Help, a few last minute questions

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by wpchicks, Nov 12, 2010.

  1. wpchicks

    wpchicks In the Brooder

    Nov 6, 2010
    We are getting a few young layers ("18-24" weeks) tomorrow evening. Our hen house is almost 17 sq feet, the coop about 45. We live in the midwest.
    This is our first experience with having our own chickens, I have a 3 year old and soon to be 2 year old who are afraid of any kind of animal except our yellow lab. [​IMG]

    Is it a bad idea to put a SLW with a light brahma and a buff?
    Should we cover the coop floor with pine shavings, or wait until spring?
    Should there be a feeder and a waterer in and outside of the hen house?
    Is it bad if the feeders are in front of the nest boxes?
    Will three chickens be warm enough or should we get four or even five (which I've read would be okay if they are docile birds)

    Since this is our first time I thought having a variety of birds would be fun, to see which ones we like.
    However I want a very happy, very calm little flock. Is this most likely to be achieved by getting all of the same breed?
    My fear is opening the coop and having a hen burst through the door scaring my little boys to death. Pecking is also worrying me?

    From things I've read it seems like SLW tend to be the friendliest when they are among other SLW. If I only get one will it pick the other two to pieces?
    I've read that Brahmas do best on sand floors and pine shavings, which is it?

    As you can tell I'm a bit scatter brained this morning. But mostly I just want to know what the best combo of chickens is for our coop size?

    all the same - in which case I think I would get Bramhas
    two of each - two brahmas two buffs
    one of each - SLW, brahma, buff, (maybe a barred rock, or a second brahma or buff)
    Is is bad two have two of one breed and single of the others?

    One more thing, our chickens for the most part will remain in the coop.
    Any insights would be greatly appreciated.

    A new ruffled feathered mom [​IMG]

  2. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Hi, welcome to the forum, congrats on your soon-to-be chickens [​IMG]

    Quote:Nope, no problemo!

    Should we cover the coop floor with pine shavings, or wait until spring?

    Definitely definitely cover the coop floor with shavings. You will need it to stay like that for hygeine/cleaning reasons. REally. Wait til you see how they poo all over, then you will understand [​IMG] Also if you have a good depth of shavings when the wetaher gets cold, like at least 4-6", they can sort of snuggle down into them for warmth if they so choose.

    Should there be a feeder and a waterer in and outside of the hen house?

    Doesn't have to be both. If you will be locking them in at night (HIGHLY adviseable) but not letting them out til an hour or two after dawn, it is considerate to have the feeder and waterer be indoors rather than out; plus that will really work MUCH MUCH better in a midwestern winter. (Easier to keep water thawed indoors, also if the food is indoors you won't be starting a rodent-farming operation [​IMG])

    Is it bad if the feeders are in front of the nest boxes?

    FOr just 3 hcickens, not really, as long as there is plenty of clearance for them to get into the nestbox even if someone is having a meal. Note that if you are only going to have 3 chickens you really only need 1 nestbox (two won't hurt but isn't necessary; more than two is kind of a waste of space, unless you're planning more chickens soon)

    Will three chickens be warm enough or should we get four or even five (which I've read would be okay if they are docile birds)

    Complex question. Warmth has nothing to do with it -- no matter what anyone may tell you, it is NOT SMART to try to crowd 'em in in hopes of them keeping the coop warm with their body heat. Read the "ventilation" and "cold coop" pages linked in my .sig below for much more explanation of why and of what TO do.

    If you WANT to get more chickens, getting them all at once is much better than getting some now and some later. CHickens are vicious little dinosaur cannibal heathens, and sorting out the pecking order (which has to be re-done everytime someone new is added) is often not pretty and not bloodless, and there is a small but nonzero chance that it simply will not work out. So if you want more chickens in the foreseeable future it would be better to get them all at once in one fell swoop so they only have to do the pecking-order battles ONCE (and it's not as bad when theyre all new to the coop)

    On the other hand... 17 sq ft is not a lot of room. For three chickens that's a smidge over 5 sq ft per hen, which is not terrible for a midwestern winter though more would be a better bet. But five would be a smidge over 3 sq ft per hen, which unless your run is wind-sheltered and perhaps roofed (in a snowload-sturdy way), is really kind of asking for trouble in a cold snowy winter. You might do it and not have trouble; but the odds are frankly not in your favor. And it would be a shame for your entry into chickenkeeping to be any more, um, educational than necessary [​IMG]

    So if it were me I think if that's the size of your coop I'd stick with just 3 for now. If you decide to add more next year you can also think about whether there might be anything you want to do to your coop.

    However I want a very happy, very calm little flock. Is this most likely to be achieved by getting all of the same breed?

