Originally Posted by LeslieDJoyce
Karen, here is a photo of one of our brood cages. We chose that height because Hardware Cloth comes in 2' widths. We chose that length because we used some wood tree stakes for the long sides. And the width is also because of hardware cloth sizes, but it also fits one of our double nest boxes perfectly ... that's a double nest box sitting on top, without the divider. This particular cage is a bit of a wreck as we've been using it hard for a couple years now. It was simple enough to build. Two doors on the top ... we put the nest under one door so we can check the hens, and the feed/water under the other door.
These cages have no bottoms so the birds can scratch in the bedding. We settle them down into the deep bedding a bit, and sometimes if the birds dig enough we also have to block escape tunnels (split fire wood or stepping stones are good for this). Too much bedding inside the cage isn't great.
We like to make the nest end more "private" by wrapping it in feed sacks or something. We also line the top of the cage if it is in a coop with other birds ... birds love to hang out on top of the cage and poo.
These cages are pretty spacious for when the chicks start to hatch, but light enough for one person to move around awkwardly.
We think the rectangular shape is a bonus feature. Use a hoe or something to reach the stinky broody poo in the middle.
We built a cage very much like this out of 2 x 4s, made it 4' x 4' x 10' for maximum efficiency ... it was so heavy we turned it into a mini coop. We find the 4' height to be difficult to service ... a door on the side means crawling, a door on the top is even hard to reach down into for those of us here over 6' with VERY long arms.
We can get 3 ft wide hardware cloth here, but I also like the 2 ft tall box because it allows me to reach to the bottom of the pen easily. Your box is similar to the brooder we have in our garage - it's 2 ft x 10 ft x 2 ft tall. Lets me reach all areas without having to stand funny and strain my back and I can reach all the way to the bottom to grab chicks without having the side of the box sticking into my chest/armpit. When I use it as a temporary space for full grown cocks, the cocks' combs are pushed over just a tad bit by the *ceiling* but they have plenty of room to move around and because we used 1/4" hardware cloth, their combs don't get injured by touching the top. And then hens are a bit shorter so they don't even touch the top of the wire.
One thing I figured out quickly, I prefer the pens to be tall enough to stand upright in, or short enough for me to easily bend over and be able to easily reach the opposite wall without straining. Or they need to be a shape, like my smaller a-frames, where they are plenty wide enough for me to work in from the side without staying bent over and have the feed/water easily accessible without having to crawl inside. We have one pen that is 4 feet tall all across the top. I hate it. We have to stay hunched over the entire time and it's too tall to bend over to work from the top. I have plans to convert the top to a peak so that I'll be able to stand upright and be more comfortable.
It's pretty easy to make a pen that is good for the birds, but it's more important and a little more difficult to come up with the right dimensions to suit the chicken keeper's needs. It's really more important for the house to be good for the keeper, because if it is difficult to work in, then keeping it clean and doing chores as simple as watering the birds becomes difficult at best, painful from back strain at worst, and for some, husbandry and chicken health/happiness can suffer if the pen isn't keeper-friendly.