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Help with enclosed/secured run location

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by figit, Jan 23, 2017.

  1. figit

    figit New Egg

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    Hey everyone, my wife and I have dreamed of fresh eggs for a few years now and we think 2017 might be the big year for us to make it happen. We are in the poconos and our yard is basically a combination of rock that was cleared for the house foundation with a layer of topsoil plopped on. I've stitched together somewhat of a panorama of our backyard, sorry for it being kind of crude, haven't figured out how to do it properly on my phone.

    We've got a lot of trees, rock and our septic mound out back. We have tons of bear and some coyote. It would be cost prohibitive for us to clear and fence in the entire backyard so the current plan is to construct a 10' x 15' (or so) enclosed fenced space to house the coop and serve as a spacious run. We then plan to leverage electrical rope on the perimeter to thwart the curious bears.

    As you can see in the picture we have a little baby yard with grass and then it shifts to trees, stumps, rocks etc. Our current plan is to clear out that far left side. They'd have a nice amount of shade plus it wouldn't encroach too much on the rest of the backyard. The concern is that currently the ground is just very acidic claylike dirt and rock so we are unsure how to prep the area... Taking down the few small trees, rhododendron and clearing out the larger rocks isn't a concern but then what? The soil is just a mass of acidic clay. We do have a large landscaping place that can deliver extra compost, topsoil and gravel by the yard but were not sure what would be best.

    The other location we were considering is right up against the house as outlined on the right side. This would be killer because we could toss out scraps directly from the kitchen window and gathering would be very easy. We know that what is currently grass would soon be dirt but thats ok, we don't really care if we have nice grass or not. The only concern there is smell. Seeing as how it would be directly off the back patio space, do you think (assuming we leveraged the deep litter method and stayed on top of it) smell would be an issue?

    Any feedback on the above would be greatly appreciated, thanks in advance!!!

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2017
  2. Folly's place

    Folly's place Overrun With Chickens

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    Welcome! How many birds do you want to have? Do you have local regs about flock size? Roosters? Setbacks from lot lines? I started with a very few bantams from a neighbor, and now have 48 chickens! Plan ahead, and build as large as possible! Only electric fencing will keep out bears, and housing birds at the house isn't ideal. Having electricity at the coop is so much more user friendly, and carrying water to the coop gets old fast, especially in winter. That said, your best site might be off to the left, away from your patio. Deep litter is the best, IMO, unless you have three chickens and like to 'scoop poop' daily! Clear out the rhodies, and the chickens will take care of clearing the rest. A Woods coop would be terrific, or a garden shed type structure modified with big hardware cloth covered openings. Mary
     
  3. figit

    figit New Egg

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    Thanks a ton for the feedback @Folly's place ! We'd like to have around 7 or 8 birds, we are a family of 5 and currently go through nearly 3 dozen eggs a week. We'd eat more if we had them though. As for local regs, our HOA forbids livestock however I spoke to the head and she's said for the last 20 years they've simply turned a blind eye to it and let the bears address the problem :eek:) We have an empty lot on our left and a vacation a-frame on the right. Directly behind us is hundreds of acres of state game lands. Actually we are the only full-timers on our street so it's pretty private.

    On that left area, should we remove every rock or would they enjoy foraging around their edges? What is a woods coop?

    Thanks again!!!
     
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2017
  4. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    My Coop
    Welcome to BYC!

    Siting your coop has many aspects to consider...here's a few.

    Rocks will be more of a problem when building than for the birds.
    Think about winter access for tending them, and having power for heat keep water thawed....and snow load on coop and run roofs.
    Water runoff flow/drainage on site is very important too, wet equals big stink when it comes to chicken poop....watch what happens out there when it rains hard.
    In PA I believe bears are common, so hot wire is a definite consideration.

    Here's probably the best thread on Woods coop https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/445004/woods-style-house-in-the-winter

    The advanced search can save you lots of time:
    advanced search>titles only> woods coop

    Beware that the Woods concept is often misunderstood.
     
