New coop questions

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by dhughes, Mar 16, 2011.

  1. dhughes

    dhughes New Egg

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    Mar 16, 2011
    Hi, I'm new to backyard chickens (and having chickens at all). We have 12 hens (we hope all hens!) in a brooder right now. I want to build a coop rather than buying one off the shelf. In my planning and research I've come up with a few concerns and questions:

    First off, my basic plan is to build an approximately 6x6 feet coop. This would have roosts and laying boxes in it. We expect that when all is said and done we might end up with as many as 9 hens. I'm also going to build a screened in run area. I'm not sure what size I'll make this yet, but I'm guessing 18 to 24 feet long and 6 feet wide. In general, I have a basic picture of what I'm thinking about in my head and I'm about to throw them into Autocad and later order some wood, etc.

    Also, we live in the piedmont area of North Carolina. Temperatures typically vary from the 20s in the winter to 100s in the summer. We get strong thunder storms from time to time and we get one or two good snow storms in the winter.

    Lastly, I'm basing a lot of my plan ideas around the design I saw in Back Yard Poultry magazine. I'd link to it, but the system won't allow me to. So, instead if you search for "A Modern Chicken Coop Student Entrepreneurs Start Chicken Coop Company" in Google, it's the top result.

    So here are my questions:

    Temperature control -

    What do I need to worry about here? Will chickens freeze to death in 20 degree weather? Will they die of heat in the coop in the summer? What is typically needs to be done to manage this? The design I'm using as inspiration has slots all around it that would provide quite a bit of airflow and ventilation. However, it also wouldn't provide much protection from the temperature in winter. Any thoughts?

    Rain and moisture control -

    Do I need to worry about protection the hens from rain? I know that moisture in production farms combined with too little ventilation can be deadly to chickens. But, do I need to worry about rain coming in through the ventilation and getting the hens, their nests, their poop, etc, wet?

    Ventilation -

    Any general comments on this? I've read that ventilation is important for keeping fresh, clean air in the coop. It can also help keep it cool in the summer if configured correctly with vents low and vents high so warm air rises via the chimney effect. For 12 chickens, how much do I really need to worry about this? A lot of examples that I've seen online don't seem to have much of anything for ventilation. And, because of my concerns with temperature and rain control, too many vents might be a problem and too few might be as well. Any advice would be appreciated.

    Wood -

    I'm currently planning to build this coop and run using cedar wood and MDO. I understand that cedar chips can be lethal to chickens. My reading has suggested that cedar wood (especially used only in the framing) would be fine and safe. Do you agree? I'd prefer to avoid pressure treated lumber if I safely can.

    Nesting boxes -

    I've been told that more than one chicken will share a nesting box. I have plenty of room to add 12 or more nesting boxes in my (mental) plan. But do I need that many? Any thoughts or recommendations? Also, I've read that a 1 foot cube is just fine for a nesting box. Is that also correct?

    Transparent roof -

    Last question! I've also been told that a transparent/translucent roof somehow helps the chickens to be healthier and produce more eggs. Is there any truth to this? I've been considering using clear corrugated plastic for the roofing material. I'd appreciate your feedback.

    Thanks in advance for all the help!

    Doug
     
  2. dhughes

    dhughes New Egg

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    Mar 16, 2011
    Oh, I had another question that came up. I've read that you should bury a screen (aka hardware cloth) down and out about 10 inches around your coop/run to prevent predators from digging in. Is there any reason the bottom part of the run/coop couldn't just be screened like the top and sides will be? I figure the grass would grow up through the spaces in the screen and that it probably wouldn't be an issue for the chickens. And besides, then I wouldn't have to dig holes in NC clay. [​IMG]

    Thanks!
     
  3. dsqard

    dsqard Crazy "L" Farms

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    Go to this thread, there is a lot of information there. https://www.backyardchickens.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=140561 I wouldn't screen the bottom of your run. They like to scratch in the dirt and the screen would get in their way. You won't have grass growing through the screen, they will scratch it all up.
    Another suggestion, I wouldn't use the clear plastic for the roof. It would make the coop really hot in the summer. You could try white plastic that might not be quite as hot.
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2011
  4. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Quote:Absolutely unquestionably not. The cold-weather issue is frostbite on the comb and wattles (which is painful and disfiguring, but essentially never fatal and they do get over it -- frostbit feet can also happen, but not at those temperatures unless you are doing something *seriously* wrong). The main ways to avoid frostbite are to choose breeds appropriately (in your case, this would mean avoiding huge-combed things like white-faced black spanish) and to keep coop air as dry and draft-free as possible by means of ample appropriately-located ventilation.

    See my 'cold coop' page, link in sig below, for much more on the subject, also take a look at my ventilation page.

    Will they die of heat in the coop in the summer?

