Mother Earth News Blogs > Homesteading and Livestock

Homesteading and Livestock

Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.

How to Pick the Right Chicken Coop

Picture this:  you’ve decided to add chickens to your backyard or homestead.  You’re up to speed on basic healthcare and anatomy, and you think you know what chickens need to be happy.  Now comes the big job – deciding how you’re going to house them.

Once you start down the road of choosing a style of coop for your new flock, you quickly discover there are as many plans and opinions about plans as there are chickens in the world.  OK, I exaggerate, but honestly, it feels like it at first.

There’s the traditional coop and run, chicken tractors, pastured poultry pens, and paddock systems.  And each one of those has countless different styles and systems to choose from.  It’s exhausting work to figure out what’s going to work for your ‘girls’ (and maybe boys too), especially if you’ve never raised chickens before.

So how do you figure out the best plan for your new flock?  It’s actually quite simple when you use a system.  So I thought I'd share with you the process I went through to help me evaluate the best housing choice for our flock of 15.

Questions to Ask

Not every chicken coop plan is going to be suitable for your specific situation, so you’ll need to ask yourself a few questions before you even start looking at plans (trust me – this will save you a ton of time later):

Answering these questions honestly will provide a solid base for you to evaluate all those funky, stylin' coop plans you've bookmarked.

Evaluate the Plans

Now, grab a cup of your favorite beverage and go through all those websites and chicken-raising books using these worksheets I put together to help you evaluate your favorite plans:

The worksheet will help you evaluate all the various options - a 'winner' should become clear pretty quickly.  It may be that you have to tweak as you go.  It may be that you have to substitute some materials for others that you have available.  But if you've done the work, you'll end up with a housing system that will work for your property, your lifestyle, and your birds.  And that means you'll enjoy your chicken-raising adventure so much more than if you build a coop that's not right for your specific situation and you spend the next year cursing it.

And remember, you can always come over to the Facebook page and ask questions of all our chicken-raising experts there!  Here are some of our readers' chicken coops, for inspiration... (click here for the slideshow)

Do you have any advice to share on finding the right chicken coop plan?  Let us know in the comments below.  Your advice may just help someone keep their girls safe and sound - and happy!