  5. figit

    figit New Egg

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    Thanks for the feedback! Bears are everywhere and our elevation is such that we get a lot of snow, more than anywhere else within a 100 mile radius. I hadn't considered drainage, the local landscaping place rented me a ditch witch to spread gravel on our driveway for $50/day and we've got a good bit of reserve gravel so maybe I'll rent it again and cut a french drain out there. Then again for the same cost I could probably just get cheap gutter and route it back behind the property where there is a fairly large natural dip. This is great, already I feel like our plan is evolving in a far better direction. I'm going to check out the woods coop resources now.

    On a side note, I've heard many times folks mentioning plan bigger than you anticipate your immediate needs being. We've been thinking that the entire enclosure would be around 10' x 15' but I'm starting to thing that we bring that out to maybe 25' long. We have snow on the ground for 4 months and while my wife and little one's are always outside when the weather is nice and would allow them to roam about, they will be confined to the above space for the majority of the time. Is it like a fish aquarium where the bigger the space is the easier it is to maintain and mitigate issues? Heck now I'm thinking maybe 10' x 30'.
     
  6. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    My Coop
    It sure is.
    When animals are crowded, chances of problems (health and behavioral) are increased.
    Especially in a snow belt, I live in one too, where the birds may not venture outside for days at a time.....
    .....unless you build a solid covered run with wind/snow blocking on walls.

    Good article here about space:
    https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/how-much-room-do-chickens-need
     
  7. Howard E

    Howard E Chillin' With My Peeps

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    If we are not careful, we are going to start sounding like the luggage salesman in Joe vs. the Volcano.........

    [​IMG]

    Anyway, so here are my observations and suggestions. For 3 dozen eggs per week, they should be thinking 10 to 12 birds and maybe as many as 15, depending on breeds. The sex links would get to it faster and produce the most. But that may also be in USDA zone 5 or colder, so severely cold weather in the range of -20F or so? That takes a special kind of bird or special kind of building. But at any rate, with 4 sf per bird, coop space of about 60 to 80 sf and that means something in the range of 6' x 10', 6' x 12, 8' x 8', 8' x 10', 8' x 12', etc. If the budget allows, bigger is better......to a point.

    As Aart mentions, in an area with high snow depths, birds won't go out much. So either the coop/house has to be sized large enough for them to stay in, or a covered run has to be offered. One that can be enclosed on the 3 sides not facing the winter sun. Those are pretty much the parameters to consider and what comes next is up to you.

    BTW, how deep does the snow get? How big of a deal is it going to be to either clear a path or dig your way out to it?

    Everyone should do what they think is best, so I can only tell you what I did.

    I have at least an acre (an acre is 43,560 sf or 208' square) to devote to my birds. That is the yard area they are allowed to run around in. The perimeter of that area is established by an electric fence, which creates a safe zone perimeter of protection for them. Obviously, that is too big of an area to be a run. In my view, runs are a relatively new concept to allow a low cost exterior area, and is often coupled with a much more expensive to build (so is made too small) coop that is inadequate to house the birds full time. Best place for them is in urban settings where birds must be kept confined to a small area.

    I looked at a coop/run combo and ruled against it. In my area and setting, a run would be exposed to harsh winter winds and would be largely unusable for weeks on end. So I built a Woods style coop that enables them to stay inside for weeks on end if that is the case. My is 8' x 12' and good for up to about 24 birds or so. I currently have 9. A Woods coop is essentially an elaborate run enclosed on three sides. It has the ability to be closed up or opened up, depending on conditions. In my case, that also includes predator protection from just about all comers. Your coop, whatever it turns out to be, will need to be predator proof. Offering a safe zone of protection from all comers. If that includes weasels, that means no holes larger than 1" and 1/2" would be better.

    Speaking of predators, most likely the OP has all manner of predators they probably don't even know exist. Bears and coyotes being just the tip of the iceberg. Once chickens show up, they will be coming out of the woodwork.......or in their case, the woods.

