Originally Posted by Ajensen2713
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.
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!
Welcome to Chicken Keeping,
I am in Winter Springs, not too far from you. Sounds like you are well on the road to keeping happy chickens. I will tell you what I have done and it has worked well for my little flock. I have a 10 x 12 enclosed run that comes off the back of my house. That would probably conflict with codes in Orlando. I used white lattice around it and plant pole beans on the outside which give shade and greens to the birds and I get some beans for myself. There is also 1 inch wire around the bottom half, inside the lattice.
The more space to scratch and dust bathe the better. My coop is a converted raised garden spot. The underpart is open so they can scratch and get more shade. The floor is 1 x 1/2 wire so dropping fall through and there is more airflow. I seldom have to clean it out since the go under and scratch it up. There is also a section below the roof that is open welded wire that also helps with ventilation. It has some perches and a nestbox off the side of it. It has a solid roof and I keep the food in it so it will stay dry except with severe blowing rains. If it gets damp I just dump it right away and they scratch thru and get what they want so not too much is wasted. My run top is 2 inch chicken wire, but a solid roof would be better. Silly girls will roost outside if given a chance regardless of the weather since my door is a lift door and if I don't drop it down that is a favorite spot. They seem to enjoy the summer rains and the little cold we get here does not bother them at all.
Some shade and fresh water is most important in this Florida heat, I lost two that were in a separate cage with food, water. They were in the shade but the sun moved more quickly across the sky than I realized and they got too hot quickly. I was so angry with myself.
Hope this helps you create a space for your girlies to be safe and enjoy.
Some pics you can click to enlarge
Outside has green beans and pepper planted around the bottom. Waterproof rubber can is for shavings to use in nestbox since my garage is full!!
You can see some sun shining under and shade toward the left side
Top wire allows more airflow, but some driving rain will get in, has not been a serious problem