Greetings to all from a new member from Missouri.
A bit of background on myself. Have been around production AG in the midwest nearly all my adult life. In and around all manner of farm barns and buildings, including most types of livestock barns. Old enough to remember a time when nearly every farm there was had a chicken house of some kind, but even when I was a kid, most had already been abandoned and where no longer being used. I only knew of a few hardy old souls who still used them, including one grandparent and some neighbors. But when they too dropped out, a lot of knowledge was lost and the buildings they used sat abandoned or were simply torn down. Have been in and around these buildings for years, and mostly ignored them as I along with most everyone else simply assumed they were nothing more than useless piles of lumber…..relics from another time and place.
One of the most welcome trends I've seen come along in recent years is the advent self sufficient lifestyles, including gardens, etc. and of course backyard chickens. That trend/movement now includes me. After nearly 25 years of living in town on a small lot with no hope of having a garden or animals beyond house pets, we recently moved to a rural area and now have adequate land and room for garden, chickens, livestock, etc. A welcome change back to my roots.
So, first things first. To raise some yard birds, I would need some type of coop. Friends and family started raising chickens a few years back so I have seen what works (and doesn't) for them. In looking at what small coops are available from commercial sources, none of them seem to make any sense. They look nice, but what background do these builders have in raising chickens? Are they building functional or just cute? Cute is OK and part of the fun......no harm in cute....., but not at the expense of functional. If there is a mantra I have learned in my years of working with farm buildings (or any building for that matter), it is this: "form follows function". Everything has suggested parameters and if you go against those, you are asking for trouble. I would have to guess that nearly 90% or more of the modern era coops I have seen go against or ignore these parameters and would end up in disaster.
So in this light, it finally occurred to me that it might be a good idea to go back in time to take another look at all those chicken houses still found on those farms to see if I could pick up some ideas and insight into what they used way back when. After all, these were developed over the years by taking what worked and discarding what didn't and eventually honed into high functional structures, best suited to the purpose. In other words, why re-invent the wheel and make all the mistakes they made in doing so? So one of the things I had resolved to do was to start documenting these older chicken houses as I found them before they were lost entirely. But concurrent with that, decided to keep looking on the Internet to find something of interest to build here and now. I'm sure I'm not the first one to do that.
After some searching and looking, I had begun to narrow things down a bit. One of the more intriguing coops to consider was the Woods Colony House. An Internet search brought me to JackE's thread on this site:
That has to be one of the more remarkable threads on the Internet, now spanning nearly 5 years and approaching 500 posts. The thread that will not die, and for good reason. So much to learn from it. I had found Woods book and had read it several times even before finding the thread, so seeing a modern era house of this type along with the questions and discussion was a blessing. But what I also noticed in the Woods book was an obscure reference to the Missouri Poultry Experimental Research Station, something that despite my exposure to Missouri Ag, had never heard of. One thing led to another, and thanks to the Internet, have found out more than I ever knew existed. Wow.
A good synopsis can be found here:
The author was the director of that research center for several years. My guess is it closed down or he moved on, as when he wrote this, he had moved from Mountain Grove (near the MO / Arkansas border) to Kansas City. But still, the reference offers a great deal of insight into how to profitably raise chickens back in a time when it really mattered. What worked and didn't and why. Housing, feeding and husbandry. Something we can all take note of even now. As they say, chickens is chickens.
So going forward, I hope to chronicle what I plan to build and why and in the process go through the basic points that matter. For example, a coop intended for only 4 or 5 chickens does not need 4 nest boxes.
Anyway, that should be enough about me to get started. See you on the forums!!!!
Edited by Howard E - 2/19/16 at 5:15am