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New to Chickens: Starting out in Ottawa, Canada

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by tomcio, Sep 5, 2008.

  1. tomcio

    tomcio Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Sep 3, 2008
    Hi all,
    (I hope this is the right place to post this)

    my wife and I are planning on starting out a flock next spring (we aren't brave enough to start over the winter).

    I am curious if anyone had much luck keeping their chickens over the winter in South-East Ontario. It can get quite chilly here, and after reading the forums, I am still unsure if we can do it!

    Our plans are to build a 12x14 run with z 4x12 (6 ft high) chicken coup. It will be insulated, but not raised off the ground. The area we picked is sheltered by trees (directly) from the west and south, and has a fair bit of shelter on the east side as well.

    We would like to raise chickens for both meat and eggs, but have one requirement;- the rooster has to be mostly quiet. Although the coup will be fair ways (300 ft) from our neighbor's house, we don't want to be a nuisance to them. On that note, I read some posts about breeds, but I would love to hear everyone's opinion.

    Below is what what we are planning as a coup. Please disregard my very bad Sketch-up skills. (The shed will be 1/2 inch plywood, with regular doors, shingled roof and a 2-pane window). The fence is 4 feet tall made of regular chain-link with chicken wire dug in 1 foot deep beneath it (we have predators in the area) and chicken wire as the 'dome'.

    [​IMG]
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    So, with all that said, here are my questions to the experts:

    1. In a 4x12 coup with a 12x14 run, can I can keep roughly 20 chickens comfortable?
    2. For suggested breed, where could I obtain chicks in the spring in Ontario?
    3. Please help me improve my 'Chickenopolis' design!

    Any comments on the design will be greatly appreciated (I will post photos of the building process when we start!)


    Thanks a bunch,

    Tom
     
  2. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Quote:<boggle> LOTS AND LOTS of people keep chickens here, and in fact in much much colder climates. It is no problem whatsoever! [​IMG] (e.t.a. - for what it's worth, I am just north of Uxbridge, not quite an hour N of TO, in a rather cold pocket (we reliably get down to -28 or more every winter), so probably comparable to your area)

    1. In a 4x12 coup with a 12x14 run, can I can keep roughly 20 chickens comfortable?

    No, sorry, that is awfully small and chances are good you would really really regret it.

    You need at least 4 sq ft of coop PER CHICKEN and really in our climate I'd say that unless you're going to extensively winterize your run so that they will enjoy spending much of the day in it all winter except for really bad days, it works a lot better to have more indoor space than that (8-10 sq ft per chicken works well for me).

    This means that a 4x12 coop would house a MAXIMUM of a dozen chickens, and personally I wouldn't put more than six in there. Note that some people go as heavily-stocked as 2 sq ft per chicken but a) this is comparable to factory-farm conditions and if you're not going to give the chickens a better deal at home then why bother, and b) ESPECIALLY in the Ontario climate, you are very likely to run into pecking and cannibalism and disease problems, plus which it will be much much harder to keep things clean, unsmelly, and nonhumid in winter (humidity = frostbite).

    The run should probably be larger as well -- you want a minimum of something like 6-10 sq ft per chicken.

    It will be insulated, but not raised off the ground. The area we picked is sheltered by trees (directly) from the west and south, and has a fair bit of shelter on the east side as well.

    In this climate, having it insulated but sitting on the ground is smart. You should be fine that way.

    We would like to raise chickens for both meat and eggs

    Note that you will not get anything like supermarket chicken from anything other than an official broiler chicken (Cornish Cross, that sort of thing), and those will pretty much need to be raised separately from your laying flock, for a variety of reasons.

    You *can* eat breeds designated "dual purpose", but they are not going to be like whatcha get in the supermarket. They are also not a very economical way of getting meat, if that matters to you.

    but have one requirement;- the rooster has to be mostly quiet. Although the coup will be fair ways (300 ft) from our neighbor's house, we don't want to be a nuisance to them.

