Buying a coop


Aug 9, 2016
For those of us with time in very short supply, is there a decent coop one can buy for 4 - 5 chickens? The ones I find labeled for up to 8 chickens are all absurdly small. New to this hobby, we've been reading and learning for a while. We just ordered four hens, hopefully well suited to our eastern PA winters. We believe the minimum requirement for four hens should be:

12 - 16 sq. ft. inside coop space (would this include nesting box?)
24 sq. ft. run space

We will not allow these chickens to free range much, as we're away from the house all day on weekdays.

I have been searching, but have not really found a coop that meets these minimum requirements. Most coops seem to alot only 1.5 - 4 sq.ft. of run per chicken, and 1 sq.ft. of coop per chicken, which seems just way too small.

I did find one brand which allocates 5 - 7 sq.ft. of run and 2 - 3 sq.ft. of coop (actually 2.5 - 4.0 sq.ft. if you include nesting box) per chicken, but they're out of stock on the one model that would fit my flock, with no info on when they might have more.

Advice? While I'm willing (and able) to build, if this becomes a permanent part of our family life, I'm very short on time, and was hoping to just buy until we could learn enough to know what we would want out of a custom build.


Howard E

5 Years
Feb 18, 2016
First off, welcome to BYC!

Wish there was an easy solution to offer. You are correct that most commercial made, pre-fab houses are absurdly small. There appear to be two sets of numbers floating around out is for the time tested, time proven values for small flocks (4 SF per bird). The other is to use commercial laying house numbers (less than 1 SF per bird) and transpose those onto small backyard flocks with the end result being these too small houses. Do the people who make these really not know how bad they are or do they know and not care? (Rhetorical question). I am beginning to suspect it is a bit of both.........

Back to your question. One of the best small flock housing options I've seen in a while is one that is currently under construction. Thread for it is here:

Note that setup is also intended for 4 birds........housing with run. These guys have done a lot of work, but when it is all finished, will have a safe, secure and lasting housing option that will last the life of at least the first set of birds, and perhaps many sets more.

If you could find a pre-fab coop like this one, buy it! Just be advised they will probably tell you it will house about 15 to 20 birds and cost a pant load of money.


Apr 24, 2016
I'm wondering being in PA if you might be able to find any Amish-built coops? We went through this as well (ended up building our own) and the only coop we saw that we did like and thought was sturdy enough was an Amish built coop. No run, though. If you find a coop you like, you could always go with it and then use chain link dog kennel panels (reinforced with hardware cloth, a top, and an apron). Check our local shed builders--the nice thing then is you can see in person and check quality of materials. Nesting boxes are not typically considered to be part of the recommended 4 sq ft per bird.

I totally understand the time issue, but also keep in mind your chickies would be fine for awhile if you need to stage things if it would enable you to build your own. Our run was done first, so I trucked them back and forth from their garage brooder for a couple of weeks to get some outdoor time. Good luck and enjoy your flock!


Crossing the Road
13 Years
Feb 2, 2009
Southeast Louisiana
First I’m not a big advocate of magic numbers for chickens. That includes rooster to hen rations, roost space, square feet of ventilation per chicken, age to integrate, or much of anything else, including coop and/or run space. We have so many different climates, flock make-ups, management techniques, goals, and such that we and our needs are all unique. That 4 square feet in the coop with 10 square feet in the run is more than the absolute minimum most of us need, though for some it will be small. It's a general guideline, a place to start. Nothing else. A lot to do with the space requirements have more to do with your comfort and convenience than the chickens, though if they are too tight it can lead to very bad behaviors. I am an advocate of providing as much space as you reasonably can, I have fewer behavioral problems to deal with, don’t have to work as hard, and have more flexibility to respond to issues if I provide more space. You can follow the link in my signature below to get some of my thoughts.

There are extremely few mail=order coops out there that will suit you. By the time you find one, order it, get it built and shipped to you and you assemble it you can probably fix something suitable yourself, especially if you look at it as something temporary while you decide if you want to keep chickens or not. It’s a lot easier if it doesn’t have to be pretty. Fort some of us, especially with neighbors close, pretty can be important, but the chickens themselves really don’t care.

For the run I suggest you look on Craigslist for dog kennel fencing or something like that. You’ll probably have to go get it, which might mean renting a trailer, but you can assemble that pretty fast yourself. How big you make it might depend on how much you find. It should be relatively inexpensive and pretty easy. It will take some effort though to find it and assemble it.

The coop section is kind of hard to talk about because you have so many possibilities. Again, look on Craigslist for a shed or small building you can get. It doesn’t take much to convert a shed into a coop, roosts, nests, some kind of door, and ventilation. That makes it a coop. You can look in the coops section at the top of this page to see if you can find something you think you can build easily. Remember, this is temporary. All you need is a covered frame.

Another option is to get one of those unsuitable coops/runs and put that inside your dog kennel fencing. The whole thing becomes the coop inside your kennel run. In Pennsylvania in winter about all you need is a place for them to sleep out of the wind. A dry nest could be handy. You might need to cover the sides and top of that run with plastic to keep snow out but you’d be OK. It can be done. But those coops are usually really expensive for what you get.

People may have you believe you need all kinds of things in a coop. You don’t. You need roosts, a nest, and a way for them to get in and out. You need access to gather eggs and clean. All that other stuff can go into your permanent coop if you decide to build one.


Chicken Juggler!
Premium Feather Member
9 Years
Nov 27, 2012
SW Michigan
My Coop
My Coop
What's the rush, already got the chick(en)s?
Best thing to do fast is to buy a shed, as previously mentioned.
An 8x8 shed will be plenty big to get thru winter with 5 birds and leave room for storage and to add more birds in the future.
It will also be able to hold up under the feet of snow you might get and that can last for months.
A wooden shed will be easier to modify than a metal one as you will need to add ventilation, roosts, nests etc.
Best if you can find a shed with good roof overhangs to accommodate eave ventilation for winter,
and window protection (top hinged windows are the bomb) all year round.


Aug 9, 2016
Follow-up. Purchased an ACC-44 from CC Only. Was an Amish-built design that they used to re-sell, but they're now cutting at their factory. It should be here this week. Dimensions are 4' wide X 4' deep X 7' tall, with 3 nesting boxes accessible from outside, man door, sliding window with hardware cloth, and vertical sliding chicken door.

My job will be building the run, which I plan to be 6' wide X 8' long, so roughly 48 sq.ft. for 4 chickens. I figure I better put a foundation under the sill of the run around the full perimeter, to keep animals from tunneling under. Any ideas appreciated, but perhaps I should post another thread on this to get a more targeted response.

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