HELP building first coop (first time chook owners!) Ventilation/Space/Temperature management!

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by CCsChickens, Dec 6, 2014.

  1. CCsChickens

    CCsChickens In the Brooder

    Nov 22, 2014
    Hi all,

    Just looking for some advice on building my chicken coop. We've never had chickens before but Dad works in refitting and is confident in building structures etc. like coops!!

    Just wondering how much space would we need for 6 chickens area wise per chook? (3 ISAS, 3 Australorps all full sized). Also how much area per chicken is considered to be 'free ranged' ? I would like to build a coop AND run that is large enough so that they can walk up to their nesting boxes/beds and yet still have enough area ground floor wise in the run that we don't have to let them out/add on an extension run.

    What are people's views/experiences on putting mesh/chicken wire on the floor of the coop? I know the benefits are that of rats, snakes, dogs etc. prevention but is it crucial for any other reasons?

    Also my chickens struggle with their CRD which seems to be triggered easily on hotter days (I know most chickens would get a bit hot but mine do so dangerously!) so any hints on how to keep the boxes/perch sleeping area of the cooks at a steady temperature so that in summer they wont boil but they also wont freeze in winter?
    Tips for summer and tips for winter?

    How often do you clean out your coop? Do you have a grass bottom or put straw or sand or just leave it how it is? Also do the chickens need to be locked in (closed little door) to their nesting boxes and beds? Or can I just leave it open for them to go in and out as they choose?

    What are some of the most vital aspects of a chicken coop to get right?

    Sorry for so many questions but I'd like to be able to do this the best I can as it is for a school research project! We have had a look at buying chicken coops but cant really find one big enough for 6 that doesn't require an extra run and most don't have a large amount of space (I would like to give them large space to roam around!)

    Any other tips/hints for chicken coops would be helpful! Also I'd love to see some homemade coop photos if people would like to post!
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2014
  2. Percheron chick

    Percheron chick Crowing

    Apr 12, 2013
    Boulder, Colorado
    I would never consider building a chicken area without letting them have access to the outside. Your flock will the healthier and not have the behavioral issues a confined chicken can have. It's not much of a life living inside. A free range chicken is one that is allowed to just wander around your property, scratching and pecking to their heart's content. You are talking more about a cage free set up.

    The basic recommendation for the coop alone is 4 sq st per bird. The run space would be an additional 10 sq st per bird. By that formula, your coop would be 24 sq st and your run 60. If you combined the numbers and made one structure, that would be 84 sq ft. That's only 8x10. Because heat is a major issue, you really don't need a traditional coop. Something open on 2 or 3 sides will be cooler and healthier for them. (it always helps to state your location so we can offer more concise advice) Heat will kill more chickens than cold. Building in windows that can be opened and closed will help air flow in the summer.

    Grass will not hold up inside a coop or run. Chickens are hard on it and it will be bare within a week. Chickens like to keep busy and that involves scratching and pecking everything in their enclosure. It is a good practice to lock your chickens in the coop at night as coops are usually more secure than the run. Just to be clear, nesting boxes are not chicken beds. They are laying boxes and you should discourage your chickens from sleeping in them. They need adequate perch space at a comfortable height preferably higher than the nesting boxes to sleep on. They want to go higher because they are safer.
    1 person likes this.
  3. CCsChickens

    CCsChickens In the Brooder

    Nov 22, 2014
    Sorry I forgot to add that I was thinking of the coop + run together! But yes I fully agree its not much of a life for the poor chickies! I live in South Australia, so the temperature sits usually around the mid twenties (Celsius) but drops to the tens and below in winter and thirty plus in summer.
    Thanks for the tip on the perches and nesting boxes otherwise I wouldn't have known :) I do plan on letting them roam the backyard when I'm home to give them something else to do... would 3 long perches suffice for my 6 chickens? As I assume one would probably be naughty and prefer the nesting box... also what materials would you recommend to build the coop out of?

    As this is for my project would you be okay if I quoted you on some of your advice? Also what is your experience with owning chickens as well as making coops? Thanks so much for the help! [​IMG]
  4. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    35 C = 95 F
    5 C = 41 F

    Cold is not your enemy, heat is. I’ve seen chickens sleep outside in a tree in weather below zero Fahrenheit, (- 18 C). As long as they are not in a direct wind they do fine. Your temperatures don’t even get below freezing. Cold is not your enemy. At 5 C they will be very comfortable.

    That heat can kill them. Chickens don’t sweat like we do. They get rid of excess heat by breathing (panting) and the blood gets close to the surface of the comb and wattles so they lose a lot of heat like that. In the heat their feathers are not as thick as they are in colder weather so they don’t have as much insulation from feathers as cold weather birds.

    What you need in a coop depends some on your management techniques, but in general all you need is nests, roosts, protection from predators, and protection for the environment. For your six hens, two nests will be plenty. The minimum recommended size is 30 cm x 30 cm but I personally like them to be a bit bigger, say 40 cm x 40 cm. My hens like to lay together, sometimes three are on the nest at the same time, even if empty nests are available. The extra room makes them a lot more comfortable. Also my hens hatch eggs. The larger nests have some benefits for that.

