Converting part of dairy barn...

Martha55

Hatching
9 Years
Feb 26, 2010
5
0
7
This summer we will be moving to my grandmothers farm in cental Indiana. They retired from the dairy business 40 yrs ago and the quite substantial barn has sat uninhabited since. I would like to convert an area to use for chickens. The space I am considering would be built around the dairys "stalls", basically enclosing them. There are concrete floors, windows, and the coops will not be built on any exterior walls.
Here are my questions:
1. The initial area would be approx 8'x24'. Should I cut that up into 2-3 'rooms' or leave it as one large area.
2. Can I use the stall dividers and yokes as roosts? They are metal (of some sort, rusted) but still very strong. If not as roosts, can they stay as 'exersize' equipment?
3. I am thinking of an L shaped run around the outside corner of the barn. Which orientation is perferable, North & East or East & South?
Thanks for any input and ideas you may have...
 

bigredfeather

Songster
11 Years
Oct 1, 2008
2,194
47
211
Yorkshire, Ohio
I have converted the old milking area of my barn to house chickens, and it works great. Your chickens cannot use the bare metal stall dividers for an extended amount of time when it is cold. If they roost up on them, and they will, when it is cold, you risk them getting frost bite on their feet. I simply covered mine with some scap carpet I had laying around. Just cut strips wide enough to cover them and zip tie to secure.
 

patandchickens

Flock Mistress
12 Years
Apr 20, 2007
12,520
335
341
Ontario, Canada
Quote:
Sorry to be stupid, but if the coop is not against an exterior wall, how will they get out to the run?

1. The initial area would be approx 8'x24'. Should I cut that up into 2-3 'rooms' or leave it as one large area.

I would suggest making no permanent dividers. Personally I would leave it as all one big room until/unless I required separate pens, then knock together a moveable wall so that if next year I want the divider in another position it'll be easy to do. If you are a "change out all the bedding frequently" kind of person, you might want to restrict your initial chickens to only part of the space so you are not throwing out lots of clean bedding; but IME as long as the quarters are *dry* it is perfectly fine to have them roaming lots of bedded area, the poo just sort of dries up and disappears and does not require a bedding change-out for a long time if you have few enough chickens there.

2. Can I use the stall dividers and yokes as roosts? They are metal (of some sort, rusted) but still very strong. If not as roosts, can they stay as 'exersize' equipment?

You can't have chickens roosting on metal in cold weather. In a perfect world it would probably be best to remove them; if that requires an unreasonable amount of jackhammer work, at least cover horizontal surfaces (or, ideally, the whole thing) with wood so you don't get chickens with frostbitten feet.

3. I am thinking of an L shaped run around the outside corner of the barn. Which orientation is perferable, North & East or East & South?

East and south, for SURE. Those are the "usually downwind" sides in winter, and also catch winter sun to provide a warmer area. In summertime, the south side will get awful hot but they can tuck around on the E side into the shade so that will work well too. Seriously, an L-shaped run on those two sides of a building is pretty much ideal
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Good luck, have fun,

Pat​
 

LynneP

Songster
11 Years
Mar 21, 2008
4,746
65
231
Centre Rawdon, Nova Scotia, Canada
Your chickens will benefit from natural light, so think about using part of the exterior walls if possible and they will also get heat from solar energy in winter.

You're very lucky to have an existing structure. We built our first coop in a horse stall and you can see what we did below. Our next one will be in the next stall, for another closed flock in 2011. Consider a roofed run- it makes a world of difference and you might have room for an indoor run for winter and bad weather as well as an outdoor one. Remember that predators use barns too, so use 1/2" gauge hardware cloth for both indoor and outdoor partitions.
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Martha55

Hatching
9 Years
Feb 26, 2010
5
0
7
Thanks to you for your comments and to help settle things in my mind.
This is for Pat... as to not having the coop on an outside wall, here was my thinking. I thought that preditor protection might be easier if I didn't have to deal with an outside wall and I thought it might be warmer (I don't intend to heat) if the coop wasn't flush to the wall. There is a door to the outside right there. I assumed (perhaps mistakenly) that if I opened the door, then opened the coop that the birds would go to the door. I didn't take into account them wanting to go in and out on their own. There is also a 'sidewalk' area around the old dairy stalls and I guess I was thinking of that as a 'clean' area for me to work from.
Another thought was triggered by a post about winter housing, could I let them 'free range' in the barn in the winter? At this point, nothing in there except a few tractors.
 