    So here are some thoughts on those. First off, the bears are a real concern. They may not be attracted to the chickens as much as they are to the chicken feed, but if they are around, they will be a problem. Electric fence is the best way to keep them at arm's length. This is one of the better videos I've seen on it:

    [​IMG]

    That may help keep them at arm's length out on the perimeter. After that, you need to decide how big of a playpen you want inside the fence. Again, a run, or a fenced yard? Any fenced yard, unless covered, brings on the threat of raptors......hawks, owls, eagles and such. So large areas with no cover need places for the birds to escape under. Think low shrubs and bushes or artificial barriers like livestock panels.

    Other predators, like coyotes, foxes, etc. can get past most wire fences, so those mostly keep birds in, but not predators out. Electric fences are needed for that too. Poultry netting works best, but those come in multiples of 80 feet. So 82' or 164' linear feet, so if you want to enclose a large area, you string many of those together. If you want a larger area than that, you can have pretty good success using low wire fences. The same fence charger will work for the bear fence and the other.

    Speaking of woods......even with electric fences, any overhead trees that canopy can provide a pathway for climbers like raccoons to climb over your fence. They go up one tree and come down another.

    So in short, where you are is a challenge.......both due to the weather and all the varmints that will come out of the woods to clean you out of birds.
     
  8. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    If I were to write an article on what to consider when building a coop (and I’m not) my first three paragraphs would cover location, location, and location. A wet coop and run are a danger from a disease and parasite viewpoint. A wet coop or run will probably stink. A wet muddy coop or run are just unpleasant to be in and can lead to dirty eggs.

    As Aart said, consider drainage. The worst possible location for a coop and run is a low spot where water collects and stands. It needs to be where water drains away from it instead of to it. Keeping water out to start with is a consideration. I’ll give a link to Pat’s article on fixing muddy runs. The best time to fix one is in the design phase.

    Pat’s Big Ol' Mud Page (fixing muddy runs):
    https://www.backyardchickens.com/web/viewblog.php?id=1642-fix-a-muddy-run

    My fourth paragraph would probably be on your comfort and convenience. Keeping chickens doesn’t have to be hard but you can sure make it that way. I wrote that article Aart linked about “space”. If you read through it, most of that stuff is more about you than the chickens. I find the tighter I squeeze them (and I do sometimes) the more behavioral problems I have to deal with, the less flexibility I have to deal with any issue, and the harder I have to work. That’s about you, not the chickens. It’s like those rocks. They won’t bother the chickens in the least but can you manage them without hurting yourself? To me, that’s an important consideration.

    Chicken math is a term used on here a lot. It’s really easy for the numbers of chickens to increase tremendously. Some people get a few and love them so much they just have to get more. If you are ordering them or picking them up at your local feed store they are so cute and tiny I’ll just get a few more. If you hatch your own, whether with an incubator or with a broody hen, it’s real easy to set a lot of eggs. For some people hatching can be addictive. A lot of this requires self-control. The numbers won’t get out of control unless you let them.

    I’m a firm believer in providing as much room as you reasonably can. The bigger you build the less your stress levels when dealing with the chickens. But costs go up as the size goes up. The bigger the run the harder it is to make it predator proof. The longer fence you have the more opportunities for something to find a way under, over, or through. The key thought is reasonable.

    When deciding on a size, consider your building materials. If you are reusing something, that’s one thing. But if you are buying new, most building materials come in 4’ or 8’ dimensions. If you take those dimensions into consideration, you can often reduce your cutting and waste quite a bit. Depending on your type of fencing, say a post and wire system, you have a lot more flexibility in that, an extra post or two may help you use up more of that wire on the roll.

    This is personal preference, but one feature I really like on a coop is an overhang. On a single sloped roof if you have overhang on both high and low sides you can leave a gap, covered with hardware cloth for predators, so you get good ventilation up high without snow or rain blowing in. That can mess up your 4’ and 8’ dimensions to get that overhang. Just take the slope of the roof into consideration when looking at your building materials and dimensions. You do want a sloped roof. Water sets on a flat roof and either leaks or rusts or rots the roof.

