Originally Posted by gswartz
I'd like to raise 2 or 3 egg chickens and around 10 Cornish X for meat... so 12-13 chickens. I need to build a coop and want to make sure I make it large enough to accommodate all of them. Since the Cornish X chickens won't be in there for more than a few weeks, does the 4 sq ft per chicken rule still apply?
And, just to make sure I'm figuring this correctly, the 4 sq ft is the total floor space, correct? So if I have a 4'x4' floor, that would only give me 16 sq ft of space for the chickens = 4 chickens? To house 12 chickens it sounds like I'd need a coop around 6'x8' but that seems really large to me. Is that correct? Do I need to make it that big if I'm raising the meat chickens that won't be in there long?
Also, while discussing Cornish X, at what point do you move them into a coop from the brooder box? Thanks!
*I* would suggest building your actual coop to accommodate the laying birds only, so a 4X4 coop with an appropriate attached run if you are not planning to free range would be sufficient for the small number of birds you intend to house. The Cornish Cross are not going to be with you nearly long enough to worry much about configuring your coop to accommodate them - for those I would look at doing a simple hoop coop or other style of grow out pen that is sufficient in size for them (the sizing will vary on whether you want to raise them in the traditional manner, want to "tractor" them or will use modified raising including pasturing to increase the grow out time. The separate quarters will allow for using different management programs for the two types of birds and you aren't stuck building a monstrosity of a setup to house birds that are only around for 6-10 weeks, especially since they will be the bulk of your overall numbers.
What is your long term game plan for the laying group? This is where I might consider building a little bigger than you "need" for the initial 2-3 hens to allow you to approach your flock in a way that will best allow for a continuous supply of eggs and for housing replacement birds for the original group as they age out of being consistent producers. Building to allow for six birds, for example, allows you to start with the first group and then start a second group of 2-3 next spring -- in the fall your newest birds will begin to lay around the time your first group stops laying to go through their first big molt. The new birds will likely lay through that winter while the older birds may take the winter off or, at least, lay less productively but will pick up in the spring for their second cycle. Lather, rinse, repeat for steady flow of eggs. This also works if your plan is to process the older birds or sell them off at the point of the first molt as you have the new birds there and at the point-of-lay, which would be harder to accomplish if the coop is not large enough to accommodate all of them during the time that both groups are present.
As to when to move them out - that depends on your approach to raising them. There are ways to start them in the grow out pen/coop without ever having them in the typical "brooder" setup that comes to mind when you hear the word. You may want to visit the "meat bird" section of the forums and read through some of the wonderful threads that discuss the different ways folks raise their meaties, including full pasture raising with brooding in the pen/coop.