New Plastic Chicken Coop
Lately I’ve been thinking about the ideal setup for backyard chickens in terms of health for the chickens and ease of labor on the chicken keeper. I have come to the conclusion that a paddock shift system where the chickens are moved every seven days, and there are at least four paddocks is the way to go. I also think the paddocks should be stocked with chicken friendly edibles, and also double as an orchard is an ideal setup. I am in the process of implementing this very setup, but I have come to the conclusion that my current coop is not going to work.
My current chicken coop is a moveable coop on wheels, but it is made with a lot of wood, and it is very heavy. Even though it is on wheels its weight makes it difficult to move it any long lengths. This is a problem in my paddock shift system, as my paddocks will be large, and every 4th move will have to go all the way back to the first paddock. I really need something lighter and easier to move by hand.
Old Chicken Coop
The problem with the weight of my current coop and other moveable coops or chicken tractors is that they are built with wood. The heaviness of the wood and the skinniness of the tires make for a stuck chicken coop in all but the flattest and hardest of grounds. Of course flat ground is difficult to find in a chicken paddock, as they love to make dust bath holes.
I started to think that what I needed was a small coop made of plastic. I know some permaculture people hate plastic, but I think this is a great application for plastic. First of all, it is light and easy to move, and second it is durable. You don’t have to worry about the chickens destroying a plastic coop. They can peck until their little hearts are content, but they will not destroy their plastic house. Third, you don’t have all the mites that love to make their home in the crevices of wood coops. And finally it is easy to clean!
So I had an idea of what I wanted in my mind, but I did not know if it existed. Given that I wanted a plastic coop, I was not going to try to build it myself. Interestingly, there are a few companies in England building some nice plastic coops, but only one of those companies has a US branch. The Eglu is a really nice coop, but it was expensive at $1200 or $1500 if you want the attached run. It was plastic, and had wheels, but I felt the price was too much. Eglu does make a smaller coop that is cheaper, but I did not like the nesting box, and it was too small for my flock.
Eventually, I came across a US based company, Formex that just started building a plastic coop weighing 40 pounds for $450. It could easily handle four large birds, but based on the specs, I think you could get five in there. It has a roosting bar, three nesting boxes, ventilation, and a pullout tray for easy cleanup. My original thought is that given that it is only 40 pounds, I could simply pick it up, and put it where I needed it to be.
I received my “Snap Lock Chicken Coop” by Fed-Ex in one large box. Another plus for this coop, is that you can have it shipped to you through normal channels, not having to worry about large freight. I had to rent a U-Haul to pick up my first coop at a freight station. What a pain! It took me about 30 minutes to put together the coop. My old coop took me all day. The directions say that no tools are required, and it is true that you could put it together with no tools, but it was hard to snap the pieces together. I would recommend a rubber mallet to bang them into place.
Coop in pieces Front of coop, nesting box access
So after quickly putting my new coop together, and looking it over, I decided that it was a great coop and would serve my needs except for one thing. While it only weighs 40 pounds, it is pretty wide, therefore it is awkward for one person to pick it up and move it. Two people could move it very easily, but if you do your garden chores alone, like I do, it might be a pain. So I decided to remedy that situation by adding wheels to the coop. I will post on how I setup the wheels tomorrow.
Back of coop Back of coop, access to tray for cleaning
All in all, I am very happy with the Snap Lock Plastic Chicken Coop. It’s not perfect, but it is pretty close, and for the money it is a great value. In fact I like it so much that I signed on as a dealer. You will be able to buy the coop on my site for the same price as purchasing direct from Formex. However, if you are a garden club member, you would be able to purchase the coop for less via your discount on my products. I am excited about being able to offer a great product, and also a nice discount for my garden club members.