New home owner - previous owners left their chickens!

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by JulieAnn0923, Aug 28, 2016.

  1. JulieAnn0923

    JulieAnn0923 Hatching

    Aug 28, 2016

    I moved into a new home about two months ago, and the previous owners left their 9 backyard the backyard. We never anticipated having chickens, so I'm completely new to the game, and we have one big problem I'm not sure how to address. The previous owners didn't care well for their chickens; when we got them they were in pretty rough shape, but they've come around with a better diet and lots of fresh water. The problem comes with the coop. It's a small, converted shed, and from what I've read, the layout is completely wrong. The nesting boxes, which are beyond saving, are on a table that is at the same height as the roost, on top of a million other things. We're working to clean things up; we have to tear out all of the existing items in the coop because they're so dirty and covered in chicken poop that they're not salvageable. Anyway, I'm not sure how to move forward with this without completely stressing them out. I'm also not sure how they'll take to the new nesting boxes, or how to introduce them to them. Any advice anyone has would be much appreciated. These chickens have been through enough with the previous owners, I don't want to stress them more than I have to.


  2. You all are really sweet to take on chickens you never planned on. I don't know what is wrong with some people. I guess they thought, "they're just chickens". Ugh. :(

    I'm new to this too but I think with 9 you would only need 3 nest boxes. I have 9 pullets who are all laying now and had 3 boxes problem. I added a nest box last week(because I am so persnickety it was an even number) and so far 1 pullet is using it and the rest are still using the original 3 boxes. LOL For 9 you need 9 linear feet of roosting space or one foot per chicken. I think that is the minimum. If you could share some pics I am sure you could get some good suggestions on how to set the coop up. What size coop is it for starters?

    And also....Welcome! You will ove it here because you will be able to find an answer to pretty much any question through search. :)
  3. Howard E

    Howard E Songster

    Feb 18, 2016
    We had a similar situation with cats. The previous owners abandoned their 4 barn cats. I was OK with it, and said so, but I knew what I was getting into. No worries.

    So do you really want chickens? Would you have chickens if they had not been left for you? If yes, to either of those, then off to the races and let's get this fixed. If NO, and you only have them out of pity or some other sense of moral duty, then this is a workout scenario. There are no doubt local folks who will help you get out of this.

    You need not be stuck with them if you don't want them.
  4. JulieAnn0923

    JulieAnn0923 Hatching

    Aug 28, 2016
    Thank you, BirdyDeb and Howard!

    I'll definitely get measurements and take some pictures. I really want to get the girls into a better living situation since they're not in a great one at the moment.

    Howard E., I honestly didn't know I wanted chickens until I had them. I also never expected I'd ever be in a position to have them, so it was actually a pretty great, but somewhat terrifying surprise to find them after driving across the country for three days, especially in the condition they were in. Aside from the eggs, they've absolutely astounded in me in how perceptive and social they are. I never would have thought chickens would have such distinct personalities. My husband and I love to sit and watch them, and our family members love to see pictures of them, so they're definitely a welcome addition. The concern still comes with the current shape of their coop, since it doesn't look like it's been touched in years. They've been pretty good with our shoveling it out and removing some of the odder things left inside, so I'm hoping the transition from what it is now to something fresh and clean will go over well, and not cause too much stress. I'm just not sure how to introduce them to and encourage them to use new nesting boxes. The ones they have now are stained and mildewed, but I know it's what they're familiar with and used it. It just can't be good for them.
  5. Pork Pie Ken

    Pork Pie Ken Flockless Premium Member

    Jan 30, 2015
    Africa - near the equator
    I use my garden shed as a coop and they can work very well. For what it's worth, here's what I did. Clear everything out and then put up roosts (tree branches and old wooden skirting board), put plastic basins (40-50 cm diameter) on an existing shelf (weighed down with dry soil and grass clippings) for nests and put dried grass clippings under the roosts (6" deep, at least). That's about it. Maybe ventilation is something to look into - try typing that in the search box. It doesn't need to be fancy - it needs to be functional.

    Good luck
  6. CountryBoy16

    CountryBoy16 In the Brooder

    Feb 20, 2013
    My suggestion would be to put one nesting box in for every 2 hens. Put the laying boxes lower than your roost because most of the time they will roost as high as possible. I like to use milk crates as laying boxes with hay for bedding. Fairly straight tree limbs or 2x2s or 2x4s make for good roosts. Put as many roost poles as you can fit so that they have plenty of room. Good on you for taking care of them and I hope this helps :)
  7. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    It's good that you spend time in there working, the more time you spend in there the more relaxed they will be with changes.
    They still won't like the changes much, but they will get used to them if you give them time.
    They can get freaky about new things, but their curiosity usually overcomes their fear pretty's usually pretty funny to watch.

