OK so this is my first attempt at my page: A couple of pics to start and I'll go from there
So here's the "Chilton Hotel"...lol.
2 story chicken condo w/ attached run. It's made with privacy fencing on 3 sides so there is enough spacing between the boards to allow for plenty of ventilation in the upstairs, but not be drafty. The downstairs is lined inside with 1/2"thick styrofoam insulation covered by particle wood so it stays very cozy in heat or cold. The upstairs and downstairs both have solid floors that are pitched to the front for runoff when cleaning, with a small vent in the upper floor running lengthwise along the front by the doors to promote circulation between levels as well as the hole in the back where the ladder rests. When washing the coop the runoff from the upstairs then washes to the lower level thru the front vent into the bottom then runs out to the side of the run leaving the ground in front of the coop dry. Cleaning is rather easy with double swinging doors upstairs and downstairs. There is as a small door upstairs in back for gathering eggs from the nesting box as well. Both upstairs and downstairs have a perch for roosting, but everyone sleeps upstairs overnight. I will be installing a second perch upstairs soon as they have grown and now need the extra room. The coop dimensions are 4' x 4' x 6' in front and about 5' in back. I am considering materials to cover the front doors with in the winter. My first thought was duck cotton canvas over each window opening. Water resistant yet breathable. It could be rolled up during the days and let back down over night (Any suggestions would be appreciated). The hanging heated waterer that I will be using year round is hanging downstairs and the feeder (not pictured) is outside in the middle of the run set on the blocks you can see in the pic. I also have a small critter cup that attaches to cage wire that has poultry grit in it (the small white cup near the bricks in the run), but no one ever eats it as I have several areas with dirt/gravel around the yard. There is also a clip for hanging fresh choices in the run if they can't be out, also a metal pan at the end of the run that I keep filled with dirt for bathing if they need to be kept in. The run is 4' x 16'x 2 1/2' with a one ince pitch to the back for runoff with 1"x 1" hardware cloth underneath and 1/2" x 1" hardware cloth on the sides. All hardware cloth on the run was put on with heavy unails. The front doors are also covered with 1/2" x 1" hc which is clamped down between 2 boards on each side to hold it securely in place. The run rests on a mixture of driveway gravel and top soil and drains well when rinsed, but otherwise stays dry with the lids and many trees covering the area. I am considering adding river sand or possibly pea gravel to fill the run with. Something that can be scooped/sifted out and remain dry. (Opinions sought about that). There are four individual 4' x 4' lids over the run and we used all treated lumbar. We used landscaping ties as the run base and bolted the two sections together and then to the coop so the coop and run are portable and could be moved later if needed. The only thing left to do is to stain/seal the wood on the outside to make it look uniform.
The coop is in an area of the yard that was originally fenced off from the rest of the yard for the dogs to be during wet weather. Gave up on that one..lol. There is a nice section of grassy/weedy area to the right of the run just on the other side of the shade tree inside the pen that they can have access to if for some reason they can't be out free ranging in the yard. This set up works well now that they can no longer get thru the chain link fence holes. When they were still small I got 2 portable child pens and put them together to make a nice large area that they could free range and not get out. Worked great! It could fold up when not in use and I could pull it to a different section of the yard every couple of hours. They were never left outside unattended though, because it was not covered and as they grew they started to fly out and wander the yard. Now I let them out into the yard first thing in the morning for several hours to graze and then again in the evening. They only issue I have ever had with letting them free range in the yard is they have all, at one time or another, attempted to climb the stairs up to the deck. Flyswatters have solved that. If they came up far enough for me to reach them, I swatted them on the rump. The ones that didn't quite make it that close got them thrown near them enough to scare them into not trying again. No one has tried it twice and no one got hurt
I leave one of the pups out in the yard with them because I have a momma fox and her 2 kits who live in the vacant lot behind the coop and they wander around the neighborhood. The pup spends so much time with the chicks that I am wondering if she thinks she is one as I often catch her in the run eating the chicks feed...lol. On occasions I will feed the pup out in the yard instead of in the house and they chicks always come around looking for a free bite too.
Now, the older pup stays in the house or up on the deck with me though while the chicks are out as she is not so good with them when I'm not down in the yard. The top of the deck steps is gated to keep her from going down and the pups are never allowed to use the deck steps anyway. They must go thru the house. So far this setup has really worked well. I placed the dog's Igloos in the corner of the yard to the right of the pic on the yard side of the fence so they could hear any predators that may wander near the coop overnight. All the coop doors are locked each night and run lids are locked unless I am cleaning.
At one point I was giving treats inside the run, but that became a nightmare to clean thru the hardware cloth floor, so now they get treats out in the yard on a large platter then any leftovers I miss the pups clean up. Having the chicks freerange has been a blessing in disguise. Not only do they poop and fertilize the lawn, they scratch the dog poop piles down to nothing to get the bugs therefore making my cleanup job a little easier.
I only wish I had more room
UPDATE: 03/2011 Everyone wintered over well. The window coverings worked like a charm! Had gone with an impermeable material from local fabric shop that is typically used for making baby waterproof mattress covers. Had a friend sew velcro on both front and back all the way around the edges and held them in place with velcro stapled to outside window frames. This allowed maximum utilization of ventilation regardless of what the weather was doing. It kept everyone dry and draft free. I placed a remote weather sensor zip tied inside a wire suet basket hanging from the inside upper right hand door to monitor temperatures inside coop and it consistantly stayed 2-5 degrees warmer in the coop than the outdoor temps. With the spaces between the privacy fencing that the 3 sides of the coop are made with I had no amonia build up what so ever. No frost or frost bite either. I did staple cardboard boxes to the outside walls when an impending ice/freezing rain was forcasted to ensure no wetness was blown in with the 70mph gusts during the storm. The waterer is heated and hangs in the lower level next to the nesting box. Only once did we have a single frozen egg, and I think it was due to the youngest not collecting all the eggs the day before... sat out overnight. All in all, I could not have been more pleased this first winter. There was plenty of snow and storms with frigid weather to test the design of coop and run.
The run I covered with 2 tarps leaving a slight opening toward the center of the run and the end was left open for airflow. I did close up the end during the predicted "storm of the century" weather system when I put the boxes on the outside of the coop, but took it back off soon as it passed. With the leaf litter from the yard and half a bag of pine shavings that was left from filling the dog igloos for the winter, everyone stayed happy, healthy and warm and dry even on the coldest days.
Will post pics soon ;o)
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