Nervous Newbie

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by DesiLee13, Jun 9, 2016.

  1. DesiLee13

    DesiLee13 Out Of The Brooder

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    Apr 25, 2016
    Kansas City, MO
    I want to make sure I do everything correctly for my chickens, so I have a few questions. My chickens range in age of about 2 months to 3 months, and I have new chicks that will arrive soon. My new chickens hang out in my basement in a metal brooder until they are old enough to be outside alone. I have a mix of roosters and hens.

    1. I started them with a medicated feed, but have switched to a Purina brand that is for mixed flock, and it is supposed to be free of GMOs. It is still a crumble feed. I have been told by someone else that I can stay on crumble feed and just provide oyster shell for the hens to nibble on. I was told the layer feed is harmful to roosters. What feed is best for a mix of roosters and hens? Also, do I need to provide grit if I am not giving whole grains.

    2. How do I handle the poop in the run/roam around area? It is a grassy (well soon to be bare) area. Do I need to spray it down to dilute all the poop? Do I just leave it lay there? Also, how clean is considered clean? Do I need to remove the perches and scrub them down? My coop has a removable bottom that I pull out to remove the soiled hay each week, but don't spray it every time, because many times there is no poop stuck to it. I can only pick up the mess in the nesting boxes.

    3. In the winter what do I need to do anything to keep them warm, or is being in the coop warm enough? I live in KC, MO, so our weather varies greatly from day to day.

    4. What is the best bedding to use in the coop and nesting boxes? I currently have hay, but I have seen others using pine shavings.

    I'm sure I have other questions, but that is it for now. I have read through many things, but I am a very anxious type person and want to make sure everything is great for my chickens.
     
  2. Howard E

    Howard E Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Feb 18, 2016
    Missouri
    NN........

    Can you share a photo of your setup? And how many birds being housed in it? Helps cut to the chase as far as seeing what you have and how best to respond to your questions.

    Did you intend to have roosters or did you just buy straight run chicks, half of which would be roosters and they are still around? Do you intend to keep one or more of them? You don't need to for the eggs. Many, if not most, cities that allow chickens limit that to laying ends, and prohibit roosters. Unless you want or need one, they may be more trouble than they are worth.

    Quick answer on the run.....deep litter, meaning wood chips, leaves, straw, etc. By deep, be thinking 4 to 6 inches to start and it may get deeper as time goes on. Essentially, they wind up living on a compost pile of their own making, more or less. How wet and nasty it gets and stays will depend on if it's covered, in the sun, in the shade, etc, but also how large it is in relation to how many birds. It should not be wet, nasty, full of flies or smelling. It won't be green grass. (Those pictures you saw of that were snapped 10 minutes after the birds went in. By dark, anything green in there had taken a beating. )

    My birds are about 6 weeks old and they are eating the same feed as yours. Eventually, they should have free choice access to grit, and once they start laying, also to oyster shell for the calcium they need to make eggs.
     
  3. DesiLee13

    DesiLee13 Out Of The Brooder

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    Apr 25, 2016
    Kansas City, MO
    I can get a picture today, that is if I can remember to take my camera with me. My coop is in a township that basically has the same rules as being on a farm....none. I can have cows if I want. [​IMG] We have a coop we purchased at a farm supply store that says it houses 5-7 chickens. It is one of those Little Red Barn ones. We also have a chicken run area that is 12'x12' that also has a small lean-to that is 4'x4'. We plan on adding another coop to the chicken run. My husband wants to have our chickens free range, but we do not have a fenced in yard and back up to a woodsy area that has fox and such, so I am not in favor of that. It is mostly shaded by a large tree. We currently have 7 chickens and plan on adding 5 more. We did not plan on having any roosters and purchased chicks from the pullet only bin. We were told by the manager that we had a 95% chance of getting pullets but I think we got mostly roosters. I can get pictures of them too. Our new chicks are coming from a hatchery.

    If we turn our fun into a compost heap, do we need to turn it at all or do the chickens do it? Also will we have to add things to it other than the hay?
     
  4. DesiLee13

    DesiLee13 Out Of The Brooder

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    Apr 25, 2016
    Kansas City, MO
    [​IMG]
    Here is my coop.
     
  5. Howard E

    Howard E Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Feb 18, 2016
    Missouri
    Some random thoughts, and in no particular order.

    I fear the coop they sold you as being good enough for 5 to 7 chickens is too small, has no windows and not nearly enough ventilation even for the 2 or 3 birds it is adequate for. The good news is your run is pretty big, so they won't be confined to it most of the time, which is good, as they would probably hate it and not do well in it to boot. If you are going to keep that many birds, probably best to start thinking forwards towards a bigger coop. Judging from the makeup of the buildings in the background, I'm a bit surprised you do not already have an old chicken house among the mix. Judging from the build of the run, whoever built that has more than enough skills to bang together a decent coop for you.

