First I want to introduce myself as this is my first post. I am an urban gardener and school teacher looking to add chickens to my backyard garden.
I have spent the last weeks reading posts on this forum and I have learned a lot, I had originally planned to build a chicken coop and run but now I am debating whether the coop is necessary for my hens in central Florida. Unfortunately I do not have shade trees in my back yard and although I intend to plant them around the coop when I am done with construction it will likely be several years before they are big enough to really shade my yard and run. My back yard is south facing so it gets some pretty intense heat during the day, upwards of 110-115 degrees Fahrenheit on my thermometer on the patio in the direct sun. In the winter we rarely get more than 2 consecutive nights below freezing temperatures and maybe 10-15 nights a year of night time temps in the 30's (with wind chill).
Considering these conditions and what I have read on this and other websites I am wondering if I should scrap the coop plans and just make a really strong (read: predator proof) run with a couple of nesting boxes and roosts and the essentials and just protect the girls from the occasional cold by covering the coop with tarps or other wind breaks much like I would cover beloved plants on of the few nights we get a "frost warning” or a wind chill advisory.
Several of the coops/runs I have gotten inspiration from are:
http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/the-hen-den (I love this one)
I’m planning to design and build (with the help of my husband of course) a 6 x10 run with a solid roof, all 4 sides hardwire cloth (as well as the bottom of the coop) and a people sized door on the north side. I also plan on adding wooden lattice to allow for additional shade without limiting airflow on at least 2, if not 3 of the sides – South side and West side for sure since the sun is most intense in the afternoon and possibly the East side if the morning sun becomes too intense as well in the summer. Also, I should note my hens probably wont be able to free range much at all where we live which is why I am going with a 6x10 run for my 3 hens.
I’m concerned that if the hens do not have a completely enclosed “coop” that it would be detrimental to their behavior and/or health in the long run. Is a coop something they really need to feel safe and secure at night, to keep them dry during night time thunder storms which are very common in central Florida?
Or will they be perfectly happy sitting “high and dry” on a well-placed roost in an open run that keeps them out of the rain and allows them to enjoy the hot and humid breezes during our summer nights that are often in the mid to upper 80’s?
I welcome any and all advice or suggestions!