Need Help. Your Coops "Must Haves"

Missy35

In the Brooder
5 Years
Apr 4, 2014
12
0
24
We are in the process of building a 8x12 chicken coop. We have the floor finished and walls framed up. We went big I know. We have 20 baby chickens. They are 4 weeks old and still in the large brooder box. I was wanting y'all's professional opinion on any coop "must haves", recommend number of nesting boxes, anything you wished you had added or omitted from your coop. Thank you for your help in advance and I have to say this group is the friendliest I've ever seen or belonged to. Thank you for giving your time to newcomers like me.
 

Missy35

In the Brooder
5 Years
Apr 4, 2014
12
0
24
Ok 3 dumb questions. #1. With the automatic door opener I take it that it doesn't close on its own?
Dumb question #2. Will the chickens go into the coop on their own eventually or do I put them in?
Dumb question #3. Electricity so you can see and/or put in brooder lamps?

Y'all are awesome. We will definitely be putting in an isolation cage now, an automatic door opener and eventually electricity! We already put in vinyl floors so yay! :bow
 

ChickensAreSweet

Heavenly Grains for Hens
9 Years
Jun 8, 2010
15,100
682
398
Pacific NW- where the Douglas Firs grow
Ok 3 dumb questions. #1. With the automatic door opener I take it that it doesn't close on its own?
Dumb question #2. Will the chickens go into the coop on their own eventually or do I put them in?
Dumb question #3. Electricity so you can see and/or put in brooder lamps?

Y'all are awesome. We will definitely be putting in an isolation cage now, an automatic door opener and eventually electricity! We already put in vinyl floors so yay!
bow.gif
My auto coop door opener is on a timer. So you set the open and close times throughout the year based on daylight hours. Only thing is, if the GFCI trips then you find out the next day it didn't work. So it is still good to have your pop door so you can view it from inside the house to make sure it closed.

The chickens will go into the coop on their own but when they are little babies they may get confused and get caught outside when the door shuts. It pays to check on them frequently when they are little.

Electricity is good for the auto door opener and heat lamp, also heated waterer if you need one in winter.
 

Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
12 Years
Feb 2, 2009
27,675
21,301
907
Southeast Louisiana
You asked for “must have’s”. In my opinion, must haves include protection from predators, protection from weather (this depends on what weather you have), roosts (assuming you have breeds that roost. Silkies for example may need special consideration since they can’t fly), nest boxes (assuming yours are hens that lay and not just roosters, that you are not just raising meaties, and you are not one of those people that have external nests), and a door to get to the outside (assuming you allow yours outside. I sure hope you plan to).

The coop needs adequate ventilation but, if you are in a location that gets really cold in winter, protection from a direct breeze hitting them while they are in the roosts. It also needs to stay dry or be built so it dries out really quickly if it gets wet. These links may help you with that.

Pat’s Big Ol' Ventilation Page
https://www.backyardchickens.com/web/viewblog.php?id=1642-VENTILATION

Pat’s Big Ol' Mud Page (fixing muddy runs):
https://www.backyardchickens.com/web/viewblog.php?id=1642-fix-a-muddy-run

You need enough space for your chickens. How much space you need depend on a whole lot of different things. There is no one magic number that fits us all. You can follow the link in my signature for my thoughts on space requirements. With 20 chicks and that size, you should be pretty good, especially if they regularly get outside time.

You need access so you can reach every part of the coop. With an 8’ x 12’ coop, you have that covered as long as you have a people door.

I think that pretty much covers the must have’s. Like everyone else I have a lot of things that I find extremely convenient but they aren’t required by everyone. I built in a permanent brooder, with the top acting as my droppings board. The way I manage them, both are really handy. I have four ways to isolate a chicken or group of chickens, that brooder if it is empty, a grow-out coop separate from the main coop but attached to the run, a separate habitat in the run, sometimes used for an broody hen with chicks, and I fixed my nests so I can lock a hen in a nest if I wish. The brooder or the grow-out coop can serve as a broody buster. You may not need an isolation pen but the way I manage them, they are required.

An automatic door opener can come in real handy with certain lifestyles or management methods. If you don’t feel your run is truly predator-proof it is a good idea to lock the chickens in the coop at night. I think it is good practice even with a very safe run but lots of people have enough confidence in their run they don’t do that. If your lifestyle is such that you are not around to lock them up at dusk and if you feel you have a safe run, to let them out in the morning, an automatic opener and closer is a good idea. I don’t want one. I’m practically always around to lock them up and let them out, plus I want to see what’s in the coop before I lock it up or let them out. I’ve found snakes a few times, a possum once, and a dead chicken a couple of times. For some people an automatic door opener is a must have. I don’t want one. We are all unique in how we manage chickens.

Some people feed and water inside the coop, some in the run, and some of us do both. Some of that is due to management techniques and some is just personal preference.

