Dimension Questions

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Weasleymum, Aug 1, 2008.

  1. Weasleymum

    Weasleymum Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hello all, I'm brand new to chickens and to this forum-- in fact I haven't even gotten my chickens yet. I wanted to build the coop first, before getting birds, but I have a ton of questions re: coop plans.

    I'm planning on making a tractor with the coop above, and the yard below and to the side, rather like this one. I was planning the upper bit to be 4'x4', and the bottom to be 4'x10', for 3-4 hens. I'm planning on getting largish chickens, maybe Buff Orps-- something calm and easygoing for a first-timer.

    Everybody talks about how many square feet per chicken, but what about head-height? How *tall* should the coop- part be, with nest boxes, perches and all? Is two feet tall too short?

    How high from the floor of the coop should the perches be? Should the perches be higher or lower than the height of the nest box? Is one or two boxes for four hens enough?

    For the ramp leading from the coop to the enclosed yard, how steep can that be? Is a 45 angle too steep?

    Does the chickens' food and water go inside the coop, or just inside the yard? I guess what I mean is, do they eat or drink after going inside for the night, or just during the day?

    I'm assuming that I need a large access panel or door (in the roof or wall) for cleaning, a small one for egg-gathering, and one into the yard. Does that sound right?

    Thanks in advance for any answers!
     
  2. Heather J

    Heather J Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I'll try and tackle as many questions as I have answers to. lol First, if you are getting banties, two feet is probably enough, if you are getting large birds, you might want to add at least six inches of head height. Someone else can probably give you a more definitive answer, but if you are going to put your roosts more than six inches off the ground, you'll need a bit more height for standard breeds. i don't have any banties yet, so someone may correct me.

    I would put the roosts six to nine inches off the floor for this coop plan. In my coop they are more like 18 inches, but it's almost six feet tall. You want your roosts slightly higher than your nests if you can manage it or they will try roosting in the nest, which makes it messy. One nest would probably be fine for four hens. I made mine a bit roomier in case they try and squeeze in there together.

    I've seen some ramps that are close to 45 degrees, but I don't have a ramp yet, so hopefully someone else can tell you what works for them.

    If your chickens will have access to outside around the clock (which I am guessing they will with that coop design), you can put the water and food outside. I put mine inside to keep it out of the weather and because my birds wait in the coop for me to get up in the morning, which is never as early as they are up and ready to start moving.

    those access panels sound right to me, unless you make your roof light enough to lift it to access the eggs. Whatever you do, make sure it's completely predator proof. If yo have raccoons in your area, you'll want to be sure they can't get in there, and the more ways they have available to access the birds, the more chances they will eventually.
     
  3. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Quote:Hi and welcome to BYC!

    The link you posted wouldn't work for me (I just got a blank page), so maybe the particular tractor has solved the following problem, but be aware that this size of tractor, with that large a 'house' put over top the pen, is going to be AWFULLY awfully heavy. This is a problem for moving it, and can also become a problem with respect to structural integrity when it's moved. So unless you KNOW for sure you are working off plans that create a good product *at the dimensions you are planning*, I would be extremely careful.

    Everybody talks about how many square feet per chicken, but what about head-height? How *tall* should the coop- part be, with nest boxes, perches and all? Is two feet tall too short?

    For Buff Orps you should really go at least another 6". They need room to stretch up and remember you will need a roost in there (even if it is very low, like 6" above the floor).

    Should the perches be higher or lower than the height of the nest box? Is one or two boxes for four hens enough?

    Well, here is the thing - if the ceiling is only 2' or 2'6", you are not really going to have the OPTION of making the roost higher than the nest boxes, and thus there is certainly a possibility they may decide that they want to sleep (and therefore also poo) in the nestbox. There will not be a whole lot you can do about that, unless there is a way to make the nestbox downstairs/outside but then you get into a whole new set of complications about early morning access.

    For the ramp leading from the coop to the enclosed yard, how steep can that be? Is a 45 angle too steep?

    It's pretty steep, although not impossible as long as you have good big battens on there as 'steps'.

    However... will this be the kind that folds down from the floor? If so, you will be losing a fair bit of floorspace (and bedding getting kicked out!), and head clearance is often the deciding factor in how long the ramp has to be and thus what slope it's at.

    One workaround, which would give you several other benefits as well, would be to make the house 4x2.5' with one side of it extending down 12-14" lower. The lower part of the coop would be, like, 16" wide, and half would be a nesting box and the other half would be access to a door cut in the 'step' part.

    | |
    | | cutaway
    | | view from end
    | _____________________| of tractor
    | | :
    | | < door here :
    |________| :
    : :
    : :
    : :
    ===================================

    Built this way, the nest box would be in the lowest part of the coop (you would just need to prevent them perching on the edge over it), and the door would be low enough down you wouldn't need a ramp at all, they could just hop up and down to get in and out.

