Coop ideas for small backyard setup.

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by jh5000, Feb 5, 2011.

  1. jh5000

    jh5000 Out Of The Brooder

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    I have been searching and reading through a lot of the posts here, especially the posts about Eglus. I really like the idea and look of the Eglu cube but it seems pricey and kind of small. However, I am limited by local law to a maximum of four hens (was leaning towards getting three) so I don't want to get anything too big. I also have neighbors so I need to eliminate odor, noise, and have a nice neat looking home for the hens to avoid any hassles. I live in Baltimore so the weather tends to be fairly cold in the winter and very hot and humid in the summer. I have an area of the backyard that will be naturally shaded in the afternoons from about 1 pm on, so we're looking at that area. As far as the breed goes, I am leaning towards Buff Orpingtons because of their laid back nature and cold tolerance. I have two small children who will want to be involved as well, I want to keep the backyard clean for them to play in and have egg laying pets that will get along and tolerate the attention from the kids too. I need the coop and run to be mobile as well, so I can move them around from time to time. I compost for my garden in the backyard so I plan to use the mucked out shavings and droppings for the garden.

    Will an Eglu cube work for 3 Buff Orpingtons in my area, or am I better off searching for wheeled mobile wooden coop? What size run do I need? Would a dog run set up around the coop work? If I let the hens roam around the back yard, will they stay inside the short fence or will they likely roam around go into the neighbor's back yards? Is there a breed of hen better suited?

    Is there anyone else in the Baltimore area who has advice/inputs for me? I appreciate all advice and suggestions to help me plan for my new egg laying pets.
     
  2. blefky

    blefky life in the yard

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    I guess the eglu would work for a few birds - not nearly as many as they state in the brochure. It's just so pricey for what it is, it's hard for me to get past that, I paid less than that for a brand new 8 x 10 shed (including delivery and set-up). Of course I did have to modify it and build a run. I guess if you don't mind the price, and don't want to be bothered with having to build/modify anything, AND don't intend to put too many birds in there (general rule of thumb is 4 square feet per bird inside the coop, 10 in the run) it would work. Good luck, and [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2011
  3. HEChicken

    HEChicken Overrun With Chickens

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    The people on here who have Eglus all seem to like them. Do a search for Eglu and you'll find some information and photos of other people's set ups. I did want to say, if you are allowed four, why not get four instead of three? If you later decide you want four, it is much harder to add a new chicken to an established flock, than it is to start the flock out with four. Also, a sad fact of life is that chickens are frequently victim to predators. And, sometimes chicks don't survive and grow to adulthood. If you start out with four and lose one, you'll still have 3. But if you start with three and lose one, you'll soon be in the zone where you're concerned about losing a second and having one lonely hen (they are very social creatures). Four just increases the odds in your favor IMHO.

    Buff Orpingtons are a good choice - or have you thought of having a mixed flock so it is easy to tell them apart at a glance? Barred rocks are another breed that are quiet, good layers and very calm - much like the BO in personality. Or the kiddos might get a kick out of getting colored eggs from Easter Eggers?
     
  4. jh5000

    jh5000 Out Of The Brooder

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    My concern with a mixed flock is that the milder tempered birds might get picked on, so I was thinking that it made sense to go with a flock of the same type. Have you had issues with the milder breeds together picking on each other much? My wife asked the same question...why three instead of four? I think four makes more sense when thinking about establishing the flock.

    As far as the runs go...I was thinking that maybe it would be good to get a small coop, and enclose it with a large chain link dog run.
     
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2011
  5. HEChicken

    HEChicken Overrun With Chickens

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    As long as you start all of them at the same time, I wouldn't worry about some being picked on more than others. There certainly *is* a pecking order - but that will be the case whether the flock is mixed or same breed. There will always be one hen who is at the top of the pecking order and another who is at the bottom. In my flock, my two BO's are at the top of the pecking order (even though they are birds with a milder personality), and my black star is at the bottom. But because its based on personality, not breed, in another flock, it could well be reversed.
     
