Need some advice re coop/run size? Warm weather climate

HalcyonFlorida

In the Brooder
6 Years
Mar 29, 2013
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We live in Florida near West Palm Beach. Summers get hot, and the coldest it has been in winter over the last few years is around 50 or so at night during a cold snap.

We have 11 chicks, and i am trying to design a coop and run that will accomodate them. During a short cold snap, they can stayin ourmgarage temporarily if need be.

I was thinking 2 sq feet inside per chick and at least 5 square feet each outside. We are consideri g a hoop house coop, and we are building it against an existing wall in the shade.

How many nesting boxes?
How much indoor vs outdoor space, given that they will be able to be out most of the year?
To protect from predators, would you recommed a wire flooring, or is that unpleasant for them? I looked into electrical poultry netting but i think it is too pricey for us right now. Buried apron?

Thank you for advice! Am so excited!
 
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Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
12 Years
Feb 2, 2009
27,315
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Southeast Louisiana
You don’t have a cold problem at all. Don’t even think about that. Heat is your enemy, but with that down coat they wear year-round, 50 degrees Fahrenheit is just getting comfortable.

Where you are you can see some pretty good thunderstorms and hurricanes are also a risk so I will suggest some shelter from the elements. What I suggest is that at least one wall of your coop be wire. Have one end pretty solid where they sleep and bring the two side walls around to form a bit of an alcove to knock the wind off them when you have that nasty weather. Just a little protection from high winds and driving rain. Put a roof on the coop to keep the rain from coming down on them, but have an overhang. Leave the top of the wall open (cover it with hardware cloth to keep predators out) so they get decent ventilation. You can even leave it open beneath where they sleep. Just have something at roost height to keep the wind and rain off of them.

With 11 hens I suggest 3 nests. That’s what I have right now. They will mostly use one or two, but the third can come in handy. Usually they like to share but occasionally you might have one go broody. Many broodies let other hens lay in the nest with them, but occasionally you get one that doesn’t. I had a hen that was a nest hog. She took about 3 hours to lay an egg and would not let any other hen share her nest. For 11 hens, 3 is a good number.

I suggest you don’t do a wire floor. Instead do an apron around the entire coop and run. Lay a piece of fencing or hardware cloth maybe 18” to 24” around your coop and run horizontal. Overlap it at the corners and attach it to the bottom of your coop and run. You don’t even have to bury it, just lay something on it to hold it down until the grass grows through it to hold it down. Many people remove maybe 2” of sod and put that on top. This holds it down but also gets it out of the way of lawn mowers and weed eaters. The idea is that a predator goes up to the fence and starts to dig. When they hit the wire they don’t know to back up.

How much room they need is a pretty hard number to come up with. There are so many different things that go into it. The personality of your individual chickens and the overall flock dynamics, your climate, how you manage them, flock make-up, and just a lot more. There is a rule of thumb used on here that gives 4 square feet in the coop along with 10 square feet in the run for each chicken. That’s intended to cover flocks from Denver to West Palm Beach, Minneapolis to Phoenix, Perth Australia to Inverness Scotland and with people using all kinds of different management techniques. It’s overkill for a lot of people but it should keep practically everyone out of trouble.

Commercial operations have proven you can keep chickens in about 2 square feet total, but they have to take some pretty severe steps to keep the chickens from eating each other when they are that close, things like trimming the beaks. We generally want to do better than that. They also have chickens that are specifically bred to take confinement well.

It really doesn’t matter if the space is in the coop, coop and run, or they totally free range and sleep in trees. It’s how much total space is available to them when they are awake that counts. You can get by with a pretty small coop as long as they have access to the outside whenever they wake up. You can manage that two different ways. Either have a run that you are confident is predator proof and never lock them up. Or commit that every day of the year they will be let out of the coop as soon as they wake up, even when you want to sleep in on a Saturday or have the flu. Or be sure you can find someone to do that when you are on vacation.

In my opinion, there are three basic things to consider with space. First, the tighter they are squeezed, the more behavioral problems you can have. This can range from feather picking to fighting to cannibalism.

Second is flexibility. If the coop is bigger you might be able to sleep in some on a Saturday. If you find you have one laying in the run instead of the coop, maybe you can leave them locked in the coop until she learns where to lay. If you wake up to a predator problem in the run, maybe you can lock them in the coop for the day and deal with the problem after you get off from work instead of skipping a day of work. If you ever want a hen to raise chicks with the flock or integrate new chickens, that goes a whole lot better if they have extra room.

Last is that I find the tighter I pack them, the harder I have to work. An easy example is poop management. The tighter they are packed the more the poop builds up so it has to be dealt with more often.

