first time chick'er needs advice on coop and peep plans, plz!

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by nanners, Mar 6, 2011.

  1. nanners

    nanners Out Of The Brooder

    16
    0
    22
    Mar 6, 2011
    hello fabulous fowl-folk!

    i haven't had chickens since i was a kid- and now that i have kids i am excited to be a good chicken-owner again. there is so much knowledge on this forum- so thank you in advance for any insight or advice you can offer.

    here's my plan: four laying hens to start. a buff and ameraucana for sure, maybe a white crested polish, perhaps a silver wyandotte...not sure. suggestions? side note: i have two boys, ages 2 and 8 who adore all pets and will be helping out quite a bit in the chicken care.

    the coop: well, we live in northwest washington state in an argicultural area. our lot is 1/4 acre; however, until we get fencing up around our lot and garden areas- the birds will need to be in some type of run or tractor unless we are outside w/them. we have all sorts of predators of land and sky around here. our neighbors have lost birds to eagles before-

    my vision is of a modified A frame tractor. the base would be about 4 by 9 ft- with a coop w/roost and nesting box on both ends- each one measuring 3 by 4 ft- with room under the coop area for additional run space. the top would be flat with tight predator-proof wire over it and then covered with an arch of plastic roofing stuff- the kind on patios- whatever that is called. i've read about the "skirt" idea for keeping rodents out of the run area- and will probably go for this. the chickens will be tight in their coop area- but i don't want to feed the rodents and rascals anymore than i already do! so i'd like to keep them out of the chicken feed.

    i like the look of a double coop- however, i have no idea if this is a good idea! if i were a chicken i would like this idea, me thinks. an optional coop if some other hen was being too broody or what not. but if all 4 hens wanted to be in one of the coops it might be kind of a tight squeeze. comments?

    inside the coop area i plan to have a solid wood floor covered in linoleum and go for the "deep litter" concept. i plan for one nesting box in each coop area (or is 2 a better idea?) with two roosts at different heights. i was playing with the idea of having a wire or slated wood floor but seems like most folks comment that it creates more problems than it solves. however- wondering if having vent holes drilled in along the perimeter of the floor would be a good idea for vents?

    also was planning on having a small plexiglass window for light- was curious if this would be frowned upon by chickens in the nesting area? do they prefer darkness?

    another question- i'd like to be able to have the chickens out of the run while we are outside- with run/coop area open if they want to chill out in there- but i'm wondering if the door for the chickens should only be chicken size in case a random farm dog comes bounding after a bird?

    lastly- anyone have ways to save the $20 for a feeder and a waterer? i'd like to fashion my own if possible.

    thanks again- so inspired by all of you! [​IMG]
     
  2. elmo

    elmo Chillin' With My Peeps

    4,852
    31
    249
    May 23, 2009
    DFW
    Hello and welcome to the forum!

    In terms of breed choice, the only thing I would suggest is avoid a singleton (single member of a breed) unless of course all of your chickens are singletons. Birds of a feather do flock together, and if one of your chickens was a different breed than the others, it wouldn't have a natural buddy to flock with.

    Usually, a tractor is a moveable chicken pen. Is that what you want? It's harder to make a tractor predator resistant than a stationary coop and run, and you need to keep a tractor light weight enough to be able to move it. I have a stationary coop and run for nights and rainy days, and days when we're going to be away from the house. I have a couple of day tractors so I can let my flock have most of the benefits of free ranging without most of the risks.

    Usually, it's suggested that you give each chicken a minimum of 4 square feet of coop space (indoors) plus 10 square feet outdoors. A coop/run meeting these minimums are by no means roomy or generous in space, but they do give you an idea of what you can get away with without causing problems. A 4 x 9 run is only 36 square feet, which is not quite the minimum for 4 chickens. I'd seriously think about building bigger.

    For the coop, a 3' x 4' enclosure is only 12 square feet, which hits the minimum for 3 chickens but as you note, is quite cramped for 4. Chickens are flock creatures so they'll stick together. They'll all cram into one side, no matter how crowded or cranky some of the hens might be. I would build a single, larger enclosure and skip the idea of having two separate sides.

    Two nesting boxes are plenty for 4 hens; they'll likely only use one of them anyway.

    Chickens like other birds prefer to roost as high as you can. If there isn't enough space on the higher roost, they'll fight over who gets to be on the top one. I have all of the roosts in my coop at the same height to avoid squabbles like this at bedtime.

    Drilling little holes (at the top or bottom) of coop walls really doesn't do much in terms of ventilation, which is very important. Have you read this page? It's excellent.

    https://www.backyardchickens.com/web/viewblog.php?id=1642-VENTILATION

    Chickens do tend to like a darkened, private place to lay, but it's not essential. They don't like going inside a completely dark coop, though, so some natural light in the coop is a good idea.

    If a dog comes chasing your flock, it's unlikely that they would run back to their coop. They'll fly up as best they can and try to find something to perch on up out of the dog's reach. That's just their instinct.
     