  6. jh5000

    jh5000 Out Of The Brooder

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    I've never kept hens before so this is all new to me. Do the hens tend to stay in their area or would they roam out of my yard if I let them "free range" during the day? I have a small garden in the corner of my backyard with raised beds, and a 3' rabbit fence around it to keep the rabbits out. Ideally they'd get in there sometimes and eat the bugs...I don't use chemical pesticides so I was hoping the hens might be able to help me out with insect patrol. That being said, would they scratch the garden up?
     
  7. Mark & Nique

    Mark & Nique Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Howdy, JH --

    We have a similar situation as yours and decided to go with a moveable coop (or tractor) for our 3 hens. The biggest problem we've found with the tractor is it needs to be moved frequently to prevent the chickens from destroying the grass the tractor covers. Otherwise, the smell and clean-up from 3 hens, to be honest, is less than that of our 2 dogs! [​IMG]

    I like to build and made both of our tractors. (The first proved too small! I soon learned to make it big!) Our second tractor is made from pallets -- very cheap -- and much bigger. We have a pen of rabbitwire that we use for them to free range in, which works well. When you build, or buy a coop, make sure it is easy to clean and secure from predators.

    Good luck!
     
  8. Judy

    Judy Moderator Staff Member

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    I agree with starting with 4, they can be different breeds if you start them together. BO is also a very good choice; you can order some leg bands so you can tell them apart. You will have to build a good fence around the garden because they will destroy it quickly, but 6' chicken wire is cheap and it will keep out chickens (not predators.) You can let them in when you are finished harvesting to get any bugs and clean up the remaining vegetation.

    They may roam out of your yard if free ranging, especially if your yard fence is less than 6'. You might want to talk to the neighbors next to you about your plans. Some people won't mind a chicken visiting on occasion and some will get very upset about it.

    My 50' X 70' chicken yard has a 6' fence which a chicken occasionally goes over, either by flying or a sort of flapping/climbing movement. 20 or so birds had it denuded of all grass in a couple of months, just to give you a perspective. In the end you might be better off with a stationary sand run.

    I do feel the 4/10 sq ft is minimal or too small, particularly in the run.
     
  9. HEChicken

    HEChicken Overrun With Chickens

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    Quote:Oh sure - they'll be happy to eat the bugs. Unfortunately they don't discriminate and love vegies at least as much as you do. In addition to the bugs, they will strip your garden bare - faster than you can imagine.

    I don't use chemical pesticides either. I have my garden fenced off with a 4' chicken wire fence. Daily I go into the garden with a cup and pick off every caterpillar and other bug I can find. Then I leave the garden area, call the chooks and they come running to eat them. Sorry, but that's the only way I know of to have the chickens help with bugs in your garden.
     
  10. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

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    I'm not in the Baltimore area but I'll comment. I have never been a fan of any coops you purchase ready-built. They seem very expensive for what you get and they usually do not hold nearly as many chickens as they claim unless you have the perfect climate, lots of space for them to roam in all the time, and use more intense management practices than most of us want to practice. They do look nice and if you choose the right size for your number of chickens, they are certainly an option.

    If chickens are confined in a run, they will eat and scratch away any and all green stuff in there fairly quickly. This is what 8 chickens did to a 64 square foot area in about 3 days. [​IMG]
    It did rain so this may be a bit more severe than normal, but not much. Are you sure you want a mobile coop and run so they can move around your yard? Just a thought. If you do, then you should be looking at a chicken tractor. You do need to move those pretty often.

    If you are comfortable building them yourself, you can look in the coop design section at the very top of this page for ideas. There are lots of great ideas.

    Space is a big issue in keeping a small flock in the back yard. There are a whole lot of different things that go into how much space chickens need. The more usable space you can provide them, the happier they are and the easier they are to manage. We tend to use a rule of thumb of 4 square feet in the coop with 10 square feet in the run for each chicken. Those are not magic numbers that guarantee everything will be great and magnificent, but it is a good starting point.

