Building my first coop.. Lots of beginner questions!

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Nkgates, Jan 27, 2014.

  1. Nkgates

    Nkgates Out Of The Brooder

    Jan 27, 2014
    Goshen, OH
    I'm turning an old metal shed into a chicken coop. I've never had chickens before, but have wanted them for awhile. This shed started out as a dog kennel. It's about 10x10, with a 6' tall 10x10 chain link pen enclosure. The enclosure has a pitched roof frame that I can trap over for shelter from rain/sun. The whole thing is in a pretty shaded area of the yard, but I plan on insulating and ventilating.

    I've read a lot of the posts about turning a shed into a coop, metal shed dos and donts, etc.. Been a lot of help. What I need to know is..

    Does each hen require her own nesting box?
    How much space (about) does each hen need? Average size laying hen.
    What is the optimum flooring? Currently just a dirt floor. I like the deep litter approach, but what, ideally, should a sub floor be made from?
    How long/tall should a roosting perch be? Does an elevated 2x4 work?
    I want to run electric out there for lighting mainly. Has anyone tried using an attic fan or bathroom fan to help force fresh air?
    What bedding works best? Easiest to deal with and keep clean?

    Sorry for the rapid fire of questions. I have a loose deadline of "sometime this spring" to get this done. I really want to have a clear idea of what I'm doing here. Thank you in advance!
  2. cochinator

    cochinator Out Of The Brooder

    Jul 18, 2013
    One nesting box per 4-5 hens is sufficient. Not sure how much space for each hen, my coops are 12X4 with 7-8 chickens in each and they are not crowded at all. Dirt floor is probably better than putting in a real floor, you're just going to be raking out poop anyhow. I use vinyl in my roosts so I can just roll it up and chunk all the shavings out and replace them. Doesn't matter how tall the perch is, at least a few feet off the ground, but if you don't make them all the same height there may be fights about who gets to be on the highest one. A 2X4 would be fine but I'd probably rip it to a 2X2. No experience with fans, but I think it's a good idea especially for summer. Pine shavings are easy to use and cheap and clump up nicely.
  3. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon

    You'll find no matter how many nest boxes you have, they'll all fight over one or two [​IMG]. good rule of thumb is one box for up to 5 hens.
    Minimum space requirements are 4 square feet per hen in the coop and 10 square feet per hen in the run. This is a good starting point and can be fudged a little, but really more space is better. Overcrowded birds can develop behavioral issues such as pecking each other, egg eating, etc.
    Packed dirt works for me, flooring-wise.
    The more perches the better, imo. Plan on each hen having about 2 linear feet, minimum. But it's usually not a problem to put up more. The roosts should be the highest thing in the coop, especially higher than the nest boxes. Chickens will roost on whatever's highest, no matter what you think is the roost. Plus, they poop a lot where they roost, so roosting on nest boxes is [​IMG] I'd also rip that 2x4 down.
    Don't have electric or lights, can't help ya there.
    I use pine shavings in the deep litter method and love it. I have so many better things to do than clean a chicken coop all the time.
  4. Nkgates

    Nkgates Out Of The Brooder

    Jan 27, 2014
    Goshen, OH
    Thanks, cochinator and donrae. I've been browsing the Learning Center and came across an article about riverbed sand. Think I might lay down an inch or two of that on top of the dirt floor I already have. If I read it right, you can throw a thin layer of straw on top of that in the winter, as the sand stays cool. Anybody try this? The writer of the article sounded pretty enthused about it.

    One thing I am confused on is hens and flight. If I were to have my nesting box about waist high, could they get up there on their own, or would They need a way up there? If I put it that high, sounds like I would want my roosts about 4' high. Should I lower everything some?
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2014
  5. FrozenWings

    FrozenWings Out Of The Brooder

    Nov 20, 2013
    I use the deep litter method in a elevated 4' x 8 'x 6' wood floor coop. In October I put down (1) bag of cedar chip shavings, (1) bag of hay, and (1) bag of top soil. Every month until January I added (1) bag of cedar chips. In January I have about 8-10" of composing material in which I will not add anymore shavings to, but I will add (1) more bag of top soil in February. My plan is remove the deep litter in April for my garden. To date I have not had an issue with odor, and surprisingly it is not as messy as I would have expected. Hope that helps.

    -Frozen Wings
  6. cochinator

    cochinator Out Of The Brooder

    Jul 18, 2013
    You can have your nesting boxes waist high if you like, but they really don't care. You can put five gallon buckets on the floor and they will use them. Mine lay all over the place, low high, and in between. I don't have any chickens that would have any trouble getting up to a waist high box. I actually have a mini coop I got on ebay inside one of my coops, used for baby chicks when the weather is right but usually empty, elevated up 4 feet off the ground with only about 3 inches around it for them to land on and walk in, and they have started laying in there now.
  7. jetdog

    jetdog Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 18, 2013
    Mine is a small setup but I love the sand in and out, very easy to clean with a cat litter scoop, 2x4 laying wide side up works well as they can cover their toes when it gets very cold, I would not recommend putting straw on the sand you will never be able to get it all out, they like the sand so much they will have it tilled in in no time flat, make your roost higher than the laying boxes or you will find them sleeping in them. Best of luck........
  8. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    Height of nests and roosts: Can depend on how wide your coop is, if there isn't room for them to fly down without crashing into a wall a ramp is a good idea.
    I wanted nests waist high for egg gathering, made roosts and roost board higher and had to quick build a ramp after I got birds and saw some crashes.
    Plus the some of birds I got had their wings clipped so they a hard time getting up there too, ramps are great but do take up some room.
  9. bahamabanty

    bahamabanty Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 9, 2013
    About the nest boxes: If you have them as a box inside, they will roost and poop on top of them, it gets gross real quick. (trust me I have been there!!)
    Make sure you have something slanted on top of them so they cant roost on them, or have them 'poking out' of your shed, and accessible from the outside so you dont have to walk thru your coop (poopy floor) to get eggs.
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2014
  10. Nkgates

    Nkgates Out Of The Brooder

    Jan 27, 2014
    Goshen, OH
    Okay. Makes sense. How well/high can they fly with unclipped wings? I have a tarp for the fenced in area that I would like to be able to remove some of the time. They can't get six feet up, can they?

    Sorry, I'm clueless haha

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