Build or Buy a Chicken Coop: Which Option is Right for You?

"Build or Buy a Chicken Coop" title graphic featuring a medium-sized chicken coop painted in red.

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When it comes to raising backyard chickens, one of the first decisions a new owner must make is whether to build or buy a chicken coop. Both options have advantages and disadvantages and ultimately depends on the individual’s needs and preferences.

Building a chicken coop from scratch allows for complete customization and control over the design and materials used. For those who enjoy woodworking and construction, it can also be a fun and rewarding DIY project.

However, building a coop can be time-consuming and requires some skill and knowledge. It may also be more expensive than buying a pre-made coop, especially if mistakes are made along the way.

On the other hand, buying a chicken coop offers convenience and ease of use. Many pre-made coops are available on the market, ranging in size, style, and price. This option is ideal for those who are short on time or lack the necessary skills and tools to build their own coop. However, pre-made coops may not always meet the specific needs of the chickens or the owner and may require additional modifications or repairs.

Understanding the Basics of a Chicken Coop

A chicken coop is designed to provide a safe and comfortable environment for chickens to roost, eat, and lay eggs. It is an essential component of backyard chicken keeping and comes in various sizes, shapes, and styles. Understanding the basics of a chicken coop is crucial when deciding to build or buy one.

A large chicken coop.

Chicken Coop Size and Space

The chicken coop size depends on the number of chickens you plan to keep. As a general rule, each chicken needs at least four square feet of indoor space and eight to ten square feet of outdoor space. The coop should be tall enough for the chickens to stand upright and have enough space to move around comfortably. Ideally, it will be tall enough that you can provide roosts for chickens to spend the night because, as prey animals, they don’t like to sleep on the ground.


Good ventilation is essential to keeping the air inside the coop fresh and preventing the buildup of harmful gases. The coop should have windows or vents that can be opened and closed as needed.


Lighting is not mandatory because chickens get up with the sun and roost when the sun goes down. However, chickens need 14 to 16 hours of light daily to consistently lay eggs, so some people provide light a few hours before sunrise in the winter to keep hens laying year-round.

Nesting Boxes and Roosts

Chickens lay their eggs in nesting boxes, and they sleep on roosts at night. The coop should have enough nesting boxes for the number of chickens you plan to keep. A good rule of thumb is one nesting box for every three to four chickens. Roosts should be placed higher than the nesting boxes and should be wide enough for the chickens to perch comfortably.

Flooring and Cleaning

The coop’s flooring should be easy to clean, dry, and free of drafts. A dirt floor is fine as long as there is no way for a predator to dig its way into the coop. Wood floors don’t last very long, especially if they get wet a lot from a waterer.

Concrete floors are extremely slippery when a chicken deposits fresh manure on it. You should have some type of litter covering the floor, such as wood shavings or straw. However, you can still wind up with bare spots of concrete, which can be deadly to humans who happen to step in fresh chicken poop on concrete or wood.

Chicken Coop at the Oregon Garden with hay covering the floor.

Chicken Breed Requirements

Different chicken breeds have different requirements when it comes to space, temperature, and other factors. Some breeds are better suited to cold climates, while others do well in hot, humid environments. It’s important to research the specific needs of the breeds you plan to keep in order to ensure their health and happiness.

Building a Chicken Coop

Materials Needed

Building a chicken coop requires several materials. Here are the essential materials needed to build a basic chicken coop:

  • Lumber (2x4s, 2x6s, and 4x4s)
  • Plywood
  • Roofing material (metal or shingles)
  • Hardware cloth
  • Nails and screws
  • Hinges and latches
  • Paint or stain

Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Plan the coop: Before starting the building process, it is essential to plan the coop’s design and size. The coop should have enough space for the chickens to move around freely and lay eggs.
  2. Cut the lumber: Cut the lumber according to the plan’s measurements. Use a saw to cut the 2x4s, 2x6s, and 4x4s to the desired length.
  3. Build the frame: Build the frame of the coop using the cut lumber. Use screws to attach the pieces of wood together.
  4. Add the walls: Add plywood to the frame to create the walls of the coop. Cut the plywood to fit the frame and attach it using nails.
  5. Install the roof: Install the roofing material on the top of the coop. Use metal or shingles to protect the coop from rain and other weather conditions.
  6. Add the hardware cloth: Install the hardware cloth on the windows to keep the chickens safe from predators.
  7. Install the door: Install the door using hinges and latches. The door should be big enough for the chickens to enter and exit the coop.
  8. Paint or stain: Paint or stain the coop to protect it from weather and make it look attractive.
An elevated coop, raised above the ground and supported by cemented footing.

