only amounts to $2-$3 each, this is typically not the case for their habitat. Coops, brooding boxes and chicken runs can become a pricey proposition. But before we get into more details about the upfront investment, we want to define what we mean by the three terms above. The chicken coop is a secure area that is impenetrable for predators, weather-resistant and that you can lock up at night. Brooding boxes are small boxes where the chickens go to lay their eggs. The run is the outdoor area where your chickens are kept during the day. All three areas are critical to your chickens health and happiness.
Coop Costs & Tips for Happy Chickens
The normal investment that you can expect to make on these three components ranges from $200-$1,000. As a rule, grown hens need at least 1.5 square feet of space per chicken in their coop and 8 square feet in their run. If you choose to have a roosting bar in your coop, which we highly recommend, they need about 6-10 inches of space per chicken. Hopefully, these general guidelines give you a better idea of what kind of coop you need.
If you choose to purchase a commercial coop, the runs are often a total waste of money. If we had to do it over again, we would get one large coop without a run attached. The runs offered in commercial coops are typically too small to be effective for your flock and are very inconvenient to clean. We ended up scrapping the run we bought and buying a 8x8x8 outdoor dog kennel with a tarp roof instead.
Another way to save money is to only buy one coop and size it appropriately for your flock. Chickens will always cram into one single coop or brooding box and completely ignore the others. The commercial setup we bought had two coops with a run between them. We ended up scrapping the run and merging the two coops together into one large coop. Then we mounted the large coop onto a high stand, about 4 feet off the ground just outside the run. You can see what it looks like in the picture to the left. The coop now stands about 6 feet high at its tallest point, which the chickens love. Chickens like to be high off the ground while they sleep. As a jungle bird, the height makes them feel more secure.
While we mentioned that your flock will probably only use one brooding box, it is still recommended to have one box per chicken available. If you have a bully in your flock, she might steal the brooding box and prevent the other chickens from laying if they do not have their own.
DIY VS Store Bought
There are a few questions you should ask yourself when you are determining which route to take for your coop. Am I comfortable building a mini-house that keeps out the elements as well as any predators while still providing proper airflow? If the answer is yes, then building your own coop is a much cheaper option. There are a lot of free downloadable plans on Pinterest that you can use to build an epic coop.
The next area of concern is the run. Do you have any predators in your yard that require sturdier materials than chicken wire? Wood framed chicken wire is the normal construction for a chicken run and would not have been sufficient for our purposes because we have dogs. The chicken wire is only good for keeping chickens in, not keeping anything out. This is why we decided to buy a heavy duty kennel that we knew would hold up to our dogs. Our older dog believes his mission in life is to kill birds, so we had to make sure our run was especially sturdy.
Final Coop Details Not to Overlook
Whether you choose to DIY your coop or buy one, remember to lay chicken wire under your structure. This will prevent burrowing predators from getting into the run and will keep your chickens safe We gave our run a border with about 3 feet of chicken wire surrounding it. About 1.5 feet of the wire is inside the coop and 1.5 feet is outside of it. We then laid decorative rocks around the border for added safety.
Once you have a home for your chickens, they still require bedding in their coops and in their runs. We use play sand in their run as it looks nice and is easy to clean. You can just scoop it like kitty litter, which is way easier than replacing bedding every week. We use large pine shavings in their coop and brooding boxes, the same kind you use in guinea pig cages. Our coop has a sliding bottom that comes out for easy clean up. If you decide to DIY your own coop, this is an awesome feature that you should definitely add to your design.
We hope you enjoyed reading our guide to a great chicken habitat. Whether you end up building your own coop or you decide to purchase one, the essential components are the same. If you have any coop questions feel free to reach out to us. We will answer any questions ASAP.