Help - Unattended Chicken Coop design and build

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by jamarm02, Jan 18, 2011.

  1. jamarm02

    jamarm02 Hatching

    Jan 18, 2011
    I have been watching this post for several months and just decided to join. I have a unique situation. I have a second home in the catskill mountains of NY on 25 acres that has lots of deer and ticks. I also have 4 kids a dog and don't like ticks. I'm looking to build a coop to house a few Guinea and a few chickens (6 to 8 birds total). Sounds easy, until you realize I'm only at this house every 3 weeks or so. So these birds would need to be feed, and watered during that period that i will not be onsite and the wintes are cold. Now i am an animal lover and i do not wish the birds harm, and am doing some significant research before i do this. I have over the last two winters, done various experiments and i know that a) i can provide clean fresh water on a regular basis without the fear of it freezing, b)i can provide enough food for a 4-5 week period with sizable feeders, and i can also provide treats like 'scratch' on a daily basis. (i have worked on automating these aspects). For protecton, i am fencing the entire area including the top and I plan to free range only after i know that all the birds return home and i know they are safe. I have those electronic eyes to install, Barking dog sensors at night, and i can install a webcam to watch the inside and outside of the coop. Yes - this will be an expensive project, but i don't want ticks on my kids. i have even desiged the nest boxes to allow the eggs to roll out of the way.

    So how do i keep the coop clean, what type of floor do i use. Do I use sand, or the deep litter method, or just lineolium that i clean regularly or a wire mesh where the poop just drops about 8 feet below the coop. Do i put sand on lineolium, or litter on linolium or wood etc... How do i limit the maintenance.

    and i don't really want to hire someone to visit the birds daily.


  2. cabincrazyone

    cabincrazyone Songster

    Dec 26, 2010
    NE Minnesota
    I don't know if you can make it work being gone so much of the time.
    I must tell you I'm a newbie, so I'm not talking from experience. But I have a somewhat similar situation. I have a cabin 30 miles from home. I'd like very much to keep a small flock there. I can't be there more than three or four days a week during the summer. Nights are harder still. I've pretty much given up on making it work. Just my two cents.
  3. Sounds like a really expensive venture that may work but is not ideal. Are you going to keep watch over them from home on the cams? If one looks sick are you going to drive there to intervene. I don't think its fair to the birds as too much can go wrong. Happy chickens are well tended and cleaned more often than you could offer at this time.

    I'm sorry but I have no positive feedback for you no matter how much money you invest [​IMG]
  4. MikeyLikesIt

    MikeyLikesIt In the Brooder

    Oct 27, 2010
    This sounds like an interesting project.

    I would recommend the deep litter method in your coop especially if your property is wooded. I have lots of oaks on my property and have been using the leaves for deep litter for a while now. I add a few bags of leaves at the first hint of oder in the coop. My coop and pen have a nice earthy smell. When the poop looks like it's building up, I just dump some more leaves and let the chickens scratch it in. I get a nice new level layer of mulch and the chickens are entertained for hours. My chickens seem to love the leaf litter as much as I do... It is pretty much maintanence free.

    I guess you'll be using an auto door on the coop? Also, you WILL lose some birds to predators so I would keep a few extras and plan for replacements .
    Good luck and keep us posted!

  5. True Grit

    True Grit Songster

    I agree it's not ideal. What if a bird is injured or sick? Some friends of mine have a similar situation except their neighbor does the chores for them and collects the eggs. I don't think the birds will reliably prevent ticks from getting on the kids anyway.
  6. KazAnder Farms

    KazAnder Farms Chirping

    Jan 17, 2011
    Machias, WA
    Ok so how large is this coop or have you not yet built it? we have a sizable coop of of about 50' x 12'. It used to be space where you'd store cords of firewood. 2x4's and a little sheathing and presto! Were starting our flock over so we're at about 5 pullets and 2 cockerels. As you can imagine they don't exactly create that much poop in that large a space. We just scatter white shavings (about 2 bricks) over the coop and clean as needed. When we were more full (about 45 or so) I would shovel it out about once a month (3-4 weeks) before the odor got too strong; also the more time your birds spend outside foraging around the less time they will spend roosting generally.