How many nests you need depends on your number of hens and how big you build your nest boxes. The minimum size I’d suggest for you for full sized hens is a 12” x 12” nest. With the number of hens your coop can hold, I’d suggest one of those 12” size nests for every four hens. Or you could probably get by with one community nest box, about 4’ long, 2’ wide, and 16” high.

Personally I like a larger nest. I made mine 16” x 16” x 16”. Part of that was that my studs are on 16” centers so that was a convenient size to frame them. Part is that I often have two or even three hens laying in the nest at the same time. With the 16” nests all three can be on the bedding instead of laying on top of each other. I also let my broodies hatch with the flock. Not only does the larger nests give them more room if another hen decides to lay with her, a baby chick will often climb on top of Mama while waiting for the later chicks to hatch. In a tight nest, Mama will be pretty close to the edge. When that chick falls off, it can fall out of the nest. I’ve never had that problem in my 16” nests, but I did when I let a hen hatch in a tight spot. If you are never going to let a hen hatch in the nest, this is not very important to you. If you will let one hatch, I suggest a larger nest. In any case put fairly high sides and a lip to keep the hen from scratching the bedding or eggs out. Most hens will rearrange the bedding as they are settling into lay and that often involves some scratching.

My 8’ x 12’ coop floor is dirt. I added a few inches of clay dirt in the bottom to get it high enough that rainwater can’t flow in plus built a swale above it to divert rainwater runoff. I use wood shavings and it is good to go. Some people use sand, straw or something else. If you put in a wooden floor, covering it with vinyl can be good, but some people just paint it instead. There are lots of different ways to do these things. Your management style can have a big effect on what is best for you. By using a droppings board and keeping the bedding very dry, I can go years before I need to change it out. Last time for me was four years and I didn’t really need to do it then but I wanted that stuff on my garden. A traditional way to do it is to clean it out every fall to go on the garden but I have a compost pile for that, thanks in large part to my droppings board.

Some people, especially those with small elevated coops, clean theirs out really often, maybe scraping a droppings board daily and replacing bedding weekly. They have legitimate reasons for doing that. We all have our own unique situations and management styles.

Some people absolutely love being able to gather the eggs without walking into the coop or run. Personally I like going into the coop to check things out when I gather the eggs. Pure personal preference on my part. If someone has children they don’t want going into the coop or run to gather eggs, those external openings make a lot of sense.

Some of the things that are my personal preference but I find extremely useful include a small pop door (12” square) instead of a larger door or using the human door. The smaller door keeps more rain out. I really like having my brooder built into the coop and the droppings board. Having electricity there makes having a built-in brooder possible, plus just having good light at night is a real help. I put water into the coop area so I don’t have to carry it. Water there comes in real handy for washing garden produce and cleaning and sanitizing other things also. Making two of my nests so I can lock a chicken in there if I want to has come in real handy for different reasons. I’ve used that to train a hen to lay in the nests instead of on the coop floor and recently used that to help me sort chicks in the brooder. I put in a separate roost about a foot lower than my main roosts, higher than my nests, and horizontally separate from my main roosts to give young chicks a safe place to roost that is not in my nests.

A lot of this is pure personal preference. If you don’t hatch chicks or integrate, a lot of this won’t apply to you. We are all unique, different goals, different set-ups, and different management techniques. You need to figure out which things better fit your specific situation. Good luck and welcome to the adventure.
 

TexasMomof5

In the Brooder
7 Years
Aug 29, 2012
67
7
41






If you haven't put alot of money into your waters and feeders...I recommend the chicken nipple waters ( you can order them or build you own). Also, the 5 gallon bucket auto feeders can be built rather inexpensively. They save you money because food and water are not wasted and the birds can't make as big of a mess with the food and water.

We don't have electricity in our hen house yet (we converted an old storage shed into a hen house) so for the time being we just run an extention cord out to the house when needed.

I also do not have an automatic door. We jsut use a piece of plywood to close the door when needed. We really don't have issues with predators and we have a large dog in the back yard that lets us know if anything or anyone gets in the yard.
 
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Missy35

In the Brooder
5 Years
Apr 4, 2014
12
0
24
We of course will have it predator proof, well ventilated, plenty of roost space and a super large run n etc. I was meaning anything extra that you find convenient or nice to have. Sorry if I wasn't clear. But thank you for your very informative post. I really appreciate it!

TexasMomof5 thank you for your pictures. We have planned on the nipple system but feeders we hadn't decided on. I love the ones in the pic. Can you tell me how you did that please?
 

cstronks

Songster
Mar 12, 2013
751
98
176
New Jersey
A lot of windows!! My chickens love light, and they love sitting in the windows in the winter because they can stay warm in the sun without having to go out into the run. Also, a good amount of windows kind of prevents you from having to use artificial lighting.
 

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