Compact Coop for 18 Hens - Design Ideas?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by tdbrueggen, Oct 28, 2013.

  1. tdbrueggen

    tdbrueggen Out Of The Brooder

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    I've been thinking on this for a long time, but it's time to step up and do it! I am currently building the run starting with just 5x8'. Before you get concerned, there are only 6 pullets in there, but I intend to work the flock up to 18+. I'll expand the run before then.

    The run is built 5x8 because it has to sit between my garage and the neighboring fence. I had to put it here to conceal it from the homeowners assoc. I have more length that can be added, good for at least 30' (the length of the garage) but am width restricted.

    Now, the trick comes in building the coop itself. I want to have a 3' wide door on each end for walk-through ability, which means the coop can only comfortably be 2' wide so I don't run into it passing through. Gives a while new meaning to the term "cooped up"! I think this is very doable, but needs a smart design to make it functional.

    I am thinking the nest boxes will be on the back wall, and be about 1' deep, so that leaves a 1' walkway in front of them. I'd like to mount the roost bars directly in front of the boxes, or at least on row of them there to take advantage of the head space. I can't recall if I read somewhere that you can/can't do this, the roosts in front of the boxes that is. It will be the full 8' long, so I've got 16 SF to work with here. For 18 hens I think 8-10 laying boxes is sufficient (my brother and I once had 125 hens with ~25 boxes and they did just fine). If I double stack them (assuming 8) that would leave me 4'x2' on the other end of the coop to put in feed and water. I also have to integrate in a ramp that drops out of the floor which will need to be ~1' by 3' long.

    I envision 4 full opening doors (just like cabinets) for easy access into the coop and easy cleaning. Also I will be sealing the floor with an epoxy product so I can clean it out easy, possibly even flush with a hose, without having to worry about rotting the wood.

    Any thoughts or ideas would be greatly appreciated.
     
  2. res

    res Chillin' With My Peeps

    I kept 15 in a 3'W x 10'L x 3'H coop that was built under a workbench in a garden shed. Had 4 nest boxes stacked 2-high on one end, and the other end was roosts. Worked pretty darn good, never had stressed or sick hens. They were only in the coop at night and to lay eggs, though. I wouldn't want to confine them in that amount of space for extended periods.... Longest they were "locked in" was about 48 hours during a blizzard, still no stress pecking, but LOTS of poop to clean up!

    That was the only downfall to the coop - cleaning it out made my back hurt because I was hunched over to access all of it. I used DLM and only stripped it every 6 months or so.

    [​IMG]
    This pic was right after we had built it. I originally had roosts on both sides, with nest boxes underneath. They all crowded onto the roost bars by the chicken "doggie" door on the left, and laid eggs in the boxes away from the doors, so I decided to move things. Ended up with 4 roosts on the left by the door, and all the nest boxes on the right.
     
  3. res

    res Chillin' With My Peeps

    Should have added - I know you aren't building a coop in a shed. I wanted to share with you that I had a small-footprint coop for close to the same # of hens you are wanting, and it worked just fine...
     
  4. Pyxis

    Pyxis Dark Sider Premium Member

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    I hate to be the bearer of bad news here, but 16 square feet for 18 hens is just not a good idea. That's less than one square foot per hen. Add in the fact that you want to take most of that space away for nesting boxes, and most of what's left over after that is roost space and food and water space, now we're talking a fraction of even that room left over. That's as bad as the birds kept in factory egg farms, except yours will have the ability to get outside, although a 5x8 run is too small for six birds anyway - each bird should have ten square feet of run space at least. Even at your full run space of 30 feet by 5 feet, that's still not ten square feet per bird for 18 birds. And if you live anywhere that it gets cold in the winter, or where it rains, the birds aren't going to want to go outside anyway because it will be too cold or raining on them so they'll want to be in the coop, and now you're going to have issues with them fighting for space, picking each other's feathers, and tons of stress, which will lead to a drop in egg production anyway.

    For a 16 square foot coop, you're looking at 4 hens comfortably fitting in there, and that's if they actually had the whole 16 square feet, not 16 square feet and nesting boxes and food and water taking up some of that. You could maybe get away with your six current birds in there if you live in a warm climate and you give them adequate run space, so they're pretty much only using the coop for sleeping. As for your nesting box question, you need one for every three or four hens. Realistically here, looking at your restrictions, you are at your limit with 6 birds already, unless you want to make the coop bigger, allowing four square feet per bird, two square feet minimum if they're only going to be in the coop to sleep or when it's cold or rains, etc. And if you do make the coop bigger, it sounds like it'll cut down on your run space, and if you're not free ranging, and it sounds like you won't be because you're in violation of your homeowner's association and maybe even local law, you need ten square feet per bird. So even if you utilized the full 150 square feet you say you have for the run, you should have 15 birds maximum.

    Sorry if this comes off harsh, I don't mean it to be, I'm just trying to inform you and others who may read this post. I'm very sensitive to this kind of thing after rescuing several hens from situations like this where they were fighting, stressed, picked almost bare, and very unhappy. To me, if you're going to keep chickens in a tiny space anyway, you might as well buy your eggs from the store.

