brand new & overwhelmed!

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by javelina21, Mar 27, 2011.

  1. javelina21

    javelina21 Out Of The Brooder

    Mar 27, 2011
    So, I've made what seems to be a common mistake. I have 8 chicks in a brooder, living in my basement for the last week. My husband & I had been considering getting chickens, then went to the farm store one afternoon to "look", etc, etc, etc. What's the mistake you ask? We have no coop and no plans. I've been looking at designs, but there are so many options I'm not sure where to start. I was hoping to get a little advice from the experts here.

    We need a mobile coop, but it needs to be sturdy enough to fend off raccoons & possums, and warm enough for west Michigan, snowy winters. The only way I'd be able to get electricity to it in winter would be with an extension cord from the outside outlets on the house. So far, I'm liking the designs that have the coop built above a portion of the run to give some shade, but I wasn't certain of size. Would a 4'x5' coop & a 4'x12' run be okay on sizes? I'm thinking barn siding on the outside & insulated with the hard foam board on the inside, but what should I cover that with to keep it from being pecked night & day?

    This type of coop also has me stumped on ventilation. Where do you draw the line at ventilation vs a drafty coop? The taller, A-frame coops seem perfect for venting without drafts --however, I see a down-side on them in the sense that, while they might be a little cheaper to build, getting enough square footage may give me a base that's too big to move around by myself. What's the word on windows? I've read that the girls may confine themselves to the coop in winter when the weather is unpleasant, so I'd like it to be light inside.

    Oh, and last, but not least: I'm hoping for a run that's big enough for the kids to visit with the chicks. We spend our days in the basement feeding the girls peas just to hear them make their happy sounds (and watch the chase as they argue over who got the better pea!).

    I'd be very appreciative of any advice offered. There are just so many coop designs, it's hard to figure out which one would be best in our climate.
  2. gryeyes

    gryeyes Covered in Pet Hair & Feathers

    Quote:Well, first, if you put your general location in your profile, that would help us match ideas to "your climate." [​IMG]

    If you are dead-set on a movable tractor-type coop, in order to give 8 chickens plenty of room, it WILL be pretty large and heavy. My first coop was an A-frame, meant to be a tractor, but I built it out of 3/4 inch plywood and 2x4s instead of thinner plywood and smaller frame boards. It would take a couple of big, swarthy He-men to move mine... so it's a permanent coop, henceforth known as The A-Frame.

    I did put windows in mine. It was awfully dark in the upstairs living quarters without them. I would go on and on about it, but none of flock "live" in it - the hens like to lay eggs in the nest boxes and I had a hen go broody there and hatch my first GrandChick, plus the rest of the flock use the downstairs ground level for naps and quiet places to go, dust baths when the rest of the area is muddy from rain.

    Under construction:

    Finished, with the window installed on one side:

    I now have several coops, and all the rest of them are either rectangular or square, because there are disadvantages to A-Frame/tractor styles. HARD to clean. Little or none roost space. Hard to get into if you have to catch a chicken in it... or retrieve eggs laid at the far end away from any access point. Just to start with....
  3. PapaChaz

    PapaChaz Overrun With Chickens

    May 25, 2010
    NW Georgia
    you'll need a good size run for 8 chicks, so i'd suggest if you're determined to make a moveable 'tractor' coop, study the ones with wheels like the front tires on most riding lawnmowers. i've seen some with hooks/places to hook a tow strap, chain or rope that you could pull with your lawn mower instead of fighting moving by hand. the wheels can be put on one or both ends, but for the size you're going to need, you'll need them on at least one end. good luck!
  4. wingsofglory

    wingsofglory Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 15, 2011
    Palmer Alaska
  5. cafarmgirl

    cafarmgirl Overrun With Chickens

    Honestly I would not put 8 chickens in a 4x5 coop, especially in Michigan where they are likely to have to spend more time inside during winter. That's only 2.5 square feet of space per bird which is just about bare bones minimum. You'll also need room for the feeder/waterer and nest boxes. I have 8 birds in a 65 square foot coop, a little over 8 square feet per bird, and for their comfort and happiness, I would not want it any smaller. They also have a pretty large run. That gives them plenty of room to get away from each when somebody is cranky, plenty of room to roam and scratch and act like chickens, and when the weather is bad they are comfortable spending the day inside their coop.
  6. Suechick

    Suechick Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 27, 2009
    Carlsbad, CA
    Hi and [​IMG]

    Well, you have at least 6 weeks before your coop has to be ready, so you have time to plan and build. The accepted rule for coops is 4 sq ft of indoor space per bird and 10 sq ft of outdoor run space per bird. More is always nicer! With less your chickens may have some conflicts. Make sure you have enough ventillation too. There are some great pages here with everything you need to know, all you have to do is spend some time researching. It is overwhelming at first, but once you get everything set up for your girls they are very easy to take care of!

    Happy chicken raising!!
  7. AlabamaChickenLady

    AlabamaChickenLady Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 4, 2011
    Oak Grove, Alabama
    Well, you have at least 6 weeks before your coop has to be ready, so you have time to plan and build. The coop section is a good place to start. If you really must have movable tractors, you should go with 2 of them for 8 chicks. To keep them on the light side(and moveable), they will need to smaller, therefore, house less chickens.

    The accepted rule for coops is 4 sq ft of indoor space per bird and 10 sq ft of outdoor run space per bird. More is always better! If you could do a perminant coop ~ I'd do that instead. As for windows, I put in 4 windows that I picked up from a yardsale. I left them whole, with the glass in, and then put up hardwire cloth to keep the hens from pecking at them and breaking them. I put in 6 inches of ventalation all the way around the coop, between the rafters and where the top of the walls meet.
  8. wingsofglory

    wingsofglory Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 15, 2011
    Palmer Alaska
    Yes, for Michigan winters, you will need a bigger coop. My chickens will not step in snow and stayed in the coop all winter by choice.

