Looking for advice on setting up breeding pens please

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Gypsy07, Oct 11, 2011.

  1. Gypsy07

    Gypsy07 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I'm looking for advice on how best to set up several breeding pens and maybe a bachelor pad as well.

    Up until now I've just kept one big free range mixed flock of about 30 birds, with two roosters and another two hens of the same breed in there. Any time I wanted to hatch their eggs, it was easy, as they lay small cream tinted eggs that are different from the big white and big brown ones laid by all my other birds. So I could just pick their eggs out of the nesting boxes knowing they'd be pure bred.

    But now I've got the chance of four or five different breeding trios/quads, and obviously I'd need to change my setup quite a lot to deal with them all.

    And I'm just wondering how everyone else does it?

    Like I say, I normally free range everyone on grass, so I'm not even sure what would be a reasonable size of run for four birds who would be stuck in it for the whole of breeding season. This is a breed that prefers to free range, and I'd feel quite sorry for them being penned up, so would want to make sure they all had nice big luxury runs.

    And when it's not breeding season and they can be free ranged again, what do you do with all your roosters? Do you keep each breeding group in their own coop-and-run, but just let them out to free range, or do you free range the hens but keep the roos penned up? If so, do you pen them up separately or all together? If it helps, this is a breed that is fairly laid back. Multiple roos from different coops are content to free range in each others' space and mostly keep out of each other's way. There's usually not much squabbling among them...

    I'd imagine penning the roos away from the hens out of breeding season would be best. Having seen the feather damage that one or two roos can inflict on 30 hens, I hate to think what a breeding group of just three hens would end up looking like!

    I've got loads of ideas about what to do, but any advice from folk with breeding set-ups would be great. Cheers!
     
  2. Time-Out

    Time-Out Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I visited a rare breeds farm not that long ago. They kept them all in tractor and moved them onto fresh grass every day. I have to admit I didn't like that at all. There was definitely not enough room for the chickens to even break into a run. They used to keep them in bigger pens. Check out this website: http://www.perfectpoultry.co.uk/
    The
    second half of their vid shows their outside breeding pens. They are far more spacious and seem well organised.
     
  3. Gypsy07

    Gypsy07 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Yeah, I'm really wanting to keep away from those tiny little coop-and-run combos and chicken ark type of things. 'Suitable for 6 chickens' my ar*e! I wouldn't keep a small guinea pig in most of them, never mind a pile of chooks...

    I was thinking of something along these lines:

    [​IMG]

    I'd be making the back end and the sides from Heras fencing, you know, those metal wire mesh fencing panels you see round building sites? So the runs would most likely be 8' wide, and probably 14'-16' long. With the fronts made of timber frame with chicken wire and a door into each run. I'd need coops that were big enough for the feeders to go inside, as it's so bloody wet round here even the 'outdoor' type feeders don't do so well out in the open. And I'd probably want to provide a sheltered area in each run, for the same reasons of vile Scottish weather!

    I'm just worried about how quickly four chickens would turn a nice grassy run into a muddy swamp. Obviously with the Heras panels being designed to be easily moveable, my runs wouldn't be hugely solid and permanent, but they'd still be a real bugger to shift more than, say, once every three months...

    An added complication is that I'd also need to have mesh or netting over the tops of the runs, as these birds can fly...
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2011
  4. Time-Out

    Time-Out Chillin' With My Peeps

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    What this lady had in her original runs, which I thought was clever, was the position of the houses. She placed them against the front panel, with the access to the nest boxes poking through the wire. That way, she didn't have to trek into the runs all the time. It also make egg picking much quicker.

    Another point she mentioned is the fencing. She used the mesh stuff, not what people on here call hardware cloth. She attached it to four posts, one in each corner, and a wire cable going across the top from each. Apparently, as it would bend easily, it made it practically impossible for foxes to climb. She also had it pretty high.

    Ideally, you want to make it big enough from the start. I can't imagine what a pain it'd be digging up the posts and resiting them!

    How much land do you have?

    Could you do this instead?
    [​IMG]

    The extra pens could be used to rotate them if it gets too muddy, or as growout for the younger ones...
    The greyed area would be some sort of onduline roof, to keep your path dry and give them a sheltered area.
    The coops positioned like so allow for collection of eggs without going in.
    Only having four wide should allow you to make the pens a bit bigger. Depending on the size and scratch factor of the breed, you might want to give them more room. and stick a tree in each :)
    The dotted lines are the wire going across and being used for the opposite pen too. The lady on the farm said it made it easier to keep it taut and prevent sagging.
    For additional security, you could even put a gate on the entrance, to the right. Also handy in case you forget to close a door behind you.

    Oops, burnt my lunch!
     
  5. Gypsy07

    Gypsy07 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    [​IMG] Wow! That's a really smart plan there! I knew there'd be stuff I just wasn't thinking of...

    So you've got cover down the middle for egg collecting in the rain, with the nesting boxes jutting out into the middle walkway, you don't need to go into each run, the covered bit also protects the nesting boxes from the elements (mine always manage to let water in somehow!), having more runs than actually needed would allow for rotation of birds and reseeding of grass, and having one 'master' door would give added security. I absolutely LOVE it!

