A whole coop of questions

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Isisranch, May 27, 2008.

  1. Isisranch

    Isisranch Out Of The Brooder

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    May 27, 2008
    Strasburg, Colorado
    Hello all, I am new to the forum and thrilled to have found you! A little about me, I live on a 120 acre ranch where we raise Highland cattle, horses, pigs, a Llama and currently 2 cats and 14 dogs (11 of which are only 7 weeks old).

    I have decided to add a few chickens to the brood. I have never owned chickens before and I mainly want them for eggs. I have found 5 laying hens but now I have the daunting task of building a coop. A few questions?

    1. Has anyone used a solar fan on the top for air circulation? My house is off-grid and I currently have no power to my barn other than some solar panels for lights.

    2. Location, location, location. I have a very large barn and i really don't think I want to keep them in it. My house is located about 400 feet from the barn, I was considering the south side of the barn to block the winter northern winds? Trips to the barn happen several times a day so it may be conveinent?

    3. Insulation? I live in Eastern Colorado and the winters can get quite cold with a bitter northern wind. What kinds of insulation are good options, I am worried they will eat it? Do they peck at insulation that is visible? Should I plan on making air pockets in the walls or a roll out type?

    4. How much space realistically would be best for the welfare of chickens? I know what the guides say is necessary but on our farm we do the best to keep our animals in a very natural setting.

    5. Chickens and dogs. I have a good idea of how to keep them safe from dogs, coyotes, racoons etc. I am wondering about if barking will keep them from laying and would it be best to put up a solid barrier where they can't see them?

    Sorry to ramble, any and all advice would be fantastic for a newbie, thank you all so much in advance! [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: May 27, 2008
  2. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Hi, welcome to BYC! [​IMG]

    Quote:a) not me, but I know some people here have at least talked about maybe being going to do it. But at the same time b) with just 5 hens you will not need it -- a buncha openings for passive ventilation will do just fine. They should have flaps or sliders or whatever that can snugly close 'em when you want to adjust how much ventilation; and they need to be strongly covered with hardwarecloth (nothing flimsier) to keep predators from walking/reaching in.

    My house is located about 400 feet from the barn, I was considering the south side of the barn to block the winter northern winds? Trips to the barn happen several times a day so it may be conveinent?

    Sounds like an excellent place. If your house is on the opposite side of the barn you'd be deprived of the opportunity to look out the window and see what the chickens are up to -- but IMO it would probably be worth it for the barn's windbreak value. The only thing is, you want to make sure the coop isn't in a spot where it's getting either madly swirling backdraft winds, or a huge drift of snow dumped on it [​IMG]

    3. Insulation? I live in Eastern Colorado and the winters can get quite cold with a bitter northern wind. What kinds of insulation are good options, I am worried they will eat it? Do they peck at insulation that is visible? Should I plan on making air pockets in the walls or a roll out type?

    I'd definitely suggest insulating, either with batts or with rigid foamboard, either one of which is going to have to be covered on the inside so the chickens aren't pecking at it and eating it. Thin plywood is what most people use, but I think some in 'straightened circumstances' have used tarpaper or things like that to cover the insulation and had it work ok.

    Just having 'airspace' in the walls is better than nothing but not all *that* much better, so personally I wouldn't bother. The better your insulation is, the more you can ventilate the coop without it getting outrageously cold and thus the healthier your chickens will be. (The main point of ventilation is to remove moisture, of which chickens produce a tremendously amazing amount and which is Not Good for their respiratory health).

    4. How much space realistically would be best for the welfare of chickens? I know what the guides say is necessary but on our farm we do the best to keep our animals in a very natural setting.

    Oh, cool, someone NOT asking "how many chickens can I pack into X sized coop" [​IMG]

    It is hard to give a firm number because basically it comes down to "more is better, as long as in wintertime they ahve a small enough area (which can be a room subdivided inside the coop) to keep themselves reasonably warm". PERSONALLY (and everyone has their own different opinions), I am not comfortable with less than AT LEAST 6-10 sq ft per chicken INDOORS, plus an equal or preferably much greater amount of outdoor run. Otherwise they just look *to me* like there's nowhere for them to go if they want to get away for a minute. And flock animals though they are, they DO sometimes seem to want a bit of elbow-room and personal space.

    The numbers you will see quoted most frequently here -- 2 or 4 sq ft per chicken indoors, plus run space -- seem as far as I can tell to derive mainly from turn-of-the-century figures as to how many chickens you can pack into a well- or poorly-ventilated coop (respectively) without major respiratory issues and rampant cannibalism. Which is not necessarily the same thing as what the chickens would *prefer*. <shrug>

    If I were in your climate (well, I sort of am, only more so [​IMG]) and the only design consideration was what would make the chickens pretty happy, I think that for 5 chickens, I would build at least a 4x8 or 4x10 coop, arranged so that I could partition off the far end of it as a smaller roosting room in the winter so they could stay warmer (you could just drop a half-wall of aluminized bubblewrap down from the ceiling, with maybe a dropped ceiling of same over the roost itself), plus a run as big as you can reasonably predatorproof. This will btw also give you room to add a few chickens over the years without crowding them much, and it does seem that an awful lot of people (me included) end up with more chickens than they thought they'd want at first [​IMG]

    5. Chickens and dogs. I have a good idea of how to keep them safe from dogs, coyotes, racoons etc. I am wondering about if barking will keep them from laying and would it be best to put up a solid barrier where they can't see them?

    I don't know about barking - but I do know that if you should have a dog that wants to spend all day running back and forth along the run fencing to make the funny feathery dog-toys fly around, that will not be good for their laying (or their hearts!). Just seeing the dog, once they get used to it, will be ok as long as they don't feel they're being chased.

    Have fun!,

    Pat​
     
  3. Isisranch

    Isisranch Out Of The Brooder

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    May 27, 2008
    Strasburg, Colorado
    That is all excellent information! Thanks...

    One more thing? If I make a two story coop, do I need to make a ramp to get from one level to another or can they fly up there? I know stupid but I have no idea. LOL:lol:
     
  4. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    It depends entirely on how much room they have. They would need some room in order to fly up comfortably, like at a 30-40 degree angle. Or they can hop up (perhaps 12-18" at a time, possibly on a series of several steps). Or you could make a ramp. In tight quarters, a ramp or things to hop up/down with would work better.

    Pat
     

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