Adequate coop for Maine: deep litter? Chicken Tractor?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by goldeaglenest, Apr 1, 2017.

  1. goldeaglenest

    goldeaglenest Out Of The Brooder

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    Hi all. I'm 100% new to chickens and my 6 little chicks are coming in on April 27th. I've been researching extensively and am trying to find information on what type of chicken coop I can build that meets certain criteria I have:

    1. I want to be able to move the chickens onto fresh grass often
    2. I want something secure against predators (there are MANY where I live so they won't be free ranging)
    3. I want something that will keep the chickens warm in the winter and cool in the summer for the Maine Climate (which can be in the negatives in winter and in the 90's in summer)
    4. Something inexpensive: I'm not looking to win any contests on beauty...just functionality

    I am having trouble deciding on a size, and style because there are so many. I want something simple and easy and natural for chickens. I intend To build this, not to buy a prefab. What do you recommend? Thanks!
     
  2. boskelli1571

    boskelli1571 Overrun With Chickens

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    Hello & welcome!
    Have you visited the learning center tab? There's a section on home made coops, I'm sure you can find something suitable.
    If you have large breed chicks, when they are full sized the recommended sq.ft/bird in the coop is 8 and in the run 10/bird. You can get away with smaller but they have a tendency to peck at each other when bored and haven't got sufficient room.
    2. Do not use chicken wire - 1/2" hardware cloth securely attached to all sides, top and bottom as needed.
    3. Chickens do well in cold temps as long as they are dry and draft free. To insulate or not is a big debate - I don't but many do - dealers choice.
    4. My outside coops are built with 3/4" ex. grade ply covered in tar paper - not attractive but dry and draft free.
    5. Your biggest winter problem is going to be frozen water, unless you have electric access.
    I use chopped straw as bedding - I don't 'deep litter' b/c my back is not Herculean - and shovellling deep litter out is a Herculean task imo. [​IMG]
     
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  3. flyin-lowe

    flyin-lowe Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Building something that is cheap, secure, and mobile can be a tough task. I too liked the idea of a mobile coop but after looking and researching I decided just to build a permanent structure and run and sacrifice a spot in my yard. It is easier for me to let my chickens out to free range a little bit each day then to move a coop around. Foxes, raccoons, and other predators will dig under a coop/run to get to chickens so it can be tough getting something mobile that is really secure.

    What type of building skills do you have? I bought the material for my coop which is 6'x8'. I had 4 windows donated and a couple pieces of metal for the roof but the rest was brand new materials. The coop itself (not including the run) was just under $300.00. I got it the size and layout I wanted and had a bought something similar it probably would have been $1500-$2000 based on what I see advertised locally. I found a hardware store that was going out of business so I lucked out and got the hardware cloth for my run really cheap so I wrapped the entire run in that.

    As far as space some of that depends on the breed of birds and your location. 4 sq. ft of coop space is recommended as a vague general rule. So something like 6'x4' would be a starting point. The run should be 60 sq. ft but again if they are going to be able to free range a lot this can vary also. If you are in a cold climate that might confine the birds inside the coop for long stretches in the winter you might want to go a little bigger to avoid behavior problems in the winter.
     
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2017
  4. Joannimal

    Joannimal Out Of The Brooder

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    Hi there,Golden Eagle Nest. I am also a Mainer trying to build my first lightweight coop, with some of the same questions and six little ones hopefully waiting for me on April 27th also.
    Boskelli1571 above seems to be suggesting siding of thick plywood covered by tarpaper... sounds pretty heavy to move-- more and more I am thinking of a small heavier nesting and coop area with detachable run or tractor. My family in other parts of Maine have lamented the difficulties of a weighty tractor... I am designing one that will slide on old cross- country skis rather than wheels (you use what you've got) but basically is a sort of hoop coop, made of the same sort of semi- flexible plastic piping that in other years I have used to drape a clear tarp for seedling- starting hoop coldframe setup in the Spring.
    I am thinking instead of tarp, cover it with a screen to keep out the critters. I wonder though, if a chicken- wire draped tractor- run would be adequate for the daytime (rather than a more secure but heavier and more costly 1/2 inch hardware cloth). I have seen deer, fox, skunk, porcupine, groundhog, and fisher all in my yard, but most of them at night. Is it naive to think that the critters won't bother the chickens in the daytime? I live in the city limits with traffic pretty constant until night, when the chicks will be safely tucked away in the coop part. Any guidance out there on designing for daytime dangers???
     
