Chicken space question

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Toeby, Feb 29, 2016.

  1. Toeby

    Toeby In the Brooder

    Jun 11, 2015
    I have about a 15 x 12 building I am going to use as a coop and will be building a run about 38 x 15. It will all be at the lowest 6 feet high. It will of course have all the bells and whistles of a traditional coop. I do have a few questions before I start though. .

    1) how many chickens would you suggest I have in this particular setup?
    2) If the ground is un even, should I use 2 x 4 's laced with chicken wire or another method to build the run (please describe) (pbc pipe, metal posts etc) keep in mind I will have a door for me to enter it and it will all be covered on the top

    thanks for all your help gals and guys

    p.s. currently they roam my back yard but occasionally go exploring the neighbors yard. . Thus I must fence them in, especially with plans of adding more
    Last edited: Feb 29, 2016

  2. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Crossing the Road

    Nov 7, 2012
    Hi Toeby. A lot depends on your soil conditions. Do you have good soil, easy to dig in, or soil laced with a lot of boulders? It also depends on your management style, and how many birds you WANT to put in that coop. If I had a building of that size, and room for a run of that size, I think I'd set aside a bit of coop space for feed storage. I'd also consider setting it up so that it could be easily divided to make room for managing broody hens and chicks. I'd also consider dividing the run and include a bachelor or meatie pad somewhere in that footprint. Take a trip to your local building supply store to get some ideas for the best way to build your fence. I set metal anchors in poured cement to mount my 4 x 4 posts, then attached 2 x 4 top and bottom rails to those posts to mount the chicken wire on. I used bird netting over the top, but had to take that down with the first snow fall. I plan to use a 2 x 4 wire mesh over the top this spring, leaving a section open at the eave to allow snow to fall without tearing down the top wire. What ever you use, be sure to bury a skirt around the perimeter to discourage digging critters. Of course welded fencing is the gold standard, 1/2" mesh to keep out weasels and the like, but you also have to take your risk tolerance and budget into account as well. Hawks have been my most lethal predators. That's not saying that I won't be visited by some other critter that will make hawk predation look like a cake walk.
  3. Toeby

    Toeby In the Brooder

    Jun 11, 2015
    Thanks for the response! I have another mini storage building attached to that one and it has a concrete floor. For thihave hads reason, I plan on storing extra food in a 50 gallon drum. As far as how many do I want, I want about 30-50 but I'm worried about over crowding them.

    The ground itself is really packed but easy to dig.. no clay or clumps of rocks etc. The only thing is it isn't level. I have had about 10-15 chickens in my backyard for about a year now and only issue was during migration I got a few hawks wanting to stop by for some lunch. . That is why I am covering it. Apart from that I don't live in the woods houses on every side of me except for one and it is the road. .

    also, a non chicken raiser suggested I put gravel in the building so I can just shower the waste to the bottom instead of constantly adding new bedding or sifting out waste. Is that an option or a no go?
    Last edited: Feb 29, 2016
  4. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    Can depend on your climate too.
    Putting your location in your profile can help folks give better answers/suggestions.

    I'd not put more than 30 birds in a 12x15 building.
    Keep in mind you may want to split that space to ease the addition of new birds in the future.
    I can split my coop with a temporary wire wall for integrating new birds, isolating a 'bad or injured bird, broody hen, etc.
    That extra and separate space has been very beneficial to me as a keeper.

    I would say 'no go' to the gravel, it will gather wet poop and stink.
    You want coop to be dry...for both odor and health of birds

    Drainage of run off around the coop and run is very important.
    If you could post some pics of your run site, it would help in getting some suggestions on how to enclose it.
  5. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    I’m not even going to try to come up with a maximum number of chickens you could squeeze in there. My main coop is half the size of yours but my main run is 12 x 32. That’s still smaller than yours but not tremendously so. 15 x 38 sounds big on paper, and it is compared to what a lot of people have, but on the ground it’s not huge. I also have an area about 45’ x 90’ inside electric netting. I have large hawks all over the place but have never had a problem with them, even with young chicks in that netting area. Predators can be funny that way, certain ones a problem for some but not for others. I sometimes have over 40 chickens in there but many are young, just growing to butcher size. And I have a grow-out coop and another smaller coop I sometimes use to relieve the pressure on my main coop. My set-up is different to yours but I think I can sort of relate. I’m sure we manage them differently. We are all unique.

    You can follow the link in my signature to get some things I feel are important about chickens and space, but a few things I consider pertinent to your situation. What is your flock make-up? How many roosters versus how many hens? Only one rooster doesn’t do much to space requirements but each additional one you add can make the space available look really small pretty quickly. Two or more roosters can get along but often they split the flock and each has its own territory so they avoid a lot of contact. If their territories are within line of sight of each other, well sometimes it can cause problems. Sometimes. With all this stuff, since you are dealing with living animals no one can give you guarantees. About anything can happen.