    Does the chickens' food and water go inside the coop, or just inside the yard? I guess what I mean is, do they eat or drink after going inside for the night, or just during the day?

    Depends on your management plans. If they will NEVER be locked into the house part -- which is only wise if you are DARN sure you are totally predator-proof -- then outside is best for both. If they will be locked in at night but you will always always get up at the crack o' dawn to let them out, it is probably fine to have food and water outside too, unless you prefer the food inside to keep it away from mice or the water inside to keep algae from growing. If they will sometimes remain shut inside after the sun comes up, the water, at least, should probably be indoors.

    Indoor food and water will get bedding kicked into them in a small tractor; also indoor water raises humidity and can spill.

    Those are the tradeoffs, make your own choice [​IMG]

    I'm assuming that I need a large access panel or door (in the roof or wall) for cleaning, a small one for egg-gathering, and one into the yard. Does that sound right?

    Or you can just access the nestbox from the main access doors if you prefer (depends on your design). If you are still planning on a 4x4 house (tho as I say there are significant weight issues here), be aware that reaching in 4' will get you rather bedding-y and pooey. A 3' reach is much more comfortable. Make the access doors as large as structure allows, you will not regret it, and make sure they can be STRONGLY barred/bolted shut against predators at night.

    FWIW here is my tractor https://www.backyardchickens.com/web/viewblog.php?id=1642-tractor
    although
    there are things I'd definitely do differently if I were to build it again.

    It is pretty heavy, btw, especially for the 'get it moving initially' phase of moving it. It is a *bit* overbuilt but IMO I don't think I could cut its weight all that much without compromising strength or predator-proof-ness.

    Another option, btw, if you want a *big* house and *big* pen (which are very good things, don't get me wrong!) is to make the tractor in two units -- a house unit, and a pen unit -- that latch together, but can be moved separately. You might mull over something like that, too.

    Good luck and have fun,

    Pat​
     
  4. Weasleymum

    Weasleymum Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thank you guys so much for your answers! I've got a lot of food for thought here now.

    Pat, yours was the coop I was trying to link to, funny enough!

    I guess what I need to do is shrink my floor-plan but make it taller-- less floor space but more head room. If I made the roof from 3 to 3 1/2 ft from the floor, put the nest box just off the floor, and the perches 6"-9" up, I think it could work? On second thought, can the next box be *on* the floor, or is that bad?

    I was planning on a side-door for the chickens, where the door latches at the top and becomes the ramp when open. I do want to keep the floor all one level, though, for simplicity's sake and also to keep from encroaching on the run too much. I wanted a separate egg-gathering door so that if it's cold or rainy out, I'm not opening up the whole coop, YKIM?

    ETA: Would painting the coop black be a bad idea-- too much heat gain in the summer?

    Pat, do you have to separate the coop from the run when you move your tractor, or can you move it all together?

    Also (and this of off-topic since it's about the birds not the coop), I am just noticing that people seem to have 1-of-this, 1-of-that, 1-of-another type of flocks. Can different breeds be mixed willy nilly like that? I had thought I would have to choose one breed and stick to it, but it seems not? If I want 3-4 birds, can I split it up two each of two different breeds?

    And is it competely stupid to start chicks in the fall?
     
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2008
  5. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Quote:LOL - that is too funny! [​IMG] BTW for some reason there is an extra 'e' at the end of the URL in your link, that's why it isnt' working.

    I guess what I need to do is shrink my floor-plan but make it taller-- less floor space but more head room.

    That is one way to go (the house part of my tractor does have plenty of roost space for 4 chickens), but honestly it is not what I would do myself, for whatever that's worth. My tractor is OK for 3 chickens, but if I were to build it over again for 3 chickens, I believe I would make the house part only 2'6-3' high (range is for the slope in the roof) and put the roost only 6" off the floor under the higher part of the house. And I might expand the house to 4x3 instead of 4x2.5.

    For the nestbox I would be tempted to at least *try* (and see how it worked, and change it if necessary) building a 4" high plywood lip around a nestbox-sized area, and enclose/darken it a bit with curtains hung from above. The idea being that the narrow plywood of the lip would not be conducive to roosting, and *hopefully* they would not care to actually sleep in there.

    If I were to do it over again for *4* chickens, though, I am positive I would just bag the whole design and do a separate house and pen that would latch together. Probably a 4x10' pen, and then as a separate structure a 4x4x3 coop on lawnmower wheels, probably raised up 8-12" above the ground. The door on the coop would mate with a door opening on the pen, with strong latches to attach the two. And I would have a flap or panel that could slide in to block the pen's door off when I wanted to move the tractor (chickens would walk along in pen; house part would be moved without chickens in it).

    Just as food for thought.