    So, to summarize, with a 16 square foot coop, four hens is the maximum, unless you have bantams, in which case everything is cut in half and it's eight, IF you actually have 16 square feet available to them. Run size is ten square feet per bird. You don't have room for eighteen hens. Again, very sorry if this came off harsh sounding, not trying to be.
     
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2013
  5. tdbrueggen

    tdbrueggen Out Of The Brooder

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    No hard feelings Pyxis. I get the same way when people mention bad ideas about honeybees (my real passion). Let me clarify a few things.

    The coop will be hanging about 2' off the ground, so the chickens will have the full 5x8 footrprint for the run. However I agree, the 6 little pullets I already have had it worked over in just a couple days. I will be expanding the coop rapidly. My end goal is that the chickens will be able to run free into the bee yard out back, which I will have masked with privacy fence, and a hoops over the top with bird netting to keep the chickens in, and the predators out. Plus the hoops will be used to shade the beehives in summer, but that's a whole different topic. But with that run space expansion, I estimate the run space will be 150 SF (beside the garage) plus another 12x25' in the bee yard, so that should be more than enough for 18 hens by your 10 SF per bird minimum. As a bonus, my compost piles are also in the bee yard, so they'll be able to get in those all they want! In addition, I intend to start up a little fodder system to help them with the less green seasons.

    I am in a warmer climate (Houston, TX), so the birds are only cooped at night. I expect I will put a roof over a portion of the run as well (and extension of the garage roof) so that even on rainy days they can still get out of the coop and do some scratching around.

    Thanks res for the creative ideas. It's always a challenge to be sustainable on a small space, but I'm trying!

    I want to clarify to all, caging and crowing the birds is not my goal. I grew up on a farm and am a strong believer in free range chickens. I have a 22 acre farm that I am currently building, so just as soon as we get some fences in place and a home built and are moved out there, my birds will be in chicken paradise.

    Also, I mentioned max of 18 birds, because that is where I am committed. A dozen minimum should be pullets (or are labeled as such) but I have 6 Red Sex Links on order that are straight run. I suspect half or more of those will be cockerels which will quickly make their way to the frying pan. I expect I'll only have 14-15 hens in the end.

    I have all the best intentions (and hope to not be paving a road to Hell!). I am educated (engineering degree FWIW) but also educated by the school of Hard Knocks, growing up dirt poor on a farm. I know to do my homework and take care of my livestock! I am just reaching out for some ideas here, and all criticism is openly accepted. Thanks to all for your valued input!
     
  6. Pyxis

    Pyxis Dark Sider Premium Member

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    Oh good, that's much better! Sorry, like I said, I've seen some things that resulted from overcrowding that were not pretty so I get a little crazy about it. With 14 hens, you still might want to try for a bigger coop - maybe aim for 2 square feet per bird if they'll have plenty of outdoor space, which it sounds like they will. You'd be surprised how much time they spend in there when it's chilly! Is there any way you could maybe widen the coop or make it longer? Another option, if you're open to it, is a hoop coop, which is how I did mine since I wanted a big flock. They're relatively inexpensive, you can make them walk in sized, and when done they look like a greenhouse or a storage space for lawnmowers or something so that might keep your homeowner's association from being suspicious.

    Also, good luck with the farm! Sounds like they'll be living the good life when they get out there.
     
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2013
  7. tdbrueggen

    tdbrueggen Out Of The Brooder

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    I am limited to 2x8' per run section, but I guess I could build a second coop in the second run area. Do you think the birds would roost in both? Or would they all crowd into one?

    What about hanging the roost bars in front of the nest boxes? Any reason I can't do that?
     
  8. Pyxis

    Pyxis Dark Sider Premium Member

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    I wouldn't see why you couldn't hang them there - just make sure they're higher up than the nesting boxes because chickens love to roost on the nesting box tops if the roost isn't higher than them, lol. I'm not sure about two coops - maybe if you split the flock when you were imprinting them on the coops and locked half in one coop and half in the other? I've actually never tried two coops so I'm not sure.
     
  9. tdbrueggen

    tdbrueggen Out Of The Brooder

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    I was thinking right in front of the nest boxes, just about 6" out in front. Really I don't care if they roost on top of the boxes. I'll coat that with epoxy too and toss some bedding up there so I can clean it out from time to time if that's what they want to do. I'm thinking I'll make the coop 2x10 footprint, with up to 4' head height inside. So I can put roosts higher than the boxes if I wanted, but they might have a hard time getting up there.

    Actually, now you got me thinking (not good...). Since it will have a full opening front, I'll be able to easily access every nook and cranny, even if it's split level. I've seen some where the space above the nest boxes was used for roost space. This is perfect. Effectively I then get my full footprint back, and then some, so I'm not really losing space to the nest boxes. I could use this "loft" space for the food/water, or for just more roost space.

    Speaking of lofts and tight quarters, when I was in college, I shared a 10x12' room with another man, and most times my now wife. We got pretty creative with how to make things compact but still spacious, and utilize every inch!
     
  10. Pyxis

    Pyxis Dark Sider Premium Member

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    That sounds pretty good! Yeah, if you don't mind cleaning up up there, it would be perfect to put the food and water and roosts up there and leave all the other room for the birds. Then, with 15 hens, you'd have about 1.3 square feet per bird, which is tight, but doable since they'll be outside a lot.
     

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