new to chickens - lots of questions about our coop

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by schmamy, Jun 3, 2011.

  1. schmamy

    schmamy In the Brooder

    Jun 3, 2011
    We've gone in with some friends to raise chickens. They have an existing coop on their property that was used by previous owners, so we are splitting costs and we did all the front-end research and work, and they're doing the day to day maintenance. My friend just emailed me with a bunch of questions (research is my job [​IMG] I have no idea where to start so I thought I would just jump in here...thanks in advance for your help!

    -What should the floor of the coop be like? If we are *not* doing the deep litter method—how much pine shavings should we put down, and how often does it need to be cleaned out?

    - How big do they need to be before they can be left out all day? Or, a better question may be, how long do they need to be kept inside a coop before they "remember" where to go if danger comes?

    - Do they need a water bucket inside and outside?

    - We have six nesting boxes for 10 hens. This is based on something DH (the construction guy) read about how many was appropriate. But they seem to be nesting on the floor still. Is that just what they do? Should I be introducing each of them to the nest? Do you think they don't like the hay in the nesting boxes? Is six really enough—do they just go in to actually lay the egg, or do they like to hang out in their own little nests?

    - Is there some kind of max temp they can be in? I was concerned about ventilation—the coop has no windows, just lots of gaps/holes covered with hardware cloth—but DH thought that was totally adequate and pointed out that this building was used as a chicken coop before. I see his point...but just saw another thread about how important it is to have windows. We're in middle Tennessee, where it's super hot and humid in the summers. Can they just be outside (in a very shady area) in the heat of the day? I guess we need to get a thermometer for inside the coop, but what's the danger zone?
  2. pbjmaker

    pbjmaker Crowing

    May 9, 2008
    Central Iowa
    First where do you live and how old are the chicks? Questions about ventilation and how soon they can be out depend on weather, how predator proof your coop is, etc.

    I have month old chicks living outside right now with no heat.( 2 standard size and 7 banties) I'm in Iowa and they go in the coop at night in a separate tub, but keep each other warm. There is also 3 chicks that are being raised by a mama hen that hatched on Easter. They just started roosting this week on their own. (Silkie mix chicks)

    Chickens do better in cold than in heat, so if you are in a super hot area I would recommend not only a couple waterers, but also freezing some 2 liters of water and putting them out in the hottest part of the day.
  3. Eggcessive

    Eggcessive Enabler

    Apr 3, 2011
    southern Ohio
    First of all, 10 chickens only need 2 to 3 nest boxes (1 for every 4-5 chickens.) You say you have an old coop, but do you have an attached run? The run needs to have 1/2 inch hardware cloth at least up 3 feet high (and preferably higher) for predator safety. The top should be covered with same or at least chicken wire to keep out hawks. Ventilation is very important since temps in the 90's are very tough on chicks and can kill. The deep litter method is actually the easiest to some, and the insulation it provides in the winter can help heat the coop. Many people use sand in the coop and run, and just clean the droppings with cat litter spoons. I think the run has to have shade cloth, a tarp, roof, or tree shade just to keep them cool in the daytime. If you're planning on free ranging them, they need to be looked afterpretty closely. Some people let their 6 week olds free range, but I won't until mine are much older.
  4. stcroixusvi

    stcroixusvi Songster

    May 5, 2011
    Western NC
    My Coop
    You might try putting a fake egg in the nesting boxes. Plastic filled with sand or wood so they can't kick it out.
  5. bryan99705

    bryan99705 Songster

    Welcome to the funny farm.

    Chips are good but tend to hold moisture and uric acid (you wind up with a ammonia smell that will hurt the birds and knock you on your butt). Suggest trying coarse sand, a rake, and a kitty litter scoop, it's much cheaper, and easier plus it won't absorb moisture like chips will.

    As to cleaning, most people do it once or twice a week depending on number of birds, whether they have poo pans and how much time the birds are in the coop

    My birds were in a coop with a fully enclosed run at about 6 weeks, the turkeys at about 4.5. Big enough to need the room but too small to free range. My birds never run to the coop from danger, they gather under a brushpile near Mongo, my raven fighting rooster. You guys have snakes [​IMG] so you need to think about that with chicks too. Might want to base your decision on size rather than age plus take a few extra precautions like wiring the floor under the litterto seal them out

    In your weather, you can't have too much water out. Looking out today, I have 4 water containers out plus the goose's kiddy pool.
    A fount in the coop is another reason for sand, however I have a tween coop with chips that I sit the fount on a catch pan that is covered with a old BBQ grate, the gives the chicks full access but any spillage doesn't get to the chips.

    Six boxes, you'll find is probably overkill, once the start laying you'll probably find most of the eggs in 1 nest. Don't worry about introducing the birds to the nests, when they're ready to lay, they will find the boxes. As to the chicks nesting, you might consider introducing a few branches to their area if there is room. This gives them something to explore plus they will discover they like to roost. Once in the coop you may need to help them find the roosts. A ladder set at a 45 deg angle, built out of saplings is a easy introduction. The bigger they get the higher they will roost.

    As to leaving them out, that's your call based on supervision, the available run or yard, and predators in the area. A red fox will almost steal a chick out of your hand at noon where others will be shy if someone or a dog is around. You might consider limiting them to a enclosed run when no one is around then releasing them when you come home. Another idea is running some electric fence around the birds area to deter visitors.

    Get some more ventilation in the coop. You don't know how many birds died on the previous owner or if they even used the coop. Just cut some holes in the walls and cover them with wire and it will help cool things off plus keep the litter dryer while flushing out and ammonia smell.

    You don't need to worry about a thermometer, just don't let the heat build up in the coop. Remember the birds have to go in to lay and roost and are far more in danger from high temps vs cold.

    Is the roof tight, that has a lot to do with keeping comfortable chickens and dry litter. Might check that. Also may want to secure it from coon and other predator's visits.

    Hope this helps and I hope you enjoy your birds
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2011
  6. schmamy

    schmamy In the Brooder

    Jun 3, 2011
    The chicks range from about 5-7 weeks old.

    We don't have a run--just a coop, and a large fenced-in area. I know once they're bigger they may very well fly over the fence, but for now, it keeps them contained. So far my friend has been letting them out for several hours at a time and they're doing well. The fenced-in area is pretty much completely shaded, which makes me think it may help with safety from birds of prey - they can't really fly over and spot the chickens easily because of all the tree cover, I'd think (unless I'm just totally naive, which is possible). And that should also help with keeping them cooler.

    What are "poo pans"? The chickens will actually poop in a designated area?!
  7. schmamy

    schmamy In the Brooder

    Jun 3, 2011
    also, can someone fill me in on "poop boards"?
  8. bryan99705

    bryan99705 Songster

    It's a board or pan that sits under the roost to catch poo. When roosting and asleep birds tend to let their systems clense and you will find about 75% or the poo in a coop is under the roost. If you have a removable, easily cleaned pan or cookie sheet under that area, a large part of your work is done, aside from active nest boxes which removable liners is nice too.

    As to your concern about flying over the fence, look into wing trimming.
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2011
  9. VelvettFog

    VelvettFog Songster

    Apr 7, 2011
    Yakima, WA
    Poop board --

    A board, try or bin that is typically placed under the roost to catch droppings. Chickens poo a lot while sleeping. The board is then cleaned daily (or as needed) to keep the coop from smelling. People who use poop boards tend to not need to clean the floor as often.

  10. Tracyree

    Tracyree Songster

    May 6, 2011
    Welcome! You should pop over to the middle tn thread in the "where am I?" section. Lots of us here!

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