    In your situation, you can probably get 16 square feet to work, say a 4' x4'. Inside the coop you need a roost. You need a minimum of 8" roost room per chicken, with a little more room better. It's not that they take up that much room when they roost. They don't. But they need the extra room to spread their wings when they hop up there and maneuver for space.

    You need room for a feeder and waterer positioned where they don't poop in them when they are roosting, if you feed and water inside. In a small coop like this, that gets difficult, but it can be done.

    The only other thing you need is a nest box. For 3 or 4 hens, one should be enough. They will probably all use only one even if you provide two. I'd suggest two anyway. Some breeds and some hens within those breeds go broody more often than others. When they go broody, some hens keep other hens out of the nest box. Some don't mind other hens getting in with them and laying, but some do. If you only have one nest box and a hen goes broody, you could have a problem. That's why I suggest two, even if you hardly ever need the second one. If nest boxes are off the top of the litter enough that chickens can get under them, they do not take away from usable space in the coop. Chickens are basically ground dwelling birds so the only space that counts in keeping them happy is the space on the ground. Another complicating issue is that you want your roost to be noticeably higher than the nest box. Chickens will normally roost on the highest thing they can get to. If that is the nest box, they roost there and they poop a lot at night. You don't want them laying eggs in a poopy nest.

    One of the issues for you will be poop management. As long as the coop and run does not get wet, it will probably not stink. If they get wet, they can small pretty bad, especially if the poop has built up. And if the poop builds up, it can get wet on its own, without any help from rain. So the main thing is to keep the coop and run dry and not let the poop build up. There are different strategies to achieve this. One that comes in helpful to a lot of people is a droppings board. They poop a lot at night, so if you have a board under the roost to catch those droppings, you reduce the poop load in your coop and you have great stuff to put in your compost pile. Not all of us have droppings boards, but many do, especially in the smaller coops. Some people scrape them clean every day, some use longer intervals. We all have different management techniques and practices, but I suggest you consider a droppings board in your coop.

    Chickens need a well-ventilated coop. Part of that is to get rid of the heat in the summer so they don't cook. They wear down coats year round so heat is more of a danger than cold most of the time. But they also need good ventilation in the winter. The ammonia from their droppings can cause respiratory problems and the humidity that builds up from their droppings and their respiration can lead to frostbite. As long as you provide them a well-ventilated coop so the humidity and ammonia does not build up yet you keep them out of a direct breeze, most chickens can do quite well in temperatures you will likely see in Baltimore. I'll give you some links that talk about this in more detail from a lady that lives in Ontario. The way I achieve this ventilation is to have vents above the chickens’ heads while they are roosting. Hot air rises, so this way the ammonia and humidity can exit without blowing on the chickens.

    I guess the other main consideration for your coop is that you need to be able to access all parts of it. Cleaning is part of it, but you will have other reasons to want to get to all parts. They may lay eggs anywhere or you may need to reach an injured or ill chicken. Ease in cleaning it is also important. I like walk-in coops but that may not be the type you want. It can be quite convenient to pull a wheel barrow up and rake the stuff directly into it from an elevated coop.

    I'll quit for now. Hope you get something useful out of this. Here are those links. I think they should be required reading for anyone who is thinking about a coop and run. Good luck and welcome to the adventure. I think you will enjoy the journey.

    Pat’s Big Ol' Ventilation Page
    https://www.backyardchickens.com/web/viewblog.php?id=1642-VENTILATION

    Pat’s
    Cold Coop (winter design) page:
    https://www.backyardchickens.com/web/viewblog.php?id=1642-winter-coop-temperatures

    Pat’s
    Big Ol' Mud Page (fixing muddy runs):
    https://www.backyardchickens.com/web/viewblog.php?id=1642-fix-a-muddy-run
     

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