    On second thought, can the next box be *on* the floor, or is that bad?

    I dunno, works just fine for me (in the tractor and also in the ISA Browns' winter quarters), but I can't guarantee all chickens will behave themselves as well [​IMG]

    I was planning on a side-door for the chickens, where the door latches at the top and becomes the ramp when open.

    One inconvenient aspect of this is that bedding will get kicked out into the crevice that opens when the ramp swings down, and interfere with your closing the door. There may be design ways to avoid this, I don't know.

    ETA: Would painting the coop black be a bad idea-- too much heat gain in the summer?

    I strongly suspect so, but am not going to paint MY coop black just to find out for sure [​IMG]

    Pat, do you have to separate the coop from the run when you move your tractor, or can you move it all together?

    Nope, I move the whole thing together; the way the house comes off the pen is just to enable it to fit into an outbuilding for winter storage, although in reality it spent last winter in the garage [​IMG]

    Also (and this of off-topic since it's about the birds not the coop), I am just noticing that people seem to have 1-of-this, 1-of-that, 1-of-another type of flocks. Can different breeds be mixed willy nilly like that? I had thought I would have to choose one breed and stick to it, but it seems not? If I want 3-4 birds, can I split it up two each of two different breeds?

    Sure, although there are a few particular combinations that might be a bit riskier. But in general, any basically similar-sized chickens will do just fine together, and a lot of dissimilar-sized ones can too.

    And is it competely stupid to start chicks in the fall?

    Where do you live, and will you have winter quarters other than the tractor?


    Pat​
     
  6. Weasleymum

    Weasleymum Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Maybe I could just get three chickens... Three is all we need but I was going to start with four and assume that we'd lose at least one along the way; seemed like a bad idea to start with exactly the number of chicks as the number of hens that I wanted. But if all four survive I'll need space for four. You have 3 1/3 sq ft interior space per bird, is that about average? I've seen requirements ranging from 2 1/2 to 4. It makes it hard to calculate.

    I guess I'll start looking at making two separate structures, as per your suggestion; it will take up more room wherever it is, but should be easier to move... right?

    I can just as easily go with white paint for the coop, or wood stain. My husband is redoing the exterior trim on the house and we'll have both left over, I just thought the black would look cooler. Chicken comfort must take priority over aesthetics.

    As for the fall-chicks idea, we're in central Virginia, Zone 6/7. It doesn't usually get *cold* here till well after Halloween. No other shelter besides the tractor as we're in an urban location. I was kind of hoping to use the chickies to fertilize my garden all fall and winter, and get it ready for spring; also I thought that way they'd be old enough to lay by springtime, instead of *next* fall. I'm impatient, I guess!

    Thanks again for all of your help!
     
  7. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Quote:It's really tough with tractors because it is so hard to provide more than the bare minimum of space (both inside and outside). So it kind of just boils down to how much you want to push your luck and trespass on the chickens' enjoyment of life [​IMG]

    I guess I'll start looking at making two separate structures, as per your suggestion; it will take up more room wherever it is, but should be easier to move... right?

    Yup. THe pen will be a snap to move; the coop part won't be too bad either. And you can give them much more room that way.

    I just thought the black would look cooler. Chicken comfort must take priority over aesthetics.

    Well, if you're dying to use up that black paint [​IMG] one thing you might do is to paint the wire mesh covering the pen (if its galvanized, and it oughta be, use a galvanized-metal primer first). This will make it visually 'disappear' more, so that when you look at your chickens in the pen you see CHICKENS not pen walls [​IMG]

    As for the fall-chicks idea, we're in central Virginia, Zone 6/7. It doesn't usually get *cold* here till well after Halloween.

    Seems to me that as long as you can GET the kind of chicks you want in the fall, no reason not to, though it would be good to have an extension cord handy for cool nights during the month or two when they're sort of between brooder age and sturdier, more-feathered-out age.

    No other shelter besides the tractor as we're in an urban location.

    Ok, that's something to account for in your tractor design, then. You aren't in a seriously cold-winter area BUT it does get cold and ucky enough there (I know, I used to live in NC) that your chickens are really going to need a dry out-of-the-wind place to spend some days. You can wrap 2 sides and the top of the tractor with heavy plastic, or fiberglas panels, or what-have-you, but it would also IMO be real wise not to 'short' them too much on genuine indoor space. I think you and your chickens would be much happier with the 4x4 size coop you were talking about than anything smaller.

