cutting to chase...need coop design info for spring chicks.

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Margaret2, Oct 31, 2008.

  1. Margaret2

    Margaret2 Hatching

    Oct 30, 2008
    (I DO promise to do all the required reading expected of new BYC Forum members. It seems so overwhelming, though....)

    In a prior year my three young chicks were victims of a predator, my guess = a neighborhood cat.

    How should I "start from scratch" to construct a backyard chick(en) habitat that is predator-proof?

    (If my question is hopelessly "Kindergartenish," please ignore it. If I receive no answers, I will plod through the archives til I have enough information. I'm just anxious to get started!!!)

    Is there an advantage to adopting an adult hen from an animal shelter first before acquiring baby chicks? Can the adult hen help to protect and "enculturate" the chicks?

    I'm so happy to be able to join this group for information!!


  2. La Banan

    La Banan Songster

    May 28, 2008
    Welcome Margaret! Don't will all become clear. Or not...
    I would start by looking at the Coop pages and having fun dreaming a bit. Some folks - many folks will tell you to build bigger than you think you need. I don't personally agree - I think it is better to have a plan and stick to it. Like gardens start small and manageable then if you want get bigger. But if what you want is a flock for sustainability than why go big? So once you decide on a style then you need to build your platform and go from there. You will have a multitude of choices along the way - inside or outside nest boxes? - pop-door in adult door or separate? dirt floor or wood or what? I would say no to a wire floor but some swear by them. You need to allow for four square feet per standard sized chicken and ten square feet per bird for the run. How predator proof is up to you, your nervousness or lack of, whether these will be "pets" or your laying hens (can be same - just a difference in attitude) and what predators are near you. When my birds are in their wee house they are absolutely in a racoon proof area. In the day - I don't have them so safe because the other daytime predators are scared by my dog etc... also because they are heritage breeds they are more predator aware than some of the other breeds. Also you will have choices depending on your location. I'm in a four-season area somewhat tempered by the ocean so mine is tight but not insulated with lots of ventilation but no drafts! If you are in a warm area - heat can be more of a factor than cold - they are insulated little critters coming with their own down coats and all.

    So hope this helps AND you are sure to get lots of help as you proceed. One thing this group demands is pictures as you go!

    have fun - I sure do.
    jan la banan
  3. derby

    derby Songster

    Apr 18, 2008
    Boonsboro, MD

    Start with the number of chicks you want and let them grow up together. They'll get along better. It is harder to add newcomers to an established flock.

    Hardware cloth is the fencing of preference. It has 1/2" holes. I found mine in the landscaping section of the hardware store.

  4. Capt. Crusoe

    Capt. Crusoe In the Brooder

    Apr 16, 2007
    McHenry County, IL
    I went through a heavy toll with my poults from predators. I did the following to deter the following attacks: aerial, underground and four legged predators:
    1. Three strands of electric fence at 5" intervals strung around the exterior base of the pen, run and coop.
    2. Covered the top of the run with fencing.
    3. Buried the run fencing 12" into the ground.

    I purchased everything I needed at "Blaine’s Farm & Fleet". It was a cheap and easy cure and I stopped losing birds immediately. I did not get too fancy with the electric fence - I used a heavy extension cord to power the unit and had easy access to the plug in the event I wanted to trim or weed along the fence. Over the first four feet of chicken wire on the run, which had 1 ¼” octagon holes – I wrapped over it with a finer mesh (wire cloth - ½” x ½”) to stop anything from reaching through. Hope this helps. [​IMG]
  5. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Quote:No, in fact that is quite a good question and relatively few people actually stop to ask it that way [​IMG]

    A good generic answer (see below for fine-tuning depending on predator spcifics) would be something like this:

    The coop itself needs to be strongly built (strong materials well screwed together), with no opening (not even a crack, not even an unprotected ventilation slot or window) wider than 1/2". (Edited to clarify -- obviously you do need lotsa ventilation, and windows -- they just need to be stoutly screened with 1/2" hardwarecloth). The coop either needs to be raised a foot or more off the ground, or if on the ground, it needs a digproof floor. Digproof floor could mean poured concrete, or large well-set heavy paver slabs on a well compacted gravel base, or simply digproofed the same way as the run usually is (see next paragraph). If you want to avoid predator losses, the smart thing is to close the chickens into the coop at night using a predatorproof door (can't be pushed in or slid open). Latches should be raccoon proof, unless you live in like Hawaii or something... be aware that raccoons can even open barrel latches or double-ended snaps sometimes, so tricky latches and/or using several of them is smart.