    I'm on a farm, and there's enough land to spare for all sorts of chickenopolis type schemes. I'm not sure exactly how enthusiastic my lovely Other Half will be when I tell him I want to commandeer a chunk of his field for fowl purposes though. There's also a piece of unused ground out the front of our caravan that I could steal but it's in a right state at the moment. The drainage is crap and it's basically a big muddy weed infested swamp crisscrossed with tractor tyre grooves about two foot deep. I had three greenhouses on it but the biggest and best one was recently demolished by gale force winds. Now it's just a concrete base measuring 8' x 10'. I was hoping to repair and rebuild the greenhouse, and I'm usually very good at bodgy type repairs and cobbling things back together, but looking at the assorted frame pieces, I think it may be beyond me.

    I wonder if I could use the base for something chicken related?

    Thank you so much for taking the time to draw me out your plan. I hope your lunch wasn't too charred! [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2011
  6. Gypsy07

    Gypsy07 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Right, here's a rough drawing of the space I have available - from our last planning application for another shed. Scale 1:100...
    I've marked on it the two possible sites for what I'm planning. The top one in the field would be easier, cause it's flat and level and not full of junk.
    The lower one in the weed swamp is the one most likely to be acquiesced to, for pretty much the same reasons!

    [​IMG]

    And here's a few views of the junkyard weed-swamp from our decking:

    In this first one you can see the remnants of my big greenhouse...
    Also the dismantled sectional concrete garage on top of the flatbed trailer...
    [​IMG]

    On the right here you can just see the front of my chick shed, not marked on the plans...
    [​IMG]

    So as you can see, if I want to build anything here, there'll be a lot of clearing up to do first.
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2011
  7. DMRippy

    DMRippy Pallet Queen Premium Member

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    I plan to keep my roos in the pens year round and just rotate the pullets/hens. I am building 10 pens right now. They are raised up 2 1/2 feed so that will give them a covered area to get shade or food and water (haven't made my mind up yet on feeders. I am using all pallets so far this has only cost screws and hinges. My coop is a pallet about 47in by 39 inches. I am building a nest box right in front of the door way so I can collect eggs and can look through the little window to see if I have eggs. I have lined the bottom with thick black plastic to put litter on for easy clean up. I have a few pics of what we have already and I have pics of a smaller pen I made for my D'uccles.

    Any questions just ask and any suggestions would also be appreciated.

    This is the back so you can see the door and window
    [​IMG]

    This is the nesting area (prior to the black plastic)
    [​IMG]

    This is the whole pen for the D'uccles, I also put a pop door so if I need to catch them I can lock them in the coop. I can also remove the panel on the end to get in the run.
    [​IMG]

    These are pics of my new breeding pens

    These are the "tables" we made they are just pallets with legs added.
    [​IMG]

    This is the fronts
    [​IMG]

    and the fronts from the backside of the coops
    [​IMG]

    We are not carpenters and are doing the best we can with what we have but so far I am liking what we are doing. My runs are going to be fenced with some free privacy fence I picked up the other day and I am going to make it were I can get in at the end of the run, but my fence is only going to be about 4 1/2 - 5 ft tall. I am going to put chicken wire between the runs and an electric fence over the top with some netting and around the bottom to keep predators at bay [​IMG] I am probably going to have creek gravel added to the run that seems to be working great in my other coops.

    I am going to add a central watering system. I am a lazy chicken farmer [​IMG] I also didn't want to have to go into the coop to get eggs or to feed the birds so the door on the back I think is going to work great. Also raising the coop is going to save my back too.

    My runs is going to be 10 ft long by the with of the coop and then they will also have that extra area under the coop of about 39'' x 47'' I don't plan on keeping more than 5-6 birds in each pen and will not keep the girls in all the time so they will be with my laying flock. Some breeds will be in these all the time but only a couple of special breeds.

    These came out of the need to house all the roos so breeding pens were the next step. They are kept in small pens right now and i don't like that at all! But I just don't have anywhere to put them. This is going to solve most of my problems. The other problem will be solved with a bachelor pen for all the meat roos!
     
  8. kuntrygirl

    kuntrygirl Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

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  9. Gypsy07

    Gypsy07 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    DMRippy - Thanks for your photos. Everything I see gives me more ideas for my own pens!

    Kuntrygirl - Excellent link! I hadn't seen that thread before. Loads more ideas to think about...

    [​IMG]
     
  10. Time-Out

    Time-Out Chillin' With My Peeps

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    You've basically argued your way into the top field already lol. If you aren't using the sectional concrete, how about putting it down under the coops? That'll give them a nice flat surface and around the coop is the first pace to get churned up from chicken passage.
    In your 'swampland', I'd put a pond... but that's just me [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    To the same scale as the rest with pen dimensions on 10' x 16' and a passage 4' wide (I think that enough to navigate a wheelbarrow around the nest boxes - you may have to check). It looks big on the drawing, but I don't think it will in real life as the pens will be open. It's not like sticking a building in the middle of the field. You could even shortedn it to 6 pens to start with and sneak a couple more on when your OH is out and about in his tractor. He won't notice [​IMG]

    Plan B:
    [​IMG]

    It requires more work to clear the area, move the fence back, etc. But might also be more OH-friendly, as he won't see it as tzaking up as much space in his field.
    The triangle on the far right could be used for roos/birds for sale, sunday lunches...
    It would be a pain if the ground is constantly water logged. Is there a spring under there? If there is, you could maybe dig a well, save the ground and have free water for the chickens. Result!

    I took the liberty of erasing the main coop and growout, because I thought that would be another point in your favour: "Honey, wouldn't it be great if I had all the chicken stuff in ONE place? It would make the yard seem so much bigger and they wouldn't get in your way. Look, you could even park your favourite tractor where the young chooks used to be!" *flutter eyelashes here*
     

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