  3. nanners

    nanners Out Of The Brooder

    16
    0
    22
    Mar 6, 2011
    thx for the advice-

    sounds like i need to focus on building one coop that is bigger, rather than 2 smaller ones, and a slightly larger run- and then a separate tractor for when i'd like the girls to dig up the garden area or such.

    i'm wondering if pvc piping would work in a hoop style tractor?

    also- it seems that an A frame style coop uses less wood. we are going to be using scraps from a deconstructed shed...and are trying not to buy too much new material- although we'll have to buy the hardware and wire mesh. are their other advantages/disadvantages to a box style coop vs an A frame?

    lastly- pros/cons of having the run be partly under the coop vs. having the coop sit down on the ground? i read one thread where the suggestion was giving to somehow be able to block off the under-coop run area so hens don't hide out there if you need to get them.

    starting to wonder if i am over-thinking this and just need to start building!?

    thx again![​IMG]
     
  4. OkChickens

    OkChickens Orpingtons Are Us

    1,498
    15
    163
    Dec 1, 2010
    Owasso, Oklahoma
    First [​IMG]
    I love the buffs and ameraucanas! They are all around great birds! I would make you 4x8 or 4x12 to save on waste of materials. I also agree with elmo with building a coop for 4 chickens I would recommend a minimum of 4x4 coop with a 4810 or 4x12 run. It may not be in your plan but chicken math happens sometimes! Good luck on your new chicks! Have fun!

    Nate
     
  5. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    12,521
    78
    341
    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Quote:One thought -- some, by no means all but definitely SOME, people find that keeping polish with other breeds can be problematic because of the polish getting pecked at (can't see well or defend itself b/c of the poof). If your boys would find it extremely distressing to find something like that developing, you might want to consider another breed.

    Another thing to keep in mind -- unless you buy your birds as half-grown or adults, there is some nontrivial chance that one or more will turn out to be roosters. Yeah I know hatcheries offer a 90-95% sexing guarantee in principle, but that just means they will give you store credit or refund your money if you have a higher-than-that percentage of cockerels turn up in your order. YOU will still be the one having to DEAL with the cockerels, i.e. keep, rehome, eat. And 90-95% sexing guarantee does NOT in real life seem to correspond to *only* a 5-10% of getting a mislabelled male [​IMG] There is of course not a whole big lot you can do about this if you are ordering chicks; but it is something to be aware of, especially if you have kids.

    my vision is of a modified A frame tractor. the base would be about 4 by 9 ft- with a coop w/roost and nesting box on both ends- each one measuring 3 by 4 ft- with room under the coop area for additional run space. the top would be flat with tight predator-proof wire over it and then covered with an arch of plastic roofing stuff- the kind on patios- whatever that is called. i've read about the "skirt" idea for keeping rodents out of the run area- and will probably go for this.

    I would suggest a box-style rather than A-frame tractor... most A-frames reduce USABLE space considerably, below what the footprint makes it appear they offer the chickens, without really being meaningfully more sparing of materials or easier to build.

    If you are going to put the plastic roofing stuff on, you will need it flat against some kind of support, and not arched on this size tractor (for several reasons I will not go into here unless you especially care <g>). The ideal thing would be to have it slope gently from one end of the tractor (or from the edge of the 'house' portion, if that will not take up the whole tractor footprint) to the other end of the tractor.

    4x9 is getting pretty big for moving a tractor without a ride-on lawnmower or such thing -- it CAN work if you design it as lightweight as possible and have a SMALL indoor portion, but it is easy to let the 2x4s and plywood and all that creep up on you til you have a 500 lb monster that is not going anywhere, at least not if the ground is the least bit soggy. So be careful, and it would be wise to tot up the ballpark weight of your design before starting to build anything (you can find tables online with nominal weights for different types of lumber etc)

    inside the coop area i plan to have a solid wood floor covered in linoleum and go for the "deep litter" concept.

    You can have deep bedding if you like, but do not be thinking you are going to let poo build up in there and have it compost in place and so forth. Not only is that unlikely to HAPPEN in your type setup, but it will also tend to lead to bad air quality problems.

    i plan for one nesting box in each coop area (or is 2 a better idea?) with two roosts at different heights

    I am not sure what you mean by 'double coop' and 'each coop area', you wanna have ONE indoor area and you only need ONE roost about 4' long. One nestbox would be fine for 4 chickens, you can make it a bit ample-sized if you are concerned.

    i was playing with the idea of having a wire or slated wood floor but seems like most folks comment that it creates more problems than it solves. however- wondering if having vent holes drilled in along the perimeter of the floor would be a good idea for vents?

    No, for one thing they will just be covered over with bedding most of the time, for another thing they will do no good for actual *ventilation* but WILL (if ever not covered by bedding) cause cold problematic drafts in cool weather. Don't do it. FOr a small coop in a climate that does get somewhat cold (well ok, "cool") in winter, I would suggest planning to have ample ventilation for summertime and for wintertime have the ability to keep a good-sized vent open AS FAR FROM the roost as possible. These tiny coops are hard to manage in winter (fortunately Seattle doesn't get *that* much in the way of winter <g>) because it is hard to balance air quality, temperature, and not having drafts at the chickens (since with a tiny coop, pretty much anywhere you put a vent will be right near the chickens).

