Best Small Chicken Coop

This is the first of several articles on the topic, “best chicken coop”, as judged by the editors at simplechickens.com.

When I say “small” chicken coops, I am talking about coops that can hold four to six chickens only. Small chicken coops are also called “starter” chicken coops, because many (if not most) backyard chicken owners eventually succumb to the “call of the cluck” and eventually need a larger coop to house more of their ladies. Sometimes small chicken coops are even called “urban” chicken coops, when the coop is to be used …you guessed it… in the “urb”!   (otherwise known as “The big city”!).   Future articles will discuss the best coops for midsize and larger flocks. 

No matter What Coop You End Up Buying, Keep These Factors in Mind

First, you want to make sure that the coop is large enough for your chickens. A good rule of thumb is that each chicken will require 3 to 4 square feet of space.

If you’re going to buy a coop which has an attached run, the run needs to provide at least seven or eight square feet of space per chicken.

Of course, you want to make sure your coop is safe and secure from predators.  Foxes and possums, birds, rats, you name it. 

And don’t forget about the importance of good ventilation. You want a coop that has windows that open and preferably even a roof ridge vent. This will prevent the buildup of toxic ammonia gas and also keep the humidity levels low enough to prevent mold and bacteria growth. 

Finally, you should be aware of “chicken math.” This is a well-known chicken mama (and papa) affliction, whereby its victims slowly lose the ability to resist buying additional chickens, especially when they look at online catalogs of various chicken breeds. There is no known cure for this disease, just be aware that it exists. 

chicken math meme
Courtesy Robison Family Farm

The Two Main Types of Small Chicken Coops

Mobile Coops

woman pulling chicken tractor
Courtesy Omlet USA

Also known as “chicken tractors”, these coops usually consist of an elevated chicken coop, along with a chicken run. These types of coops are usually moved around your yard or pasture every couple of days,  I had never heard of these things until I got into backyard chickens, but now that I do know about them, they really do make alot of sense. 

Why have a chicken coop that you need to move around all the time? 

Good question!

Emma @ Misfit Gardener lists several reasons why you may want to buy a mobile chicken coop instead of a traditional stationary one.  

1-There’s less buildup of poop in one spot!!!  Since chicken tractors are moved around the yard frequently, your chicken poop will be distributed all around, fertilizing the ground and replacing key nutrients lost in the soil. And less poop in one spot means less stink, less flies, and a healthier flock.

2. Then, there’s the lower costs to feed your chickens.  Moving the coop around your yard will make sure your girls have a plentiful supply of grass, bugs, seeds, (and anything else not nailed down). More natural feed, less feed you have to provide. 

3. Your chickens may be more secure. By keeping your chickens contained in a chicken tractor, and moving it around, you won’t need to free-range them to provide grass, bugs, and whatever else they may want to eat.  In addition, your cherished gardens and flower beds will be more secure from these “goats with feathers”.  

4. Your chickens will be happier!  I mean, put yourself in the mind of a chicken for a second. (OK that was a little scary). Now, don’t you think it would be a lot more interesting to have a change of scenery every day or two than to be looking at the same old chicken run all day long? Not only that, the fresh ground will actually encourage your chickens to peck and scratch and forage.  And your chicken run won’t be a dust bowl devoid of green stuff, or a muddy swamp. And if they’re busy doing all that pecking, then they’re less likely to start fighting among themselves.  

Of course, there are some downsides to having a mobile chicken coop. The main one being that you will have to physically move it every day or so. The other major downside is that predators may be able to tunnel or dig under the sides of the chicken run, since the walls of coop’s run only extend to ground level, not beneath it.

Best Small Mobile Chicken Coop

Omlet Egu Go Up Mobile Chicken Coop

Why the Omlet Egu Go Up is the Best Small Mobile Chicken Coop

  • General appearance. I mean, I could see myself living in this Omlet Chicken Coop!!! Its clean lines, its color, which can blend in with any backyard or pasture, and it’s overall design -the whole package is just pleasing to the senses! Its definitely what I would call a fancy chicken coop.
  • This mobile chicken coop is actually very safe and secure. Compared to other mobile chicken coops, the Omlet Chicken Coop has an “anti-tunnel” metal apron which predators from “tunnelling” (digging) underneath of it
  • It’s low maintenance. Made out of steel and plastic, its impervious to the elements and will never need to be repainted or re-roofed.
  • It’s easy to clean. Your garden hose can do the job in a few minutes
  • ALMOST everything is included: the feeder, the waterer, the nesting box, the run, and even a shade to protect them from the hot sun. The run comes in both a six foot-long version and a nine foot-long version. You do need to purchase the wheels, however. That’s a little strange seeing how this is supposed to be a mobile chicken coop! Apparently many people use this as a stationary coop since it seems to so secure from predators. I get it.

What about customer reviews?

Customer reviews were actually very good. Purchasers of this coop gave it 142 reviews with an average rating of five stars. It doesn’t get better than that!

