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How to Choose a Pre-Fab Chicken Coop

Building a chicken coop isn’t always the best — or cheapest — way to house your backyard chickens. Many affordable pre-fab chicken coops are on the market. However, you need to know how to choose a chicken coop that fits your needs and keeps your flock safe. Whether you are looking at cages, shelter-and-run units, or a repurposed shed, all coops must meet these requirements.

  • Does the location of the doors make it easy to feed and water the chickens or collect eggs? The doors need to be close enough to the nest boxes to allow you to easily reach in and gather eggs. There also needs to be a door where the feed and water dishes are located, and it should be wide enough to allow you to insert and remove the dishes.

  • Is the flooring easy to clean? The absence of a floor can be a good option because it allows you to move the coop around on grass, set it on cement, or provide a wood base, and then move the coop to clean it. Wire floors with trays under them to collect waste are another good option. Solid floors are the least desirable because cleaning them in small coops is often difficult. Even if floors are removable, they require more frequent care.

  • If the floor is wire, does it feel smooth, and are the spaces small enough to prevent a chicken’s foot from slipping through? These considerations protect your chickens from injury.

  • Is the floor sturdy enough that it won’t sag under the weight of birds and bedding? Sagging floors are uncomfortable for the chickens and look unsightly.

  • If predators such as dogs and other large animals are a problem, is the housing sturdy enough to protect the chickens? The mesh on housing should be sturdy wire, not plastic or chicken wire. Doors should have good latches.

  • If you live in the city or have neighbors close by, does the housing look neat? As a matter of respect for your neighbors and to avoid the hassle of dealing with potential complaints, you should choose housing that’s easy on the eye.

  • Can the housing stand up to the local weather? If the housing will be outside, make sure it’s suitable for your area. The shelter should always have a waterproof top. In cold areas, the shelter should have thick walls or some form of insulation.

  • Is there room for a nesting box? If the housing will be outside, make sure it’s suitable for your area. The shelter should always have a waterproof top. In cold areas, the shelter should have thick walls or some form of insulation.

If you’re going to keep laying hens, or layers, you need either built-in nest boxes or room to place these boxes where they can be easily accessed. Chickens also like to have a roost, something to perch on off the floor. Some pre-built shelters have a slide-out pan or door under the roost. Because most of the manure in the shelter collects under the roost area, this is a very desirable feature.

If the housing you choose doesn’t have a slide-out pan or door under the roost to facilitate cleaning, you may want to install a pit under the roosting area or lay a flat board under the roost that can be removed and scraped.

It always helps to see what you’re buying in person, so you can try opening doors, sliding out floors, and so on. If a friend or relative has purchased housing for chickens, take a close look at it to see whether something similar would be right for you.

If you are using a catalog or Web site, keep in mind that the picture may not give you a good idea of what you are thinking of buying. Make sure to look at the description too — it should tell you the dimensions, the weight, and what materials the coop is made from. If you have questions, call sellers and ask them.

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