    Vents need to be good-sized oepnings, not anything you can make with a drill (not even with a 4" holesaw bit).

    also was planning on having a small plexiglass window for light- was curious if this would be frowned upon by chickens in the nesting area? do they prefer darkness?

    No, light is good, although I would not put the window IN the nestbox.

    another question- i'd like to be able to have the chickens out of the run while we are outside- with run/coop area open if they want to chill out in there- but i'm wondering if the door for the chickens should only be chicken size in case a random farm dog comes bounding after a bird?

    Anything a chicken can get thru, a dog is likely to get through too. So that is not a consideration, you cannot design a predatorproof open door.

    lastly- anyone have ways to save the $20 for a feeder and a waterer? i'd like to fashion my own if possible.

    Strongly recommend that (at least at this point, and especially since it will be a tiny coop) you buy a 1 gallon plastic vacuum-style waterer, about $6 (maybe less on sale). You can easily build your own feeder though, and probably SHOULD so you can custom-make something that fits along a wall or into a corner, to save space.

    Good luck, have fun,

    Pat​
     
  6. nanners

    nanners Out Of The Brooder

    16
    0
    22
    Mar 6, 2011
    lots of good info! thanks:)

    yes, the boys are hoping to have chicks- and those polish are so cute with the poof! but i realize that we may not end up with all pullets- unless we buy sex-linked. fortunately we live in an agricultural area so having a noisy rooster is not the issue- it's just if the rooster was aggressive. our neighbors had a feisty guy that required a person be armed with a tennis racket before going into the coop. need less to say, he became stew.


    it does get a bit confusing with all of the coop style options to know what is really needed- esp when it comes to height of the coop inside....or even with the run for that matter! any suggestions on that?
     
  7. nanners

    nanners Out Of The Brooder

    16
    0
    22
    Mar 6, 2011
    one more question about height- what's the ideal height for a coop being up off the ground...or if not "ideal" what are pros/cons?

    i just read something about low coop means no ladder to clean poop off of!

    the more i read...the more questions i have![​IMG]
     
  8. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    12,521
    78
    341
    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Height of coop inside: for four chickens it is perfectly possible to have a reach-in coop, 3-4' high, raised up so the chickens can also use the space underneath as part of their run. It is NICE to have a walk-in shed-type coop but it only makes sense if it will be 4x6 or bigger, a 4x4 shed does not really allow the chickens to use the vertical space very well and although you can walk in there you can't DO anything once you're in LOL

    Height underneath a raised coop: chickens will use even just 12", although you want to make sure that you yourself can reach in to all parts under the coop that are accessible to chickens, because someday someone will lay an egg down there or huddle in a back corner being ill or you will want to clean, and you do NOT want to be commando-crawling through mud and poo to reach areas too far back in. 18" is a nice height from a chicken perspective, obviously they would be happy with a bit more but it allows them to walk around without hunching.

    The thing is, the higher you raise the coop the less stable it is, first because the center of gravity gets higher and thus tippier, and second because it starts presenting a higher and higher profile to catch storm winds. So the higher it is, the more better you need to make sure it is anchored firmly into the ground.

    If you are not going to allow the chickens under the coop, the only consideration is what height you need to raise it up in order to avoid rot and rodents. Rot-avoidance generally only requires a few inches' clearance (depending on your soil, drainage, climate) but to discourage rats from camping out under there -- even if the area is too open for them to set up house, you don't want them feeling happy about lurking under there to chew their way into the coop at leisure -- 6" is awfully minimal and 12" is a lot better.

    Good luck, have fun,

    Pat
     
  9. nanners

    nanners Out Of The Brooder

    16
    0
    22
    Mar 6, 2011
    thanks pat-

    lots of good info that makes sense- although i'm not sure i would have figured it out on my own.

    do you have an insight on the ramp vs. no ramp? how low does a coop door need to be for birds to get into it w/out a ramp?

    [​IMG] we just got our four little chicks today! one of each: barred rock, buff orp, wyandotte and ameraucana! [​IMG]
     
  10. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    12,521
    78
    341
    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Quote:I don't know, you're probably asking the wrong person, I don't quite get why people are so "into" making ramps for chickens. I think a lot of it is just the belief that that's how a coop should *look* [​IMG]

    My chickens all hop up 18-24" with noooo problem, provided there is a sufficient sized landing area at the top (a large enough popdoor and/or a sort of 'front porch step' outside the door). Higher than that, you can do a ramp or you can do an intermediate stepstool type arrangement (hop from ground to intermediate table-thing, then from there to popdoor).

    Not that there is anything wrong with ramps, although people sometimes make them too smooth or too steep, but I think they are overrated in a lot of situations [​IMG]

    Pat
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by