Grow out pen/coop advice please

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Dmontgomery, Jan 11, 2017.

  1. Dmontgomery

    Dmontgomery Chillin' With My Peeps Premium Member

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    I've pretty much decided that I will continue to brood the baby chicks on the back porch rather than in the main coop. It's much easier to keep an eye on everything and more readily have frequent contact with them for friendlier chickens later. But to easily integrate them into the flock later on I've decided to move them to a grow out pen rather than just dumping them into the coop with 40 adult chickens and hoping for the best.

    The brooder will hold them for 5 weeks or so, until they don't need supplemental heat. How long do y'all keep them in grow out pens? I've heard anywhere from 4-6 months, but 6 seems like a long time to me. Is it basically just until they are big enough to protect themselves or do you wait until they are close to laying age?

    Do you go by the same basic square footage guidelines or can it be smaller since you are housing smaller birds? I plan on adding 20 chicks.

    My current flock free ranges daylight to dark. When full integration comes, do I just open the doors and let everybody out and see where they roost that night?

    What other issues should I be thinking about? I'm confident my current main coop can hold the 60 chickens.
     
  2. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    If your coop is that big I would seriously consider rigging a temporary wire wall in there to partition off space as a grow out area. A second pop door to a partitioned or adjacent run would be another idea to consider.

    Put some 'tiny doors' in that partition wall and start integrating sooner rather than later.
    Worked great for me last spring...but...it does make for 'wilder' birds due to less handling.

    The younger they are the easier to integrate.......but less tame birds.
    Can be a hard choice.

    Just some thoughts.
     
  3. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    My brooder is in the coop so a different situation than yours. Sometimes at 5 weeks I just open that brooder door and walk away. You can’t do that. For your own reasons you’ve elected to do it differently, I respect that, just pointing out differences.

    I also have what I call my grow-out coop. For my own reasons I sometimes don’t just open that brooder door but move them to this grow-out coop, usually when they are 5 weeks old. It’s 4’ x 8’ and elevated with a section of run. It’s at the far end of my main run and the run butts against my 12’ x 32’ main run and also an area enclosed by electric netting, about 45’ x 90’. So I have lots of room for a flock my size and the chicks and adults can see each other when the chicks are in the run.

    I normally lock them in the grow-out coop section itself for about a week to get them used to the idea that the coop is home and where they should sleep, but it never works. I think that’s because it is elevated. I have other set-ups on the ground and I don’t have this problem. The chicks consistently sleep on the ground under the pop door when I let them out to the run section.

    My brooder-raised chicks tend to start roosting at age 10 to 12 weeks when there are no adults on the roosts. I’ve had some start earlier, some later, but 10 to 12 weeks is fairly normal. Until they start roosting they huddle together in a low spot. Since my coop is elevated the low spot is on the ground, not the coop floor. After they are let into the run section of the grow-out area, I go down after dark and toss them into the coop section and lock them in. It’s dark enough down there that they are easy to catch after dark. On bright moonlit nights that can be a bit more challenging. Some chickens get the message immediately, sleep in the coop. I’ve had some take three weeks to get that message. Most of the time it takes about a week to get all of them going in on their own.

    After I am sure they are all consistently returning to inside the Grow-out coop to sleep, I open the doors to the main run and the netting area. That usually works out to about 8 weeks age. The young chicks soon go out in the other areas, but normally form a sub-flock and avoid the older chickens. They return to the grow-out coop to sleep at night.

    For different reasons I sometimes leave the chicks sleeping in the grow-out coop section. Sometimes I move all or some into the main coop. When I move them into the main coop, often around 12 weeks old but can be later, I put the ones I want to move, usually pullets, in the main coop after dark and leave the ones behind locked in the grow-out coop/run area for a week. Sometimes the chickens being moved immediately get the message and start going into the main coop at night, sometimes it takes another night or two of putting them in. When I do this I’m down there pretty early the next morning to let them out of the main coop in case there are problems. There never have been but I still go down there early a couple of mornings to be sure.

    A lot of people do it differently as you can see by Aart’s post. Nothing wrong with that, many things can work. I do think a key is how much room they have. If room is tight it could be beneficial to keep them separated longer. I’ve seen broody hens wean their chicks at three weeks so in some circumstances you can do it earlier than I do it. There are no hard and fast rules with this, we are all unique.

    I find having separate permanent facilities can be extremely convenient in managing your chickens, it gives you a lot of flexibility. I have three different areas other than the main coop I can use to isolate chickens. There have been times all three have been in use.

