Fix My Coop! - Roosts & Nests & Poop

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by MasAhora, Dec 24, 2016.

  1. MasAhora

    MasAhora Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I plan after Christmas to make a few changes so would love ideas (I am looking through so many old threads to find ideas but maybe photos of my set up will inspire a few of you!)
    The coop was here when we bought the property and it housed 16 hens and a rooster. We do not need so many layers, after Christmas several go to freezer camp and we'll maintain around 10 plus rooster.
    The coop is only to sleep and lay, I almost never close the pop doors the main flock free ranges in the back paddocks or laze in their pen to the right.
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    The building is about 4m x 2.5m and one third is a separate coop for my meaties with their own pop door at the rear to their garden seen on the left of first photo.
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    This was cleaned completely yesterday and already walls/ladder need cleaning again (brown bits are dried tobacco to deter lice). If I do not clean/scrape every morning then flies and smells build up in our hot humid climate.
    Poop from the back roost hits the upper bench and some hens demand to lay in it during the day, poop from the front higher roost hits the ground, walls and the ladder.[​IMG]
    The big box is not permanent its for a broody hatching chicks and at night has to be covered to protect from poop (mama is now in her own pen with new chicks).

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    Also I do not need so many nest boxes but do need safe spots for younger pullets.
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    Above photo shows the internal side door to meat chick house with rear pop door- this door restricts my flexibility for changes in main coop.
     
  2. Howard E

    Howard E Chillin' With My Peeps

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    What materials was this coop made of? Masonry walls or some type of wood frame?

    What is your year round climate? Extremes of highs and lows and for how long?

    First thought is to eliminate the far back roost bar, and if those are nest boxes, replace the flat roof on top with a steeply sloped top. Will keep the nightly droppings from the roof off it, as well as prevent the birds from perching on it to leave their droppings that way.


    No concern from day or night predators?
     
  3. MasAhora

    MasAhora Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hi Howard, the coop is brick with render, concrete floor and timber ceiling covered in tiles.
    We have humidity all year round, summer gets very very hot (hence the previous owners planted lovely shade trees around the coop and the concrete keeps it relatively cool) and winter can be windy, damp but no colder than occasional frosts. Note: I have only lived in this country for 2 years and on this property for 1 year!! Everything is new to me even chickens!

    Extremely lucky with predators, only lost one pullet (my favourite) to a bird of prey, so now limit them to a 2-3 acre paddock with more trees and fencing stops dogs.

    I was hoping to increase roost space and am willing to cut down nesting boxes, when we have rainy stormy days the poor things are all hiding in the coop and cleaning is difficult, but open the door after a day of missed cleaning and the smell hits you even with the window and pop doors permanently open..... I need something like a quick pull-out-the-poop-tray method without causing a ruckus. (I don't mind going out in the rain if I know its so they a clean home).

    Basically I profoundly lack experience and have different goals than the previous owners (hence the meat chicks and letting broody hens raise the next generation of layers separated from a tough flock).
     
  4. Howard E

    Howard E Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Since your coop is brick, not much chance of increasing the ventilation, so will have to work with what is there. One option would be to replace the wooden door with a screen door, so even when it is closed, it is open and venting. The smell is the ammonia from the droppings and can be reduced, if not eliminated, by using deep or built up litter. Leaves, hay, whatever you have that is brown and organic. Think of "brown" as being C material in compost, C being carbon. For now, you don't want a lot of "green", which may have nitrogen in it The N in compost systems is nitrogen and the birds will supply that (that ammonia smell). Then you need to keep it somewhat moist, which in a damp climate is easy to do, and all that is left is air, which the birds will help with. I'd say about 4 inches or so to start, going to as much as 8 inches or more over time. When it gets fully saturated, you can pull it all out, move it to an outside compost area or garden, then start over. This probably won't be a true compost situation......more like a rot. The litter acting more or less like a diaper and for the same reason.

    As for the rest, you may want to consider some additional low cost portable sheds......basically just a roof to shed water.....a place they can go to get out of the rain and storms without having to go back to the coop. If predators do become an issue with those, they can be enclosed with wire sides. These will work for any meat birds as well as brooder pens.

    Be warned, you may not have predators now, but your chickens are new to the area and it could be the predators just haven't found you yet. Young chicks will draw them in like flies to chicken droppings. As you ramp up to greater populations, you can expect the predation problems to surface.
     
  5. MasAhora

    MasAhora Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Interesting reply, thanks.

    Fortunately the previous property owners had chickens for a number of years and many Paraguayans around here keep chickens freely around their little homes so dogs (who are roaming away from home) and birds of prey seem to be the only problems. I have seen a weasel scamp across our property and a pair of foxes that live in our small forest on the opposite end (they have lived here for years apparently) and also some large lizards that remind me of Australian Goanna's, a few timid snakes....it is incredible to us. In Australia everything was a predator and most probably dangerous to us so we never wanted chickens, we were simply too far from a hospital if a snake got one of us.

    I will research the deep litter method, I am worried about making things comfy for lice, mites & other parasites. We have so many wild birds hanging around and a sneaky broody hatched chicks in the bush and has brought back some awful bug-thing (looks similar to a form of pox but apparently is a kind of mite...vet was rather ambiguous) so now her family is segregated and being medicated.

    Also I need the coop to remain cool, a few of my meaty babies love to scratch away the wood shavings and feel the cool concrete during the hottest hour....so deep litter in one part of the coop and wood shavings in the other part might be good or bad, IDK.
     
