Cute chicks are cheap. Chicken feed is very inexpensive for a few chickens, and it’s easy to think about how having chickens will save you money on buying eggs.
I learned very quickly that what was not cheap is having proper housing for chickens. It’s quite costly and it will take years to recoup in the cost in terms of how much you’re saving on eggs.
When I left the store, on the day that I brought my first chicks home, I had no idea that those chicks that I bought for $1.99 per chick and the approximately $100 that I paid for a heat lamp, bulb, shavings, water and food dish and chicken feed would later turn into many hundreds of dollars before my chickens were even laying any eggs or settled into a safe place outside.
The first thing that I realized was that as a rule of thumb chickens need 2-3 square feet per chicken in the coop and 6-10 square feet in the run. This is a minimum. More space is even better. Happy, healthy chickens need considerable space otherwise they can become stressed or bored which can lead to pecking each other, poor egg production.
The boxed coops that they sell in the store frequently advertise space for many more chickens than they should. Sure, the chickens will fit in them but they won’t be happy. Happy chickens are healthier and lay better. Still I had thought of getting one of these coops because they weren’t crazy expensive. I thought that I would be able to provide the proper space by attaching an extra run to the coop. Maybe a dog kennel or some fenced in area.
Another thing that is really important when choosing a coop is how much ventilation is in the coop and that it is predator proof. Ventilation is important to prevent ammonia buildup in the coop. Chickens need a well- ventilated coop, one that stays dry and keeps predators out. On many of the cheaper store-bought coops the locks are flimsy. While you won’t have to worry about your chickens opening the locks, it’s important to think about what possible predators live in your area. We have raccoons here in North Eastern part of the US and they have amazing dexterity. Cheap locks would mean that my chickens were not safe from predators. I knew if I bought a cheap coop, I would have to change the locks. I was okay with that. Locks don’t cost a whole lot. Snakes and opossums can also get into coops if they aren’t predator proof. They love to eat the eggs. Opossums have been known to kill chickens and the very idea that one day I would open a nest box and see a snake in the box was a frightful thought. In checking out coops it is important that animals cannot get in under the coop. If there is a run portion attached to the coop hardware cloth must be secured to the open areas. Chicken wire keeps chickens in, hardware cloth keeps predators out.
Also, it’s important to think about what the coop is made of and what kind of upkeep will be required and what type of climate you live in. Will the coop be exposed to the elements such as rain and snow? Many of the store-bought coops are made of fir wood. They should be weather proofed and will require replacing boards periodically unless you live in a warm sunny climate that rarely rains or snows. Some may leak and those leaks will need to be fixed. Will they last a little while? Sure, but depending on how long you plan to have chickens the idea of the cost for upkeep must be taken into account.
Ease of cleaning is something to think about too. Chickens poop. They poop a lot. Much more than I realized. They make a mess. Many coops have a slide out drawer that you can fill with bedding or newspaper. When I checked out the coops in the stores, I pulled out these drawers and I checked the doors, everything was working smoothly. After being exposed to the elements sometimes wood, especially unpainted wood, will swell. Doors get harder to shut and drawers stick. This will make the coop less safe and less healthy for your chickens and more work for you. I saw some used box coops before making any decisions and I had little hope that in a year I wouldn’t be either changing boards and doors or buying a new coop.
A question that I asked myself was, is it worth spending just a few hundred dollars in the beginning and upgrading later. The cheapest coop that I saw was a couple of hundred dollars and it was small; therefore, there would be additional costs for a larger run, new locks, paint, and maybe sealant for cracks to keep rain out. Adding it up in my head that $200 was growing quickly. Still I wondered if keeping chickens was going to work out. I thought maybe I would go cheaper and see before putting the money into something better. I was trying to keep costs down. I wanted inexpensive but I didn’t want something so cheaply made that it would cost me more in the long run. It is definitely an option to get this kind of coop in the beginning. Certainly, if you know how to build and maybe even have some scrap wood around this is another option that will save you many dollars. Free ranging chickens can also save you some because you won’t have to buy an additional run. We have a lot of hawks here. I was gone almost all day so wasn’t able to watch them and I felt it wasn’t safe. Maybe I would have felt differently if I had 50 chickens. I had three, chickens need to be with other chickens. They are flock animals. If anything happened to one it could barely be considered a flock so keeping not letting them roam free was the way I had decided to go.
One piece of advice that I wish I was given was that no matter which route I took it would cost me much more to raise chickens than I expected. A lot more and the most expensive thing was their housing.
My chickens are settled now. Their coop and run are like Fort Knox. It was a Because of that my chickens are healthy and happy and I sleep well at night knowing they are safe.
There are many things to consider when deciding on what you want for a coop. I decided not to go with the typical wood boxed coop commonly seen advertised or in stores. For my first coop, I choose to buy an Eglu Cube Chicken Coop which is made by Omelet.