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Building new coop - questions!

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Henrik Petersson, Mar 15, 2009.

  1. Henrik Petersson

    Henrik Petersson Chillin' With My Peeps

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    How is that for a unique thread title? [​IMG]

    WARNING! METRIC SYSTEM USER!

    'Right, here's the deal:

    We are going to build a new coop and a new run, in a completely different place on our property. This is what we know:

    - The run will be HUGE. We have a triangle of roughly 20 by 20 by 20 metres on the far end of our property, which used to be forest but has recently had the trees cut down and is now used for nothing. What better place to put a new chicken run?

    - The run will basically have forest facing two sides, and the third facing our yard. Which also used to be forest. But which now is pretty big and flat, say 1/4 acre. (Edit: The yard is to the north of the run.) The run itself will not contain much, other than lots of leaves to scratch, the odd rock and sapling, and blueberries, by the look of it.

    - The coop will be on the north side of the run, to make it as close to our house as possible. It can be at any corner or in the middle of the side of the "triangle".

    - The coop will be rectangular and roughly 3 by 2 metres long and wide. One square meter of it will be a "human room", where we will enter the coop, and keep all the tools, food, fresh bedding etc. So the chickens will have about 2 by 2 metres to move on.

    - The roof will be slanted. From what I've read here, it's best to slant it away from the run. Does this apply to very large runs? (What we're trying to accomplish here is basically free ranging, but without poo on the neighbours lawn).

    - We only have five chickens - four hens and a roo. I want to make the coop big anyway. We might want to get more chickens in the future.

    - We live in southern Sweden. In extreme nights in extreme years, the temperature can drop to -25 degrees centigrade, minus windchill. This winter, the temperature usually ranged between +2 and -10. Minus windchill.
    In sommer days, it can get as hot as 30 degrees centigrade. Minus windchill.

    - We want a coop that won't overheat our chickens in the summer, but will keep them reasonably warm in winter.

    - We will insulate. A lot!

    And now, the questions! [​IMG]

    1. Do I want the coop to face north-south or east-west? In other words, should the broadside of our building soak up sun, or avoid it? Remember, the walls and ceiling will be insulated.

    2. Should the coop be in the shade or in direct sunlight?

    3. Where should I put the roost? Remember, we wanted a slanted roof. My intuition tells me to put the roost under the highest edge of the ceiling. Naturally, the slant will slope from long wall to long wall.
    I'd like to put in a single long, two metre roost in there. A single roost means easier to clean the poop board, as well as, from what I've heard, less avian bickering.

    4. How should I ventilate? Yes, I've read Pat's ventilation page. On five different occasions, I think. All of it. Yet, I still feel I can't quite wrap my head around this ventilation thing.

    I read somewhere on this board that with a slanted roof, you want to keep one slot open for ventilation along the higher side of the roof, and one directly opposite, along the lower side. The air would then naturally move between the two (heat raising, and all that).

    However, Pat's ventilation page tells me that I shouldn't put a roost directly under the ventilation slots. This means I can not put it where I wanted in point three, right?

    Right, that's it for now. I'll probably post more questions later, but my guts tell me I've given you enough to chew on for one evening. Any answer is, as always, greatly appreciated.

    Yours truly,
    Henrik

    Edit: No, one more question! 5: We have two BIG windows (0,7 my 1,4 metres, double plastic panes). Any ideas as to how and where to put them would be beautiriffic!
     
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2009
  2. digitS'

    digitS' Chillin' With My Peeps

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    A temperature range of -13°F in the depths of winter to 86°F in the heat of summer doesn't seem real extreme, Henrik, but it is a good idea to fully insulate [​IMG].

    Full exposure to the sun, I think, would be less than ideal but may not make a heck of a lot of difference. I certainly wouldn't put two 2' by 4' windows on the south side of a building that is only 9' by 6'.

    A run that covers about 180 square feet is a lot of room for only 5 chickens. A coop, 6' by 6', is only 36 square feet. For 5 birds, that sounds good - you could even add 2 or 3, comfortably.

    (There, have I sufficiently confused everyone by broadly converting the metric figures to an awkward system even the English aren't willing to claim any longer? [​IMG])

    Henrik, coops are traditionally built so that light enters on the East. And, overheating during the summer months is probably more of a threat in most areas. Still, you will have an insulated coop and 86°F isn't real hot. (I imagine the humidity could be fairly high, tho'.) If you have a choice to locate in the shade, afternoon shade would likely be beneficial.

    Sloping the roof away from the pen will probably be much appreciated by your birds trying to get in and out without wading through too much mud.

