New to chickens...would this plan work?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by saucyaussies, Jan 22, 2017.

  1. saucyaussies

    saucyaussies Out Of The Brooder

    Jul 3, 2016
    I've read around the site, and I've learned so much! I'm looking to get set up this spring for chickens and have a plan in mind, but haven't seen where anyone describes doing something similar so am thinking I might be going at this the wrong way.

    I have a playhouse that I'll be converting into a coop, it's probably 6'x6'ish. It's up off the ground so I want to fence in underneath it in case I want them in a small area, but they'll mainly have free range of an area about 20-30' x 150', ground ranges from open grass to under deciduous trees to under evergreens with brush. I'll probably give them access to the whole front yard now and then, the goats are already out there during the day. I plan to get a pair of geese as some sort of protection. We have no coyotes, roaming dogs are fairly rare, so it is mostly aerial predators and cougars (one was shot the back of the property just yesterday after getting a neighbour's goat actually) and bears. Clearly nothing will stop the cougars/bears, so it is ravens/eagles that I'm hoping the geese could warn/deter a bit. The area the chickens will be ranging in isn't really feasible to net the top.

    As for purpose, I'd like chickens for eggs mainly, I'd like a colour variety in the eggs and pretty chickens. I'd also like to be able to put some meat in the freezer as well, so ideally dual purpose breeds for the most part, but I think sometimes pretty eggs and chickens may win over in amt of meat on a breed. ;)

    So my idea is once I'm ready to get a bunch of straight run chicks, thinking black copper marans, maybe 10 or so. Let them grow up until I can ID hens/roosters and choose maybe 3 hens to keep and butcher the rest. Then when I'm ready/when I find chicks, get another 10 or so and do the same and continue a few times over the next year or so as I need more meat or am ready to grow up some more egg laying hens.

    Does that sound okay? Or will it be a royal pain to introduce new chicks every so often?

  2. realsis

    realsis Crazy for Silkies

    Jan 17, 2013
    I'm thinking you might be just about perfect for the 3 hens.not more. They want you to have about ten Sq. Feet per bird. When I first got into chickens i went through a couple of small houses until I finally got wise and we built our own. I have 11 females and 1 roo. They can't freerange due to the maNY preditors we have. We have a nice run next to their house they go in and out. Both covered with roof and enclosed. Chickens perch and night so I've got a two level perch. For your three hens as long as the space is there and it's preditors proof you should be great! Make sure they have plenty of ventilation for sleeping. I cover my ground with shavings. You might consider that. Please post pics when your done!! Have fun and enjoy your girls!sounds like they will be happy. Remember any time new birds are introduced it changes the pecking order and they WILL fight for position. As long as blood is not drawn it's normal. If bloods drawn remove the bleeding bird IMMEDIATELY or the blood will draw them to kill. Hope this helps and Best wishes
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2017
  3. saucyaussies

    saucyaussies Out Of The Brooder

    Jul 3, 2016
    Isn't the 10sqft/bird for their run? Their run/range area will be 20-30ish' x 150'ish. The 6'x6' is for their overnight coop, which I've read you want to aim for 3-4sqft/bird so I'd be looking at it holding 9-12 birds which is why I figured 10ish would be a good number. It's tall, so easily could put in a few layers of roots.

    But maybe I'm wrong...and now totally confused as to what I've read.
  4. chickiemom3

    chickiemom3 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 4, 2016
    Northeastern OH
    I am relatively new to chickens, but I believe I had always read 4 sq ft in coop, 10 sq ft in run and minimum of 1-2 sq ft of roost space. I hope this is right because my DH just finished our new coop this evening and he will be quite put out if he has to put an addition on right away!
  5. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Flock Master

    Nov 7, 2012
    You would be limited with roost space in that area. You couldn't have them roosting over each other b/c the ones on the bottom would be getting pooped on, and they would refuse to live with that set up. If the roosts were low enough that they could get up/down with out having to do much flying, it might work. How tall is the building?
  6. saucyaussies

    saucyaussies Out Of The Brooder

    Jul 3, 2016
    It's about 7' tall. My thought was to have a row of nest boxes down each side at the bottom, I think I figured I could get four along each side and then put roosts over top along each side and across the back. That would give about 16' of roosting space, that would be without doing a double layer.
  7. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Flock Master