    Enh. They may be marginally happier with their own kind (or at least with generally-similar breeds)... and you would be better off not mixing REALLY different characters, like very active or very aggressive hens with very passive or very docile ones. But wyandottes and brahmas should not be a problem. Plenty of people have "one of this one of that one of the other" type flocks just fine [​IMG]

    My fear is opening the coop and having a hen burst through the door scaring my little boys to death.

    IME they don't generally do this (unless you have established a habit of 'as soon as I walk in I shower them with food' -- solution being, so don't do that [​IMG]) But if you are further concerned, you could always make an inner screen door so that when you open the 'real' door you can SEE where the chickens are and what they are doing, and enter in an informed and organized fashion [​IMG]

    I have not personally kept wyandottes and brahmas but they are generally regarded as pretty calm sensible chickens (well, some people have had kinda skittish hatchery-bred wyandottes)... but it sounds like you are probably picking these chickens up in person so should be able to see what their temperament is like and decide before purchase?

    Pecking is also worrying me?

    Well, there is never any way to 100% guarantee it can't happen; it is part of their nature, just like under the right circumstances *any* dog may growl or snap. But the more space you provide them, the less likely you'll have pecking/cannibalism problems. Also make sure they never run out of water or feed, and that their feed is fully nutritionally adequate.

    mostly I just want to know what the best combo of chickens is for our coop size?

    You know what -- when you go SEE the chickens, SEE how each pen/breed acts, and ASK what the seller thinks (although be aware they may sort of roll their eyes and say 'whatever you want to do will be fine'), and decide based on that.

    The thing is that in some particular circumstances, there may be a right or wrong answer, but it depends on the temperaments of the PARTICULAR birds in question. Breed does not tell the whole story -- LINE has a whole big lot to do with it too. There are friendly <whatever breed> and standoffish ones, peaceful ones and aggressive ones, etc, and different lines can have really different personality characteristics.

    So what matters to you is not what some BYCers experience with their own wyandottes or brahmas is, nor what people say as broad generalizations, but what THESE PARTICULAR CHICKENS FOR SALE are like.

    Pick something you feel like you can get along happily with. And I bet it will work just fine [​IMG]

    (e.t.a. -- please be picky about the HEALTH of the birds, though. And I don't mean "pick the healthiest ones out of a pen". I mean, if any significant number of the sellers' birds seem to have problems, it would really be smarter to get your chickens elsewhere even if it means more waiting. Sneezing and any sort of nose or eye discharge are GREAT BIG RED FLAGS (don't let anyone tell you 'oh it's just a cold they'll get over it' - quite often it's fatal and sometimes even if not fatal they remain carriers to infect all future chickens you get). I would totally walk away from a flock with birds like that in it (remember the healthy-looking ones have been exposed too and may just not be showing it yet). And look for any kind of creepy-crawlies (dark and fast, or pale and slow) down towards skin level underneath the feathers (you can use a puff of breath to blow the feathers apart, especially near the head and at the top/base of the neck and base of tail, so you can get a quick glimpse of skin and any tiny wildlife it may be carrying), or legs that seem thickened and lumpy and treetrunk-like (normal chicken legs have shiny tight regularly-arranged smooth scales)... you CAN get rid of mites and lice and scaly-leg mites, but do you really want to start out TRYING to?)

    Good luck, have fun,

    Last edited: Nov 12, 2010
  3. woodmort

    woodmort Songster

    Jul 6, 2010
    Oxford NY
    First, relax!

    Put down a 5-6-inch thick layer of pine shaving right now in the coop--they will soak up and dry out the poop plus keep the chickens' feet warm. Keep it turned over during the winter and you shouldn't have to replace it until spring.

    You will not need extra heat for adult birds of the breeds you suggest, they're all winter hardy and cold won't be a problem as long as the coop is well ventilated with no drafts.

    I'd hang a feeder inside the coop it makes it easier to keep unwanted animals/birds away from the feed. Just don't put it near the bird's roost. Likewise the waterer should be inside as it will probably need some sort of heater to keep ice free in the winter--I use a galvanized waterer on a galvanized heater base that is set up on bricks to keep it above the shavings.

    Generally chickens don't attack people unless they're sitting on eggs in a nest or you surprise a laying hen at which point she'll bolt out of the nesting box in a panic. While when you open the door in the morning to let them out they may be anxious to get loose, they will just rush by you. I doubt very much that you need fear for your children--or anyone else--being pecked. Get a bag of Black Oil Sunflower Seed (aka BOSS) and toss it on the ground in front of the open door,once they know its there, they will completely ignore you in their dash for it.

    As far as varieties, any combination of the birds you list will be fine. As long as you're getting then all at the same time and they are approximately the same age they will fit together. They will establish a pecking order so be prepared for that but it is something they will work out amongst themselves. 3 is a minimum number but if I understand your square-footage numbers you can have a few more--say a 5 or 6 total at least. You're probably going to want more anyway--it's what is referred to by BYCers as "chicken math"--so it is best if you get them now.