Stationary Chicken Coops

Stationary Chicken Coop

These are the traditional chicken coops we are used to seeing. Rachel Anger at HobbyFarms.com points out that stationary coops have some advantages over the mobile coops:

  • they provide better protection against predators. This is because their hardware cloth walls are traditionally buried in a trench or under the sod, all the way around the coup’s run. This makes it very difficult for a predator to burrow their way in.
  • they provide more freedom for your chickens. The run attached to a traditional stationary coop can be much larger than the one attached to a mobile coop since it never has to be moved.

However, the best reason to have a stationary coop is that it never has to be moved. Why? Because It’s “stationary” (duh!!!).

Of course, like most things in life, there are some downsides. The main one is that in a very short amount of time (like a few days) what was once lush and green and beautiful in your chicken run is now regular old bare dirt. And pretty smelly. And fly-ridden. And did I mention muddy? Many backyard chicken farmers will do a quick scoop-out of their run each day to get rid of the manure. They will also hang flypaper. Others swear by the use of sand, on a foundation of gravel, to keep it from getting too muddy and mucky.

Another downside of a stationary coop is that you will need to spend some time planning on exactly where you will place it. It does need to be on higher ground than the surrounding area, since, as any plumber knows, water and other, let’s just say “fluids,” always flow downhill. Also, the longer side of the coop should face the south to capture the warmth of the sun during the winter. Finally, you need to worry about the hot summer sun, which is often more of a problem than the cold winter winds. So, summing it up, the ideal location for a stationary coop would be in top of a small hill underneath a shady tree!

Best Small Stationary Chicken Coop

The winner in this category ended up being OverEZ’s Small Chicken Coop. This small chicken coop kit is sold by Tractor Supply. And it is definitely one of the cutest-looking chicken coops I have seen in a long while. And it’s not just another pretty face. If you look at the product specs, you’ll see that it’s made by Amish craftsmen, right here in the USA, not by bare-foot children in a third-world country! It’s what you would expect of of an Amish chicken coop: high-quality, solid wood construction, with all panels and trim pre-painted and assembled. In addition, all hardware, doors and windows are installed, and nesting boxes are assembled. They even give you touch up paint! It’s almost like you’re buying a new car! Reviewers said that they were able to put this Amish chicken coop together in an hour.

Runner-ups to the Best Small Stationary Chicken Coop

Snap Lock Large Chicken Coop

Snap Lock Large Chicken Coop [More]

Price: $799.99 Sale: $749.99 Buy Now

Our first runner-up small stationary chicken coop category ended up being the Snaplock Formex “Regular” Chicken coop. As you can see in the product description for this Coop, the dimensions of it are 64”x 39”. That comes to a total of 2,496 square inches or 17 square ft. As discussed earlier it is recommended that you allow approximately four square feet per chicken. That would mean that the coop is sufficiently large enough to handle about four large chickens. Of course, smaller chickens (and, of course, Bantams) would not take up nearly as much space, and you would be able to contain many more of them, eg, three times as many at least. The manufacturers says that 4-6 chickens will fit.

Anyhow, the main reason we like this particular coop is that, like the Omlet chicken coop, it is made from plastic, not wood. That means you will not have to paint, seal, or maintain it in any way other than clean it.

Also, if you read the reviews of most of the lower-priced coops made of wood, there is usually a complaint about the flimsiness of the wood construction. Many reviewers talk about the need to brace the walls and ceilings of these coops.

In addition, many of these same reviewers complain about the need to add extra or upgraded latches to nesting box openings, and hardware cloth/mesh to cover gaps in the seams, to keep predators out. Remember that weasels only require about a half inch gap to get into your coop. You won’t need to worry about latches with Snaplock coops. Not only are they plentiful, they are also secured with carabiners, making it next to impossible for predators to open them

There are also frequent complaints about the difficulty of assembling wooden coops. Many of them take several hours to assemble. On the other hand, one of the reviewers of the Snaplock said that it took him only 30 minutes to assemble. It might help that the the instructions are written in American English since the coop is manufactured in the United States.

Are there any downsides to this coop? Well, you have to realize that it is only a coop. It does not come with a run, like many of the wooden coops do. You will either need to add a run, or free-range your chickens.

The second runner up in this category went to Sentinel’s Producer’s Pride Chicken Coop

The Producer Pride Chicken Coop

There were over 800 reviews for this Tractor Supply chicken coop, with an average rating of 4.2 out of five.

We liked many of the features of this coup. First off, it appeared to have very solid construction. It was the only coop we reviewed which had steel bracing along the seams. Steel! Secondly, it was assembled very easily. Most reviewers did so in under an hour. And the price? I don’t think you could build a coop of this quality and style for much less than the current price. Finally, it has one of those slide-out trays that make cleaning out the poop very easy. All in all, a nice small chicken coop at a great price.

Any discussion about chicken coops usually ends up with someone saying, “Well Geez, I could build that!” And you will find that the internet is full of chicken coop plans, many of them for free. If you are particularly handy (I’m not) or have some extra time on your hands ( I don’t), and MOST IMPORTANTLY!!!, your spouse gives you the “OK” (mine would never) , then by all means, have at it! And when you are done, we would truly appreciate it if you would send us a picture of your work.