  6. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

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    Yes we all have different predator situations. In the 18 years I lived at home growing up on a farm in the middle of not much we had two predator attacks, a fox that repeated and one-time dog. Both were shot. Relatives and neighbors generally kept chickens the same way, basically free ranging, often sleeping in barns or trees.

    I can’t do that here. I tried free ranging and had minor problems from the wild animals, but people like to abandon dogs out here. I hate shooting dogs, I really do. Most of the time if I recognize one has been abandoned and no neighbors claim them I take them to the pound. But I’ve lost enough to dogs, 13 chickens in two separate attacks, that I now keep them in electric netting. With a little luck you can go for years without any serious problems, or you may be wiped out today. I wish you luck.

    Wild birds eat at my feeders all the time. They even go inside the coop to eat at that feeder. It is possible they can give mites or lice to your birds, but I have never had any here since I got chickens in 2008 after moving here. I check my chickens regularly for mites and lice, I know it is possible, it certainly happens, but it’s not something I alter my life to avoid. If it happens I’ll treat it. Dad had to treat for lice a few times, but not all the time.

    Is the smell coming from the main coop or the meaties section? Meaties poop a lot, it’s what they do, eat and poop.

    I’m trying to wrap my head around why you immediately smell ammonia. Dry poop will not smell, but wet poop will. The smell comes from microbes eating the poop and they need moisture to do that. To me rotting and composting is the same basic process, microbes eating the organic material. If it gets too wet the process goes anaerobic and stinks. If the microbes stay aerobic it generally doesn’t small bad, just an earthy smell. That’s what Howard is trying to achieve, staying in the aerobic range. Slightly damp is great, the microbes need some moisture to work with. But wet stinks.

    With your materials, I wonder if your moisture is coming from condensation. It’s cooler inside so warmer moist air coming in condenses out and you have wet. So what can you do?

    Those bugs need something to eat (the poop) and they need moisture. You can try removing poop. Since they are mostly in there at night, droppings boards under the roosts can help. I have a built-in brooder under my main roosts and the juvenile roost is over my nests, which have a flat top. Those catch the poop and I scrape that when it builds up to the point I need to. That pure poop is great in my compost. Reducing the poop in the coop can help.

    Reducing the number of chickens sleeping in there, which you plan to do, will decrease the poop load. You may see a difference after that.

    Howard’s idea of using bedding as a diaper is a strong possibility. With a concrete floor you may have to change that out on a regular basis, how often will come with experience. How well does that concrete floor drain? In buildings like that, usually not very well. If it holds water and you are getting a fair amount of water, it makes it rougher to dry it out.

    Probably the best thing you can do is more ventilation. Allow it to dry out when it gets wet. It’s kind of a dilemma, heat is more dangerous that cold for you by a long shot. You want that coop to stay relatively cool but dry. With those trees and those building materials I don’t think you have any concerns about it getting too hot in the coop though.

    It doesn’t look like you have electricity out there so adding a fan is probably not in the works. A solar powered fan might help but I have no idea of the expense.

    How to add ventilation? That’s challenging. Howard suggested screens on openings, not something solid. That’s about the easiest thing you can do. With a tile roof and those walls, cutting holes is challenging. Some type of roof vent would be great, but I’m not going to tackle a tile roof.

    You can knock holes in brick walls, remodelers do it all the time. My brother-in-law just did it in his house to put a window in so he could better vent the kitchen. He even made it look nice, but it was a project. And he likes doing things like that. That’s the only idea I can come up with, knock out some brick to create a fairly large hole. It’s not a project I’d enjoy.
     
  7. MasAhora

    MasAhora Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hi Ridgerunner - Merry Christmas and thanks for the informative reply.
    Our fencing is dog proof (chain link tied to concrete posts and base so no digging possible just keep an eye on the ties). We get young female dogs dumped regularly around here, in fact my two chicken eaters are 2 puppies I rescued and they played catch with a chicken once so we raised the side fence to stop the hens flying into the garden and now keep the dogs away in their own yards. So far so good.

    The smell is from the hen house after a night on the roost it collects where they huddle together and some days packs a punch if I do not scrape daily. I am trying FF to see if it helps. Thinking about it, I do not think the ventilation is all that great, the window is stuck partly open so I should address that (duh!)

    Their roost poops can be wet and the shaving clump around them, if this is not normal I'll need to read up some more.

    We knocked a hole in the wall to make the meaty bird pop door.... I love your idea of making another hole for a small ventilation window. Glass is very expensive here so I'll do pop door style to secure when we have a big storm or icy winds. It has electricity but another ventilation window would be free[​IMG]. (Moving country really hits the wallet).

    The building is 100% dry, no rain gets in.

    We did not have lice or mites last summer, even with a broody or two. I kept the meaty chicks in their own enclosed nursery room 100m from the hens for 3.5 weeks... not one had any illness or bug on them. I use wood shavings from a workshop down the road just as the previous property owners showed me to do (basically I followed their practices as closely as possible). So the lice and mites must come from wild life. Wood ash and dried tobacco really helped but the broody who came in from the bushes with her chicks escaped being dusted.

    I'm gonna read up on good and bad poops now!

    I think I'll adjust the roosts so they sit over a poop board a few inches below, cut out half the nests and make a pullet roost under the poop board. The pullet roost can be removed to make flexible space for a broody pen.
    Also I think the front roost is too high, they land on concrete even if it does have some shavings over it, seems a pretty hard steep drop.
     

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