Coop modification planned, suggestions solicited

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by NTBugtraq, Dec 1, 2014.

  1. NTBugtraq

    NTBugtraq ex-Surgeon General

    So, I have just had my roosters processed into meat, and am left with 15 16-week old females who all seem healthy and happy. They’re “Frey’s Special Dual Purpose”, which lists them as being quiet and healthy. They look like Red Sex-Link, but are larger birds, and Frey’s say they don’t produce as many eggs. They’re actually probably reared more to harvest the hens as meat birds between 10-14 weeks. Either way, they’re now my flock. They'll be 20 weeks old on January 1st, so I hope to see some eggs in January. That will depend greatly on how well I have built their environment, but my hopes are up.
    I recently received a beautiful Black Copper Maran rooster, 14 weeks old, who is now in charge of growing my flock. I’m told that in 3 generations some of my females might give me some pretty darn close to black eggs…that’s my goal.
    Currently my coop is 6’ x 8’, and the run is 24’ x 8’, and is attached to the side of my house. I can’t do free range as I have 5 dogs who are determined to eat live chicken for the first time, besides, I don’t have a meadow; I’m in a forest. I’m expanding it tomorrow and thought I’d ask for feedback.
    I believe I want 3 areas in the new building. Hens, young chickens to some age, and roosters (kept young enough to prevent too much fighting). Roosters are strictly for meat. The newly hatched birds will be kept in my basement until they can go outside.
    I figure the youngest birds can probably be added to either the rooster or hen flocks at 6-8 weeks, maybe roosters get added a little later than hens. We’ll see, but with the Black Maran in the hen house, I hope he will help keep older hens from picking on younger ones.
    I have limits imposed on me up here in Ontario, 100 hens and 300 meat birds. Since I will want to cull hens as fast as is realistic (e.g. get a month or 2 of fertilized eggs out of one and then do another incubation to get a 2nd generation, and then a 3rd…I’m hoping I can get to 100 3rd generation laying hens by the end of next year. I will use leg tags to keep track of whose who.
    The rooster enclosure will be more like a coop than a run, as managing light in there is more critical to keep the fights down. The young chicken enclosure won’t have a coop at all, just a run, but it will be closed on 2 sides (so the rooster enclosure can’t see any of the other chickens).
    Sound like a plan? Thoughts?
    Cheers,
    Russ
     
    1 person likes this.
  2. Dandelioness

    Dandelioness Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hi, Russ -

    Sounds very cool what you're doing. My breeding program consists of attempting to breed true-to-type and F1 hybrids like olive eggers under a subflock of silkies and other broody hens. I cannot speak to your specific program, but it sounds like you've done your research so keep us posted on your dark egg project. :)

    I do have some practical experience housing several ages and types of chickens separately and eventually under one roof, so I'll speak to that.

    I have read Harvey Ussery's book (the Small Scale Poultry Flock), and he suggested that you can add the younger birds to the main flock as soon as they can be out without a brooder. But that you would need to provide some kind of creep feeder for the younger birds to get the higher-protein ration, or provide a one-size fits most ration with free-choice layer supplements and creep feed high-protein supplements like worms or some such. Well, I haven't dealt with building an effective creep feeder, as my husband and I built a house over the past two years, but it's something I'd like to try maybe in a year or two.

    What I have done is introduce my flocks of various ages to each other from the beginning, and once they are ready to be in one pen, there is very little if any harassment between the groups. There is pecking order stuff but no cannibalism or uncalled for violence, KWIM? The day-old chicks are in an outdoor brooder where they have access from day 1 to an outdoor run and a little ramp into a box with a light. The chicks and hens can see each other from day 1, but neither have access to the other's feed. I have merged them when the chicks are significantly younger than "recommended" but only because my older hens were in the molting stage and I feed them grower/starter ration for a few weeks because the higher protein content helps them get through it faster (so no need to separate feed). By the time the older girls are molting, everyone is pretty much ready for layer ration. NO social problems, I believe because they had visual interaction for so long prior to being put into the coop together. I think it also helps that the younger birds are as many or sometimes more numerous than my older hens. No difference in when I introduce the young roosters. Just make sure there are things like boards against a wall at a 45-degree angle, dog kennels, or that type of thing where the non-dominant roosters can hide or avoid the dominant roo. If you have way to many roos for your flock size, I know I have read of people putting burlap between screen partitions in breeding pens to avoid them fighting "through" the mesh, so your idea of keeping them visually separated is a good one. I guess I have culled or otherwise separated my extra roos just before they start crowing, so I haven't had excess males yet.

    I have seen coop designs where there are breeding and broody or brooding pens that knock down and setup very easily and hang right on the inside walls of the coop but out of the way when not in use - partitioning off various areas, and converting to one big area in the winter when most birds are of age and us northern flocksters want to streamline outdoor chores. ;) I believe there is one design available to look at in Harvey Ussery's book, try your local library. This seems like it might work for you, but you will have to crunch your numbers to see what dimensions would work for you. He does range his birds in the warm months, so this coop is not as spacious as what you probably need, considering your situation - you could deepen the coop to give a scratch room area. I read somewhere that when figuring what square footage to allow per bird, you should allow the max (4-5 sq ft/bird) for smaller flocks and can have less with larger flocks (but probably no less than 2 sq ft) because their SHARED space will be so much larger than a small flock's.