  5. TalkALittle

    TalkALittle Chillin' With My Peeps

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    It might be hard to find a coop design that offers everything you are looking for. Given that you live in Maine, chances are that for a big chunk of the year your grass will be under snow and/or frozen solid anyway, have you considered building a permanent coop and run and also making use of a lightweight chicken tractor during the day?

    Your coop will offer security from predators at night and a sturdy, solid shelter from winter snow. A permanent covered pen will insure your birds have access to the outside even in winter. And a separate, lighter weight, portable tractor will let you put your birds on pasture as frequently as you like.
     
  6. boskelli1571

    boskelli1571 Overrun With Chickens

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    Many folks have had good success with chicken wire hoop coops, however I personally think it's a bit naieve to expect the birds to be 'safe' in the daytime - foxes especially will hunt during the daytime and are smart enough to do 'reconaisance' on a possible source of food.
    If I had to sacrifice one material from the coop it would not be hardware cloth, I'm just not willing to take that risk. We too have foxes, fishers, coyotes etc. and all of 'em love chicken dinner! [​IMG]
     
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  7. goldeaglenest

    goldeaglenest Out Of The Brooder

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    Joannimal, I have heard with overwhelming certainty to avoid poultry wire and to just invest in the hardware cloth. There are several I follow on YouTube like Justin Rhodes who have built their chicken coops and had to put hardware cloth over the chicken wire because the chicken wire wasn't strong enough for some predators. I am planning on hardware cloth, and I am deffinately leaning heavily towards the idea of having a permanent coop and run with an eventual tractor for good weather. This is because I am firstly already aware of predators in the area without there being chickens here in ge first place, so I know thy are lurking about very close! I am in rural Maine where coyotes and fox are always scampering around. Second, mynoroperty isn't that flat, and it occurred to me that safety would be compromoised if the tractor didn't lie flush with the ground. In many, many, places on my property, it just wouldn't. Also, my neighbors who have chickens all have a permanent solid structure and then they also have geese that aggressively attack intruders.
     
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  8. goldeaglenest

    goldeaglenest Out Of The Brooder

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    Ive been scouring coop designs on here, and I came across this one, which is very close to what I want anyway. It looks super solid and is moveable, although it also looks heavy. But I think that the fact that it CAN move is what is appealing to me!

    https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/coco-chanel-castle

    I'd have to simplify it, because I do not have the money for something this fancy, but I may very well design something similar! I also may buy some geese to help protect my flock, as this is working well for the neighbors, who free range their chickens during the day.

    Also, last note, I have talked some there people in Maine, and they say weasels are a huge problem here. My mother in the law had chickens and ducks and when they left for a day trip and came back, a Weasle had ripped part of the side of their house where the coop was and litterslly ripped into the coop. [​IMG] All her birds died, even though the weasel didn't hardly eat any of them. This, I think, easily describes the necessity for hardware cloth and a structure that isn't easy to pull apart. Ideally, I'd have a livestock guardian dog and be done with it, but...that's a WHOLE other thing!
     
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2017
    1 person likes this.
  9. birds4kids

    birds4kids Chillin' With My Peeps

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    When building something small and that you want to be mobile keep studs to a minimum and sheeting thin. I have a 4x6 coop on a tractor that is 1/4" ply with 2x2 framing at the corners, doors and a few across the top to secure translucent lexan roofing. At that it is still heavy to move. Start using full 2x4s 1/2" or 3/4" sheeting etc. the weight skyrockets.

    I would NOT move them to a tractor during the day then a coop at night, too much hassle for you and way too much for a friend when you go out of town. Seasonal moves from a tractor to a permanent coop is perfectly reasonable.

    I live near Green Bay so I suspect similar weather to you, -15f at some point basically every winter and a few trips into the 90s come summer. Keep the chickens dry, out of the wind and VENTILATED in winter, if you keep them dry and ventilated you pretty much can't keep them warm, keeping them dry and out of the wind lets their feathers keep them warm.

    My tractors do not site as tight to the ground as I would like but the heavy clay here discourages digging and I fiddle with it to get it tight or put a couple stakes at gaps to deter diggers if the gap is over an inch.

    My first tractor is a 4x4x4 coop on a 3x8x3 run made of 2x4, 1/2" pressed board siding and I might have even used 3/4" treated for the floor. It is so heavy it is a hassle to move with a 24hp lawn tractor, by hand is worse. My last tractor is a 4x6x5tall coop(2x2s and 1/4" plywood only 2x4 is the roost detachable from a 5wX10Lx4T run framed in full 2x4 due to size. MUCH easier to move in two pieces and is reasonably light weight.
     
  10. goldeaglenest

    goldeaglenest Out Of The Brooder

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    Thanks for the tips!
     

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