The Good Coop Guide

An ark, the original form of wooden hen house

An ark, the original form of wooden hen house - Credit: Archant

Getting the right coop for your birds is vital. But which one to get in a crowded and competitive market place? Expert Terry Beebe guides you through the maze

Pumpkin & Buttercup: Buttercup Wagon

Pumpkin & Buttercup: Buttercup Wagon - Credit: Archant

If you are planning to buy a chicken house, it pays to do some thorough research. The choice is huge, with a plethora of both wooden and plastic coops. There is also a huge price range, with some cheap and cheerful imported models starting at less than £100, and other beautifully crafted handmade ones retailing for well over £1,000. As with anything, you are likely to get what you pay for. By doing your homework you will get a feel for the range available and do some quality and price comparisons. You will no doubt recognise some of the big names in the market, while other, newer companies might be more unfamiliar. Customer reviews count for a lot these days, so you mightwant to check these out too. In this feature we will introduce the options and make some general points, before looking at a selection of specific models. Happy house hunting!

Wooden Housing

Traditional wooden housing is still very popular. The original design was the ark, which sits directly on the ground (see photo at top of page 11), but these days many coops stand on legs to give better rodent protection and for ease of maintenance. There is a huge range of wooden houses on the market, in terms of size, shape and design.

Plastic Housing

The advantage of plastic houses is that they are easy to maintain and clean as well as being in most cases lightweight and easy to move, however tradition makes me wary and the designs have to be suitable for the birds and the keeper’s comfort. Being pretty and attractive is all well and good, but correct design and space are far more important.

Green Frog: Chicken Wagon

Green Frog: Chicken Wagon - Credit: Archant

Cleaning Tip

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When cleaning any plastic poultry house it is better to brush or hoover out the inside bedding and then thoroughly wash and disinfect the interior. Wash out using a hose or, if you possess one, a power washer, then apply Bio Dry and Diatom and the birds can return to a very clean environment.

Tip, How Much Space: The recommended space per hen is 4ft per bird, although another guide is for three laying hens per sq metre.

On The Move

Housing that can be moved around has the advantage of keeping the ground clean and fresh. If the ground is wetand soggy the coop can tend to sink into the ground; wider wheels can help to prevent this happening.

Cherry Acres: The Cottage

Cherry Acres: The Cottage - Credit: Archant

The Key Things

The most important consideration when you keep chickens is to make sure they have a comfortable and safe home to live in. It is where most chickens lay their eggs, sleep at night and in many cases hide if they are frightened, so selecting the correct housing is vital to the birds’ well being and safety. The main issue is that the house is well built with the easy access making them simple to maintain. Look for:

- Enough space

- Good solid construction for predator and weather protection

- Plenty of ventilation but not draughty

- Easy access for cleaning and general maintenance

- Nest boxes easy to access

- Perches, nest boxes and other internal fittings preferably being fitted with the option of removing them easily for cleaning.

Jim Vyse Arks: Swiss Chalet

Jim Vyse Arks: Swiss Chalet - Credit: Archant

- Removable dropping board if possible (Under perches is ideal)

- Mesh runs and windows (using good quality weld mesh)

If the house passes most of the above requirements then you will have a very good one for your flock.

More Suppliers

Feel GoodForsham Cottage ArksMoorlands PoultrySmiths Sectional BuildingsThe Stables WorkshopGardencraftChicken House

Omlet: The Eglu Go Up

Omlet: The Eglu Go Up - Credit: Archant

Pumpkin & Buttercup : Buttercup Wagon

These handmade coops can be detailed to your specification. Pumpkin & Buttercup have a wide range of designs to choose from including different sizes, styles and finishes. This Buttercup Wagon is a wonderful addition to the larger garden. With the capacity to house 6-8 hens you can tuck them safely away at night in this attractive and extremely functional coop. PRICE: From £375.

Cherry Acres: The Cottage

This model is built around functionality first and then aesthetics, says Dan from Cherry Acres Animal Housing. “We know that most of our customers wanting a house of this size also like to have something to complement their surroundings. You also have the option of two house sizes depending on the number of birds you want to keep, along with various other options. PRICE: £550.

Green Frog: Chicken Wagon

Plastic houses are less likely to suffer from the dreaded red mite. Some plastic houses, like these, are made from recycled materials making them very environmentally friendly. Not only is the material made from plastic waste, but offcuts from the production process are recycled too, minimizing manufacturing waste. The advantages of plastic housing is that they can be easily washed out and left to dry, and provided it is good weather means they will dry quickly. PRICE: From £725.

Flyte So Fancy: The Maggie's Six

Flyte So Fancy: The Maggie's Six - Credit: Archant

Jim Vyse Arks: Swiss Chalet

This is a six-bird coop on legs in the style of a Swiss chalet that features two internal perches and an external nest box. This is the ideal chicken house if you’re a first time poultry keeper or only have a small flock. It also features a large pop hole so your hens can come and go freely and a sliding door to keep them safe from predators at night. To make moving the house easy there is an option to add single axle wheels. PRICE: Swiss Chalets start at £325.

Omlet: The Eglu Go Up

Omlet produce iconic and easily recognisable hen houses. The Eglu Go Up includes the house, stand, wheels, 2m run, shade, feeder and drinker, guide and egg boxes. It is an easy-to-clean plastic coop with slide-out droppings tray. It comes complete with predator-resistant run and anti-tunnel skirt. It has twin-walled insulation. The raised height saves you from bending down to collect eggs or clean the coop. Wheels make it easy to move around the garden. PRICE: £499.

Flyte So Fancy: The Maggie’s Six

Rushton Pet & Poultry: The Thornton

Rushton Pet & Poultry: The Thornton - Credit: Archant

This one has plenty of space inside for six hens, or four and a cockerel, and it has a large access door at the back for easy cleaning. There are two removable perches, a pull-out droppings board and external nest boxes that can be lifted off for cleaning. PRICE: £430 incl VAT.

Rushton Pet & Poultry Housing: The Thornton

The is a square house with good access. Nest boxes are removable. The roof is Onduline. It also boasts front pull-out dropping boards as well as its best feature - it stands on 14ins legs. This makes the access to the house even easier and also prevents rodents from building a home under the house. PRICE: From £265.

The Clever Coop Company: Clever Coops

These ‘Snap Lock’ chicken coops, exclusive to The Clever Coop Company, are traditional looking plastic coops. They are robust and sturdy and can be hosed and disinfected throughout and their seamless construction provides minimal hiding places for the dreaded red mite. PRICE: From £395 incl VAT.

The Clever Coop Company: Clever Coops

The Clever Coop Company: Clever Coops - Credit: Archant