Doing it WRONG

Discussion in 'New Member Introductions' started by kbandwe, Oct 3, 2013.

  1. kbandwe

    kbandwe In the Brooder

    Sep 25, 2013
    Spring Lake, NC
    I'm new to the site and to chickens. Let me give you a little background... I'm a single mother of 4. Oldest is off in college, younger 3 (one special needs) are in elementary school. That alone makes life interesting.

    Now on to the chickens... A very dear friend of mine has RIR. One day she gives me an egg and tells me to put it in a cooler with a light bulb and a bowl of water. Said to make sure I turned it 3 times a day for 18 days then leave it alone for 3 days... Well, the darn thing hatched... It was pretty cool. She gave me another egg the same day to put in the cooler to start all over.

    Well, I had an issue with it constantly peeping at me at all hours of the night. The kids couldn't sleep. We were all exhausted after 3 days. Another very dear friend informed me that chickens are flock birds and that my chick needed friends to calm it down. :hmm

    Off to the local family farm store I go to buy friends for the chick... (if only I could do that for my children) Not knowing what to by and them all looking so cute, I ended up buying 6 chicks. At this point no one has informed me that they can't go outside and stay outside for a few weeks...

    Fast forward to this morning... the second egg hatched a day early. I have 8 chickens living in my kitchen that I can identify by name on sight. I just ordered more eggs because Americana, RIR, and Plymouth Rocks just aren't enough. Had to have silkies too.. AND I HAVE NO COOP!

    I've looked at a bunch of designs, tried to come up with my own design even... I'm in an area that has snakes, raptors, and neighborhood cats (really not liking the cat lady) so I've decided that a completely enclosed run is a must. But I have no idea how big I need it to be. No idea what elements a coop should have other than nesting boxes.

    If there is a way to do things wrong (or just backwards) I'll fall into it. I never planned on having chickens. Now, in just 6 weeks, I'm trying to figure out coops, ordering eggs, going to flock swaps, and getting the kids involved in 4-H...

    Life is an adventure mixed with slap-stick comedy. Somewhere between The Beverly Hillbillies and Mission Impossible is where you'll find me.

    ~Kbandwe aka Kat
  2. sumi

    sumi Égalité

    Jun 28, 2011
    Tipperary, Ireland
    Welcome to BYC [​IMG] Are you planning to build a coop or buy one? You should be able to find one for sale, building a coop will probably work out much cheaper, especially if you can get some recycled building materials. There are a lot of designs in the Coops section here and a lot of helpful peeps on site who can advice you on this process. If you post in the Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance section or just scroll through there and read a few threads you'll pick up some tips. Basically what you are aiming for in the coop is:

    1. Chickens stay in and predators stay out. That means no gaps or openings bigger than .5 of an inch to keep the smaller creatures at bay. Ventilation in the coop is important, so put in a window or some ventilation holes and cover them with welded wire/hardware cloth. If you have raccoons in your area, go with hardware cloth. 'Coons are like ghosts, they get into everything LOL

    2. Apart from 1 nest box for every 4-5 hens aim for around 4 sq feet of floor space per chicken in the coop and 10 sq feet per chicken in the run. If you can go bigger than that, excellent! The more space the chickens have the less behavioural problems you'll have.

    3. You'll need roosts for them to sleep on. Aim for at least 1 foot of roosting space per chicken and throw in another roost just in case.

    That's the basics. Good luck and have fun!
  3. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    What does a coop need?

    Protection from the elements -

    In North Carolina you don’t have really severe weather as far as chickens go. Once they are fully feathered out (usually around 5 weeks) they can handle most of what your climate can throw at them. In really cold weather or with exotics like Silkies you might want to go with 6 weeks. The coop needs to keep the chickens and itself dry. A wet coop is a dangerous coop from a disease standpoint. A little damp occasionally is not the end of the world, but aim for dry.

    In the winter you need to not have direct breezes blowing on them on the roost but you need good ventilation to remove excess moisture and ammonia build-up. How you accomplish that is to have openings over their heads when they are on the roost. Lots of openings. Don’t worry about the coop losing heat. They can handle that. Common ways to provide that is openings under overhangs, roof vents, or gable vents. Be careful with ridge vents. They can be blocked by snow. Light breezes are not big deal but in a storm you don’t want a strong cold wind hitting them.

    In the summer you need lots of ventilation high and low. Heat is your biggest enemy, not cold. Heat can kill and warm breezes hitting them are not a problem.

    Protection from predators –

    Make sure your doors and windows fit securely and can be locked so a 5 year old can’t figure out how to unlock them. Raccoons especially are real good at opening locks.

