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My experience with a coop that is too small

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Temp, Nov 8, 2014.

  1. Temp

    Temp Out Of The Brooder

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    When I was growing up in the 50's folks kept chickens in whatever space was available. My paternal grand parents kept hens in a old layer house designed for three times as many birds as they had. My maternal granddad kept a dozen in an old horse stall.
    When I bought my dozen pullets I had in mind to use a old 6 X 9 garden shed. I added interior sheathing, a window, pop out door, ventilation, and a 7 X 7 run. Then I found this site and a lot of good advice telling me that my housing was too small.
    Since my plan was already in motion I stayed with it figuring I could sell, eat, or give away a few if crowding became a problem. I am happy to report that my flock is doing well and producing 8 to 10 eggs each day. I have 0 pecking or egg eating problems. They are shut in the coop from 5 PM-around 7 AM the lights are on a timer and come on at 3 AM and they lay most of their eggs before 8 AM, they have access to the small covered run the remainder of the day and are allowed to free range for 1-2 hours before dark if the weather is fit. My coop has over double the roosting space on the top roost as necessary plus a smaller low roost. The nest is large dark and communal with no dividers. The house is kept well bedded (I just keep adding and will clean it out in the spring). The nest box gets fresh shavings weekly and there is always feed and water available.
    My conclusion is if everything else is in order some minor crowding is not a big deal.
     
  2. sunflour

    sunflour Flock Master Premium Member

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    Glad it worked out for you. I think the breed personalities and flock interactions do make a difference.
     
  3. thomasboyle

    thomasboyle Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Chickens are quite adaptable, and can live pretty much everywhere. Coop to chicken ratio often controls the amount of work for you, crowded coops should be cleaned more often as dirty coops can lead to disease and other problems. The size guidelines are exactly that, guidelines. Can you raise 100 chickens in a 100 square foot coop? Certainly, that's how most of the chickens in the grocery store were raised. Is it natural and the best way, certainly not. In the same way we all have different sized houses, and some people have 1 bedroom per person, others share bedrooms, we will all have different sized coops for different numbers of chickens. Your coop meets the recommended size for 12 chickens, its your run that would be considered too small. But if you let them out in the yard, they will get enough time to run around and stretch their wings. As long as your chickens are happy and healthy, size is not an issue.
     
  4. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    That’s a dangerous conclusion for people in general. I’m glad what you have is working for you and I’m not all that surprised. People like to set hard and fast numbers and absolutes for chickens but reality doesn’t work like that. Each chicken is an individual. Each flock has its own dynamics. We keep them in different conditions with different climates and different management techniques.

    I don’t know what age they are or if you have gone through a winter or even if you have much of a winter. These problems normally come in when the weather or other conditions are at their worst. Since you said pullets I’ll guess they are still not a year old yet.

    You have all pullets, no cockerels. That helps. Yours are all the same age. That helps. I don’t know what breeds you have but they probably take confinement well. That helps.

    I don’t know if you have tried to integrate any chickens with your flock after they passed the baby chick phase. I don’t know if you have had a broody hen raise chicks with the flock. You don’t have even one cockerel, let alone more than one. Those are a lot harder when chickens are packed in tight.

    That rule of thumb of 4 in the coop and 10 in the run is pointed at a small backyards flock of 4 to 6 hens kept in an urban backyard. The more hens you have the less space per chicken they need. If you have 4 hens with 3 square feet each, that gives 12 square feet. If you have 12 hens with 3 square feet each, that gives 36 square feet. To make the math simple assume each hen occupies 1 square foot. With the 4, that leaves 8 square feet unoccupied for them to explore. For the 12, that leaves 24 square feet for them to explore. Quite a difference.

    That rule of thumb of 4 and 10 is just a general guideline, intended to keep practically everyone with a small backyard flock of all hens about the same level of maturity out of trouble regardless of climate and management techniques, though some people still manage to get in trouble with that. As a result the guidelines are real generous and are overkill for a lot of people. It’s practically always more than the absolute minimum space chickens need to keep them from eating each other.

    I wish you good luck getting through the winter, assuming you live where there is winter. With the success you have had so far there is a good chance you will be OK with that set-up.
     
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2014
    3 people like this.
  5. Temp

    Temp Out Of The Brooder

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    Winter[​IMG] I am already getting ice in the fountain I plan to switch to a heated one this weekend and close up the north side of my run. Yes they are all same age and pretty easy going breeds (comets and NHReds) and I find roosters annoying so I do not have one.
     
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2014
  6. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Just curious, what is your climate and how long have you had how many chickens in this setup?
    Oh, I hope you update this thread with pics and how you made it thru winter.
     
  7. Temp

    Temp Out Of The Brooder

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    Well this is today we are in NE VT. so it could drop below 0 anytime but usually not until early Dec.
     
  8. teach1rusl

    teach1rusl Love My Chickens



    Your housing seems very adequate in size...not sure who indicated it would be too small??? Your run, on the other hand, is cramped. Hopefully you're able to let them out for some ranging/exercise daily.

    Even my veterinarians talk about how free ranged birds are overall healthier than caged birds. They are partly referring to stocking density, because the more birds you have crammed into a given space ultimately means higher incidences of parasites and health issues. Plus it's just less work/easier management cleaning an area less densely stocked....
     
  9. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    How old are your chooks and how long have you had them?
    Do they free range....in the snow?
     
  10. Temp

    Temp Out Of The Brooder

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    The consensus has been since my first post several months ago that my coop is just barely adequate and the run is too small. They get to free range for an hour or two in the evening most days. Nov. in VT tends to be cloudy and cold with lots of rain and a little snow. We had 2 days in a row last week that the wind blew all day and night with intermittent cold rain, we kept them in. There will be some days during the winter that will be cold with blowing and drifting snow or perhaps freezing rain. I am sure some of those days will be way too nasty for them to go outside. My focus on those days will be on keeping them well bedded, fed and watered. I also intend to hang a mesh bag with goodies for them to peck at, perhaps a winter squash or some alfalfa hay. Since my coop is high enough to walk into I may even add more perches and roosts just to give them more options for a place to be.
     

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