Hello, I am new to chickens and need some advice. I want to get 4-5 laying hens to raise our own eggs. I am thinking of getting ISA Browns or Red Sex Link hens.
I live in Southern Ontario Canada. We have cold winters going down to -20C (-2F) with moderate to quite warm summers with highs around 32C (90F)
I have a nice insulated horse barn with 7 stalls, and I was thinking of converting one horse stall for chickens. The stall I would use is 8'6" x 12' with 4' high hemlock partition walls which I would fill in above the planks all the way to the 14' ceiling with 1/2" hardware cloth. The barn has lighting which is already on timers for 16 hours of light in winter to keep my show horses coats from growing too heavy.
On the other side of the back wall of the stall I would convert, we have a 24'X32' south-facing open run-in shed for the horses. I could partition a 5' x 24' strip of that as a chicken run and install a pop-door for access. Since this is under a roof it stays 90% clear of snow, or just 4"-6" of snow might come in near the south side but a good part of it is clear all winter.
The barn interior stays around 4C (39F) in winter unless we get a long run of super cold weather in which case it could fall to -2C (30F) to -4C (25F) for a week or so.
My question is, am I going to be unhappy having chickens in my horse barn? I've read that chickens are dusty. How dusty? Would 4 hens be too dusty in my barn?
I am quite particular about horsekeeping and I don't want to cause problems for the horses or drive myself crazy trying to keep things nice. It must be said that horses do raise some dust, mainly by rolling in their shavings (I was going to use pine shavings as litter for the chickens also).
I am accustomed to cleaning horse stalls daily and would expect to do similar with chickens so I don't think they will smell up the barn (correct me if I am wrong?) but will this number of hens create a dust situation that I will regret? If so I need to find another way to get chickens into our setup.
Another choice would be to build some form of separate cabin-like coop within the 5' X 24' run I was going to build in my run-in shed (and I could then extend the size of this run out into the paddock), but then I lose the advantage of the chickens being in the insulated horse-warmed space and would need to deal with heating water for them, lighting it to keep them laying in winter, and worrying about them when it gets frigid. I also think I would enjoy them more if they were in the barn as I spend many hours per day there, although perhaps the chickens will choose to be outside most days, even in the winter?
Thanks in advance for your insight!