Coop/run in the mountains questions

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Mountain_artist, Apr 6, 2018.

  1. Mountain_artist

    Mountain_artist Chirping

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    Hi, I'm a newbie to everything! I've read this forum a LOT though.
    We are about to build our first coop on our mountain lot, and there are so many variables that it's making my head spin.

    We just got our first batch of 4 Barred Rock pullets 2 weeks ago (I hope! TSC does have a reputation where I live for sneaking in roosters when they're supposed to be pullets!)

    My husband and I are artists and have tons of power tools and building experience. We know we need a Fort Knox style coop/run and we're prepared to do that! We live in the Smokey Mountains in the western tip of NC, and have 2 steep south facing acres to work with, but it's really hard to pick a good spot for the coop and run. It gets really hot in the summer and can get quite cold in the winter and can even dump feet of snow. NOTHING is level, besides the 10 feet next to our driveway and the little platform of land our house is built on. 2 acres sounds like a decent amount, but it is nothing like you are probably picturing--the acreage is all sloping, some very steep. It is all chopped up into little dug out platforms/house pad/driveway pad, with woods, a steep cliff in our backyard that goes up from our narrow shaded wet backyard, up to the top acre, which is an undeveloped plot of land, the small flat yard our house sits on, and a decent small field of grass on the other side of our gravel road. The whole thing is surrounded by national forest, so it is wild and every manner of predator lurks about--we even have to watch our children when outside!

    In a nutshell, the options are:
    1. Right next to house facing east, PROS: morning sun, afternoon shade, close to shed and hose, but CONS are poor drainage and smallest run potential, no windows or doors on that side of house so no opportunities to observe/check on bumps in the night, annoying spot that would cut off full use of our already small yard.
    2. Next to driveway on other side of house facing south, full sun, against south facing slope, still close to house, hose, other shed, and electricity, visible from house, CONS: full sun, long and narrow space for run, might need to fence in steep slope for more room, which leads to concerns about securely enclosing a steep slope.
    3. Grassy field across the road, PROS: flat-ish, largest unobstructed chunk of grass, morning sun, late afternoon shade, not in the way, CONS: Farthest from house (but still not super far) no water, no electricity, no storage, and my biggest worry is it's right next to the forest where coyotes, bears, foxes, skunks, neighborhood dogs, and birds of prey are frequently seen. (though I am sure they would still find the coop closer to our house! I would just be able, theoretically, to hear it more, but I'm not home 24/7.)

    Thank you for reading all this!!
     
  2. chickengirl778

    chickengirl778 Songster

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    Wow! I think the second option may be best. The grassy area sounds nice, but in all reality, the chickens will murder that grass in a few days anyway, so it's not a HUGE priority... may want to plant some things in the run and some further away and rotate the boxes in and out to give the plants a little chance at surviving.
     
  3. rosemarythyme

    rosemarythyme Crowing

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    I'd almost want to pick option 3 but no power might be an issue if you need to heat water for the winter. If there's someone home during the day most of the time you *could* drag water out during the day instead of heating it, but it sounds like it'll be a lot of carrying stuff back and forth, so I guess it depends on if you could realistically put up with that.

    Option 2 would be my second choice as a narrow run shouldn't be an issue, and you can probably look into putting up some shade cloth or something to keep part of the run shaded at least.

    Option 3 is out for me as drainage issues become even worse once you put chickens on top of it and depending on the area it might be a lot of work trying to resolve drainage.
     
  4. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler!

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    Deep shade and good drainage are most important.
     
  5. Mountain_artist

    Mountain_artist Chirping

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    Thanks everyone! Anything we have with good deep shade also has poor drainage and is rather boggy. We just bought this place 6 months ago so we haven't resolved all the trouble spots yet, but we'll have to because the whole back of our house never gets sun and has the steep slope up the mountain, so rain runs down and collects right behind the house in the 5 ft wide space between house and slope. Does anyone know if chickens would enjoy a steep slope with lots of vegetation and small trees? If we went with option 2 next to the driveway, they'd have a long narrow strip of flattish land and then we'd have to fence up the slope to provide more room... I know we'll need to provide lots of shade cloth and sun sails, etc. I really wanted to free range them but there is every possible predator.
    Option 3 really is the nicest place for them, but would make more work for us because its farthest from the house. However it's not THAT far--maybe about 6 more car lengths farther than option 2? And I also worry about their safety from predators, but it's probably just psychological on my part because predators do come right up to our house too and like I mentioned, we do plan on making a very secure coop/run regardless.
    How far away from the house is TOO far? How close is too close? Their poop smell is already grossing me out in the brooder in my kitchen, and we clean it frequently.
     