I don’t have a magic number for you as far as coop and run space. You probably don’t need as much in January as someone in Minneapolis would. I suggest you give them as much room as you reasonably can instead of trying to really pack them in a small space. I really think you’ll be glad you did.

Good luck with it. It can be fun journey.
 

Alaskan

The Frosted Flake
Premium Feather Member
12 Years
Jul 26, 2008
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Kenai Peninsula, Alaska
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You already got a great reply...

But I would super second the go bigger suggestion. Bigger is always better, especially if it is so hot, bigger means more space for more air flow.



I would vote for a buried apron of wire around your run and sand or dirt floor in the run, and closer to 10 square feet per bird in the run. But I really like my runs to look pretty, I rotate my chickens from one run to another run, because I REALLY like the run to be able to grow some grass for them to play in.

Also, I think the rule of thumb is one nest for every 4 layers, but also look into community nest boxes too. A community nest box is just one super big nest that several hens can sit in at the same time. Depending on your set up a community nest might be less work for you in the building stage, and since it is a bigger nest = more air flow and so not as hot for the hens.

Look through the coop pictures on the coop pages on this site. Scan through lots of them, all the different sizes and kinds. Some are for hot climates and the owners managed to make them almost all wire and still keep rain out of the coop as well as raccoons and dogs out of the coop.

Good luck!
 

HalcyonFlorida

In the Brooder
6 Years
Mar 29, 2013
37
0
32
Thank you all for these wonderful and helpful answers! I really appreciate your taking the time to post your advice and experience. I can't wait to get started building. Our chicks are so far, knock on wood, doing wonderfully. We have 2 buff orpingtons, 2 rhode island red, 2 black and white ones (forget the name!), 2 barred plymouth rocks, 3 white plymouth rocks, and 2 brown legghorns. They seem to be settling into their brooder nicely.
 
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Alaskan

The Frosted Flake
Premium Feather Member
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Jul 26, 2008
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OK, now this is just my 2 cents worth, there are MANY different ways you could make that work for you.

In the design it shows the back wall as completely solid. I would think that in your climate you would want the back wall to be half wire. You might want to make it so you keep a piece of plywood the same size as the wire half, so that in hurricane season it can be closed off and block out the Gail force winds.

Also, he has the tarp come down to the very bottom..... Hummm. I also wonder if that will cut down on airflow too much. Of course, if you don't bring the tarp all the way down to the bottom, will everything get too wet? With the back wall half wire instead of solid wood, you might have enough airflow even with the tarp just like in the pictures. Try to stand where the coop will be and see what you think.... Will the rain be coming in sideways? Is there any breeze there? Which way does it come from?
 

VickoRano

In the Brooder
6 Years
Feb 23, 2013
22
0
22
Hey, I just wanted to chime in... I live in Tampa and our coop is 25 square feet (5x5'), and the run is 35 square feet (7x5')... the height is seven foot in the front, and four and a half foot in the back, with the coop 20'' above the ground (5' wide, 5' tall) and the coop has chickenwire ventilation on three walls. The run and coop both have roosts. There are two 5' long egg boxes. I'm also curious as to whether my setup is adequate, as well. There is a roof, with overhang. And I have buried the hardware cloth about 8'' deep around the whole run to keep out the raccoons.
 

Alaskan

The Frosted Flake
Premium Feather Member
12 Years
Jul 26, 2008
33,229
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Kenai Peninsula, Alaska
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So I looked through some of the coop pictures myself....

I really like this one. https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/the-nancy-creek-coop-irf1983s-chicken-coop

See how he has both ends open? Or course, his set up is pretty protected, so probably doesn't get much sideways rain.

This one.... https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/cargos-chicken-coop-tractor
Has that roof vent, much more difficult that just using a tarp..... But it would be such a big help in getting out some of the heat.

This lady's setup is the kind of coop I think of for you hot weather folks. https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/happymorrowss-chicken-coop
It is nice since the entire top half is wire for perfect breezes and it looks like the overhang is large enough to keep out rain.

Hope that gives you lots of things to think about.

C
 

HalcyonFlorida

In the Brooder
6 Years
Mar 29, 2013
37
0
32
THanks for the ideas! Well,DH has nixed the idea of a hoop house coop, unfortunately. He wants something more....er....refined? Not sure how to put it. We have an A frame barn like house and the coop will abut a barn shaped shed, so he wants a coop that uses one side of the shed, and then a 10x10 run in front of that. I have to sketch something out, and perhaps someone here will have ideas. Thanks!
 

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