    Put wire over any openings bigger than 1” that are not going to be locked up at night. Some people would even go with ½” openings. A common recommendation is to use hardware cloth. That is a galvanized welded wire mesh with pretty tight openings, ½” or 1”. Snakes, weasels, and rats can get through some pretty small openings.

    Roosts –

    Chickens like to sleep up high. They will normally sleep on the highest thing they can find so put these higher than anything you don’t want them sleeping in, like nests. A roost should be made out of wood. I use tree branches but a lot of people use 2x4’s. Allow 9” to 12” per adult. There are advantages to providing extra room anyway plus it sounds like you have no self-control. You’ll probably be adding more chickens so plan for that now.

    Nests –

    Plan on 1 nest for every 4 hens with a small flock. If you get above 20 laying hens, that can drop to 1 for every 5 hens. The larger you flock the more they can share.

    Pop door –

    That’s what we call the small chicken door so they can get to the run or outside. You can use the people door but you need a way to lock it open so the wind doesn’t blow it shut. One reason we normally use a smaller door, maybe around 12” x 12”, is that a people door might let in rain.

    That’s about it for requirements. There are a lot of optional things like feeders, waterers, or maybe a droppings board under the roosts to help with poop management.

    The really hard question for someone with no self-control (you do realize I’m teasing some, but also kind of serious) is how big to make it. There is a rule of thumb on here that calls for 4 square feet per chicken in the coop along with 10 square feet per chicken in the run. That is intended to keep about anyone in any climate with different flock make-ups, using different management techniques, and with different goals out of trouble. It’s more than many people absolutely need but getting tight for some people. It’s a good starting point. I find if I provide plenty of space in the coop and run, plus on the roosts, I have fewer behavioral problems to deal with, I don’t have to work as hard, and I have more flexibility to handle problems as they come up.

    By behavioral problems I mean that overcrowding can lead to feather picking, fighting, bullying, or even cannibalism. An example of more or less work is poop management. Flexibility may be that if you add new chickens, integration goes a lot smoother if they have extra room.

    That’s enough for this morning. Hopefully this will help you in thinking about your options. Good luck.
    2 people like this.
  4. cybercat

    cybercat Songster

    May 22, 2007
    Greeneville, Tn

    For 8 chickens it does not have to be a huge coop. But the yard should be big and if you think it is big enough double it. Do check out the small coops page here on BYC. I am not sure if you are on the East side of NC or the West side but NC does get snow so an open coop will not work. But any of the small coop designs here should be great for you. Just go to the top of this page and click the coop button then page threw the area you want. 6x4 coop should be good but again the yard will need to be as big as you can possible make it. Chickens are real hard on ground and grass will be dirt in no time. Since chickens poop all day it will pile up fast, so plan for this. Keep the flock small for now till you have more experience with the chickens. You should not be mixing so many breeds sizes together as you will have picking on and fighting. Slow down and get the basics there is always time to grow. In my sig down below if my link to my chickens blog. I documented raising my flock from day 1. It covers alot of you questions but not all as I free range here with one large breed. But I cover food and winter and predators as well as coop ect. You will want to check out the coop forum up above below here in the forum section. Read this forum it has alot of information. Use the search and advance search features to find answers to your questions for they have been ask lots of times. Do not panic you will get threw this just take it one day at a time. Chickens are fun and destress us to watch them.
  5. 1muttsfan

    1muttsfan Free Ranging

    Mar 26, 2011
    Upper Peninsula Michigan
    Hi and welcome to BYC from northern Michigan [​IMG]

    A visit to the Learning Center may be very helpful to you as well. Sumi gave you good size guidelines.
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2013
  6. liz9910

    liz9910 Crowing

    Apr 8, 2012
    Northern California
    Welcome to BYC! You've received some good advice here, good luck to you.
  7. drumstick diva

    drumstick diva Still crazy after all these years.

    Aug 26, 2009
    Out to pasture
    [​IMG] I'm feeling much smarter after reading the responses you are getting. Glad you joined the flock [​IMG]
  8. AK Baha

    AK Baha Songster

    Jul 10, 2013
    Anchorage, Alaska.
  9. BantamFan4Life

    BantamFan4Life LOOK WHAT YOU MADE ME DO.

    Jun 15, 2012
    Welcome to BYC! [​IMG]
  10. Groovynatureguy

    Groovynatureguy In the Brooder

    Aug 5, 2013
    Polson MT
    Welcome. Thank you for sharing your story it made me smile [​IMG]

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