    I don't know if you told us how high the coop will be but I don't think the roost needs to be under the highest part of the roof. My roost is only about 2' (.6 meter) above the floor. Using the highest part of the coop for ventilation would be a good idea.

    The nests should probably be lower than the roost. By the way, 2 meters for a roost may not accommodate many more than a half dozen birds.

    Well, I hope I converted some numbers properly [​IMG]. Those large windows come to mind as something you probably should limit to one on an East wall.

    Steve
     
  3. chookchick

    chookchick Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Well I was thinking, but while I was still thinking digits said pretty much what I was thinking, and said it very well. Sounds like a primo situation for 5 chickens--I bet you end up with more! Have you thought about predators? What kinds of possible predators might you have? Raccoons, hawks?
     
  4. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    Quote:I prefer a north placement for the windows so you don't get direct sun inside. Second choice is the eastern wall. Try to avoid direct sunlight.

    I see others have been answering while I was typing. I'll give you my opinion anyway.
     
  5. Henrik Petersson

    Henrik Petersson Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks for the replies! [​IMG]

    Steve, I'm okay with feet and inches, it's just that I have to convert everything in my head and I was tired yesterday! [​IMG] (Farhenheits are still a tad difficult though - forces me to bring out the ol' calculator! [​IMG])

    "Not extreme" is probably a very accurate description of the Swedish weather, what with the Gulf Stream and all. Up north they may have a nice climate for skiing, but if you wanna soak up some sun, you really wanna go abroad.

    Furthermore, the weather in our area is even more evened out, since it's right by the ocean. Coastal closeness means high humidity however, which means the temperatures feel worse than they are. Visitors from up north sometimes complain about this; that our -10 feels worse than their -20.

    I gather from your comments that my dad was right: "We don't need to worry about heat in summer." [​IMG] Is this true no matter how we put the windows, though?

    I do worry a bit about the cold, however. Mostly because we have a history of frost bitten combs, which I take as a sign that it can get a bit rough even here.

    Anway - since we have both the time and the money, there really isn't any reason not to insulate.

    More on the large windows: They were originally meant for one of our human houses, which means they are really high quality. The sturdy frames and double panes means they will not let in/out as much heat/cold as your average outhouse window, meaning that their heat exchange wont be as much of a problem as with... Well, your average outhouse window.
    When I think about it, however, I really get the feeling though that ONE of them will be enough to light up a 7' by 10' (eh? [​IMG]) room!

    'Bout the roof: The latest news is that we may NOT get a slanted roof, but rather a sloped one. We obviously haven't decided yet here! [​IMG] In any case: Should "do not put ventilation openings directly above the roost" be taken literally? Or is it okay to have vents above the roost, if they are tiny or very high up above it?

    And yes, I know the pen will be humungous for a coop of that size. [​IMG] I don't see that as a problem though. Maintenance of the fence is really a non issue, we have the space, and it can never get too big, right? When free ranging (as they do now), they move over a much lager area!

    Regarding predators: We do have a couple of stray cats that sometimes linger around the property. They are real pussies however (huh huh) and never dare get any closer than a couple of yards from the chickens. And the chickens certainly don't seem afraid of them.
    Birds of prey abound. We see them and hear them "eeeeeeh!" all the time, often causing the chickens to run into the nearest piece of shrubbery, duck and freeze. Previous generations of chickens have often ended up as bird food, but these days the raptors seem completely harmless.
    In older days, the fox has often come to grab a fluffy meal. We effectively solved this problem by digging down the edge of the fence. Haven't seen one in ages, though.
    In other words, with our current group of chickens, there hasn't been a single predator problem.
    With the new run, we will make it fox proof in the usual manner. We won't cover it, since that will be too much work. We will put in some structures for the chickens to hide under, should the hawks and buzzards ever develop a taste for our beloved pets.
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2009
  6. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    I gather from your comments that my dad was right: "We don't need to worry about heat in summer." [​IMG] Is this true no matter how we put the windows, though?

    Probably, but I'd still not put the windows where you get direct light into the coop. The purpose of the window is to give you enough light to see to work inside and give the chickens enough light to see to go to roost. If it is too dark inside while still fairly light outside, they may not be able to see well enough to go to the roosts. You also want enough light for them to see to eat and drink when they are stuck inside due to snow or other weather conditions. The brighter the light, the higher the chance for cannibalism. With your small flock in that big coop, that should not be a problem, but why take the chance.

