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Is there such a thing as to big?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by BYC60586, Mar 17, 2017.

  1. BYC60586

    BYC60586 Out Of The Brooder

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    And I thought getting chickens was easy.

    A little background, I live in Illinois so we get a good mix of all four seasons. I am planing on building a elevated coop with a gable roof and leaving the eaves open and a ridge vent for passive ventilation. There will be windows that open for warm/hot weather venting. I plan on insulating the walls and floor. I have two spots where I would like the coop, my optimal sight will not make it possible for electrical in the coop.

    My city has no restrictions on coop size(I am limiting it to 4x8 max) but they do limit you to 10 birds (no roosters).

    So here is the dilema. All you guys talk about this "Chicken Math" so I want to plan accordingly.

    My plan was to get 4 birds and build a 6x4 coop with 5ft high walls. The coop would have 2 nesting boxes and I could do a 4x18 run with 3ft high walls. 6 ft of the run would be under the coop. How many birds would this support?

    If I were to change to a 4x8 coop so I have room to grow the flock if I start out with the same 4 birds will they produce enough heat for the winter months or would I need to supplement heat because of the larger coop?

    Im leaning to building the 4x8 if the birds can support themselves heat wise, and I really want to start with 4 birds. How many can the 4x8 coop support.

    Thanks in advance for any feed back. Also looking for feedback on overall coop design if something Ive said wont work let me know. Like II said I want to do it righr rhe first time.
     
  2. tmarsh83

    tmarsh83 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I would go with the 4x8 if no other reason than most lumber is going to come no shorter than 8' lengths anyway. Cost to construct is going to nearly the same, but you'll have more waste from your materials building to the 6' dimension.

    The one thing I've come to value more than anything is chicken keeping is flexibility. The more space you have, the more flexible you can be. I say build the bigger coop.

    As long as you have ventilation the birds are fine without heat. They'll huddle if they need to, but I rarely see that here, in my uninsulated coop, and I'm just a couple hours east of you.

    If your optimal location doesn't allow for power to be run, that pretty much answers it. Avoid drafts, try to get as much sun to the coop and the birds for passive heating in the winter, and all will be well.

    Good luck.
     
  3. JackE

    JackE Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Build the biggest coop you can. If it's 4X8', 32 sq ft, build it. With the recommended 4 sq ft per bird rule, the coop would be good for 8 standard hens. You want that space for the birds, because in the winter, with snow on the ground, they may spend a lot more time in the coop, and they are going to need the room. When crowded, they can get kinda crabby, and start to pick at each other. As to the run, it's generally recommended to have 10 sq ft per bird in the run. If the chickens are going under the coop, make sure YOU can get under there if you have to.

    Don't bother with insulation, it is a waste of time and money. Chickens already come with perfect insulation of their own, and don't need any help from us. Unless you have some kind of exotic, thinly feathered breed of chicken, they are totally fine in cold weather, and no added heat is necessary, at all. Worry more about proper ventilation, and that goes for winter too. Don't close up the coop, with some mistaken idea, to trap the heat. Chickens put out mass amounts of moisture, just by breathing(And we are not even talking about the ammonia from their waste). You don't have proper ventilation/fresh air flow, you will have problems. The moisture will cause frostbite, and probable respiratory problems.

    How far from your house is the coop going to be? You will have to do something to ensure they have fresh un-frozen water through the winter. For a couple of yrs, before i ran power out to the coop. I hooked up two 100' extension cords to power up the coop's cookie tin water fount warmer(Look this up, works great, and cheap). They have to have water.
     
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2017
    1 person likes this.
  4. BYC60586

    BYC60586 Out Of The Brooder

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    Mar 15, 2017
    Plainfield, Illiinois
    Tmarsh&Jack,

    Thank you for the replies. My main concern was the birds keeping warm in rhe larger coop without heat you guys answered that for me so 4x8 it is. So Im clear the 4x8 coop will support max 8 birds and those 8 birds should have minimum 80 sqft of outdoor space.

    As for the run under the coop it will be 2ft high and I will have access to it. As for electric for keeping aater thawed, if I build in my preferred location the coop will be about 50 ft from my workshop so elwctric isnt impossible juzt more work. Secondary location the back wall of the coop would be about 2ft from the workshop so electrical much easier. Really dont want ro use extention cords because for some reason when you leave one on the ground the rabvits around here eat them up.

    Thanks again for the replies they are helping at me getting closer to being a chicken owner.
     
  5. tmarsh83

    tmarsh83 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    That 4/10 rule is commonly used around here, and I think it is a good "pirate code." In that it isn't so much a rule, as a guideline.