    Another idea that came to mind was the book Fresh-Air Poultry Houses by Prince T Woods. This also may be at the library, but I bought a copy as it is very helpful to me. At one point in the book, he talks about building a series of poultry houses in a line, that could be connected to each other almost in a modular way. You could keep adding onto your line indefinitely, and I think you could even open doors between them to simplify chores so you're not running into 5 chicken houses, just entering on one end and working down to the other end. I believe it was the Woods style of house he used in this manner. There is ample "scratch room" in that style of house. He had various designs that you might want to look at, too, he was a commercial poultry man back in the day. I think I saw someone post a link to read this book free online, too. His building specs need a little tweaking, like using 16-on-center studs instead of the wider-apart spec given in the book, but overall a very useful book.

    I have also considered having a largish, partitionable building with 4 pop doors that go out into separate fenced-in runs. The biggest problem is deciding on just ONE coop design, isn't it??

    Well, I hope these resources are some help to you. All the best from Central Minnesota!
     
    1 person likes this.
  3. NTBugtraq

    NTBugtraq ex-Surgeon General

    Can I just say, dang, never read a post with so much useful info. I've no idea if any of it teaches me anything, but the education is not in the outcome, but the entirely useful things you've pointed me to. So, THANK YOU.

    Because I cannot free range, but want to promote my meat as at least ethically lived and organically fed, that space is an enormous factor. I'm trying to achieve an ethically "nice" habitat, but I am constrained by the size of my house...lolz.

    You've given me a number of books to read, so clearly I can't respond atm, but thx for those references.

    Cheers,
    Russ
     
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2014
  4. NTBugtraq

    NTBugtraq ex-Surgeon General

    Dandilioness, maybe this is the wrong thread, but as a vegi farmer, F1 means should be great this season, who knows what next season...they are hybrids that don't propagate well, do F1's exist in real animals, like chickens?
     
  5. Dandelioness

    Dandelioness Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Yes, F1 is applicable to livestock as well. :) In my very rudimentary reading of poultry breeding, especially chickens, I read in a couple places that the first cross of two true breeds will almost always be a prolific layer (providing she's a she). But breeding beyond that point is more of an experiment. I know that you can selectively breed and eventually come out with a new breed which will give offspring true to the traits you have selected for. The Delaware and New Hampshire are two examples of this. While the Cornish X is still an F1 hybrid, where you need to continually breed parent stock to keep the gene lines going.

    Like I said, I'm still just working on getting my flock to reproduce true-to-type under broody hens. Hopefully someone with more knowledge of selective breeding can jump in and give us a few more books to read!

    I am glad my earlier info was helpful to you. A humane, ethical, sustainable model of animal husbandry doesn't look the same for everyone, but if you're keeping those things in mind you will find a good solution for your animals.
     
  6. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Do you have BCM hens too?
    Are they, and rooster, from a good breeding line?

    I wouldn't count on the BCM rooster making 'black egg' layers out of those hybrid hens.
     
  7. NTBugtraq

    NTBugtraq ex-Surgeon General

    No, I have no BCM hens. The rooster is from great bloodlines I'm told. The breeder who gave me the rooster is the one who told me I could achieve BCM eggs in (possibly) as few as 3 generations. In her opinion, the egg color is passed on by the roosters. So I'm counting on the advice of the breeder. I understand the discussion about egg color is heavily debatable, so I wasn't really trying to raise that discussion...its the plan I've been suggested to follow and I thought I would in 2015.

    Cheers,
    Russ
     
  8. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Well, you can hope.....just an other experiment, time (lots of time, lol) will tell, hope you report back here...good luck to ya!
     
  9. canesisters

    canesisters Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I had a BCM roo. Raised 2 pullets from him and some JG/Australorp hens. I get nice, dark brown eggs - but not marans sort of dark. If I had kept him and bred them back, the egg color would have (I think) darkened up a shade or so.. But the best way to get marans dark eggs is to pick up a couple of marans hens.
    I'd be really interested to see what color eggs you get when next year's chicks start laying.

    I've got an 8x8 building that serves as my coop and opens to a 30x90 pen (no free ranging here either). I've got wooden frames with chicken wire inside that I can use to section off areas inside the coop - and I can add simple chicken wire dividers in the pen. With 2 pop doors and a 'people' door in the coop - I CAN set up 3 different pens that will all have access to the coop. But so far, I haven't needed it.
    Have you considered letting them all intermingle and just removing the young roos (and any older hens) as they mature? You're going to want to process them early anyway.
     
  10. NTBugtraq

    NTBugtraq ex-Surgeon General

    Well, that was my call today, 2 areas not 3. I've decided that I can let the young chickens intermingle with the hens and no worry too much, and when the roo's get older move them to the 2nd enclosure prior to processing. So thanks for everyone's input, it really helped. So the new addition will be 3 sides of solid walls, and 1 side welded wire (south), with 3' plywood for the winter at the base (to stop the snow from blowing in). It means only 2 watering stations, and 2 sets of heat lamps, so a little cost savings. But with no more than 60 roo's at one time, they'll all get a little more than the 2 sq.ft.

    I will update the thread as the generations deliver...;-]

    I should add, I have 2 breeders who may be able to sell me BCM hens in the spring, and I am thinking about that, but unless I get some sort of tracking on the hens there will be no way to know who produces what. So my leaning right now is to stick with what I have, and take no new BCM hens, at least for 2015.

    Cheers,
    Russ
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2014

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