    To further what Aart said about the Woods coop often being misunderstood. The Woods coop is a great design if you determine it meets your requirements. But follow the design carefully. It’s designed to create a certain airflow. If you don’t honor the dimensions or at least proportions you can mess up that designed air flow. If you create other openings somewhere else, you can mess up that air flow. It’s an engineered building. If you don’t follow that engineering you can mess up the air flow.

    It’s really hard to average a set number of eggs every day. Each chicken is an individual and might lay well or pretty poorly regardless of breed. You have to have enough for averages to mean much. Production breeds or types tend to lay better than decorative breeds. Some pullets start laying as young as 16 weeks, though very few actually start that young for me. I’ve had some that did not lay their first egg until 9 months. Time of year can have a big effect on some chickens, not so much on others. A broody hen does not lay eggs, some individual hens go broody a lot, some never. Normally a hen goes through a certain laying cycle. When they first start, either a pullet for her first time or a hen resuming after a molt, they normally lay pretty well but after a certain point the longer they lay the more production drops off. The older a hen gets the more her production drops off after a molt. When they molt they generally don’t lay again until the molt is over. Some might resume laying in the middle of winter when the molt finishes, but some might wait until the longer days and warmer weather of spring.

    Commercial operations manage all this by tightly controlling lighting, feed, genetics of the chickens they use, and flock rotation. We don’t do all that. I can’t argue with Howard’s numbers of how many hens you’ll need, he gave a pretty good range anyway. There will be times your flock provides a lot of eggs, there will be times the number of eggs will sharply decline. That’s just the nature of backyard chickens.

    Good luck!
     
    1 person likes this.
  9. figit

    figit New Egg

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    Thanks a ton everyone, this is extremely helpful. To answer a few of the questions I've pulled them out below:

    1. How cold does it get? Last year we hit a low of -10°. Record low is -22°. That said, the rhodies around us reach 15' tall and provide a nice break in the wind in the back. Here is a google sat image of our place, they are so dense that at any time of year (they hold their leaves) we cannot see a single smidge of the house next to us. As mentioned above the rear goes back forever and the lot next to us has sat for 15 years. My wife and I had toyed with the idea of eventually buying it and plopping down a little log home for retirement while renting out our current house but who knows.

    [​IMG]

    2. How deep does the snow get? We moved in during one of the worst winters in recent history and I recall the snow being at least 24". I do have a nice snow blower with large knobby tires that would clear a 36" path fairly quickly assuming the rocks were cleared for egg collection. The snow comes in large spurts, oftentimes a few weeks will separate snowfalls. Last winter I cleared the driveway only twice because typically within 72 hours after a snowfall the day time temps would be such that it would melt down to less than 1" of slosh.

    I'm about 1/2 through the woods coop post and have bookmarked the digital version of the book "Open-air Poultry Houses for All Climates". I'll most certainly read it. I like the idea of the woods coop from a practicality standpoint but also from a security standpoint. We have a lot of hawks, falcon, raccoon, owls and fox as well. If it were big enough I wouldn't feel bad about keeping them in there most of the winter, running electric fencing gets problematic to maintain with deep snow and to your point above, I'd rather not create more work for us. Once spring hit, we'd let them out and tackle securing a perimeter during the day with a combination of wire fence and a solar powered portable style electric fence. Maybe as a general rule we take down any tree that overhangs the designated forage/fenced area.

    We'd be building from scratch with a budget of around 3k for materials. My wife and I are unsure if this will be our retirement home so I was kicking around the idea of picking up an old 8x12 or 8x15 trailer to use as a foundation to build on. It looks like one can be had for around $700 on craigslist, possibly cheaper given more time to hunt.
     
  10. Folly's place

    Folly's place Overrun With Chickens

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    Love that you are doing all this planning ahead of time! Mary
     

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