coop questions, day in the life of a chicken

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by OrangeCrushCJ7, Apr 18, 2009.

  1. OrangeCrushCJ7

    OrangeCrushCJ7 Out Of The Brooder

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    Apr 18, 2009
    Barre, MA
    I was looking at the website for the place I buy my wood pellets from, and they had a link to thier annual poultry sale. Kind of peaked my interest. Inexpensive hobby that I think my year and a half old daughter will grow to enjoy too. And you can’t beat fresh “free” eggs. So after discussing it for a few weeks, the wife and I decided to get some hens for egg purposes. I have no experience whatsoever with them. I have been reading about them on the net, and trying to learn as much as I can. We want 6 or so hens. We are considering 2 Barred Plymouth Rocks, 2 Buff Orpingtons, and 2 Golden Comets. Will these co-exist together well?
    What is the mortality rate on them, getting them as days old chicks? If I want 6, should I order more and expect casualties before maturity?
    I live In Central MA, so we'll have some cold winter months. I plan on building a small coop (4x8) attached to my shed for them once they get old enough to live outdoors (60 days old I am told). I have been looking at pictures of peoples coops on here, and they all vary greatly. I have read they need 1.5sf of sheltered space per hen, 1 nest per 4 hens, and 8” of roosting space per hen. As an architect, I know I can design a coop for them better if I actually had a clue as to what a day in the life of a chicken was like. What exactly is the function of these parts? They sleep where? on the roosting bar, or in the nest? and why only 1 nest for 4 hens? they share the nest? where are the eggs layed, in the nest? does this nest have to be enclosed? Where do they eat? in the outside portion of the coop (the run)? how about water? where do they poop? do they have a particular spot they are going to go to all the time, or do they just go where ever, whenever the mood strikes them?
    Thanks!
     
  2. CityChook

    CityChook Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Apr 9, 2008
    Minneapolis, MN
    My Coop
    Welcome from MN - You will enjoy hanging out around here.

    Check out the search function in the top blue bar. There is so much information on this site. You will most certainly find answers to all your questions. This time last year I was a newbie too - and had ZERO clue what I was doing. I don't even want to admit how many hours I've spent on this site just learning learning learning... Welcome and Have FUN!
     
  3. bawkbawkbawk

    bawkbawkbawk Chillin' With My Peeps

    It would be very cool if someone posted pics of a day in the life of their chickens. I hope someone will!

    I'm a newbie and don't even have my chicks yet, but unless you're getting bantams, I think they need more than 1.5 sq. ft. of space. I thought I read 4 sq. ft. someplace, but don't quote me on it.
     
  4. Stonerowfarm

    Stonerowfarm Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Cheshire, MA
    A Day in the Life of a Hen

    Anxiously await "lady" in the morning to open the coop door. As soon as she does, tumble out as quickly as possible and beg for treats.

    Poo

    After ravenously consuming treats, search yard for bugs/worms/critters to likewise ravenously consume.

    Poo

    Wander into coop, cluck at babies, check out nesting boxes.

    Poo

    Peck at food, hung from the rafters of the barn (so we can't poo in it).

    Poo

    Dip beak in water, also hung from the rafters of the barn (so we can't poo in it).

    Poo

    Wander back outside. Check to see if "lady" or "man" came out with more treats.

    Poo

    Take dirt bath. Ruffle feathers. Squawk at anything. Flap a little.

    Poo

    Wander back into coop, check out nesting boxes, maybe lay an egg or just sit on one someone else laid.

    Poo

    Repeat process throughout the day until nightfall.

    Poo

    Get onto roost and vy for best possible place. Cuddle and sleep.
     
  5. philhyde

    philhyde Out Of The Brooder

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    Feb 22, 2009
    [​IMG]
     
  6. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Ontario, Canada
    Quote:You will want a lot more than that unless you live in Hawaii or a similar climate. 4 sq ft per chicken is ok, more is better.

    I'd suggest looking at lots and lots of other peoples' coops (see coop design pages link at top of this page) because you will see what WORKS (well ok, a few dysfunctional coops, but anything done frequently usually works) and be able to learn from that rather than trying to reinvent the wheel in advance of actually having chickens. You might also want to retain flexibility in your design so you can rearrange design elements on the basis of the experience you will acquire once you DO have chickens [​IMG]

    Have fun,

    Pat
     
  7. briteday

    briteday Chillin' With My Peeps

    Dec 16, 2008
    Northern NV
    [​IMG][​IMG]

    In the top picture you can see a bit of the innards of this coop - a 4 x 8 A-frame. Silly me, I did have to lower the roost as it is really a joke up that high! But in the left corner is one nest box (and 6 RIR hens share it without a problem) and on the right side is wher I put the feed and water.