Buying a Chicken Coop

When it comes to buying a chicken coop, there are a few factors to consider. It is important to ensure that the coop is suitable for your flock and meets your needs. Here are some factors to keep in mind:

Factors to Consider


The size of the coop should be based on the number of chickens you have. Each chicken needs at least 4 square feet of space inside the coop. Additionally, you should have at least 8-10 square feet of outdoor space per chicken.


Chicken coops can be made from a variety of materials, including wood, plastic, and metal. Wooden coops are the most popular choice due to their durability and natural appearance.


Good ventilation is essential for the health of your chickens. The coop should have windows or vents to allow fresh air to circulate.


The coop should be secure enough to keep predators out. Look for coops with sturdy locks and wire mesh to prevent animals from getting in.

Chicken coop surrounded by a fence, with a backdrop of beautiful mountains.

Where to Buy

There are several options for purchasing a chicken coop:

Online Retailers

Online retailers such as Amazon and Wayfair offer a wide variety of chicken coops to choose from. This is a convenient option for those who do not have local stores that sell chicken coops. Keep in mind that when you search for “chicken coops” on Amazon, you will get results that are runs, not coops. A chicken coop has solid walls.

Local Farm Supply Stores

Many farm supply stores sell chicken coops. This is a good option for those who want to see the coop in person before purchasing.

Local Builders

Some local builders may be willing to build a custom chicken coop for you. This is a good option for those who want a unique coop that meets their specific needs.

A chicken coop adjacent to a net fence enclosure for chickens.

Maintenance of a Chicken Coop


Regular cleaning of a chicken coop is essential for the birds’ health and well-being, as well as the longevity of the coop. This involves removing all the bedding, sweeping the floor, and disinfecting the surfaces. It is important to ensure that the coop is completely dry before adding fresh bedding.


A well-maintained chicken coop will last for many years, but it is inevitable that repairs will be needed from time to time. Common repairs include fixing holes in the walls or roof, replacing damaged nesting boxes, and repairing or replacing perches. It is important to address any issues as soon as possible to prevent further damage and to keep the birds safe and comfortable.

Regular inspections of the coop can help identify any potential issues before they become major problems. It is recommended to inspect the coop at least once a month, checking for any signs of wear and tear, damage, or pest infestations. Any issues should be addressed promptly, especially if you spot a hole where a predator can enter the coop. Keep in mind that weasels and mink can squeeze through incredibly tiny holes.

White and gray small chicken coop.

Safety Measures

When building or buying a chicken coop, safety should be a top priority. Ensuring that the coop is secure and provides adequate ventilation is essential to the health and well-being of the chickens.

Predator Protection

One of the most important safety measures for a chicken coop is predator protection. Chickens are vulnerable to a wide range of predators, including raccoons, foxes, and birds of prey. To keep chickens safe from predators, the coop should be constructed with sturdy materials and secure locks.

It is also important to consider the location of the coop. The coop should be situated in a well-lit area, away from any potential hiding spots for predators. Additionally, the area surrounding the coop should be free of debris and overgrown vegetation, which can provide cover for predators.


Proper ventilation is also crucial for the health of the chickens. Poor ventilation can lead to a buildup of ammonia and other harmful gases, which can cause respiratory problems and other health issues.

To ensure adequate ventilation, the coop should have windows or vents that can be opened and closed as needed. The windows or vents should be positioned to allow for cross-ventilation during the summer, which can help to regulate the temperature and humidity inside the coop.

During the winter, the coop should be well-ventilated but not drafty, which means that you should open a window only on one side so that there is not a draft. Opening a window on the side with the least wind (the south side for most of us in the northern hemisphere) is best.

If you live in an area with especially hot summers, it may be helpful to install fans or other ventilation systems to improve airflow. However, it is important to ensure that any electrical components are installed safely and securely, to avoid the risk of fire.

Urban chicken coop with hay covering the floor and a dog outside looking at the chickens.

Cost Comparison: Build Vs Buy

When it comes to building or buying a chicken coop, the cost is a major factor to consider. Building a chicken coop can be a cost-effective option for those who are handy with tools and have the time and patience to construct a coop from scratch. However, it is important to keep in mind that the cost of materials and tools can quickly add up.

Buying a chicken coop can be a convenient option for those who do not have the time or skills to build a coop from scratch. However, it is important to keep in mind that pre-made coops will probably be more expensive than building one yourself.

Ultimately, the decision to build or buy a chicken coop depends on the individual’s priorities, budget, and level of expertise. It is important to carefully consider all factors before making a decision.

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