    Nov 7, 2012
    If you have 10 layers, at most, you will only need a total of 3 boxes. having the boxes under the roosts would save you some space, and might work, if you use poop boards. the big issue with smaller coops is when the birds try to fly down off the perches, and they don't have enough room to do so, so end up smacking into the wall in front of the perch. I think in a coop that size, I'd limit it to about 6 birds, but that's my preference. I also can have snow here from mid Nov through part of April, so coop space would be more important. An other issue I see if you intend to keep all of your birds in that space is your plan to start new groups of chicks several times over the next year. Adding new birds to a small coop can be very problematic, because a small coop does not allow the birds enough room to satisfy the social protocol of the pecking order. When the alpha hen tells an underling to get out of the way, and yield space, what she is really saying is this: "HEY YOU! Get out of here. Get out of my sight, or I'm gonna rip your face off." In a small coop, the youngster or bottom rung gal simply can't reply with that request, no matter how much she tries.
  8. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon

    I think it's a doable plan to start with.

    You should be able to fit 10 birds there as they grow. Since you'll be culling as they reach maturity, you'll be freeing up space.

    Planning is all well and good, but the key to keeping a happy, productive flock is flexibility. Don't get locked into "Well, this was my plan and I'm sticking with it come what may". Start with your plan, and be flexible. Watch your flock, listen to them. Healthy birds are productive birds. Stressed, overcrowded birds are going to be less productive, have behavioral issues, be more prone to disease and parasites. If you start having issues, you need to re-evaluate your flock management. So, go with your plan. If you notice the above issues, you'll need to adjust. If you have happy, productive birds, continue with your plan.

    Getting to try a variety of breeds is part of the fun, IMO. I'd start with different breeds, myself. I like the visual variety and being able to tell the birds apart. Just something to think about.
  9. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Chicken Obsessed

    Nov 12, 2009
    western South Dakota
    Very good advice given above. What I will add is don't fall into the trap of thinking that free ranging will let you cheat on coop space. You don't say where you are from, but if in a northern state, the birds spend a long time on the roost in the winter. Cramped space can really hurt in the winter.

    Another problem is space is concrete, as in it does not change, when you add chicks they are so tiny, but they grow and as they get bigger, they take up more space. What many of us experience people on here see, is people coming on to the post, saying they have had birds raised together all of a sudden terrorizing each other. The space has gotten too small with the birds getting bigger.

    My vote, use this play house for a year or so, you have it, can modify it cheaply and have a set up that will work for a few birds. Start with 6 pullets, see how it goes. There is a learning curve. Then if you like this hobby, begin to consider how you could expand, knowing that this current coops would work great as a brooder coop or as a bachelor grow out pen, while your laying flock is in NEW digs! That is chicken math. I just recently got a second coop and love it!

    It is truly better to start small, say 6-8 chicks, get it figured out. Go from there. You could get white egg layers one year, green the next and brown the third, then it is easy to see who is laying. Note: dual purpose birds, have a lot less meat on them than a meat bird, just more than an egg layer, and it will not be like KFC. Great for soup and casseroles, grow out roosters if handled carefully are ok, but not what you are most likely used to.

    With your predators, I would have a bigger run, and maybe an electric zap to it. I let mine free range quite often, but many a time I have been glad to have them penned up out of harms way.

    Good luck.
    1 person likes this.
  10. azygous

    azygous Flock Master

    Dec 11, 2009
    Colorado Rockies
    Others have given great advice on coop size, etc. I'd like to address your predator situation.

    With cougars and bears, geese won't be much protection. You need to incorporate hot wire around the coop or you will invite a bear to destroy it and clean out your entire flock. Cougars will be happy to pick off your chickens as they free-range, so be aware that you may face more than just losing an occasional bird to a predator. You can get cleaned out in a single day.

    I have faced this problem myself. Early on, you may see no predators. But eventually, they will discover your "meat market", and you will likely experience significant flock loss and infrastructure damage, the latter being as devastating as flock loss. After battling bears and bobcats, I finally installed hot wire with a solar charger around all my coops, runs and gardens, and I've had no damage or loss since. It's very simple and not expensive to install.

    It's foolish not to plan this system of protection from the very start of your endeavor. Your predators will be "trained" from the beginning and not get into bad habits that will be hard to break, even with hot wire. Peanut butter dabbed on hot wire at intervals sends a "message" that once learned, will discourage predators for years.

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