    Assuming your birds are confined within it, a yard of that size is going to accumulate a lot of droppings in a short period of time. Those who leave the birds on dirt usually end up with a wet, smelly, fly ridden nasty, nasty run. So a good option is to start accumulating litter in there. This could be wood chips, straw, hay, leaves, almost anything and everything green you can pull from the garden.....weeds, etc. Just throw it in there and let it start building up. Goal is 4 to 6 inches ASAP and eventually up to a foot or so, which may also mean you may need to shore up the wood around the base of the perimeter to hold it all in. Again, basically, they will be living on a compost pile of their own making. If it needs raking or stirred up, you toss out a cup or two of raw oats over the top and they will tear it up for you. Maybe once a year (late fall going into winter....about when you have and abundance of leaves) you go in with a pitchfork and clean it all out, then put it on your garden...... or if you want to make friends for life with your neighbors, give it to them for their gardens. Then start over.

    Having the top of the run open (no roof) will be good during dry weather.......that tree will provide the shade they need, yet maybe enough sun to help dry things out. Not having a roof will be a curse during those wet times when you are getting 2 and 3 inch rains all the time. We are close to being past that. Since the top is flat, a roof might be a problem come winter due to the snow load. It could collapse on you. But otherwise, the run looks pretty good. If you put a roof over part of it.....say that part next to the shed, and roost bars beneath it, my guess is they would chose to roost there vs. inside that coop.

    On your new coop(?!?), your birds will do fine as long as it is well ventilated. It may sound counter intuitive, but your birds do not need heat, they need fresh air and plenty of it. The goal is to have it as open as possible, yet not be windy or drafty inside, such that winter winds will lift their fluffed out feathers creating wind chill. For ideas, go to the Coop Section on BYC and peruse till you drop. Tons of good ideas. It does not need to be elaborate or fancy. Just functional.

    On opening things up for free range and to get them out of that run, you appear to have a situation that is perfect for an electric fence. Those come in two flavors (options). One is plastic poultry netting that resembles woven wire fence, except it is poly twine with wire running through it. It is about 3 to 4 feet high. It will keep birds in and varmints out. Problem with it being it is relatively expensive. Enough to enclose an area of about 40 feet square will run $150 to $200. Two sources......Premier 1 in Iowa is the best known. Another, and something closer to home is Kencove, which has a distribution warehouse in Peculiar. They may have a storefront where you can go look at, pick up stuff.

    Option B on the electric fence is multiple strands of light aluminum wire on plastic posts. That also works to keep birds in and varmints out. Look at the white step in posts with multiple options on height. For the same money, you can really open things up (an acre or two), which will help the birds spread out and still keep the varmints out. Won't help with hawks and owls, but will with most furry predators.
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2016
  6. DesiLee13

    DesiLee13 Out Of The Brooder

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    Apr 25, 2016
    Kansas City, MO
    Thank you for your assistance. I greatly appreciate it. The coop has a window on the back side, opposite the coop door, which cannot be seen in the photo. The coop door faces north and the window is on the south, so I did worry about that for winter time. We leave the window and coop door open at all times. I will definitely take your advice and look into building something else. We have thought about getting one of the smaller outbuildings from Home Depot or Lowes, but I know that would be more pricey. Our free time is very limited, so building one is a hard project to get to. He really isn't much of a carpenter, but can at least make a square. :)

    As far as the electric fence, my husband and I don't own the property (it is my father-in-law's rental property), so it is not likely that it would be an option. I will have my husband look into it though. We could see if possibly fencing off part of the area would work, but I doubt it.

    With the run being on the north side of that building, should we place hay bales on the west and north sides of it for the winter?
     
  7. Howard E

    Howard E Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Feb 18, 2016
    Missouri
    The advantage of an electric fence is it's temporary. The posts just step or drive into the ground. It can go up in minutes and come down just as fast. So works well in a temporary or rental situation.

    Now as to the part about that run being on the north side of that shed......not so good. Ideally, it would be on the south side. What you want is winter sun and protection from the northerly winter winds.......what you will have is winter shade. One can already see the moss/mold growing on the north side. So it will be a cold, wet, miserable place for the birds, come winter. Not only shade, but exposed to the full force of winter winds. But the good news is you have about 6 months to work with.

    If/when you plan to do the new coop, you may also want to simply move the run to join it. Perhaps move it around the corner to the east side so you get at least part of the day in the sun, and to block the northerly and westerly winds? If you leave the coop on the north end of the run, the front facing south, and build it all the way to the ground, it will do that for you. Worst case then would be to stack a few hay bales on the east side to enclose it on three sides. Moved only a few feet, but what a world of difference?

    BTW, a garden shed.....even a used one off Craigslist can be made to work with that size of a run. About 100X better than what they have now.
     
  8. DesiLee13

    DesiLee13 Out Of The Brooder

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    Apr 25, 2016
    Kansas City, MO
    The run is on the north side of that wood building with moss, which is a old garage, and is attached to the garage. The poor shape of that building is due to poor upkeep. It has not been taken care of in any way. The carpentry on that run is not as good as it appears, and it needs to be attached to the building to have a fourth wall and to stand up. Anyway, all that doesn't matter anymore. The current coop is on the east side of the garage. We can't put it on the south side of the building, since it is a garage, and that is where the door opens.
     

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