patandchickens

Flock Mistress
12 Years
Apr 20, 2007
12,520
335
341
Ontario, Canada
Quote:
Nah, the whole inside of the building is going to be about the same temperature. If your walls are stone, concrete or bare metal it might be worth slapping some plywood over the part immediately adjacent to the chickens, but other than that, no reason not to put them against a wall. As Lynn says, it would be best to have window(s) into the chickens' area, too.

As far as predatorproofing, either the building is predator proof or it is not, if you cannot predatorproof an outside wall then I would be concerned about hte setup, I bet you can do it
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There is a door to the outside right there. I assumed (perhaps mistakenly) that if I opened the door, then opened the coop that the birds would go to the door. I didn't take into account them wanting to go in and out on their own.

Oh yes, chickens are not at all like cattle or horses in the sense of 'you turn them out in the pasture in the morning and put them back in the stall at night' -- they will want all-day access to go in and out and in and out. Partly they need this for reasons of temperature and weather -- they need to be able to go inside if it is too hot or cold or windy or rainy or whatever outside -- and partly because they need to be able to trot back to the nestbox whenever they feel an egg coming on, which could be ANY time of day.

Another thought was triggered by a post about winter housing, could I let them 'free range' in the barn in the winter? At this point, nothing in there except a few tractors.

If the floor is concrete, you would have to put bedding down, which would get expensive and dusty and a major cleanout job eventually. And you don't want chickens pooing all over your tractors. How many chickens are you thinking in terms of getting? If it is not more than 16 or so, an 8x24 area is plenty large for them on days when they don't want to go out, and you can still offer them outdoor access (with perhaps the inducements of some treats scattered out there when you let 'em out) and you may be surprised how much they DO use the outdoors even in the middle of winter.

Good luck, have fun,

Pat​
 

LynneP

Songster
11 Years
Mar 21, 2008
4,746
65
231
Centre Rawdon, Nova Scotia, Canada
Hardware cloth (1/2" gauge) is your best friend- can be used on windows, doors, panels, run divisions, as a flange underground- anythwhere you want to keep danger away. Whatever you decide, use it liberally indoors and out. The great things is that you're planning ahead- you'll get it right because you asked.
 

Martha55

Hatching
9 Years
Feb 26, 2010
5
0
7
Alright, the little wheels in my brain are turning.... here are the next couple of questions.
1. Can I use the existing "dutch" door, and just open the bottom half out to the run, or, do I need a smaller chicken door?
2. This coop will be in the SW corner (along a S wall/with windows) of an otherwise unoccupied large barn in central Indiana. It is on a slab with wood siding. We got to 0 a few times this winter and spent a week or so in the teens. Do I need to enclose and insulate this area or will hardware cloth walls with a small protected area suffice?

I'm looking forward to your comments!
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patandchickens

Flock Mistress
12 Years
Apr 20, 2007
12,520
335
341
Ontario, Canada
Quote:
You can, but will probably eventually want to cut a more chicken-sized popdoor because it will let less weather in during the wintertime. Also if your run is topless or not entirely invulnerable to predators, having a small chicken-sized door rather than a 4' square opening will decrease the odds of a hawk or ground-based predator following fleeing chickens back inside the coop.

2. This coop will be in the SW corner (along a S wall/with windows) of an otherwise unoccupied large barn in central Indiana. It is on a slab with wood siding. We got to 0 a few times this winter and spent a week or so in the teens. Do I need to enclose and insulate this area or will hardware cloth walls with a small protected area suffice?

If the barn is basically closed i.e. no wind blowing through, you will probably be fine with just wire mesh walls (although be aware that dust from the chickens will spread throughout the barn). At most you might want to knock together a small box or 'room' right around the roost itself. That's not really especially cold for well-chosen chickens if you can keep the air dryish, though.

Good luck, have fun,

Pat​
 

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