    Unfortunately there is no Guaranteed Quiet Rooster breed. There is so much variation within any breed. You will just have to keep trying, I am afraid...

    ...however let me tell you one thing that may encourage you: my chickens are in a HEAVILY insulated building (6" stud wall, fully insulated and drywalled [not by me [​IMG]], with heavily insulated drop ceiling) and it does quite a lot to muffle the sound of crowing. So this may help.

    Below is what what we are planning as a coup. Please disregard my very bad Sketch-up skills. (The shed will be 1/2 inch plywood, with regular doors, shingled roof and a 2-pane window). The fence is 4 feet tall made of regular chain-link with chicken wire dug in 1 foot deep beneath it (we have predators in the area) and chicken wire as the 'dome'.

    In general it looks reasonable to me (other than it will have to be larger for the number of birds you want -- and you will probably want to think about how you will separate layer and meat birds). If you enlarge it, making it wider than 4' would be the best way.

    You will probably want more pitch on the roof than shown (b/c snow load) will almost certainly want to extend the roof overhang at least a foot on all sides. Reason being a) shade but also mainly b) your coop needs ventilation -- a single window is not at all sufficient -- and the best way of doing that is to make a bunch of narrow openings along the tops of the walls, tucked under the eaves where less rain/snow will blow in. You can build flaps/sliders/whatever to close off however many of them you need depending on the day's weather. Yes, you need ventilation open in winter. (See link under my sig below)

    The run really does not have to be that tall -- chickens are not canaries and do not need a flight cage [​IMG] Just tall enough for you to walk around in comfortably - so 6' should be fine for most people. You will need 'rafters' to support your wire top to the run, though -- a wet snow or ice storm is pretty likely to bring down what's sketched out there (by stretching the wire or tearing it off its moorings altogether). You might want to consider roofing part of the run wiht a solid roof - this will encourage them to go outside during wintertime and make it easier for you to partially winterize the run w/plastic etc if you should decide to do so.

    2. For suggested breed, where could I obtain chicks in the spring in Ontario?

    Er, what breed? [​IMG] If you are looking for suggestions, anything full-sized should be pretty much fine (standard size breeds rather than bantams; the smallish, mediterranean breeds would be intermediate). Your safest bets in terms of avoiding frostbite would be things with rose/pea/cushion combs rather than very large single combs -- chanteclers, buckeyes, wyandottes, things that lay blue/green eggs -- but honestly single-combed breeds will do just FINE as long as your air quality is good (not too humid).

    if egg production is very important, you might try any sort of sex-link or a good production line of barred or white rock. If you don't care so much about maximal # eggs, pretty much anything is fine, at least within the above limits. (It isn't that you CAN'T keep banties or small bodied large combed breeds here - it's just that they need a warmer drier coop and it would be a lot easier to start with something more robust to winter conditions)

    FWIW, I have speckled sussex, a few buff chanteclers, a coupla ISA Browns (a red sexlink), and a lone golden campine hen (her 5 siblings all turned out to be roos, can you believe it [​IMG]). But, really there are a lot of breeds and everyone has their own preferences.

    Chick sources: you have almost no choices, unfortunately -- two of the three hatcheries in this part of the country (i.e. "east of the plains") have gone out of business this year [​IMG] The remaining one is in Carrying Place in Prince Edward County -- www.performancepoultry.com . Highly recommend. Otherwise you are stuck with sex-links from the feed store or finding a private breeder to sell you chicks (there ARE lots of private breeders, the trouble is FINDING them)

    I would suggest, if you are thinking about private breeders, that you go to lots of fall fairs in your area this month (most, not all, will have poultry shows), and talk with the people in the poultry tent. You may have to ferret them out, they are often elsewhere or trying to get the general public to ignore them, IMO <vbg>

    Good luck and have fun (and welcome to BYC! [​IMG]),


    Pat​
     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2008
  3. Dustoff79