    Will wait to see pics but if possible you might put new nests in and leave the old nests for a couple weeks,
    then when you take the old ones out, they'll be used to seeing the new ones and may even already be using them.

    ETA: out of curiosity, were the chickens part of the house deal or did they just leave them.
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2016
  8. rosemarythyme

    rosemarythyme Songster

    Jul 3, 2016
    Pac NW
    I wish I had advice on how to handle the nest box situation (my pullets haven't gotten to laying yet) but just wanted to say good on you for stepping up and taking on ownership of these birds and for researching how to take care of them. Sounds like you'll be a far better owner than their previous one ever was!
  9. olivigus

    olivigus Chirping

    Jan 7, 2016
    Ben Lomond, California
    It's great to hear you're enjoying your chickens! Even though I'd been wanting them for quite a few years, I never dreamed how very much I would love having them and watching all their antics.

    I'd agree with the advice to introduce the new nest boxes and give them some time to discover them and try them out before you take out the old ones. You might also try gradually moving the old ones down a little bit lower at a time until they reach the level where you want to have the new ones. Also, you can try putting a ceramic egg or two, or even a few golf balls, in the new nests. That can help them get the idea that this would be an excellent place to lay an egg. (For some reason, chickens seem to like to do what they think other chickens have done.)

    Just be aware that some of those fake eggs are awfully realistic looking, which is good for fooling chickens but not so good when you accidentally gather them up along with the real ones and include them in the carton you give to a friend. (True story.)

    All the best with your new girls!
  10. JulieAnn0923

    JulieAnn0923 Hatching

    Aug 28, 2016
    Hi everyone,

    Thank you for your advice on the boxes and the coop, and for all of your kind words!

    Aart, regarding the chickens and the house, when we looked at the house, we saw the chickens at a distance, but didn't assume they'd be leaving them - who leaves their animals?! They'd never made mention of leaving them, and there wasn't anything in our contract, write up on the house, anything, about their still being here when we took ownership. When we got here, we found the chickens were here, but they took the washer and dryer. We're not sure if they thought that was an even trade off, but I think we got the better end of the deal :). I was just so mad when we saw them, though. Their water basin was completely covered in slime and sludge and clearly hadn't been touched in at least a week, and their feeder was left out in the rain, so the crumble turned to mush and was getting moldy. They had no actual food or anything. Ugh. Irks me just thinking about it. I did a Google crash course in chickens that night and ran to a tractor supply store to get some things for them.

    I've added pictures of my ladies and their current residence (I'm mortified by the interior). It just rained here like crazy, so it's pretty muddy in their run. The coop is 18 x 10'. I shoveled the floor clean a couple of weeks ago, it took a few hours. We weren't sure what the floor was actually made of; turns out it's cement, but it was caked with about 3 solid inches of chicken poop. We also removed this odd wooden structure from one side of the coop - it was some type of crafting stand - the chickens weren't doing anything with it, it just took up space. The wooden contraption you see in there - the table, boxes, roosts - are all attached to each other, and all screwed or glued or attached in some weird way or another to the walls and floor. We're going to have to remove the ENTIRE piece at once; no way we can piece it out gradually. The nesting boxes were a lot worse when we got them; I scraped them out with a paint scraper and scrubbed them and dried them, but they're still pretty bad. They don't use the smaller 2 of the 3, just the larger. I've been scrubbing the walls down and scraping off their...chicken ladder?....every few days, but it is eternally covered in poop. Other issue we have is the doors. The doors open in, so trying to put any type of bedding on the floor has proven near impossible; just makes the door hard to open. We're going to have a handyman out soon to replace the door and the frame so that it opens out, so that we can put some sand down. We're also working to remove all of those large stones you see in the run, and add in fresh dirt to level the space out. Also, regarding the roost, one of our chickens - Rose - appears to be scared to get down from it. She chirps and paces back and forth after the others are down, and it takes a good while for her to get into the run. When she does get down, she lands really hard. I've snatched her up and put her on the ground a few times so that she doesn't hurt herself; I'm just concerned that having a higher roost might make things worse. Do you think a tiered one would work? She doesn't use the chicken ladder to get down, like the couple of others do.






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