How to Start a Chicken Coop With Really Happy Chickens
A happy chicken is a healthy chicken. Okay, we don’t have a scientific study to back that up. But if you’ve been having visions of fresh eggs every morning, you are probably excited to build your future animal friends a comfortable home. Let Neighborly® help you plan and research the perfect coop – your chickens will thank you later!
How to Start a Chicken Coop in Seven Steps
Step 1: Make Sure It’s Legal
Before planning your shed and purchasing chickens, check local ordinances to see if you’re allowed to raise chickens in your neighborhood (and how many). Some communities allow a household to have a few hens but not a rooster; otherwise, a small flock quickly grows.
Step 2: Check Your Schedule and Passion
Like any animal, chickens involve care and time every day from at least one person. You will need a good chicken-sitter when you travel too!
Not only should you be 100 percent certain that you will have time to care for chickens; you should also make sure you have the desire and passion for it. Abandoning chickens after a few weeks is not good for them.
Be prepared to do these daily chores:
- Maintain food and water levels. Chickens need continuous access to feed and fresh water, as well as nutritious treats such as vegetable scraps.
- Collect eggs at least once a day. Ideally, shoot for multiple egg collection times. Leaving this task on hold for too long might result in dirty or damaged eggs. It’s also easier to transport fewer eggs at a time.
- Refresh bedding and “muck out” areas below the roost. This is the gross part of being a chicken owner, but it’s essential to remove their waste often. You should completely replace the bedding (straw or wood shavings) about once a week too.
- Clean the chicken run. The “run” refers to fenced yard around the coop where your chickens roam. Clear out excrement and dirty bedding with a rake. Yes, now’s the time to start a compost pile.
Step 3: Plan Your Budget
Here is a rough budget for about five chickens:
- Cost of coop: $400 – $5,000. This is a typical range. Cost depends on whether you build the coop yourself, use a kit or hire a professional.
- Cost of egg-laying hens: $125 ($25 per bird)
- Cost of food and bedding: $40 – $50 per month
Coops and chickens aren’t very expensive if you keep your setup simple, but they require consistent care and cost every month. Make sure starting a chicken coop will fit into your lifestyle.
Step 4: Know the Features of a Happy Coop
What does a chicken coop need? The top requirement is space. Confinement can cause anxiety for your feathery friends. Plan 3 square feet of floor space inside the coop, and eight or more square feet outside the coop, per bird.
Good coops need the following features:
- An enclosed run (yard)
- Nesting boxes
- Large food and water containers
- A dust bath – This can be as simple as a big box of dirt.
- Natural light – Install windows so your spoiled chickens can watch the sunrise. If there’s a Glass Doctor® near you, make those hens happy with custom glass solutions.
- Door and window locks – Lock up at night, if needed, to keep out predators or thieves.
- Electricity – Owners of less cold-hardy breeds may choose to run electricity to the coop for lamps. Even if your birds don’t need a lamp, it’s a good idea to heat their water bowl during freezing weather. If there’s a Mr. Electric® in your area, their expertise is perfect for these jobs.
- Plumbing (optional) – If there are no water spigots near the coop, have one installed. If desired, run plumbing directly to the coop to make the watering process easier – or even automate it! Check if there’s a Mr. Rooter® near you to provide reliable plumbing installation.
Step 5: Learn How to Build a Chicken Coop
Now it’s time to plan how to build your chicken coop. One easy way is to repurpose an existing structure, like your old gardening shed or doghouse. If this isn’t an option, don’t worry! You can build custom or use a kit.
To build a coop from scratch, find blueprints online or at your local hardware store. Avoid old wood – quality materials will maximize your hens’ comfort and safety and minimize the chances of rot.
Want a custom coop without the work? See if there’s a local Mr. Handyman® to help you out.
For more detailed info about how to build a chicken coop, visit This Old House’s resource.
Step 6: Choose Your Chickens
There are as many chicken breeds as there are types of owners! Breeds vary in size, egg-laying rate, temperament, cold-hardiness, noise production, activity level and more. Your choice might rely on whether your chickens will be outside a lot in the country or confined to a smaller space in the suburbs.
A first timer with limited space should consider a smaller, docile breed that won’t make much noise. Barred Plymouth Rocks, Buff Orpingtons, and Rhode Island Reds are common beginner-friendly breeds that lay eggs regularly and should be available from most local sources.
Chickens are social creatures and keep each other warm, so you should keep at least three hens at a time. There’s no need to buy a rooster, as hens lay infertile eggs without them.
Look for a reputable source of chickens. Local farmers, farm-and-feed stores or even mail-order hatcheries can be a good choice. Local sources will have breeds that are well-suited to local conditions. Don’t buy chickens from online marketplaces or sources with unknown credentials, no matter how good the deal is.
Step 7: Beautify Your Chicken Coop
A homey chicken coop doesn’t have to be homely. Choose a cheerful paint color that complements your house. Five Star Painting® has great tips for painting sheds and chicken coops.
You’re on your way to caring for some happy chickens! For more help with your budding homestead, trust Neighborly’s family of home service pros. Schedule the services you need today, or call (855) 263-6602.