    That is the much more serious threat. Chickens really don't do well above 90 - 95 F. They need a large area of shade (large so it will be as cool as possible), some cool shady earth to wallow down into, and in a heatwave you may wish to use other cooling measures such as a fan or big jugs of frozen water. The coop needs to be really, really well ventilated to ensure that it is no hotter than the surrounding air-temperature-in-the-shade (which is as good as you can realistically get, without a/c anyhow)

    What is typically needs to be done to manage this? The design I'm using as inspiration has slots all around it that would provide quite a bit of airflow and ventilation. However, it also wouldn't provide much protection from the temperature in winter. Any thoughts?

    Slots are not likely to provide enough airflow for summer -- ideally you'd have one or more sides of the coop all- or mostly-mesh (like, hardwarecloth). You can bolt cover panels on for wintertime, but even in winter you still need good ventilation to prevent humidity -> frostbite problems. See my ventilation page for more on subject.

    Do I need to worry about protection the hens from rain?

    Well, they need somewhere reasonably draft-free to get out of the rain when they so choose. They won't always choose to, especially in hot or mild weather.

    A bit of precipitation blowing into the coop is not a big issue most of the year, although if you are getting *drenched* areas you may have to retrofit some overhangs or something to block the worst of it, or open up part of another wall to let it dry out faster. You do not want cold winter rains blowing in, however -- BUT, your wintertime ventilation should be designed so that you can shut down whatever side is upwind, so that makes blown-in rain very easy to avoid.

    It can also help keep it cool in the summer if configured correctly with vents low and vents high so warm air rises via the chimney effect. For 12 chickens, how much do I really need to worry about this?

    I know some people say you want low plus high vents, to get draft.

    However in reality you are much much better off with simply having one or more walls mostly or totally mesh. That will give you MUCh better ventilation and heat control.

    In wintertime, you would not want low vents open anyhow, as you don't want cold drafts.

    I'm currently planning to build this coop and run using cedar wood and MDO. I understand that cedar chips can be lethal to chickens. My reading has suggested that cedar wood (especially used only in the framing) would be fine and safe. Do you agree? I'd prefer to avoid pressure treated lumber if I safely can.

    Cedar lumber is fine. Note however it will not last nearly as long as p/t wood if it is in close ground contact or buried posts.

    I've been told that more than one chicken will share a nesting box. I have plenty of room to add 12 or more nesting boxes in my (mental) plan. But do I need that many? Any thoughts or recommendations? Also, I've read that a 1 foot cube is just fine for a nesting box. Is that also correct?

    There is no real point in building excess nestboxes. One per 4 chickens is good, one per 2-3 chickens is way plenty. A 1 ft cube is fine for the more compact breeds but some of the larger ones prefer a little more elbow room, I dunno what breeds you're considering.

    Transparent roof

    One word -- DON'T. Seriously, do not do this in a hot climate (it is a bad idea anywhere else, either, but will be fatal in the South and HAVE to be changed out)

    Light is good. Creating a solar-powered chicken oven is not. Especially in hot climates, put yer transparent/translucent panels in the WALLS (preferably not the W or S walls, either, unless you have other windows or light-transmitting panels as well and are prepared to cover over the W and S facing ones for summertime).

    Also, note that light does not make them lay better per se. What matters is daylength. If daylength drops below 12-14 hrs, most chickens (possible exceptions being first-year pullets and/or commercial prodution breeds/lines) will slow or cease laying eggs til days lengthen again. If your coop is dark and dim and poorly windowed, the chickens do not percieve day to begin until the sun is quite high in the sky, and by the same token "night falls" in the henhouse long before it is truly dark outdoors, so a larger fraction of the year will be spent below that 12-14 hr threshold. However, once you have enough natural light coming into the henhouse to let their "personal daylength" equal outdoors daylength, adding *more* windows does not make them lay any better. You still may need to add electric lighting to extend daylength near the winter solstice if you want absolutely-maximum yearly egg production. (Many of us don't do this though, letting the hens rest instead)

    Good luck, have fun,

    Pat​
     
  5. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Quote:That won't give you much protection (tho it's better than nothing). If you're going to bury fencewire straight down, it should be 18" deep for good protection (especially if you have coyote/dog/fox issues); but personally for most circumstances I prefer a horizontal apron, 2-3' wide. It works just as well and is way less work to install!

    Is there any reason the bottom part of the run/coop couldn't just be screened like the top and sides will be?

    First, it can be pretty expensive if you have a large area.

    Second, it will badly interfere with chickens' ability to scratch and dig holes (which is a pretty big part of what being a chicken *involves*!) unless you have 10"+ of 'fill' atop the wire. And whoa, would that ever be WORK to do (plus the cost of buying the fill material).

    There are some circumstances where it might make sense -- primarily, a very small run in an area with a known serious rat problem, tho frankly rats can be real hard to keep out.

    But as a general strategy, an apron is usually a lot better IMO.

    Pat​
     
  6. dhughes

    dhughes New Egg

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    Mar 16, 2011
    Thanks guys for the excellent feedback! I really appreciate the help! I'm sure I'll have more questions as I work through the design. And I welcome anyone else with opinions chiming in!

    Thanks again!
     

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