    How much room would I have in a grow-out coop for 20 chicks? First, I don’t believe in standard square feet per chicken numbers. You can follow the link in my signature for my reasons. How old will they be before you move them out? Will they be laying? Will you have a section of run dedicated to this coop, I highly recommend it. When will they have access to that run, what age and how early in the day?

    I’ve housed 20 chicks in my 4x8 before, but that’s a big reason I often move some out by 12 weeks, even with plenty of access to outside, it gets really crowded in there. I don’t leave them locked in that coop section only after 6 weeks, they always have access to the run. My coop section is only for roosting, feeding, and watering. No nests. My floor is ½” hardware cloth so poop drops on through until they are older. At a certain age the poop gets big enough it doesn’t all fall on through, though a lot still does. I don’t know why the difference but for some broods that can be 12 weeks, for some 15. The tighter they are packed the more poop you are going to have to deal with.

    For what you are talking about I’d be tempted to go with a 6x8 walk-in on the ground, or maybe even a bit larger. That will give you more flexibility than I have, though you may have to manage the poop more. If you are buying new materials, they normally come in 4’ and 8’ dimensions so these are usually good dimensions to use. 6’ isn’t all that bad because you can rip a 2’ section and add that to a 4’ to get there, plus with a 6’ width, the standard 8’ dimension gives you some overhang so you can put ventilation under that and still keep rain and snow out.
     
  4. Dmontgomery

    Dmontgomery Chillin' With My Peeps Premium Member

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    I've looked at pictures of your coop in the past, showing the separated area for the younger chicks. I did something similar like it last year but on a smaller scale and with only 4 chicks. I built a 2'x4' box with hardware cloth around it and lifted it off the ground with 2x4's set on edge. The babies could go out to walk around the calmer hens but scurry back under for safety. I could cordon off a 4x16' section of my run without too much trouble. I'll have to check out your photos again if I decide to go that route.
     
  5. Dmontgomery

    Dmontgomery Chillin' With My Peeps Premium Member

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    A couple of the things you've mentioned, I am considering. Our old coop is still standing. It is 8'x10' with a 14'x27' run attached. It is 1/4 mile from the house and a little inconvenient to get to in the rain, so we built a new one this year, 30' from the house. (I read your article thoroughly before I built the new coop. I made the new one 16x16 with a 16'x32' run. 71' linear of roosting space.) I was thinking about dismanting and moving the old one. Then either connecting it to the new coop, like adding on a second room, or joining the ends of the runs together and having basically a very large "L" shaped complex. Making an adjoining door between the runs and just keeping it closed until they are maybe 4 months or so. Then opening it all up and let them all free range together and sleep wherever they want for a while. Slowly try to get everybody on the roosts in the new coop, then close off the grown out pen until next year. Or until my little OEGB goes broody and I need to protect her and her babies.
     
  6. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    Sounds like it should work well. :thumbsup
     
  7. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    That's would be great!
    And you could still carve out/use a spot in the main coop for even more versatility!
     
  8. yyz0yyz0

    yyz0yyz0 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I have a small 5'x10' "addition" added to my run, I call it Section 8 housing. I use it if I need to separate a hen and also for my broody to raise her clutch. last year as soon as the broody started to lay eggs again, I moved all her chicks into a fenced off area in the coop and slowly gave the chicks access to the main flock. Had very few issues with the integration

    My biggest issue with this method was my feed costs. I feed a layer ration which I'm able to basically get for free. Once the chicks started to mingle with the adult flock I had to switch everyone to an All Flock ration which I had to buy. this really but a crimp on my finances.

    So this year I plan to just move the broody back to the main flock when she starts to lay and leave the chicks in Section 8 until they can start to eat layer rations. I expect to have more integration issues but the two runs share a common fence so they will all know each other already when it's time to mingle.
     
  9. Dmontgomery

    Dmontgomery Chillin' With My Peeps Premium Member

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    @aart. About how big are your "tiny" doors in your partioned off section?
     
  10. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    The larger one is 5x7, adjustable height with slider door...but I had to add a piece of wood to narrow down the width as my slimmer hens could get thru.
    The smaller ones are 4" high, adjustable width, had to close down to a 3.5" width to deter same slimline hens.
    Building adjustable doors was more of a challenge..and more time-materials-brain work, but worth the adjustability in the long run.

    .....and luckily I tested the doors before chicks were out there,
    it was funny watching the bigger hens try to get thru....
    ...and then the skinny ones after my adjustments.

    ETA looking for pic.
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2017

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