    You're having a new chicken anxiety attack and imagining the worst case scenario. You're gonna be fine. Welcome to the wonderful and goofy world of backyard chickens, If you need any more help this forum is the best place in the world to get it.
  4. I have two young children and they like to close the run door, so I do have an additional water out in their fenced pasture area. I have a mixed breed flock and as long as we don't have a rooster, my girls all get along fine. Nothing like a boy to ruffle female feathers. [​IMG]

    My very timid child absolutely adores the hens. Soon you will be hooked and adding more coops. [​IMG]
  5. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    You've had some good people respond so I'll try to limit my comments. I'd suggest two nest boxes, whether for 3 or 5 hens. It is often not that hard to add another one, but in a fairly small coop layout could be a challenge for a future addition. The rule of thumb is one nest box for every four hens, but the rule of thumb assumes you have enough hens for averages to mean something. Whether with 3 or 5 hens, they will most likely line up, pace, cross their legs, and wait for the one to become free in normal circumstances, totally ignoring the open one. But in other than normal circumstances, such as when a hen is broody and won't let others join her, or you have a hen like my Speckled Sussex that will hog the nest for three hours and not even lay an egg, a second one could be real handy. At least in your layout, allow where you can add another one later.

    I don't know where you are in the midwest. In my corner of Arkansas, the coldest I normally get is in the single digits Fahrenheit. Most days and nights it is quite a bit warmer but we hit 4 twice last winter. Here is a photo, taken when the temperature was 8 degrees after one of those 4 degree nights, that shows how I water in the winter. I set a black rubber tub in the sunlight. It will not keep the water thawed at 8 degrees and it does not help a lot if the sun is not shining, but I was able to get by last year by kicking the ice out of it in the morning and filling it twice a day. Most days they had thawed water all day. It may not work for you, but I'll mention this as something to consider.


    I don't think Woodmort will mind me expanding on one of his comments, the one about the feeders and the roosts. Your roosts need to be higher than anything else you don't want them to roost on, especially the nests, but you don't want them real high. Chickens are normally not great flyers, especially grown chickens, although I've seen a 15 week old Speckled Sussex/Delaware mix pullet fly off a 4 foot high roost, fly forward about 8 feet, turn 90 degrees and fly out the door. They need horizontal room to fly down off the roosts so they don't hit feeders, waterers, nest boxes or walls on the way down. The higher the roost, the more horizontal room they need. So when planning your layout, try to leave the front of your roosts as open as possible.

    An example of chicken math. I am in a totally different situation from you with my goals so this does not specifically apply to you, but you might want replacement layers in a few years. You might want a broody to hatch chicks. I have lots of room and I raise chickens for meat as well as eggs. I hatch my own chickens, with a broody when I can and with an incubator if I have to. My regular breeding/laying flock is one rooster and 7 hens. Right now I am down to 29 chickens. Most are young chickens growing up to eating size but some are replacement pullets for my older layers. Don't be too surprised if you find yourself adding more chickens later.
    Welcome to the journey. It can cause worry and frustration. It can get very exciting and fun. I think it is well worth the trip.
  6. BWKatz

    BWKatz Songster

    May 22, 2010
    I'm addressed things not mentioned yet. I have a mixed flock only two of which are the same. They all get along great. I tried to get docile friendly breeds. I highly reccomend a White Leghorn from McMurrays... their breed stock seem to be especially friendly. I also suggest that u buy day old chicks not only for the experience for the youngsters but also because if u handle them daily from the start they will be friendlier to handle when grown. Even so, I would never leave ur children unsupervised with them and teach ur children to not look at them on eye level so as to protect their eyes. If u decide to get day old chicks the leghorn will mature earlier than the others and start laying eggs about 20 wks. Once the LH starts laying ..its an egg a day- enough to keep the youngsters interested. Good luck & have fun!
  7. wpchicks

    wpchicks In the Brooder

    Nov 6, 2010
    You guys are the greatest, thanks for all the help. We finally decided to go with two buffs, one light brahma, and one SLW. So I'm keeping my fingers crossed and hoping for happy hens.
    We do have two nest boxes, and decided to cover the hen house and the coop floor with pine shavings, and the coop does have a roof as well.
    I will post pics soon once everyone gets settled in and the final touches are complete.
    Thanks again and again.
    No more ruffled feathers for me - at least today [​IMG]

  8. ErinG

    ErinG Songster

    Sep 6, 2010
    Sounds like you already got some good advice. I just wanted to share that I have all three of those breeds along with 2 others and for the most part they all get along great. Our brahma gets picked on some, but that is because she is a banty, not because she is a brahma. I know it is all a lot to think about, and you want to give them a good home. You will get into the rhythm and realize it's not so scary. What a gift to give your children, enjoy your new chickens [​IMG]

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