    I am north of Anchorage Alaska and do not have an insulated coop. It is single wall half inch plywood. Painted.

    I hang a heat lamp over the roost when it gets to ten below zero.

    Those little tiny coops that can be picked up and carried are cute in the summer but not big enough for the winter .

    I had to conserve on cost for my coop, so I designed it by counting the number of sheets of plywood I would need. They run about $20 each for CDX halfinch.
    I did not use OSB because it looks terrible and has a horrible smell from so much formaldehyde glue in it.

    It started as 4' x 8' - the size of one sheet laid flat on floor frame of 2x4s with 16" centers.
    One long wall is four feet tall (one sheet of plywood on its side). The other facing south long wall is six feet tall = one and a half sheets of plywood.
    The end walls are four feet wide and cut an angle to fit roofline (parts of two sheets of plywood).
    The most plywood is in the roof = parts of 3 sheets. It slopes from 6', to 4' at the back. Also the most 2x4s for rafters. Yes, cheap. No big timbers for rafters here.

    This was big enough for the summer but I could see they would need more room to get around and just to keep them clean by more space inside for the winter.

    For the winter, I added an 8' x 8' section to it, with roof sloping in the opposite direction - so instead of a shed roof, it now has a peaked roof, sloping four feet to one side, 12' to the other side.
    Turned the coop so peaked end faced south and moved window.
    Took out the six foot high long wall - that is now open space inside where the extension is butted up to it.
    Tall enough to stand in across off-center (6'), and roof slopes down to 4' at two sides. Its high enough for me to pick up eggs and things and easily access all the floor area.. The roosts are at 4' high. There is a 2' x 3' baby pen/timeout pen in one corner.

    I continued the roof on to cover another area the size of a sheet of plywood 4' x 8' outside. Made the walls of hardware wire, making a dry covered sun porch for them. They really liked this sun porch all winter - they would troop out, look at the snow, and go back in.

    So it is now 8' x 16'. This worked for the winter for 8 hens. EE, Orpington, Barred Rock, Comet, Andalusian, and SLWyndotte rooster. I really would not want it any smaller.
    They had enough room to have a happy time and were not stressed.

    By shortening two outside walls to 4' saved wood and made it easier to build myself. The two peaked ends had wall up 4' then wire above for awhile till I filled in the north wall with a triangle to block the winter wind. They still have wire on a section on the south wall that I put visqueen over when it gets really cold.

    Nailed two 8" x 20' boards along the bottom of the long outside walls - 2' sticks out back and front. It can be moved by chains wrapped here and drug by pickup or backhoe.
    I just jack it up and set those gray bricks under the corners.

    The four foot high roosts make it to go in at night and pick up a chicken off the roost if I need to.

    Only thing I'd do differently is make the roof overhang further. In the winter, they liked to come out when I fussed with food and water, and ran around the coop on the bare ground just next to the wall.

    Water freezes, so every morning, I simply took a bucket of water out, turned the dishpan upside down and knocked out the ice, and refilled. After several years of tinkering with expensive waterers, this was the easiest for me.

    Hard to explain what it looks like in words. It is 8' x 16' in size, with an off-center roof peak 6' high, sloping down to 4' walls at sides. The people door is on the north wall right under the peak, making it about 5' - I just duck in and stand up inside. I can fill the water and food without going in actually. And nest box is near the door. Am going to build those boxes with hinged lids accessible from outside.

    If you insulate, just use quarter inch plywood for the interior walls to cover the insulation. Linoleum on the floor and painted inside makes it easier to clean.

    Hope this helps some.

    Chickens are short and don't need people size walls. But I built two tractors that are two feet tall. Enough head room for a chicken and I thought I would never have to go inside them. Wrong!!!! Chickens get in so much crazy situations you'd never predict. The wild chickens came in there one day in the summer while mine were free ranging and were eating all the food. So I walked up and closed the door. So proud I had trapped those pesky chickens!!! Then realized - how, what was I going to do next???

    Yes, crawled in on my belly and caught that wild game rooster!!! Don't know who was more hysterical - him or me. [​IMG]

    My next tractor had four foot walls.
  9. booker81

    booker81 Redneck Tech Girl

    Apr 18, 2010

    If you ask my brood, wintering chickens in MI means EVERYONE stays in the coop for months on end. They don't like the snow.

    My coop is half of a shed, converted for chicken use. I like that I can walk in there, because through the winter, I could go in with them and check on them individually, bring special treats, and put stuff in there to make sure they didn't get too stir crazy. I only had one fight all winter, the two roosters went at it, but everyone made it out alive and healthy. I have 14 chickens in a 10x10 coop, so ~7sq ft a chicken, and I wouldn't go any less than that - preferably more. They were really stir crazy by the time it got warm enough to melt the snow.

    So first: Why does it need to be mobile? Are you planning on moving? Building codes?

    As for electricity, we run an extension cord. The plan this year is to run wiring, but the extension cord has served us well. Make sure you purchase the right type, and seal the connection ends if they are outside.

    We supplemented light for laying - even with windows we here in MI are a bit far north to have enough daylight for good laying. We also had to use a water heater - busting out ice a few times a day gets old really quick.

    You'll want your coop and run set up in a way that YOU can access and get to every inch of it. I know a lot of folks here have had stories of having to crawl under or in their coops through all sorts of yuck to reach a broody or injured chicken.

  10. wingsofglory

    wingsofglory Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 15, 2011
    Palmer Alaska

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