    When I think about it, however, I really get the feeling though that ONE of them will be enough to light up a 7' by 10' (eh? [​IMG]) room!

    One will be plenty, but as you have two windows, don't forget to light up your storeroom.

    Should "do not put ventilation openings directly above the roost" be taken literally? Or is it okay to have vents above the roost, if they are tiny or very high up above it?

    A tiny vent will do you little good. A 50 square centimeter opening will provide a lot more airflow than ten 5 square centimeter openings. It is a matter of friction and turbulence along the edges. As with everything on this site, almost nothing has to be taken literally. People are giving you guidelines based on their experience and knowledge. It is usually best to follow them as best you can, but you have to adapt everything to your unique situation. In your situation near the sea, I'd think getting rid of the humidity inside the coop is more important than keeping them warm, but you do not want drafts. You are probably better off with a few vents scattered high up and down low than with just one high and low. That should reduce the velocity of the flow and help reduce the drafts. Another option to reduce the draft on the chickens is to have the vents on the southeast and southwest corners and and the roosts on the north, or whichever corners and directions best suit your situation.
     
  7. kycklingar!

    kycklingar! Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I can only comment on the temperature thing... it varies widely here, too. We just finished our new coop, and I am painting the roof white so it reflects the sun in the summer. However, in the winter, I plan to put a black cover on it, so it absorbs warmth.
    Sounds like your chickens will have a happy home!!
     
  8. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    - The roof will be slanted. From what I've read here, it's best to slant it away from the run. Does this apply to very large runs?

    The important thing will be how wet the 'people door' and chicken pophole door areas get. If you have the roof dumping directly onto one (or both) of those areas it is likely to get muddy and puddly, unless you put down a few large concrete pavers or something like that. As long as your roof isn't creating a swamp right where someone has to walk through it, it shouldn't matter which direction it slopes.

    2. Should the coop be in the shade or in direct sunlight?

    If your summers are not excessively hot but you have humidity problems for part of the year, personally I'd put it in the sun.

    However, Pat's ventilation page tells me that I shouldn't put a roost directly under the ventilation slots. This means I can not put it where I wanted in point three, right?

    Uh, let's remember that Pat's ventilation page is not holy scripture, 'kay? It's some good (at least I think so [​IMG]) general principles for the design of livestock housing but it does not mean that the world will end if you don't do it the way I suggest.

    There is nothing wrong with having ventilation over the roost as long as you can shut it down if/when conditions warrant. Because most people severely (IMHO) underbuild their ventilation and often only *have* one ventilation opening, I've recommended against having it over the roost b/c then if you shut it down you've lost your ventilation. As long as you have other options, however, there is zero reason not to do it. Also, even on very cold damp days with a breeze/wind from the vent side of the coop ('worst case scenario'), whether you have frostbite problems from having that vent open over the roost depends on your chickens and your luck.

    As this is a decent-sized coop, what if you make the cover flap for the vents in sections, so that you can open part of it and the chickens (just five chickens in a 6x10' house!) can roost at the other end. I'd still put in some other source(s) of ventilation, like on another side(s) of the coop, but that should give you reasonable flexibility.

    If it is a good-sized well-ventilated coop, btw, I don't think window placement matters. Put them on whatever side(s) you like and you may be trading off different advantages/disadvantages but I seriously doubt it will make any overall difference in the long run.

    JMHO,

    Pat​
     
  9. Hangin Wit My Peeps

    Hangin Wit My Peeps AutumnBreezeChickens.com

    We only have five chickens - four hens and a roo. I want to make the coop big anyway. We might want to get more chickens in the future.

    Now THIS has to be the smartest thing I have ever heard a chicken owner say! We are building our next coop big too becasue we ALWAYS want more chickens!​
     
  10. Henrik Petersson

    Henrik Petersson Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:Now THIS has to be the smartest thing I have ever heard a chicken owner say!

    Well, I read it on BYC! [​IMG]

    What do you use for ventilation flaps/coverings? Is there a reasonably simple way of doing it themselves? Or are there reasonably inexpensive vents on the market? I saw one once, but it was pretty pricey, about $20 for a 4" by 4" vent. [​IMG]

    How do I know which vents to keep open? Are there simple rules of thumb as to whether I use too much or too little ventilation, such as a tangible ammonia smell, condensation on windows, feeling a draft, etc?
    And even so - how do I know which vents to open, and which to close? How do I, for example, choose between opening up a low vent or more high ones?

    Oh, and about the "human room": The wall between it and the chicken room, will be made from net. So both rooms will share the same air and the same light. Neat, huh? [​IMG]
     

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