Hi! This is my first (hopefully of many!) posts on this forum, and I am 100% new to chickens. I have done a lot of research but nothing beats getting opinions first hand :) Some of the questions aren't purely coop and run/construction related, but most of the questions are related in one way or another.
BACKGROUND INFO: We are located in Perth, Australia (significance of that being that temperatures get quite warm, and also availability of breeds of chicken etc). I am living in college and am only home for the holidays (21.y.o m), and last holidays I built a chicken coop and run for my parents. I thought they'd be rather lonely with no kids around anymore, so I figured it would be a nice little present that keeps giving.
As Perth is ridiculously hot in Summer, most backyards don't have any lawn - it is all tiled. As such, I ripped up an area of tiles approx 1.5m x 3m (I am guessing this, as I am currently at college). It isn't the most space in the world, but for a cute couple two or three chickens is plenty. Also, I didn't want something that was incredibly difficult to maintain or was large, just a cute little setup off to the side of our house.
1. What breed should I get? I have done a lot of research and everyone has their opinion. Since I am getting them three chooks, anything that produces 240ish+ per year is fine. I want birds that are heat tolerant (I have built the coop high enough for them to hang under in the heat, as well as an overlapping roof for shade. Lastly, I want birds that are a bit more chilled out, not so flighty like leghorns etc, birds that are content with scratching around and go about their business. I am also interested in keeping 2-3 types of chickens, mainly so its easy to monitor chook health based on egg quality and quantity. Currently considering 1 x Australorp and 2 x Hyline Browns. Do these seem ok/fit the bill?
2. For a coop size of 12 ft sq off my memory, and run of about 45 ft sq is that enough for 3 chooks? I have read different figures for space per bird, and my idea of it was that if theres enough perch area during the night and a nesting box, the three of them have plenty of space outside. Three is absolute max I would consider, but if three is feasible - if two is the max then two it is.
3. If I were to open the gate and let them wander around the tiled areas, whilst there isn't any vegetation for them to go at, there are plenty of bugs around - they'd take care of that for me nicely, but would they poop a lot? From what I have read, most pooping is done on the perches, so if I let them out for 2 or 3 hours in the afternoon is that going to wreck the backyard?
4. Smell. I have tried to build a coop in a way thats easy to clean - the side opens up completely to the outside so you don't need to walk into the coop to access it, and I spaced the floor timbers 0.5cm apart so I can just hose the inside after removing the shavings. As the summer is really hot, naturally the smell will be slightly worse. I have read things about apple cider vinegar, are there any other tips to keeping the coop fresh for the birds?
5. What to use for the run and coop. I am considering getting freshly mulched wood to lay along the run, as fresh mulch sucks up nitrogen and chicken poop has plenty of that to go around, and every 3 months or so I can just use the mulch for the garden. It is also cheap, if not free. I would have a section of just dust for them to bathe. I was thinking of mulch for inside the coop as well, or wood shavings (dried). Opinions/suggestions?
I am a first timer to this all, so please correct me on any stupidity or ignorance! I have done a lot of reading and research (naturally during exam study week), but theres plenty to learn!
Thank you in advance, even if you cannot answer any of my questions :)
Pictures: One picture illustrates the side opening up for cleaning/egg collection, other picture shows the area I have ripped up and the coop/run. Link: http://imgur.com/a/L9CH8
Thanks again, Ish