new chicken mama with questions

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by jessiekaley, Feb 17, 2008.

  1. jessiekaley

    jessiekaley Hatching

    Feb 17, 2008
    Ulster County

    I am new to the world of raising chickens, and I have gotten a lot of helpful information from this site. I have a bunch of questions that I would like to put to all of you experienced chicken people. Any responses would be much appreciated.

    I am thinking of converting a garden shed into a coop. Here are my questions:

    1. How much space do I need per chicken? I am seeing 4 sq feet, but then others are saying less space than that.
    2. Can anyone give suggestions for the ideal roosting area? We are planning on building shelves, but don't know how high or how big they should be.
    3. I have read that sunlight is important for egg production, so we are planning on putting a window in the coop. But, then have also read that roosting areas are best if they are dark. Any suggestions?
    4. How much outdoor space do they need? We are planning on building a fenced-in area. Also, what do you use to cover the outside area from predators?

    I want these chickens to be happy. And the coop will be important for several months a year, as we are in NY state, which is cold and snowy in the winter.

    Thank you very much for taking the time to help get this new family project off to a good start!
  2. SeaChick

    SeaChick Songster

    Apr 25, 2007
    Southern Maine

    There have been several discussions lately about coop size. When you see lesser space requirements, its usually for a commercial operation. Most people here keep their birds more as pets and care about them having enough space to be happy in. That's why you'll see, on BYC, recommendations for MINIMUM 4 sq ft per bird indoor space, and 10 sq ft in the outdoor pen/run.

    Also note that those are "useable floor space" recommendations, so don't count any space taken up by low nest boxes, droppings pits, or feeders.

    Minimum is the key word, in my opinion. When we built last year we built slightly larger than those recommendations, and after one winter I think we should have gone bigger.

    For people whose birds free range all day, this stuff isn't very critical, but if your chickens will be cooped up for most of the day, I'd recommend giving them as much space as possible. We have 6 hens in a walk-in henhouse measuring about 5 x 6 feet (and 7 feet tall) and a run measuring 11 x 6. Our girls got a little stir-crazy this winter and we have been dealing with some pecking problems. Here's our set-up:


    For roosts, many people use a 2x4 with the wide edge up. Below it, we use a "droppings board". This catches most of the poop so they don't track it all over the coop. WE scrape it off every morning. Someone has a great set up where they use the tops of the nest boxes as the droppings board (a 2 x 4 is mounted about 6" above it. This saves space in a small hen house.

    Our roost is about 36" off the floor, and all but our big buff orpington use it with ease. It must be higher than the nest boxes or they'll roost in the nests, yuck.

    I think windows are great. Especially in winter, it'll maximize sunlight. It's my understanding that it's the NEST boxes that should be dark and cozy.

    Hope this helps!!


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