    Also, there will be some nights when you don't want the coop getting as cold as the outside air. Which gets you into the whole ventilation-draft-temperature tradeoff issue. You need good ventilation, even in the cold; the smaller the air volume of your coop, the MORE ventilation you need (in terms of 'per cubic foot of interior') because the dampness and ammonia fumes are more concentrated; but incoming air can't be blowing right AT the chickens, and furthermore you don't want the coop getting too cold. (Temperatures that are fine up here, where we get them for weeks or months on end and have relatively dry air, are not necessarily equally ok if it's a freak cold snap and maybe a bit dampish as well)

    These are absolutely not insuperable problems in your climate, but they are definitely things to account for in the design phase so that you don't arrive in February with frostbitten chickens and find yourself exercising vocabulary you didn't know you had [​IMG]

    Have fun,

    Pat​
     
  8. Weasleymum

    Weasleymum Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Pat, thank you again! I keep adjusting my plans, trying to keep up.

    I think we may go with getting *three* mostly grown chickens, instead of starting with chicks. I wanted chicks b/c they're so cute and so that they'd know me all along, but adult birds should be sturdier, less likely to die on me, right? They'd already have feathers so I could worry less about exposure in the autumn. And from what I understand, they're easier to obtain this time of year, than chicks.

    For three birds, I could do a 4x3x3 coop with a separate 4x8x3 run, which is about the size you have but a little bit bigger. That would give 4 sq ft interior and 10 sq ft outside per hen. I definitely don't want to confine them too much. If the birds need shade or shelter during the day, do they just go back into the coop? Because one of the things I liked about the all-in-one tractors is the shady, sheltered grassy area beneath the coop-- looked like a nice place to hang out on sweltering summer afternoons, or during a rainstorm. I suppose I could rig a piece of plywood over part of the run to a similar effect...

    Ventilation is a troublesome topic. I understand about the ammonia buildup because we used to have to keep our cat's litterbox under the bathroom sink, and if it wasn't cleaned constantly... yuck. The fumes could knock you over. And the cat didn't have to *live* in there, like the chickens will. But, I don't want them to freeze either. I was thinking of one real window with screen, to open on nice days, and then a few always-open ventilation holes? I just don't know where exactly to place the holes, and how big to make them. I think probably two near the bottom of the coop and two near the top, on opposite sides, to get a cross-ventilating effect? Or would that create too much of a draft inside? To be honest I'm more worried about sickness from lack of clean air, than from the cold.
     
  9. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Quote:I can understand that -- I started with 3 point-of-lay pullets from the feedstore for EXACTLY that reason (I was also near-due with my second child, and wanted to minimize the number of fragile needy newborns requiring attention [​IMG])

    Hopefully you could find a private breeder, though, because anything you buy from a hatchery or feedstore is most likely going to be debeaked, which is a shame for the chicken [​IMG] Also bear in mind that there is somewhat of a tradeoff - chicks may be a bit more fragile (although, if you get them from someone local, not very) but they also do not come pre-equipped with parasites and diseases, as is possible with half-grown birds. Not trying to scare you off older birds, just want to make sure you're aware of the tradeoffs.

    For three birds, I could do a 4x3x3 coop with a separate 4x8x3 run, which is about the size you have but a little bit bigger.

    That should work ok, especially if you lighten up the structure where possible without compromising strength (e.g. use diagonally-cut 2x2s to reinforce inside the house corners, not full 2x2s, and maybe slightly thinner plywood)

    If the birds need shade or shelter during the day, do they just go back into the coop?

    Mine mostly hang out in the shade under the house part. (Scratching a large very bare spot in the day's patch of lawn, too, may I say [​IMG]). It is cooler than in the tractor, esp. since they can hunker down against the coolish soil. You could still achieve a similar thing with a 2-part tractor, though. Have part of the pen w/a solid roof; or have a 16" space underneath the house part.

    I was thinking of one real window with screen, to open on nice days, and then a few always-open ventilation holes? I just don't know where exactly to place the holes, and how big to make them. I think probably two near the bottom of the coop and two near the top, on opposite sides, to get a cross-ventilating effect? Or would that create too much of a draft inside? To be honest I'm more worried about sickness from lack of clean air, than from the cold.

    I would suggest that *all* of your ventilation be closeable, because you never know. If it's not closeable at least make it very high under a roof overhang so that rain/snow won't blow in so much.

    I'd suggest vent slots instead of holes per se - for larger area. And perhaps *two* windows, on opposite walls. The main thing to avoid draft is not to have the wintertime vents right at the roost. If you can put the roost at one end of an elongated house, and the vents that will remain open in winter on opposite sides on the *other* half, that should do. Larger vents/windows for extra summertime ventilation *can* be right near the roost. BTW don't put vents at floor level like I did - a good storm wind kicks up a lot of litter dust in the coop [​IMG]

    Have fun,

    Pat​
     
  10. Weasleymum

    Weasleymum Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Shoot, I never thought of the possibility of getting diseased birds. I hope I can find a good breeder here!

    All vents closeable, I can do that. Are "vent slots" just long rectangular openings, or is that some kind of specific product? Would the vents stay open on all but the coldest/stormiest days?
     

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