    Keep in mind that what ever you do you'll have some poo build up no matter what you do. But i do like the wood shavings on linoleum setup, except if you have chicken poop sitting on the tiles it may reactivate the adhesive and render that useless, so probably just 1" plywood for your floor.

    The reason were starting over? among other factors we didn't have so much luck with the night eyes. a 7' fence fixed that problem.

    Good luck!
  7. crj

    crj Songster

    Dec 17, 2009
    Rocky Point, NC
    I know many people around here don't put there guineas in a coop. They basically live out and about. They do fine. I think it's the winter that could be a problem for you. Not much for them to eat but I'm sure they would find shelter. Could you take your birds home for the winter? The Catskills are gorgeous, I've spent some time up there as a kid. Do you know your neighbors? Maybe you can give your birds to them once a year during the winter months and maybe get new birds from them in the spring. Older birds that will lay. It could be something to think about.

    BTW, bad idea about tiles. Been there done that. Doesn't work. Laminate or linolium works.

  8. AlabamaChickenLady

    AlabamaChickenLady Songster

    Jan 4, 2011
    Oak Grove, Alabama
    Wow... [​IMG] I've never heard of something like this. I have friends that keep cows and horses on a small farm some 20 or so miles from their house, but they go over there to check on, and tend to the animals almost daily. It's so much more than just making sure they have water, food, and a place for them to sleep.

    Chickens are domesticated animals and need human interaction. If you only go out there every 3-4 weeks, they may turn wild on you and you might not be able to get anywhere near them, let alone be able to tend to any illness's or injurys. If this happens, you couldn't trust them around you kids at all. [​IMG]

    And what about the eggs? If they freeze and crack, they are no good, and would start to rot creating a stink. Eggs left unattended will definately lead to mice, rats, snakes or other creatures getting in there to have a feast. If small creatures can get to your eggs, they can get to your chickens & feed thru the hole that the eggs rolled thru. [​IMG]

    If you have a rooster, (which might help to protect the flock) they will be fertilized eggs and may actually hatch if the weather warms up or the place you are storing them is kept warm. A clever & broody hen may make a nest somewhere else in the coop and you could end up with baby chicks anyhow, which would cut your feed supply down. [​IMG]

    If you're going to free range with out anyone around to look after them and protect them, they are sitting ducks to a whole host of preditors. They may just end up leaving your place all together and end up at your neighbors place. I knew a lady that had 10 or so chickens just show up on her property and adopted her. She still has them.

    What your suggesting, IMO, is soooo not a good idea, no matter how much money you spend!! [​IMG]
  9. MamaChic21

    MamaChic21 Songster

    Dec 2, 2010
    Jackson, NJ
    if you are worried about ticks, the only thing you can do and it won't cost as much is to call lawn doctor or any other services that take care ticks.
    We have close to 5 acre of land and lots of deers that means lots of ticks. I also have dogs, I use front line and lawn doctor comes every few months and take care the ticks for us.
    My boys play outside, I still spray them and check them for ticks when going inside the house. My opinion, don't get animals for this purpose, the outcome may not please you.
  10. wolfandfinch

    wolfandfinch Songster

    Jan 5, 2011
    Vancouver BC
    I assume you don't want their eggs then? I'm wondering if they rot, or will the hens eventually just start eating them...

    So the main purpose is to control your tick population? Have you looked at these sites?

    I am ALL for natural methods for controlling pest populations, but not at the expense of another living creature. I personally can't see chickens being happy fed automatically and with no human interaction for 4-5 weeks at a time. Imagine if one died the day after you left - 5weeks living around the carcass of one of their cohort!

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