Chicks are cheap. Coops aren’t. With the most common day-old chicks going for less than $3 a piece, clearly the biggest expense in chicken keeping is their housing. Coops can run anywhere from $200 (DIY with new materials) to $1,200 (prefabricated) or more. Deciding which type of coop is best for your space and budget can be tricky because the type of coop you choose is a big commitment. But don’t let the fear of coop commitment stop you from keeping chickens—a “best coop” exists for your yard. Weigh the pros and cons here:
Mobile Coop Pros
- The coop can be moved around the yard like a piece of furniture, ideally to fresh “pasture” every one or two days. Having a party? Move the coop out of the way. Bad weather or bitter winds rolling in? Move the coop to shelter next to a fence or building. Summer days too hot? Move the coop to a shady spot.
- Mobile coops are usually small enough to be moved by one or two people, so they’re great for backyards that are short on space. And moving the coop regularly spares all your green space.
- Smaller, moveable coops are perfect for nighttime/temporary/occasional confinement for a flock intended for free-ranging.
Mobile Coop Cons
- Moving a coop often will put a lot of stress on the frame of the structure, in part because the ground is never perfectly level, so more frequent maintenance will probably be required.
- Mobile coops are never fully predator proof, making them inappropriate for wide-open spaces, especially rural areas, with many predators lurking nearby.
- Because mobile coops are small, they’re usually unsuitable for full-time confinement. With a small coop and run, only temporary confinement of tolerant breeds is appropriate.
Stationary Coop Pros
- Like a shed, the stationary coop becomes a permanent part of the yard, and it leaves a lot of opportunity for beautifying or landscaping around it. The coop can even be included in a rotational gardening/urban-farming system.
- Stationary coops are best for protection from predators. When built correctly, hardware cloth is buried around its perimeter to keep digging critters and persistent dogs out of your chicken coop.
- The run attached to a stationary coop is usually large enough to keep chickens confined if chickens cannot free range legally and to protect them if predators live nearby.
Stationary Coop Cons
- Chickens will destroy any and every living thing in the run of a stationary coop. The floor of the run is destined to become a dirt floor that will need occasional maintenance to control manure buildup and odor.
- A stationary coop can’t be moved. When constructing a stationary coop, a lot of thought should be put into weather patterns and sun exposure throughout the year. Heat is often more dangerous than cold temperatures, so minimizing direct sun during the hottest days of summer is ideal. In the winter, sun on the south side of the coop and protection from northerly winds can keep your flock comfortable and warm on the coldest winter days.
- Chickens confined to a stationary coop and run have no regular access to forage—living foods like grass, weeds, seeds, and insects. The freedom to forage (or conditions to mimic foraging) maximizes nutrition from chicken to egg and increases a flock’s quality of life, health and happiness.