    Pros and cons of this coop...

    Pro...
    It fits right on top of my 4 x 8' vegetable beds in the winter so the birds till and fertilize everything until February or so when I move them off the bed and into the pasture. This gives the manure a chance to mellow during our Spring rains and the girls can free range in the safe pasture if the days are nice enough. (the veggie beds are in the backyard, near the pasture, but I don't let them free range in my grass or flower beds)

    It seems to be about the right size for my 6 RIR hens.

    The upper level keeps the run below free from snow in the winter.

    It is easy to service the coop because it is elevated.

    Cons...
    When I first tried to hang the feeder it basically can only hang from the apex of the A so it is right in the middle of that side of the coop, hard to place a waterer or bowl on that side. So I ended up putting the feeder on bricks further under the "eaves" leaving plenty of space for a black rubber water bowl that serves them fine for 24 hours during the winter. In the summer I replace water 2-3 times per day.

    This coop is too heavy to move more than 2 times per year, according to DH. And even then we need 4 adults to do it.

    The apex needs to be made more shallow during the winter as the birds have a difficult time keeping the space warm. So I use some heavy fabric and staple it to the walls in the winter to "lower the ceiling" a bit. And all is well.

    Be sure when you place your pop door and ramp that you can lift the ramp and it lays flat against the underside of the coop at night so predators cannot enter the coop. If you place the door too near the ends of the coop and/or direct your ramp in the wrong direction,...makes for a lot of work to fix it.

    Daily routine...

    7AM or when sun comes over the mountain a bit later in the winter - lift lower door to run and put in the greens and maybe a bit of grain, close that door (lean bricks against it in pasture or hook it to landscape bed, with hook and loop), use rope to lower ramp from outside so girls can get to the greens, after they leave the coop I open the large side wall door to service the coop. The left side has bedding so I use the deep litter method on that side and just add clean bedding as necessary (especially during the winter) and clean it totally as needed (usually about 3-4 ties per year). I also collect any early eggs from the nest on the left side first thing in the morning. The right side with food, water, and pop door is linoleum only. So that side gets scraped of any poop (I keep a dishpan nearby and use a dust pan to collect dropping that go off to the compost bin), fill the food / water / oyster shell bins.

    noon...check for eggs. The hens have been able to go up and down as they please to sun themselves, eat greens and scratch in the dirt, gu upstairs to lay eggs / eat / water...

    3PM (winter)-5PM (summer) check for late eggs and give them a bit of scratch grains and / or cube of alfalfa soaked in water.

    6-8PM (seasonal) raise ramp and tuck them in for the night.

    During the Spring and Summer when they are in the pasture I will usually let them out of the coop around noon or 4PM, depending on when I get home. The dogs have the run of the yard in the morning after their hike. And my hens don't like out little dogs running along their fence line. Scares the begebees out of the hens so we keep the stress level down by rotating usage. Also, even though they seem to know to go back to the nest to lay eggs, so far, I don't want them to get into the habit of laying eggs around the pasture. So generally, by the afternoon they have finished their egglaying business and are free to roam.
     
  8. Judy

    Judy Moderator Staff Member

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    Feb 5, 2009
    South Georgia
    Quote:You will want a lot more than that unless you live in Hawaii or a similar climate. 4 sq ft per chicken is ok, more is better.

    I'd suggest looking at lots and lots of other peoples' coops (see coop design pages link at top of this page) because you will see what WORKS (well ok, a few dysfunctional coops, but anything done frequently usually works) and be able to learn from that rather than trying to reinvent the wheel in advance of actually having chickens. You might also want to retain flexibility in your design so you can rearrange design elements on the basis of the experience you will acquire once you DO have chickens [​IMG]

    Have fun,

    Pat

    What Pat says -- always.

    Would suggest you click on the two links at the bottom of pat's post. Also suggest you go to Index then Frequently Asked Questions. Tells a lot or most of what you want to know.

    Even for 6 chickens in this relatively mild climate, I would not consider anything but a walk-in coop -- personal choice, of course.
     
  9. gritsar

    gritsar Cows, Chooks & Impys - OH MY!

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    SW Arkansas
    Quote:Yep, that about covers it except I think there are a few more poos in there somewhere. [​IMG]
     
  10. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    I'm an engineer so I can understand your desire to have an understanding of some of the why's.

    You will find that the people on this forum vary greatly about why and how we keep chickens. Some are kept purely as pets, some for eggs, some for meat, some for meat and eggs, some to try to make money, some for personal use only, some show their chickens and win grand championships, some have a breeding program going on and they are trying to develop something specific. All are legitimate reasons, but the answers to certain questions will vary, sometimes quite a bit.