    How often are you going to be integrating new chickens or have broody hens raise chicks with the flock? A broody hen needs a certain amount of room to work, but the real need comes after she weans them or when you integrate brooder-raised chicks. They rank at the bottom of the pecking order and will form a sub-flock, avoiding the adults as much as they can. Having sufficient room to avoid the adults is pretty important in this phase either being pretty peaceful or it getting messy.

    Poop management can become an issue. Some of that depends on your climate (mainly how wet it gets at times), your soils type (how well it drains), and the slope of the area, including the area around the run. Water is your biggest enemy in this. The more chickens you have pooping in a certain area the more it builds up. When poop gets wet and stays wet just a few days it can stink, plus a wet run is an unhealthy run. If your run is on a slope or, even better, on a hill top so water can run off instead of drain to or through the run, you are much better off than if it is where water drains to and sits. Sand drains much better than clay but the water needs someplace lower to drain to. Even with just a few chickens a wet run can become stinky but if you have a lot of chickens pooping in there the effect is magnified.

    To me the best run is one where it is built up so any water that gets in drains out. Poop is pretty much water soluble. The gravel idea could work provided the poopy water gets out of the run and doesn’t form a wet lagoon nearby that is going to stink itself. Feedlots often stink and often have special water treatment lagoons set up to help treat the water. Sometimes flies are an issue. That’s because of poop concentration. Packing chickens in very tightly makes me concerned that poop management may become a big issue for you.

    There are all kinds of ways to build a run. For one that size and especially uneven ground I’d suggest fence posts and fencing. Your corner posts probably need to be pretty substantial, maybe even braced, but the intermediates could be T-posts or something like that. Remember to make the post you hang your gate off of pretty substantial and brace it if you can at all. You don’t want a sagging gate.

    With your easy to dig in ground, you could dig a trench and bury the wire, but I’d suggest an apron is equally effective and a lot easier to install. Either bend the bottom say 18” of your fence at a 90 degree angle out or attach a piece of wire 18” to 24” wide at the bottom. A digging predator goes up to the fence, digs, hits the fence, and doesn’t know to back up. You don’t have to bury it, grass will eventually grow up through it, but if you remove the top 2” of turf and put that back on top you don’t have issues with weed eaters or lawn mowers. That should take care of any uneven ground issues.

    What wire to use? That depends on your risk tolerance and your pocketbook. A decent sized dog, a big raccoon, or a coyote can rip most chicken wire. Different chicken wire comes in different gauges, the smaller (heavier) the gauge the better but more expensive if you can even find it. I used 2” x 4” welded wire and covered the bottom 18” with chicken wire. That will stop most larger predators (not bears) but different chicken wire comes with different sized holes. Snakes, many weasels, and rats can still get through most chicken wire.

    One problem you may have with your run as you described it is that the top might sag too much. You said nowhere would it be less than 6’ but are you taking sag into account? Can you walk under it without stooping? You may need to brace it in the middle. If your only concern is hawks and keeping the chickens in the wire you use for the top doesn’t have to be that substantial, but a wet snow or an ice storm can cause it to come crashing down. I don’t know the best way for you to brace it but I kind of envision a couple of posts in the middle to help stop the sag. Maye your sides are high enough that this isn’t an issue, but if it is, a brace later may be an easy fix.

    I like Lazy Gardener’s idea of sectioning off parts for separation. I’ll even suggest you consider making that small outbuilding a “grow-out” coop with a section of the run fenced with chicken wire that can be isolated from the main run and put your storage in the main coop. Mine is set up that way and I find it really handy during integration or when I isolate a bunch of cockerels while growing them to butcher size. That flexibility comes in really handy. I normally butcher my cockerels after five months but wanted hatching eggs from my main rooster so I isolated the cockerels in there to be sure the right rooster was fertilizing the eggs. You never know when a little extra flexibility will come in handy.

    Hopefully you can get something useful out of all this typing. Good luck!
  6. Toeby

    Toeby In the Brooder

    Jun 11, 2015

    about 11 posts down you will see my pictures. . I plan on closing the red barn door pretty much making it a wall. I plan on building the run to the left of the barn and will include posts in the middle to support the top netting. Currently I have two roosters but when I get this built I may just have the one until it passes. It is my wife's pet that was suppose to be female. In the coop area it will be random chickens I hatch from others. I plan on getting rid of any roos and using the bend for eggs. I have plenty of room to build more pens and may do that eventually, if nothing else expanding the run.

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