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Is This First Timer on the Right Track?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by HandyDan, Jan 2, 2012.

  1. HandyDan

    HandyDan New Egg

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    Dear fellow chicken lovers,

    Hello! So glad to have found this most informative website! For years I've wanted to keep my own flock and now I finally have my own place. I want chickens for eggs and meat. Been doing tons of research for a long time and now feel comfortable enough to dive in and start building my coop. Just need some of the finer points ironed out before I start.

    Originally I wanted to build a big tractor to wheel around my gardens but as of late I decided it would probably suit my needs better if I had a real coop. I have a wide open sunny spot about an acre in size that's going to be my fruit and nut orchard. It will be fenced in to keep my goats and other animals out but I want the chickens to free range there. I feel it would be a lot easier to give them full run of the area than to pull the tractor around every day. I don't have a huge need to keep them penned up all the time in a tractor anyways because there is little chance of them straying off my property and we also don't have a huge predator problem around here either. I also want to keep 20 or 30 birds so I'll have extra eggs to sell. I've got a few orders already. So, I've all but decided on buying a used shed and converting it to a coop with an attached run for when I want them penned up. I found a good deal on a 10x20 dog pen for that. I was going to post an image here of the shed I'm interested in buying but BYC won't let me. Anyways it's a high gable barn style 10 x 10.

    I'd like to go this route because I want something that will be pleasing to look at, be built to last and be convenient for my family to deal with. I would consider going cheaper and building from scratch with reclaimed pallets or something but I don't have the time with my work schedule. This is something I can put together with minimal work that still fulfills my needs. The wife and kids are really excited to start collecting eggs and have some fun.

    I live in Florida. This is the "Sunshine State". It's hot and humid. The location I'm leaning towards for it's placement gets morning and afternoon sun but after midday will be nearly completely shaded. I figured that would be better than the opposite since it's usually cooler in the mornings. I also wanted the run to get sunlight so grass would grow in there. Will the chickens reduce it all to mud anyways? If so I guess I could put the whole thing in another spot that's completely shaded under trees but I liked the idea of it being more in the open so I could grow plants in and around the run that the chickens could nibble on and I felt it would be safer from predators lurking in the woods (although we don't seem to have too many). But just in case I am going to put down hardware cloth along the perimeter and cover the top of the run completely. We do have buzzards and hawks. I want to put a cupola on top and windows on all sides for ventilation. Do you think that would provide enough air movement in our climate? I've noticed most people down here have open air type coops. That may just be in greater part because it's cheaper to do it that way. Is it usually just the cold weather that motivates people to use the shed/barn style? I'm worried it still may be too hot even if I put windows on all sides.

    For my nesting boxes I'll build them into the two side walls accessible from the outside of course. Say five on one side and another dummy set on the other side for storage that could be turned into more nests if needed. I'm thinking of having a free standing A-Frame type roost in the middle with removable litter pans. I'm leaning towards using sand for bedding in the coop. We already have sandy soil so my run will be perfect as-is. Either side of the coop will be covered as will the front entrance so we don't get so wet when it's raining. I want a brooding box in there of course with it's own door to the run.

    I know that ideal max load for a coop this size is 20 or 30 hens. Would it be better to begin with just 4 or 5 and get a few more every year until I have 20 or should I start out with 20 to keep stress down?


    I want this coop to be everything our family needs, the complete chicken solution that is. Is there anything I'm missing?
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2012
  2. Mnswm2

    Mnswm2 Out Of The Brooder

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    I think you have the right idea. This is a great site for research. I think having windows on all sides would be a very good idea. I don't know if there would ever be a need for closing the windows down there unless you get a big wind storm or driving rain. I have never used sand in my coop but I know many do. The grass in the run will be eaten in no time but with the sand down there it shouldn't get too muddy.

    You can always grow grass in smaller boxes and feed them with that as well. I have seen some neat ideas with chicken wire over the top so the grass grows up through it but they can't eat it down to the dirt. Do you plan on raising them from chicks or buying older ones? There is a fair amount of stress on the current ones and the new ones every time you add more to the flock. I noticed that if I added one or two that was worse than adding five or six. When they are in groups they stick together. Safety in numbers. LOL.

    Good luck, welcome and have fun. Oh and one thing I did which works well is I drilled two 5" holes in my poop boards, put pine shavings on the boards and then 5 gallon pails under the poop board holes that I rake everything into and carry it out.
     
  3. Yay Chicks!

    Yay Chicks! Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Forest Grove, OR
    [​IMG] Glad you joined us!

    I'm very excited for you. [​IMG] Sounds like you are going to have a wonderful place. Having shade in the afternoon will likely work out very well. I have a couple of friends who have their chickens in their orchards and it seems to work out very well.

    I can't answer too many of your questions, as I can't have more than 4 birds so have never added to the flock, however, people do it both ways and you can find good advice for making it work, however you decide. One pro for adding over time is that you would have new layers as some get older and lay less.

    You will be able to post pictures here after about 10 posts.

    You might find it helpful to go to the Where am I, Where are you section and look for Florida. You will probably get some good ideas there for building your coop to suit your climate.

    Good luck and have fun!
     
