Not knowing the first thing about chickens I started with a design concept last August of keep it simple, flexible and cheap. The design utilized a minimum amount of materials with the fewest amounts of cuts. We live in Tucson, AZ so ventilation and security from predators was a premium design function. Protection from the sun was added soon after the first 90 degree day in March. I will get my plans up in a few days.
The house ended up being very functional, flexible and secure. If I had spent as much time planning the run as I did the House I would have maintained the budget. The resident chicks were purchased in time for the house, but too soon for the Run. I got rushed completing the Run and had to scrap planning and just get it done! Man those peeps grow fast! I am having to rebuild the run this year to correct for some short cuts, improvisations, and overall poor construction.
The floor is up off the ground so air can flow up and out the top vent. The poop falls through the hardware cloth or dries on the wire and is swept out. In cooler months I have plywood floors that drop in and I put wood shavings for insulation and to absorb the wet. It works pretty well so far. When the chicks were young we had the wood floors in for them. I am not sure if I would want the young chicks walking on the wire. The older girls feet are tough enough. I had to change the location of the house once it was built. The new space worked better and gave better access. I added an access door to the roost area.
We now have 9 bird residing in the house. We will probably add 3 more in a few months.
Some things to consider:
When researching the door into the run, most posts recommended to have it open into the run so you could block the chickens from getting out. A good idea if that is the main problem, but Bad idea with big dogs and other big critters wanting to get in. If you forget to lock the door, they can just push it open with their nose!
Shade is paramount in the desert. I am going to put a hard roof over 1/2 of the run and shade cloth over the rest. (Tip: I am using an old trampoline bed for the shade cloth. I picked up two last year for free on bulk and brushy trash week in my neighborhood. The tramp is much heavier than ordinary shade cloth. I used parts of the tramp frame to make a feeder roof. This keeps the birds from walking and fouling the food trough, shades the food, keeps rain out. It works pretty well.
I used one of my old real estate sign for the chicken door. It is lifted by simple pulley system from outside the run so you don't have to disturb the girls when they go to bed. I uesd some of the scrap trimmed grooved edges of the T-111 panel as the tracks, it works really well.
I use desert sand out of the wash (dry creek bed) to help dry out the poop in the run and keep the smell down. About every couple weeks I rake it up and scattter the sand poop mix around established trees and plants in the yard. Looks perfectly natural and should not burn the established plants as long as you spread it really well. My trees are looking very healthy this year. The poop from the house mixed with straw goes into the compost pile. I don't have to worry about the chickens getting enough grit in their diet.
Plastic bird netting and plastic poultry fence is not worth the initial savings. Rats, skunks and other vermin eat right through it and the sun trashes it in about a year.
Building the run and house adjacent to the Vegetable garden has been good for the garden. There has been a noticeable drop in garden pests, the garden is thriving from the fertilizer, the birds keep me company while I work in the garden, and they consume any alot of what would have gone into the compost pile.
Giant Sunflowers planted on the southern exposure gives great shade to the run during the hot months and a natural trellis for other climbing vines and the run provides a support. to the plants in heavy winds. In the winter you want the sunshine.
Some things I plan to add this year:
- Roof on the run
- Automatic water system.
- Solar light inside the house.