N00b builds chicken accommodations, please send your advice as I get started!

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by AnomieAcres, Dec 18, 2013.

  1. AnomieAcres

    AnomieAcres Out Of The Brooder

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    Hello everyone,

    So I am in southwestern Nova Scotia, and just getting started on establishing my homestead. By some good fortune I have come across a near infinite source of scrap lumber and old barnboards.

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    Chickens are the first step! We want eggs! Free materials and a big empty field, so size is not a constraint. For weeks now I have been thinking about my chicken coop... thinking so much that I felt paralyzed by inability to commit. How would I be able to build a coop that would not detract from this idyllic view? How to build a coop that would meet all my chickens' needs while still being elegant and aesthetically complementing the old barn?

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    Well, a couple of days ago I was milling these questions as I began to clean and organise the interior of the barn. As I started getting my lumber piles under control and assembling the stall walls it came to me: this barn is huge. Why am I thinking to build a new structure when I have all this space already under a dry roof?

    Let me give you a quick tour. I am standing in the middle of the barn, looking to the southwest corner (to your right as you enter the front door). The workbench and tool area take up two (of six) stalls.

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    This is from the same position, looking to the northwest (to your left as you enter the front door). This stall is storage for now, but is reserved for a milk cow some day when we feel more confident about this whole "taking care of animals" concept. There used to be a horse here named "Kay", based on the sign [​IMG].

    [​IMG]

    Rotating some more, now we are looking at the northeast corner (back and to the left as you enter). The rear barn door is visible, it is exactly like the front door. You can see the rolling doors for stalls, available but uninstalled, in the centre. They are identical to the door in "Kay's stall" in the previous picture. The middle stall / area (where the black trunk is sitting in this picture) might end up being for goats, or they could live in the NE stall. The SE stall, just visible on the right here, is where I am thinking to put chickens.

    [​IMG]

    So here is a clear shot of the potential coop area. I am standing at the rear door, looking into the SE stall.

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    Each of the stalls in this barn are roughly 7' X 9'. So walled in, this designated coop area would be 63 sq.ft. Hmmm... I was initially imagining something like 40 birds, and the Internet is telling me that each one needs 4 sqft. Even though it seems totally huge to me, calculations tell me this isn't enough space. Maybe I need both back stalls for chickens?

    But I wouldn't want to block the back door, so maybe two separated chicken areas? I could have space for brooders to nest, or keep roosters segregated, etc.

    The plan is for them to be completely free range. They will be pretty far from the road, and there is lots of land for them to roam safely as you can see in the first photos.

    There are mink around here! So whatever I do, I need to make it mink proof and I've only begun to consider what that will entail...

    Please guys - I would love advice, comments, warnings, things to consider... before I get too far down a wrong path.

    And just FYI the exterior photos are much earlier, we currently have close to a foot of snow here.

    [​IMG]
     
  2. petrel

    petrel Chats with Chickens

    My neighbors just let their chickens roost in the rafters of the stable. It certainly works and is sort of old school, but messy.

    A good chicken coop is relatively easy to build. A good sturdy stable, cow barn, equipment shed is not. Be sure you don't compromise space for other things before you set aside barn space for your chickens. I believe it would also be easier to secure a designated coop from predators than it would be to secure an area of the barn. Also, given the size of your land, you may want a mobile coop, so you can move your flock's feeding attentions around your property, instead of having it concentrated in one spot, where my may have other livestock.

    Lastly, with those nicely seasoned materials I would think that making a coop that won't detract from that beautiful backdrop should not be a problem. Besides, if you make it mobile, you can always move it when you are tired of looking at it.
     
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  3. AnomieAcres

    AnomieAcres Out Of The Brooder

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    Very useful food for thought! So my "obvious" idea actually might not make the best sense in the long run... I will consider this as I wait eagerly for other opinions. Thanks petrel.
     
  4. Stynch

    Stynch Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Welcome. I got lots of great ideas from the coop section of this forum, then took all those ideas and started designing. First and foremost is the safety of your chickens. In our case, because we have hawks and vultures, even the top had to be predator-proof. And because we didn't want ground critters to get to any eggs before we did, we decided to secure the bottom, too. So, we built a 12' x 4' frame for the base and wrapped it in hardware cloth. We elevated the 4' x 4' hen house at one end (the two nesting boxes were built separately and are attached from the outside with a hinged roof for easy egg retrieval) and then used hardware cloth on the sides and chicken wire over the top. This way, we can leave the door to the house open 24/7 because this portion of the run is totally secure. Then, we built a larger semi-secure enclosure (we call it the play pen) which connects to the secure run. This area is just T-posts and welded (2" x 4" mesh) wire with camo cloth draped over the top. When we are home, we open the access door to the play pen so they have lots of room to dig dirt bath holes and just spread out a bit, but at night, they are locked into the secure area.