    I free range my birds. I have a lockdown run, but my goal is to use it as rarely as possible. Because my birds are rarely confined to the coop and run, let alone just the coop (they can always use the run), I cheat a little on my target for the coop.

    My max for my coop I have set at 20 birds. It's 64 sq feet. So 3.2 per bird. The run allows 12 sq ft at capacity, with a 240 sq ft area.

    Personally, if I were keeping birds coop/run all the time, I wouldn't go below the 4 sq ft rule, and would want as much as i could possibly accomplish, and hopefully not less than 15 sq ft per bird.

    But a lot of that is a personal management decision. Again, for me, it comes back to flexibility.
     
  6. JackE

    JackE Chillin' With My Peeps

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    North Eastern Md.
    Yes, it is a guideline. You want to have all the room you can get. Like I said, I get any measurable snow on the ground, my birds choose to stay in. Sometimes for weeks at a time. The door is open, but they won't come out. And I'm glad to have a roomy coop for them to hang out in. Because if they are crowded, it can get ugly.
     
  7. BYC60586

    BYC60586 Out Of The Brooder

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    Mar 15, 2017
    Plainfield, Illiinois
    Tmarsh,

    Thanks for the clarity on sizing. I have plenty of room for coop and run it is me limiting the coop to 4x8 max. As for the run I can go bigger without a doubt but at some point I would like the chickens to be able to roam the back yard when someone is home. My concern is predators. We have many hawks in the area. Ive read that roosters help warn the hens of danger, how will the hens fare without a rooster?
     
  8. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    Personally I’d raise the run walls high enough so you can walk in there comfortably. That’s for your convenience. The chickens won’t care and raising the walls higher will not increase chicken capacity, it’s purely for you. There will be times you will want to get in the run. It’s a lot easier if you can walk instead of crawl in chicken manure.

    Flexibility! Did I hear someone say flexibility? You can’t understand how strongly I agree with that. Added flexibility is a great way to keep your stress levels down.

    You might follow the link in my signature for my thoughts on space for chickens. The 4 and 10 guidelines aren’t all that bad for a flock of all mature hens in suburbia. But if you start integrating younger chickens or allow a broody hen to raise chicks with the flock, you really need more space.

    It’s not a case of 3.99 square feet per chicken and you are guaranteed disaster but 4.01 square feet it becomes paradise. It’s a matter of degrees. I find the more I crowd them (and I sometimes do) the more likely I am to have to deal with behavior problems, the harder I have to work, and yes, the less flexibility I have to deal with any issues. If you notice this is more about you than the chickens. You can make a lot of things work, but I don’t like to make my life any harder than it has to be.

    There is no rule that says you have to shoehorn as many chickens as possible in your coop. That’s up to you. Hen’s egg laying decreases as they age. At some point it’s quite possible you will want to add more to increase egg laying. If you can force yourself to limit your flock to your initial four, you have some flexibility in adding chickens later.
     
  9. tmarsh83

    tmarsh83 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    First, let me echo RR in his suggestion to raise the coop walls to walk in. If at all possible, I recommend it. My first coop was a small stilted one, and it's fine, but a shed type makes life so much easier. I'm pedantic, with a touch of OCD, i want chicken stuff, in the chicken coop. If you have the space to pull it off, you won't regret it.

    I'm surrounded by ag and forest. The forest is a ways away, so hawks have been my biggest concern. I had an owl snag two chicks from the run at about 10 weeks, because they didn't return to the coop on a night i was out later than expected. At that time i didn't have the netting on the run that i do now. I've yet to lose a bird free ranging. I do have a rooster. I've seen him sound the alarm, and gather the girls under a large pine tree in our yard. The hawk perched in the pine for a half hour while he kept sounding the alarm when the girls moved towards the edge of cover. He's not a perfect roo. I would never hatch eggs from him (he's a cochin, no help for meat or eggs) but as a "first roo", he was a good learner, and aside from having trouble with the old boss hen, he's been pretty solid. They can help. They can be a nightmare, but a good roo is invaluable to a flock, especially when free ranging.
     
  10. ChickenMammX4

    ChickenMammX4 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    To answer your question about the ability for chickens to keep warm in a "too-big" coop.... in my experience, not a problem. We have 6 chickens, the actual shed is 8' x 18'. Half is used by the chickens, the other half (divided by fencing) is used for storage. There is a large vent near the ceiling and the south window is open year around (we close the north window during winter). The popdoor is also open during the day year around. Those fluffy down coats keep them warm. As long as the chickens have a dry, draft-free area, they can take pretty low temps.
     

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