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Best design/layout for multiple pens?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by MomMommyMamma, Oct 28, 2010.

  1. MomMommyMamma

    MomMommyMamma Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Would those of you who have multiple pens share what you feel are the dos and don'ts of a good method or layout? If you want to maintain more than one breed and keep them separated for purity purposes - how are you going about it?

    Thank you!
     
  2. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    I don't think there is one best layout -- it depends what you're doing.

    If you're just running a whole buncha pair/trio/quad cages or pens and do not want to give everyone run space, a dead-end aisle into the building is probably best, and allows you to stack cages/pens two or three high.

    If you have just a few pens but they are good-sized (like 10 or more birds) then it may make more sense to divide the building up into thirds or whatever, with each pen having its own people-access from outside the building. Think about your future plans when you design your runs -- if you may need more or fewer runs in future, it can be worth putting your major fencing effort into just the perimeter, with semi-moveable dividing fences that can be altered if need be.

    If you have a bunch of different pens and want each to have its own run, then a dead-end aisle into the building is back to being useful, with runs radiating in three directions from the building. (e.t.a. - except in a site where cold winter winds are an issue. If they are, you do NOT NOT NOT want to have runs on both side of the building if you can AT ALL avoid it.)

    You may also want large grow-out pens for summer-only use, depending what you're doing; this need not necessarily be in the same building/complex as your permanent chickens, although having 'em somewhere else means you ahve to carry or store your water and feed there.

    Personally I think it is real useful to have a certain amount of flexibility built into the design of both inside pens AND outdoor runs, so that you can remove or insert walls as needed. I have been fortunate to be working mainly with a former dog-breeding/boarding-kennel building, and let me tell you, it is SO nice to be able to just remove dividers to get a big pen for housing more chickens together, and then the next season reinsert one or more dividers to be able to have a couple small groups of chickens separate from each other. Very handy for brooder and grow-out purposes too. I wish my run space was better adapted to be handled the same way but Oh Well.

    Whatever you do, leave some room for storage, and for at least a couple isolation cages. (Not isolation as in quarantine; I just mean isolation as in removing someone who's injured until they heal, or a broody, or that sort of thing). I put them in my aisle but if space were at a real premium I might prefer a narrower aisle (just big enough for a wheelbarrow plus coupla inches clearance) and have them mounted at chest height on the fronts of pens at the end of the aisle, or over the storage area, or something like that.

    As far as keeping more than one breed, remember that you do not necessarily *have* to keep them all separated, depending how you plan on doing your breeding operation. If you can identify each breed's eggs reliably on sight, then it is easy enough to run ALL the hens together in one big pen if you wish, and just swap roosters in and out, leaving at least 3 wks after departure of rooster A before you start collecting eggs fertilized by rooster B (if you want to maintain purity). Or, you can run all the hens together and remove a few at a time into little breeding pens with their chosen husband.

    Note that with these methods the hens get good social conditions but the roosters spend most of their time celibate and possibly alone... if you want to keep each breed's rooster with his hens full-time, then obviously what you'd need is one pen per breed. (If you want to have more than one rooster 'going' per breed, which is smart, then simply use any of the rooster-swapping schemes described for different breeds, but making *sure* to leave at *least* several weeks of 'wash out time' between collecting eggs from the new roo, since you will have zero capacity to detect 'leftover sperm' fertilizing eggs. And of course roos will have to pend some time in seclusion from the hens that way. If you want, though, you can have one 'main roo' who is with them most of the year except when you *have* to swap someone else in for breeding)

    I'm not sure whether that's the sort of thing you were asking about; and there are PLENTY on byc who have much mroe breeding experience than I do who can probably give better advice; but, hope this helps some.

    Pat
     
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2010
  3. MomMommyMamma

    MomMommyMamma Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:Thank you so much Pat! Shortened the quote just for space sake. Can you elaborate a little bit on movable fencing? We'll be needing to divide the large pen when we add some new chicks in several weeks. So far we've had pretty pathetic temporary dividers. They usually fall down. We've been lucky so far that everyone has gotten along fine when this happens.
    The info on the roosters is great too! I was wondering how much time between roos you needed.
     
  4. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Quote:Basically the two main "food groups" of methods are either a) make a solid frame, with mesh or netting or whatever as infill, that you screw or bolt into place wherever it is needed; or b) have a wibbly "roll" of netting or whatever, attached to a vertical 2x2 or 2x4 at each end, that you screw or bolt into place where needed and then add a 'stretcher' piece at top and bottom to stabilize it.

    I have used the "b" method for the divider in my 7x20 sussex pen, and it is not an unreasonable choice for situations where you will seldom want to be rearranging the divider. It has the advantage that when you are not using the divider it stores in a fairly small closet-sized space, as opposed to needing a great big area like a rigid divider panel does. OTOH it is MUCH more of a pain to put up and take down singlehanded -- at least mine is. Perhaps you can come up with a better design, or have someone to help you.

    I use the "a" method for all my other pen dividers. Mine are metal-pipe frames with mesh 'sewn' on, but for most situations making frames out of wood would probably be easier/simpler. Once I have extracted a stored frame from where it was stored, hacked all the resulting dust out of my lungs [​IMG], and wrestled it into the pen, it is super super fast and easy to just attach it in place. Truth be told, I just use very heavy-duty synthetic baler twine, in several places on each side, to tie it into place using attachment points on the front and back walls of the pen. Which has worked fine for me but I am not necessarily advocating it as the best possible idea <g> (BTW spares of these frames can also be pressed into service to make little brooder pens in your aisle or wherever, if you have any extra at the moment when you need it. Just attach them together, using one or two existing walls to complete the pen, and there ya go.)

    You will want to think about what material to use for the dividers. If there will be roos involved, there is a lot to be said IME for making the bottom 3' of the divider solid (although this need not be plywood -- a staplegun and some opened-up empty feedbags can do a pretty good job too [​IMG]). For the upper portion chickenwire does a reasonable job, or a not-too-flimsy version of 1/2" plastic garden netting. Do not use garden netting all the way to the bottom if you think there is ANY chance chickens will challenge the divider, as they can pretty easily rip holes in it if they want (at least, they have for me, and I have relatively laid-back and peaceful chickens). I will tell you that I've had a particular (ungainly) sussex roo *twice* come flying down from the roost and crash into the divider and end up hanging upside-down by one foot that got stuck in the 1" chickenwire divider. If I was trying to design this risk away, I do not know whether I'd go with a larger mesh (less likely to get tangled) or smaller mesh (less likely to get foot so far through). Really what I need is a less clumsy roo [​IMG]

    If chicks are involved, I highly recommmend either having the lower portion of the divider solid or something VERY small mesh like small hardwarecloth or window netting, as you do NOT want the little darlings sticking their heads through and getting their skulls pecked by their neighbors.

    For a moveable dividing fence outside in the run, certainly the easiest thing is some T-posts and a roll of 4-6' high chickenwire, or combination of garden/deer netting with chickenwire added to the bottom coupla feet. Just attach it to the posts and ends with wire or something like that so it's easily relocated. Not predatorproof, but if this is just an internal divider that's not really an issue. It is also possible to make wood-framed fence panels that you can connect to each other to make a moveable fence but that is a LOT more work and expense and I'm not sure how often there'd be any point in it for just an internal dividing fence.

    Pat
     
  5. minister man

    minister man Chillin' With My Peeps

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    great conversation. If One was to build the dead end aisle with the cages for the pairs or trios on both sides, how large and how high would you build them for breeding silkies? what about standard white leghorns? thanks
     
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2010

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