    Another important element is chicken math - no matter how many you think you will need, you will always want more!! And if you are looking at raising one group of chickens for eggs and another group for meat, you will need separate areas for them because their feed is different. Also, if you are going to be hatching future generations, you probably don't want meat birds and egg birds intermingling!

    Good luck on your venture!
     
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  5. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    My Coop
    *I*, being a drafter by trade, would draw up a floor plan to scale of the barn...and then think about it for 6 months. Trying out different arrangements of the space over time as you read and learn.

    I built my coop inside a large shed (see 'My Coop' under my avatar) it's working pretty good so far, but dust will be an issue. Not a problem for me but something to keep in mind.

    1/2" hardware cloth to keep anything of a weasely or rodent nature out of the coop....Mine has 'The Envelope' 6 sides of HC.

    Looks like you might need another building to store your 'stash' of scraps....lol!
     
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  6. Chuckcluck

    Chuckcluck Out Of The Brooder

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    I would look at building a Woods Coop out of the lumber. On this site there are examples as well as a link to the book. I would avoid compromising the barn space for other uses. JMHO
     
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  7. Trefoil

    Trefoil Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I would start by using one of the stalls in your barn. You will probably need to dig down around the perimeter of the stall and use hardware cloth to keep predators out. You will need to cover any hole or gap larger that 3/4" with hardware cloth. You will quickly find out what you want and don't want in a chicken coop. After you've gone a winter in the barn you will have a very good idea of what you need in a coop and then build. I would be really surprised if mink are your only predators and you don't want to find out the hard way. I don't know what winters are like for you, is water and electricity available at the barn? Carrying water in the winter can get hard for chickens, for livestock it can be really hard.
    When you build your coop, I would build it with an attached 100% predator proof run and give them the option to roost in or out at night. It lessens aggression problems and also gives them more space when the weather is too bad to let them free range. Good luck and enjoy.
     
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  8. LindaB220

    LindaB220 Overrun With Chickens

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    Do it the easiest way for you. Maybe both stalls because of chicken math. [​IMG] Definitely predator proof it to the max. They can get in a quarter size opening. Or start with one and add the other later. Easy peasy
     
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  9. yogifink

    yogifink Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I love it and am totally jealous of your opportunity. What I would give…

    Considering you will be free ranging, I think starting in your barn is a fantastic idea. This will give you time to formulate your own opinion on how you want to raise your flock. Then maybe after a few seasons make a decision as to what fits your needs whether that is building fresh or using the barn exclusively. I think everyone is too concerned with doing the 'right' thing...give yourself room for error and time to grow...it all starts with a single egg.

    As to using the barn, I would like to point out that in its current state, as in a lot of older structures, there will be loads of gaps and cracks for critters to hide and sneak through. So, to keep your gals safe, I would personally utilize one of the stalls and frame it out with some hardware cloth in all directions, including the ceiling and floor. Then, depending on the floor of the barn (wood or dirt), layer deep litter or pine shavings on top of the hardware cloth. You would also want to be sure that whatever you build, build it in a fashion that is temporary; meaning easy to dissemble and reuse – use screws to hold everything in place instead of nails and staples. Might even want to go so far as to add some plastic of felt paper to the walls to keep them poo free – I wouldn’t, but you might.

    Do you plan to use the barn to house other animals or will this be a workshop? Maybe consider using the older barn for the animals, and using all of that nice number to build yourself a nice pole barn for a workshop!
     
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2013
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  10. yogifink

    yogifink Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Just reread your post and question about the square footage. I think that the 4 sqft per bird is a good guild line for folks that keep their flock penned up at all times. The idea behind 4 sqft is to provide enough space for them to move about without becoming stressed. Considering your flock will free rage on plenty of acreage, I think you could safely drop to 2 sqft per bird. However, living in Nova Scotia, there may be days that you wont want to let them range if the temperature is too low - so 4 sqft or more would be needed.

    Also need to consider the amount of roosting space and nesting boxes needed in that area to accommodate X amount of birds. I think you should use a single stall to start, build some nesting boxes, add some roosts, and then make a judgment as to how many chickens can fit in the space.

    If you have never raised a flock, start small, like 10, so you don't get overwhelmed. Use some trial and error and get a feel for how they act and how the space works and when your comfortable add a few more.

    There is a lady on here who lives in New Brunswick and built a barn for her flock after a fire in her old barn. It’s beautiful. Maybe shoot her a PM for some advise considering you have a similar situation in a similar environment.https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/les-farms-the-barn-of-all-barns
     
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2013
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