    Dustoff79 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    San Antonio, Texas
    Tom, Welcome to the board. I too am new and know there are many more experts on the board. I cannot help you on the question on where locally to get your chickens. I am getting mine from McMurry and having sent next month.
    To give some answers, First take the time and go over previous posts, lots and lots of great answers to questions you don't even think of. It sounds like the coop may be to small for 20 birds, I believe the "rule of thumb" is 3-4 sq ft per bird. As you are in an area when you may have to keep them inside for extended periods of time due to weather, err on the larger size. Over crowding will cause numerous problems. The run should have around 10 sq ft per bird. So, I figure the coop is good for 12 birds and the run for 16.

    I am not sure you will ever have a fairly quiet rooster, but others likely can answer that better

    On your coop, you should go with hardware cloth (smaller opening) instead of the chicken wire around the bottom portion to better protect the chickens, some predators can get through the chicken wire and racoons can reach through. You also need to consider good ventilation. Patandchickens has a great page on ventilation and can be of great help. Many on the board also have some electricity going to their coops for lights and heat. If you have a dirt floor don't forget to protect the bottom sides from predators digging under the wall. You also need enough roosts for all the birds, I believe 10-12" of roost is correct. Also use wide roosts as that seems to be the consensus for colder climates (2x4 which allows the chicken to roost on the 4" side is suggested). Nesting boxes should be 1 per 3-4 chickens and general size seems to be 12"x12"x14". You can build or use a variety of items like milk crates, buckets etc.... many great ideas on the board.

    I look forward to your build, I am in the middle of mine.

    as for best breed. that is a hard one, I will have mostly buff orphingtons as that is my wife's choice.

    hope this helps.
     
  4. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Ontario, Canada
    Oh, Dustoff79's post reminded me:

    There is, in principle, one other possible source for chicks for you. There are two US hatcheries that will ship to border post offices, with health papers, and you can drive down and pick the chicks up and hand-carry them over the border and take em home.

    The two hatcheries are Sandhill Preservation, which I do NOT recommend for your situation because they do not schedule particular ship dates but just sort of ship things when they work their way down to your place on the list and it is really not worth that hassle UNLESS there is something you can get only from them and nowhere else; and Murray McMurray in texas. MM has a wide variety of breeds and will let you pick the ship date.

    The cost of shipping plus border papers is around $100 for either one. (Plus the actual cost of the chicks of course)

    I am saying this is an option "in principle" because frankly I cannot see any reason why it would be worthwhile for you to go to that expense and hassle (the chicks are NOT necessarily guaranteed to survive all that shipping and delay) without a good reason, and performance poultry has most of the breeds that MM does. Plus wouldn't you rather support Canadian sources [​IMG]

    But, just sayin', and of course you can make your own decision on it [​IMG]

    Pat
     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2008
  5. tomcio

    tomcio Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Sep 3, 2008
    Thanks Pat,
    I found Performance Poultry before, I didn't realize they were the only game in town (so to speak)!

    I will adjust the coup to be 6x12 as per your suggestion and of course lower the amount of chickens I'll keep (This is what you get for reading forums! So many opinions!)... I didn't realize they would not go outside in the winter.

    Thankfully the area for the coup is bordered by very mature cedars that shield it from snow/rain so the hope is that the chickens will have a place to scratch even in the winter.

    I will also incorporate more air-slots into the design... and definitely increase the size of the overhang... The pitch will be fine though as most snow we had laying in the area last winter (2nd worst on record for Ottawa!) was 8". The cedars do help.

    Looking forward to future suggestions.

    Tom
     
  6. Anny

    Anny Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 24, 2008
    Detroit Michigan
    Welcome! People have been keeping chickens forever in cold climates (and with out heat lamps none the less). I'm in Michigan it gets pretty cold here. This is my first winter with the chickens though.

    Good luck!
     

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