    A lot of this may sound complicated or intimidating. It doesn't need to be. As long as you meet the basic needs of chickens, protection from the weather, protection from predators, feed and water, they will do great. I suggest you take anything you read on here as guidelines, not hard and fast rules. You will find practically every guideline on here broken by someone and they often do OK. If you follow the guidelines, your odds of being successful increase, sometimes dramatically, but failure to follow does not mean certain disaster. It means your odds dropped.

    We are considering 2 Barred Plymouth Rocks, 2 Buff Orpingtons, and 2 Golden Comets. Will these co-exist together well?

    Chickens are not prejudiced according to breed. Those will do fine with each other.

    What is the mortality rate on them, getting them as days old chicks? If I want 6, should I order more and expect casualties before maturity?

    I don't know how you are planning on acquiring your 6 hens. Most nurseries will not ship as few as 6 chicks. Some will, but those can be very expensive. If you do get young chicks, you may not lose any or you may have problems. It is hard to say. If I wanted 6, I'd start with 6.

    I live In Central MA, so we'll have some cold winter months. I plan on building a small coop (4x8) attached to my shed for them once they get old enough to live outdoors (60 days old I am told). I have been looking at pictures of peoples coops on here, and they all vary greatly. I have read they need 1.5sf of sheltered space per hen, 1 nest per 4 hens, and 8” of roosting space per hen.

    On many university/extension agency sites, you will see the 1-1/2 square foot per chicken requirement. That's based on a certain set of assumptions that very likely will not apply to your circumstances. It's more for the commercial interests who have very different set-ups. The rule of thumb used on this site is 4 square feet per chicken in the coop plus 10 square feet per chicken in the run. One basic assumption is that you have enough chickens that averages mean something. The 4 square feet assumes you will feed and water inside the coop (in your climate you will, in the winter at least). It gives chickens enough room to have access to the food and water. The 4 square feet takes into account the poop load the coop can carry per chicken based on standard poop management practices. You need to keep the litter dry or your hens can develop respiratory problems from the ammonia plus the moisture causes humidity problems, especially in cold weather. It gives you room to put up roosts without having them roosting over their food and water. They poop a lot while they are on the roost at night.

    The 4 square feet also assumes the hens will not spend a lot of time in the coop without access to an outside run. I can't come up with a hard and fast figure for how much time is not a lot. The problem with crowding them is that they can become cannibalistic if they are too crowded. Many people in your climate do OK with 4 square feet. Chickens are basically ground dwelling birds, so the only space that counts is on the ground. If they cannot get under the nesting boxes, that space does not count. With your plan for a 6' x 8' coop for 6 hens, you should have sufficient space.

    They sleep where? on the roosting bar, or in the nest?

    They will normally roost on the highest thing they can get on. You want to set up the roosts a clearly discernable height above anything you don't want them roosting on. 12" clear should be sufficient. You don't want them roosting in the nesting boxes because they poop a lot while roosting. Poopy nests means dirty eggs.

    why only 1 nest for 4 hens? they share the nest? where are the eggs layed, in the nest? does this nest have to be enclosed?

    Hens do not always lay eggs at the same time, however, sometimes they want to. They like to nest in places that are safe from predators. They deem dark and enclosed as good. They seem to like sharing nests. Maybe they think "There is already an egg here and nothing has eaten it, so this must be a safe place to lay". Or maybe they are doing the cowbird thing and think, "If I lay with this other hen, maybe she'll hatch my egg and raise my baby". I really don't know why, but they do like to lay in the same nest. The minimum size for a nest for your choice of hens is 12" x 12". I made mine 16" x 16" as the hens do often like to lay in the same nest at the same time. I figure with the extra room, they are less likely to accidently break an egg. My theory only. No scientific information to back it up.

    Where do they eat? in the outside portion of the coop (the run)? how about water?

    You can feed and water in the coop or in the run, or both. There are advantages in feeding outside in the run. It gives the hens less reason to be inside, hence the poop load you have to actively manage drops. If you feed outside, it does have to stay dry, hence at least part of the run needs to be covered. If you water outside, you don't get water spilled inside the coop. Remember, the coop needs to stay dry. There are reasons to feed and water inside the coop. Some people feel they feed the wild birds less if they feed in the coop. Chickens need feed and water as soon as they get up and just before they go to bed. They stay warmer at night if they have eaten. Digesting the food heats them up. Unless you open the door to the run at the crack of dawn when they get up, you really should give them something to eat and drink inside.

    where do they poop? do they have a particular spot they are going to go to all the time, or do they just go where ever, whenever the mood strikes them?

    Wherever and whenever the mood strikes them.

    Hope this helps a little.
     

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