    Run fencing, if you want it to be pretty well predator-proof, needs to be made of fairly heavy-gauge wire. 1" welded wire mesh is generally good, as is 1/2" hardwarecloth, but these are a bit more towards the expensive end of the spectrum. Most people will be able to get away just fine with 2x4" welded wire if you add 2-3' of something smaller mesh (like hardwarecloth, or potentially even 1/2" chickenwire) along the bottom to prevent raccoons reaching thru and pulling out handfuls of chicken and to discourage weasels and other smaller predators (won't totally keep them out, but they'll only get in if they're willing to WORK).

    Aerial predators are everywhere, even in cities, so if you want really good protection you need some sort of a 'lid' on the run. Some use a roof, which has the added advantage of keeping the run drier and thus less smelly, but this is expensive and often requires a building permit (it is technically a building, albeit a wall-less one). Others run wire, such as 2x4" woven wire, across the top, supported by rafters. Some others use a flexible net -- trellis netting, deer netting, aviary netting, plastic snowfence, etc -- but be aware that unless you support it with LOTS of rafters it is likely to come down in a snow or ice storm, and it isn't raccoon proof in the least.

    Pretty much every area has predators that can dig under the base of a fence or wall (any sort of canid being the most notorious set of examples, but others too). So a prudent person would either bury their HEAVY-GAUGE run mesh several feet deep under the fence, or run the same stuff out horizontally along the ground for several feet. THe latter 'apron' design works b/c predators are mostly not ambitious or tactically brilliant enough to start their digging anywhere except right at the base of the fence [​IMG] An apron has several advantages over trenched-in mesh, if you ask me -- it is much easier to install (just peg it down very well, or top with heavy rocks or concrete rubble or big pavers, or roll back the turf and put the wire under the turf which you then replace), it is much easier to keep an eye on to see when it starts to become dangerously weak from rust (yes Virginia, even galvanized wire WILL rust, especially underground), and it is much easier to repair or replace if you ever have to.

    Finally, it depends a little bit on what predators you have -- everybody has medium-sized climbing and digging predators like raccoons and cats and dogs and coyotes and foxes and such, but do you have bears around, and do you have rats. For bears, you are probably best off using electric fencing to keep them out of the yard and away from the coop area altogether, unless you think you can genuinely build a coop a bear can't rip apart (they periodically break into *houses*, so, it isn't easy). For a rat problem, you need to keep everything to a 1/2" mesh size (expensive, for the run!) and you may still have to periodically search out gaps they're getting in through. On the bright side rats are not a major threat to most adult chickens, more to chicks and eggs.

    Is there an advantage to adopting an adult hen from an animal shelter first before acquiring baby chicks? Can the adult hen help to protect and "enculturate" the chicks?

    If they're not her chicks, she is likely to attack and possibly kill them, which, while that is an essential part of chicken culture, I would not really call it constructive acculturation [​IMG], so I'm gonna say "no, do not do that" <g>

    Also, chickens are prone to a whole suite of diseases that are awfully hard (sometimes near impossible) to tell apart and some are basically incurably fatal and some others they can get over the symptoms but can remain carriers for life... so there are some major down sides to getting an adult chicken as opposed to a day old chick. At the very least, if you want to rescue chickens, get several all from the same source all at the same time. They may still have a greater risk of not getting along together than chicks raised together would, though.

    Hope that helps [​IMG]

    Have fun,

    Last edited: Oct 31, 2008

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