  6. rosemarythyme

    rosemarythyme Crowing

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    A slope shouldn't bother them, and they'd enjoy the vegetation (until it's all scratched up and dead).

    If you make sure to do a very secure coop and run they shouldn't be in any more danger of predators further from the house, since you mentioned potential predators come near the house. If you're willing to do the extra work carrying out feed and water to them, then I think it might be worth considering option 3.

    "Too far" and "too close" are generally a matter of personal preference I guess. I know a lot of people on here like to have their chickens in line of sight from the house to keep an eye on things but that's not required, and few people can spend the entire day watching over chickens. At the same time I think most people don't want the coop right up against the house, because that can attract pests like rodents, it can smell if not managed (though proper management and housekeeping can keep that in check), plus many cities/counties require a certain setback from buildings and property lines.
     
  7. nekker57

    nekker57 Songster

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    Build a chicken tractor and move it around to different areas. You could move it closer to the water and electric in the winter months and farther away during the warmer months.
     
  8. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler!

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    Keep in mind if they remove all vegetation off a slope then erosion issues may follow.
    Might try asking in your state chat thread:
    https://www.backyardchickens.com/threads/north-carolina.91762/page-4142


    Did you read about the few to no flat spots anywhere?
    Curious, where is the Cumberland Plateau?
     
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  9. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

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    Where did Cumberland Plateau come from, I missed that reference. Anyway the Cumberland Plateau goes from Alabama through Tennessee and into Kentucky, a little east of Nashville. I went to college in that area at Cookeville, Tennessee. Absolutely nothing to do with this landscape.

    MA, predators will be just as bad close to the house as further away. If you are a real light sleeper you might hear something at night but don't count on it as part of your protection. Your best protection is going to be building a Fort Knox. You only have four chickens, that should not be that hard to manage. Where you are you will have bear and possibly mountain lions as well as the regular predators. In your situation I think you should look really hard at having an electric fence. That's about the only thing that will stop a determined bear.

    Your biggest issue in mountainous terrain is going to be erosion. You can get some pretty strong storms with heavy washing rain. Chickens will scratch the ground and gravity will move the dirt and any bedding downhill. The chickens will eventually flatten it with their scratching, except for maybe big rocks. I'd think in terms of an elevated coop on posts with a retaining wall on the bottom and a berm/swale on the upslope side of the run. The upslope fence should be built with the thought that the chickens will scratch the dirt away from it so build it deep or so it can withstand that.

    Thar berm/swale at the top will concentrate water so you will likely have erosion issues where it turns downhill. I'd use rocks in the swale and at the discharge areas to stop that erosion. You should not have a shortage of rocks in that terrain.

    I generally encourage larger runs and coops where possible but maybe not so much in your case. If you include trees in the run certain predators like bobcat and raccoons can climb into the run through the tree canopy. You probably need a top on it. The falling leaves can add a lot of weight when they collect on top, not to mentions snow load so I'd think of a steeply sloped solid roof. The larger the run the harder it is to make it predator proof, let alone the expense. I'd give up on the idea of them foraging the countryside and accept that the run will be bare of plant life. But put a bunch of leaves in the run (which they will scratch to the bottom). They will love scratching in there for treats and such plus turn it into compost for you. Leaves should be as plentiful as rocks. Still, make the run as large as you reasonably can.

    I'm not going to pick one area above the other, I'm not looking at them. Any of them can be made to serve. I strongly believe that you should consider your convenience when building this coop/run. Your experience will be much more pleasant if you don't make it aggravating and frustrating.
     
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  10. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler!

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    I quoted @nekker57 , who's location is listed as Cumberland Plateau, which google can't find.
     
    Alaskan likes this.

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