Is my run really my coop? (so 5 hens are ok?) PICTURE HEAVY

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Carolyn252, Nov 22, 2010.

  1. Carolyn252

    Carolyn252 Mother of Chickens

    The question is: Can I comfortably keep five standard-size hens in this setup?

    My run is 15 X 9 feet. It's predator proof, heavy gauge welded wire mesh on all four sides and on top as well. Sides go down eight inches underground and then go out horizontally from there for another two feet out from the walls. Smaller mesh, lighter gauge wire is overlaid on the walls' bottom three feet all around, to protect against raccoons reaching inside.

    Above the wire mesh ceiling are several wood beams. On top of the beams are clear plastic corrugated roof panels to keep out the rain and the snow. Those panels are held above the wire mesh ceiling about five inches in the front of the run, and because the beams are smaller towards the back of the run, the roof panels lie slanted so that rain runs off to the back of the run.

    For the winter, we keep heavy gauge clear plastic shower curtains screwed into the walls studs. So the entire run is windproof. The entire setup is very well ventilated because the roof panels are raised well up off the ceiling by those beams and so the ceiling is really entirely open to fresh air all the time.

    The coop is a freestanding Little Tikes plastic playhouse with a chicken door that is always open. Always. The floor of the coop and the floor of the run are covered with pine shavings about six inches deep, over the bare earth beneath. Plenty of diatomaceous earth (food grade) raked into the shavings both in the run and in the playhouse. Deep Litter method works GREAT. NEVER any smells.

    The playhouse has a three foot long roosting board along one side, with the nest box added onto the other side of the playhouse. When we assembled the pieces of the playhouse, we deliberately misaligned the two roof pieces to leave a four-inch wide gap all along the peak of the roof. That makes for excellent ventilation. We installed a large glass picture window on the back of the playhouse.

    The food and water bowls are outside of the playhouse, in the run. Plus there's always a nippled gallon bottle of water hanging outside in the run.

    I have two standard size hens and want to get three more now. The playhouse is about 3.5 feet by 4 feet. My question is this: since the run is entirely enclosed, and is rain-proof, and wind proof, and the chickens are inside the playhouse coop ONLY when they are up on the roost board sleeping or in the nest box for laying an egg, can't I calculate the size of the run to figure out how many hens I can keep? I'll add another roosting board, on a right angle to the existing one, so the two boards will be at the same height off the floor. No fighting to sleep higher than the other hens. The internal floor space of the playhouse is about 14 square feet. Dividing that by the usual allotment of 4 sf per bird, equals 3.5 birds. So that means four birds at most. BUT, the internal floor space of the run is 135 sf. Dividing that by 4 sf per bird, equals 33 birds !!! I'll never keep more than five hens. More than five will result in too many eggs for us to eat, store, gift, etc. Well....maybe one more than five will be ok. [​IMG]

    So I THINK I can keep 5 or even 6 birds with this setup. What do you all think???????

    [​IMG]Overall view of the ChickArena run. Plastic shower curtains lining the walls inside as winter wind protection.


    [​IMG]Food and water bowls. I wash down the outside of the coop once a week; needs it done again.



    [​IMG]You can see the chicken door at the bottom below the picture window. Black hook in foreground is for hanging one more nippled waterbottle. I only use it when we go out of town for three or four days and I want to be sure that they don't run out of water.

    [​IMG]View from the front door of the playhouse. You can see the nest box on the right, bit of the roosting board on the left. Boardwalk bridge from nestbox to roost board. Small always-open chicken door on the back bottom wall.

    [​IMG]Lots of black and white feathers in the floor's shavings cause they're both finishing their molt now. Good view of the roost boards.

    [​IMG]You can see the playhouse roof gapped for ventilation. Also can see the picture window on the back of the house.

    [​IMG] Front of the playhouse coop. You can see one of the nippled water bottles hanging outside.

    [​IMG] Nest box door dropped so you can see inside.
  2. Arcnadius

    Arcnadius Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 1, 2010
    Western WI
    I'm a newbie, but I LOVE it! You are sooo creative with your space!

    ETA: The bigger issue is probably the roost space. I think it's supposed to be about 12" per bird. Floor space sounds good for 5 birds.
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2010
  3. mulewagon

    mulewagon Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 13, 2010
    That's absolutely precious! Here's some more hens that have a nicer house than I do [​IMG]

    It all sounds exceedingly secure and weather-proof. If you need more roost space, I'd put a roost out in the run and let some of them sleep there.
  4. LynneP

    LynneP Chillin' With My Peeps

    Do you ever get 'honking big wet snow load'? We keep a roof rake handy to clear our run covering at times like that. I'm assuming your winter coverings will withstand a winter hurricane? You ask tough questions and it's clear that you care about your chickens. Is the playhouse secured deep into the ground with posts/concrete? I see your layena out in the open, do you move it into water/rodentproof drums? I ask because our climate is similar to yours and we had to build like Ft. Knox. Since 2003 we have had 3 major hurricanes, two tropical storms and winter snow load that makes solid buildings groan. As for size, I think you can manage 5-6 easily. [​IMG]
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2010
  5. Moabite

    Moabite Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 24, 2010
    No problem! I got 6 standards in a 8 x 6 run and have had no problems. Love your set up!
  6. cherylcohen

    cherylcohen The Omelet Ranch

    Sep 18, 2009
    SF East Bay CA
    You should be fine, and as long as they have new distractions occasionally...treats, moving branches around etc they should be happy happy happy!
  7. cmom

    cmom Hilltop Farm

    Nov 18, 2007
    My Coop
    Looks to me like you have everything under control and should be fine. I have many times 6 to 8 birds using a nest box which is smaller than yours. I started out with 6 with about the same space.
  8. sotelomary

    sotelomary Chillin' With My Peeps

    I say you have plenty of space. Your setup looks beautiful. You should be very proud of yourselves for a job well done. I have the playhouse coop which is recommended for 5 chickens. I noticed that at night they all squish together and were only using about half of the roosting bar. So I said, what the heck, I'm getting one more! Mine also have a hugh run where they are from sunup to dusk.

  9. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Space-wise, sure [​IMG]

    I would suggest going out there with a roof-rake when you get a big dump of heavy wet snow, though, as that is QUITE the low-pitch roof and especially if that's pvc rather than polycarbonate it certainly *could* be broken down by a big nor'easter's worth of snow.

    The main thing is that you will have to keep a very close eye on the HUMIDITY (condensation, frost) in there. I know you feel the spaces up at the two sides, between top of wall and roofing, should be adequate... but I will betcha they're not. It'd be different if this were a coop with a floor. But on ground, with the whole thing prone to overheat during sunny winter days (another thing to be careful about btw) and pull moisture constantly out of the ground (which is a near-inexhaustible supply of moisture)... in real life, that type setup tends to quickly become a condensation chamber. And thereby give you frostbitten chickens.

    So if you start seeing condensation or frost on the inside of the plastic to any heavy or persistant degree, I think you should *really* think about removing some of that plastic. Half of one long side being open is usually plenty; you may be able to get away with less in some circumstances.

    Also, just checking, there *is* hardwarecloth or 1x1 welded wire mesh covering those end 'vents', yes? Because raccoons and possums can certainly get up there with ease.

    Good luck, have fun,

  10. pawprint2104

    pawprint2104 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 21, 2010
    SF Bay Area
    I love the re-purposing of the child's playhouse into chicken coop! Currently, mine are free ranging, but will soon enter a confined space to prevent them from decimating my yard. I'm learning a lot from this thread. And, I love your coop and chicken run! Very creative and pretty.

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