It's hard for a beginner to know what to choose! I was like this when pregnant and trying to work out what I needed... I didn't know a bugaboo from a babygrow and had no idea what a baby vest was! Well I feel exactly the same way now and a millions questions have been asked in the last couple of weeks: How big should the run be for when they're not free ranging? Should the coop be on the ground or elevated? How do I treat red spider mite? What if I get 'funny' eggs? And the big one - should I keep them at the allotment or at home??? Answers on a postcard please...
The matter's complicated because I plan on rescuing battery hens. The next BHWT (http://www.bhwt.org.uk/) rescue session for my area is at the end of January. So, it's going to be a bit chilly. They will have been kept in a small cage in constant warmth and light conditions and they're suddely going to be in the open air. They're probably going to be missing a few feathers and will need some help in the early days. So that all points to keeping the chickens at home - at least to start with. If that's the case then I'll have to get a small coop, with a smaller run, but on the positive side they'll be let out to free range more than if they're at the allotment. They'd need a much bigger run at the allotment to make up for the reduced time spent free ranging.
So, at least to start I think I'm getting a small coop and run for my back garden. I'll extend the run so that they can roam under the trees in my "woodland area" [aka the bit of the garden sheltered by next door's huge trees where nothing will grow unless I continuously water the area].
The next problem is not really a problem, but it does make it more expensive. I want a raised coop so that their is a sheltered area underneath for them to roam and also to keep things out of the coop (like rats!). I've read that it helps with damp problems too.
I've got to fox-proof the garden as well; at the moment there is a hole in the fence that a fox uses to wonder around the garden. That needs fixing. And my allotment friends who keep chickens suggested putting something around the base of the run to stop the foxes digging underneath.
Luckily my lovely partner David is buying me the coop for my Christmas and birthday present, but he has been prompting me to make a decision so he can get on and buy. And I think I've nearly decided... just need to ponder it for a few more days.
All this and I haven't even thought about feeders, food etc!