Building on a hill

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Huskeriowa, Dec 19, 2010.

  1. Huskeriowa

    Huskeriowa Chillin' With My Peeps

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    My Coop
    Hi all,

    Great site! I have read a lot of information here and still have a couple of questions. I am sort of new to chickens. 20 years ago I bought fifty (I think they were called California Whites) and kept them for two years. I butchered forty and kept ten for the eggs. The funny thing is that 20 years have erased most of the knowledge I may have had.

    I have decided to raise chickens again for the eggs and for my kids to enjoy. My plan is to cut a hole in the side of our existing shed and build the coop on one of the large shelves. There is enough room on the shelf to accomidate 8 birds according to the recomendations on this site. My main question is this though.... the run will primarily be built on a hill and I am concerned about the chickens killing all of the grass and causing erosion. While the hill is gradual, I am sure it will erode if there is no vegetation on it. We plan on having four to six chickens and I want to know how large the run needs to be to hopefully allow the birds to be happy and allow some grass to continue to grow? On the smaller side we we can easily make a run totaling 140 sq feet. If we must we can increase that area to 210 sq feet. If we have six chickens this will allow at least 23 sq ft per bird at the minimum to 35 sq ft per bird at the maximum. So, I am wondering if anyone has any idea of how many sq feet I need per bird to still allow for vegetation to grow.

    Additionally, I have the right to own chickens on my land, but want to be respectful to neighbors. Because I have neighbors about 60 yards to either side of my home/land, I want a breed that is fairly quiet. I also think it would be fun to have chickens that are a bit unusual looking. So I am wondering if any experts have recomendations of for breeds that do decently producing eggs, are quiet, can survive well in a state that has hot summers and cold winters, and is also unique?

    Thanks for any information!
     
  2. Judy

    Judy Moderator Staff Member

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    I have a fenced yard that is roughly 3500 sq ft. I had more birds a year ago, as 12 or 15 went to the freezer around 16 to 18 weeks. They ate every blade of grass in one season. There are several large weed plants in there, things they didn't want to eat, but I don't think there is enough grass remnants for any to come back next year -- or they will eat the young shoots if any come up. That's over 100 sq ft per bird. We processed the roos last spring and they have not allowed a blade of grass to grow since. Sometime this year, I think the summer, we opened the gate and have let them free range since. They don't spend a lot of time in the fenced yard -- just enough to keep the grass clipped off.
     
  3. Judy

    Judy Moderator Staff Member

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    On breed, try this breed selector tool: http://www.mypetchicken.com/chicken-breeds/which-breed-is-right-for-me.aspx

    There
    are a few really noisy breeds but there really aren't any quiet ones, not the roosters, anyway. You might talk to your neighbors about how they feel about chicken noises. If you were my neighbor I'd look forward to it.

    And here's a great list of breeds with hardiness, egg production and all that:

    http://www.ithaca.edu/staff/jhenderson/chooks/chooks.html

    You can click on the links just under the name of the breed, and get some great pics of the birds.
     
  4. ChickensAreSweet

    ChickensAreSweet Heavenly Grains for Hens

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    The large fenced garden goes all the way behind the big shed on the left. I had almost 90 birds in there. I sold some since then- am down to 22 LF and I think 18 bantams. It is on the top of a hill. They would NOT let the grass recover.

    The place is now a mud pit. I have all my birds in the side yard now, also no grass, and I let them out to free range once a day until my garden grass recovers.
     
  5. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    You'd need one HECK of a huge run -- like hundreds of square feet per hen -- to avoid losing the grass, and even then you will still have patches going to bare earth around the coop and anywhere the chickens particularly like to hang out. If you want to try something like that (and have enough land and fencing, and few enough chickens, for it to be feasible) I would suggest building a small "sacrifice lot" right off the coop, with doors into two separate runs so that you can use one while the other is resting for a few months and then switch. Rather than having just one big run. Note that when you are doing the "big giant run" thing, there is no good way to keep hawks out, so you would want to have stuff the chickens can dash under for cover and be philosophical about maybe some losses.

    If you just accept bare earth as inevitable when chickens are confined to a run (even a really pretty big run, like 30 sq ft per chicken), it comes down to management to avoid erosion. Direct all roof and uphill water away from the run, using eavestroughs and trenching and so forth. Roof some of the run if you can (with eavestroughs on it whose downspouts take the water *away* from the run). (OMG, I've been in Canada too long, I'm saying "eavestroughs" LOL -- US translation, "gutters"). If necessary, install some logs or boards or rocks across the slope to slow down the passage of water. Add gravel or roadbase or such to partially protect the earth. Etc etc. If it is not a severe slope nor a highly erodable soil, it is not likely to be a big problem for you.

    Good luck, have fun,

    Pat
     
  6. Huskeriowa

    Huskeriowa Chillin' With My Peeps

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    My Coop
    Thanks for the responses! I understand now there is no way that I will have any grass left and i can deal with that. Thanks also for the site referral concerning breeds and also the gutter suggestion. I am curious now though... is there any need to stick with one or two breeds when picking six chickens or is it ok to mix and match? In other words, if you mix and match will the birds get along ok? Or is that more of a non issue? Thanks
     
  7. Bear Foot Farm

    Bear Foot Farm Overrun With Chickens

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    In other words, if you mix and match will the birds get along ok?

    Breeds don't much matter .

    If they are raised together they will get along OK​
     
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2010
  8. ndemerly

    ndemerly Chillin' With My Peeps

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  9. vatterpa

    vatterpa Chillin' With My Peeps

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    My problem with a hill was not erosion but water run off. Mine packed the dirt down so much that nothing runs down hill but water. I have had problems with rain water flooding my coop.
     
  10. Judy

    Judy Moderator Staff Member

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    Where you run into problems is adding new birds to a flock. 30 day quarantine, then keeping them separate but where they can see each other for weeks, adjusting the pecking order... difficult.

    Sometimes there are problems if the size is quite different, even if they are raised together. If I wanted both bantams and large fowl, I'd be ready to house them separately if needed. Just being different breeds is no problem, usually; many or most on here have more than one breed together. All mine are one flock.

    If you think you will be hatching your own chicks, you might think about a broody coop or pen inside the regular coop. Some people do let them hatch eggs in the regular coop, I have done it, but it is safer with separation. That is, if you have a bird go broody.

    One more thought. If you are buying day olds in the spring, you might want a brooder cage set up outdoors. Lots of talk on here about brooding them indoors, but let me tell you, I'll never do it again. The smell was tolerable to me, though prevalent to say the least, but the chicken dust all over the house was just too much. They feather out faster outdoors anyway.
     

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