    Chickens like to roost as high as they can so it is important the roosts be higher than anything you don’t want them to roost on or in. Since they poop a lot at night, you don’t want them pooping in the nests. The way I determine roost height is to determine the height of the floor including any bedding, then determine where my nests go, then make the roosts about 30 cm higher. That should be enough height that they prefer the roosts. Don’t make the roosts any higher than you need to. While your hens should have no problem flying up to a roost over two meters high, the higher the roosts the more clear space they need to land without hitting something on the way down and the more room they need to spread their wings and fly up. Also some chickens can be brutes and bullies on the roosts. Sometimes this bullying is so bad that the chickens being bullied seek out a safe place to spend the night. That can be your nests. So be generous in your roost space. Instead of thinking about a certain length per chicken, think more of giving them enough room to get away from a bully if they need to. With your six hens all the same age that should not be a big problem but I’m a believer in providing extra space.

    All of us have different predator pressure. I don’t know what your highest risk comes from, quite likely dogs, either wild or someone’s pets. Chickens are prey animals so many different animals enjoy eating chicken. Some will eat the eggs too. While chickens are at risk from predators any time, day or night, they are more at risk at night. Some predators are more active at night when you are asleep and there is no human activity to frighten them away. Chickens are pretty helpless in the dark so they make easy prey. I use a strategy of keeping them somewhat safe during the day but locking them in a very secure coop at night. Others use different strategies with varying levels of success.

    I don’t know how much rain you get but you don’t have a lot of environment to protect them from. A wet coop and run is a dangerous coop or run. With all the chicken poop mixed in the floor or ground, a wet coop or run is a breeding ground for disease. There are two basic concepts to having a dry area, keep the water out to start with or dry it out if it gets wet. Locate them in high spots or where the water drains away from. Don’t put them in a low spot that collects water. Slope roofs or use gutters and downspouts so water runs away from the coop and run, not into them. Maybe use swells or berms to divert runoff away from them. Some of that depends on the lay of the land. Don’t use waterers that wet the ground.

    When the weather sets in wet it can be really difficult to keep water out. One way to get the coop or run dry is to position them so the water has some place to drain to. It helps if you have a sandy soil instead of a clay soil also but unless you haul in a lot of sand that will depend on luck. Lots of ventilation will allow them to dry out also.

    If I were building a coop in your climate, I’d go open air. Lots of ventilation. Cover it with a roof to protect from rain falling straight down into it. Have some overhang on that roof but make one wall out of wire to get maximum ventilation. On one end, hopefully the end that the worst of the wind and rain normally comes from, create a protected dry area for the roosts. Make the coop fairly tall so you can walk in there and block off that end and a small portion of the two side walls to create a rain/wind protected area. Take that wall all the way to the ground but leave the top open above the roosts for extra ventilation. Feed and nests need to be dry but positioned so the chickens don’t poop in them from the roosts. With the tops of those three walls open and the one wall totally open the coop will get good ventilation and your chickens will be protected from windstorms.

    They also need shade. They need to be able to get out of the sun. That’s another reason for the roof, but sunlight does not always come straight down. They need some walls on the side to give them good shade.

    I’d make the floor out of dirt. If you use bedding rain will blow in and wet it and bedding will hold that moisture. With good ventilation it will dry out even if it is made of bedding, and it helps to rake the floor or scatter some food treats on it so the chickens will rake it for you with their scratching, but a dirt floor, hopefully a sandy floor, will dry out fairly fast. Just make sure the water has some place to drain to instead of collecting in a low spot.

    How much space do you need? You can follow the link in my signature to get my thoughts but the four square feet per hen in the coop plus ten in the run should fit your situation fairly well. The tighter I crowd them the more behavioral problems you ae likely to see, the less flexibility you have in dealing with problems, and the harder you have to work so I believe in providing plenty of room, but room can get expensive. Here, most building materials come in 4 foot or 8 foot dimensions. You can usually build a coop with these dimensions for no more expense and with less cutting and waste if you plan around the dimensions of your materials.

    If you build an elevated coop with the floor up off the ground, you can use a wire floor. That would help with ventilation and would keep the floor dry, but you need access to clean the pop out from under that wire. Also chicken poop can be fairly large and a consistency that it will not go through the wire. You’d need some fairly large holes in that wire so the poop goes on through. Also not all wire is created equal. Some wire has sharp points at the welds or if it is galvanized, from the galvanizing. Those sharp points can be hard on a chicken’s feet. If you can find plastic coated wire of the right size you can avoid that problem.

    I don’t like to put wire under a coop or run on the ground. It can be hard on their feet when they scratch, plus it tends to rust when scratched. To protect against digging predators, I suggest you use and apron. Take a 45 cm strip of wire and lay it flat on the ground outside your coop or run. Attach it to the bottom of the coop or run. Depending on the wire you can use J-clips, hog rings, or just tie it with wire. You don’t have to bury it but if you remove about 2” of sod and bury it that deep by putting the sod back on top, it is held down and is out of the way of lawn mowers and wed eaters.

    For your research go to the Learning Center at the top of this page. There are all kinds of articles in there that can help plus many coop designs. There are several threads at the top of this section (the stickies) that can help.

    I also suggest you read this article. The best time to fix a muddy run is when you are designing it.

    Pat’s Big Ol' Mud Page (fixing muddy runs):

    You are polite, asking if you can quote people. You certainly have my permission plus I don’t see any problems quoting any of the articles here as long as you properly bookmark them. This is a public forum and Nifty, the owner, likes all the publicity he can get.
    1 person likes this.
  5. CCsChickens

    CCsChickens In the Brooder

    Nov 22, 2014
    Thank you so much that answers all my questions on coops!! I do feel bad for my girls at the moment in their makeshift chicken wire and umbrella assembly but we're flying home tomorrow so the coop making shall start then! :)

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