  4. HandyDan

    HandyDan New Egg

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    Jan 2, 2012
    Thanks "Mnswm2" and "Yay Chicks" for your replies. I really appreciate the hospitality and info.
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2012
  5. cfdf

    cfdf Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Forget the grass! That's not going to happen. I live in Texas and if your last summer was anything like ours...you need to place your coop in as much shade as you can. It sounds like your windows will work out good. You want to make sure you have ventilation up at the top of your coop too. As far as air flow goes, you might want to add electricity to your coop so that you can run some type of fan in the summer. Exhaust fans are good. I put a water cooler/swamp cooler in my coop this summer. It worked out great and I didn't loose any birds to the killer heat we had here. Since your chickens will get alot of shade from your orchard you might not need to go to that extreme. I have mixed feelings in answering your question about getting all the birds at once or a few at a time. Integrating new birds to an established flock can sometimes be a bit scary to you and your birds. That being said, I have done it without any problems. So here's my thinking on this.....when I bought my first few chickens...I thought that was all I wanted...then I saw more cute ones at Tractor Supply....bought some more....and then there was the cute ones at the feed store...bought some more...and then Attwoods had some really cute ducks...bought some more...you get the picture. It happens to the majority of us. So...if you want 20 - 30 chickens...and that's really all you want...then you should let your wife and kids start with say 10 -15 knowing you will get more. And then...maybe then...you will end up with only the amount of chickens you orignally planned for. [​IMG] Who am I kidding! Just plan on more chickens than you think cause it's a disease. You won't be able to help yourself from it! I don't use sand in my coop so I can't comment on that but I have heard people use it and like it. You will need to be prepared to scoop the poop though cause if I am understanding what people are saying on here the poop really shows up in the sand. I use pine shavings and the poop gets mixed in with it so it isn't as noticeable. A lot of people use the deep litter method in their coops with the pine shavings. It worked great for me until I added the ducks. I find that I am having to clean out the shavings every other month now. The shavings are great in flower beds and gardens. Just make sure if you put it directly into your beds you don't let any of it touch the leaves of the plants. It will burn them. In a high gable barn your chickens will most likely want to roost in the rafters. If you don't want them to do that you will need to figure out a way to block the rafters off. Mine love the rafters. I don't have a problem with it. It's been my experience that when it comes to nest boxes, you will only need a few. My chickens all want to use the same one. There will be empty nest boxes and the chickens will be lined up and fussing at the chicken in that one nest box....waiting to use it. Go figure! I think 1 large community nest box is a great idea. I have thought about changing mine to that..but..well ...you know...time is a factor. I hope this helps you some. Be sure to post pictures of your coop when you have it all built. I love seeing the new coops when they are all clean and perty.
     
  6. seanb

    seanb Chillin' With My Peeps

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    As far as poop management goes... I have boards under my roosts that are lined with newspaper. Once a week I roll up the paper, throw it into a bag and then dump the contents in the nearby garden. The paper is then lifted while the poop drops from it and then the paper is deposited into a nearby fire pit.

    Since last July when we introduced our 12 birds into our coop (6'x9'x7' high), we've not had to change the pine shavings yet. Just about all of the waste has landed on the boards while they roosted.

    I've not tried any other method and have no interest in doing so as this has worked very well for us.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  7. Chemguy

    Chemguy Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Springfield, Ohio
    Welcome! Here is what I know, based on my own experience and understanding:

    Will the chickens reduce it all to mud anyways?

    This is a very strong possibility.

    Do you think that would provide enough air movement in our climate?

    The more ventilation you add, the better. You can always close up ventilation against the cold, but adding more in the heat is not so quick. Many folk in your area likely have open-air coops because that prevents heat buildup in the coop and provides plenty of ventilation. That, plus it's what everyone around them does. The more ventilation you can have in your coop, the better. Also, the more shade, the better. Coops can really heat up quickly in the sun. Chickens can deal fine with cold weather, but heat can be a problem. I can't speak to others' motivation for choosing a shed style, but it is a good way to stop the wind in the winter.

    Is it usually just the cold weather that motivates people to use the shed/barn style?

    Probably, and like I said before, it's what most others seem to do. Even in cold (frigid) climates, folk use open air coops. I imagine that they are careful to position them so that their birds are protected from prevailing winds.

    Would it be better to begin with just 4 or 5 and get a few more every year until I have 20 or should I start out with 20 to keep stress down?

    If this is your first flock, then I would start out with less than the maximum your setup could hold, 4-5 like you say. I started with 8. Chickens form flocks and have pecking orders for a reason...they are group-oriented birds. But, having too many can also induce stress. If you go with just a few to start, you'll be able to make decisions as to what type and how many birds you can add over time, or even figure out if the chicken thing is your cup of tea. If you go with the max, you'll need to rehome, cull etc, to do this. Starting smaller will also help you to learn to better manage your flock.

    Is there anything I'm missing?

    Oh, yes. No matter how meticulous you are, there will be something that goes unthought-of. Read around the site for a while and post some more questions, we'll answer them.

    Good luck!
     
  8. RWD

    RWD Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Chickens are very forgiving, dont over analyze, they thrive with a little shelter, fresh water, and food. Most chicken houses are shacks, and serve the purpose well. Just get a few and start enjoying them, they will reward you for your efforts.
     
  9. RWD

    RWD Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Wartrace TN.
    Also Welcome, I forgot my manners................................
     
  10. OmyChickens

    OmyChickens Out Of The Brooder

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    Pasa-Get-Down-Dena
    I love that board idea!! thank you thank you!

    I needed to go to the hardware store anyhow... this will just make that trip more fun! i love chicken shopping!

    and welcome to the flock Dan! [​IMG]
     

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