Newbie looking for advise

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by canoetrpr, Feb 19, 2007.

  1. canoetrpr

    canoetrpr Hatching

    Feb 19, 2007
    Hello all:

    We are planning to start a chicken coop this spring on our hobby farm and hope to get some advice from you on the subject.

    We are going to section off a 15 x 12 foot section of an enclosed shed for the purpose. The ventilation is good. I'll be addressing any drafts etc. to make sure it is cozy. We have lots of pasture and would prefer free range. Initially we would set up a temporary wire enclosure to help them get used to their coop.

    We plan to start with 8 pullets for laying and then add 12 chicks to raise for meat as a start. If all goes well then maybe the next batch of chicks will be about 2 dozen. No more than maybe 32 chickens at a time and probably only 8 or 10 over the winter.

    This is where I could use your help:

    The shed is boarded up on the outside and the inside but is not insulated - other than the pocket of air between outer and inner boards. The coldest it gets here is about -10 degrees F. Do you think I absolutely must get it insulated?

    Heat Lamps
    I'm a tad concerned about the fire hazard but if I need heat lamps then I will get them. Do you recommend them, how many? I plan on a heated water bucket for water so the lamps are only meant to provide warmth.

    Breeds / kinds of chicken
    What do you recommend in particular for our meat chicks? We don't need to go for a 'meat' breed - certainly not if they are prone to heart attacks etc. We are not looking for the absolute efficiency of feed to meat conversion. Birds that will take a few more weeks to get to slaugther weight are fine. Most important are healthy, easy to care for chickens to stock our freezer.

    Anything else that you think I am missing would also be appreciated.

  2. CarriBrown

    CarriBrown Crowing

    I know nothing about meat birds but I can tell you that I wouldn't be too concerned about the cold. If you're planning on having 8 layers, they will roost together to keep warm. They actually do better in the cold than the heat! Some birds are hartier in the cold than others, though. As long as you keep out major drafts (they do need to have some ventilation) and feed them a little bit of scratch before bed, they will be fine.
    When they are young, they will need to have a heat source, but I've always used a heat lamp.
  3. urbanagrarian

    urbanagrarian Songster

    Feb 4, 2007
    I wouldn't worry about the cold for full grown hens. It can be that cold here also(Massachusetts) and I don't heat or insulate my 4 hen coop. I'm just careful about drafts.

    As for meat birds. I'd say try Cornish X. I have had good luck with them. After the first week I take away their feed at night and they are out on pasture when old enough at about three weeks depending on the weather. They only take about 8 weeks so you can find out soon if you like them and maybe try somehind else next time to compare.

    You will need heat for the chicks. I'm afraid of heat lamps also. Actually today I posted about a brooder I made that uses regular bulbs instead of heat lamps. With the small number of chicks that you will be brooding even the small brooder I describe may be larger than you need.

    Mini brooder I made

  4. I'm pretty new..but I have been researching breeds fairly heavily and have finally settled on the New Hampshire Reds for my three hens to breed my meat birds. I'm with you...I dont need a bird ready for slaughter in 9 weeks or before they have a heart attack trying to get out to the run, whichever comes first..Besides if you decide against meat, they are great brown egg layers too and tend to get broody often.
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2011
  5. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Quote:Nope, not "absolutely must". It never HURTS to have correctly-done insulation, but it should not be "necessary" per se at those temperatures. The extent to which you will benefit from it depends on the extent to which there will be a heat source in the coop. If your shed is dirt- or slab-floored (as opposed to a raised wood floor) then honestly you will get quite a substantial temperature boost just from the ground in there, which would make me consider insulating; also depending on your window setup you may get some meaningful solar heating in daytime to augment the ground-source warmth; also IMO if you are ever considering a heatlamp then it is sure worth insulating. But "need to", not really.

    I'm a tad concerned about the fire hazard

    Good, that puts you way ahead of many BYCers in terms of chances for a safely managed coop [​IMG]

    but if I need heat lamps then I will get them. Do you recommend them, how many? I plan on a heated water bucket for water so the lamps are only meant to provide warmth.

    Personally, I'd strongly recommend against them unless needed. By 'needed' I mean it is useful to have the capacity to set something up on short notice if you notice the chickens having problems. But I do not think you are likely to have to run one routinely, especially not if you were to bite the bullet and insulate.

    If you DID use a lamp (say, if you thought you were getting the beginnings of frostbite on someone's comb points and wanted to be conservative) I would strongly recommend two things. First, do not think of it as heating the coop, think of it as just providing a little 'pool of warmth' (in a corner, or over the roost) where the chickens can warm themselves if/when they choose. Second, if at all possible try to use regular lightbulbs NOT heat lamp bulbs, and by regular I mean also "normal wattage" i.e. 60-100w household type bulbs. In safe fixtures, safely rigged, with guards, yadda yadda. The lower wattage means considerably less fire hazard and if rigged right can give you exactly the same heat-pool effect for the chickens.

    Rather than a heated water *bucket* you might consider a heated waterer or heated waterer base; reason being, chickens do not drink all that well out of buckets unless they are very full, also it increases the chances of getting wattles wet which can promote frostbite, also all that surface area of unfrozen water is putting more water vapor into the air.

    What do you recommend in particular for our meat chicks? We don't need to go for a 'meat' breed - certainly not if they are prone to heart attacks etc. We are not looking for the absolute efficiency of feed to meat conversion. Birds that will take a few more weeks to get to slaugther weight are fine.

    On the one hand, if you do NOT want to go with actual meat chickens (CornishX, red broilers, freedom rangers, that genre) then it really does not matter exactly what you raise, anything fairly fast-growing early-weight-gaining is fine, a lot of people would do rocks (any color) or wyandottes, I have a line of largeish sussexes, plenty of other reasonable options exist. I would suggest picking on the basis of LINE not breed if at all possible -- there are quick-growing meaty lines of barred rocks and there are also scrawny late-maturing not-much-meat-there lines of barred rocks, so just shopping for the breed does not guarantee you what you want. Ask around.

    On the other hand. It is not going to be "a few more weeks to get to slaughter weight". It is going to be a couple more MONTHS of feeding and growing them out. And you get significantly less, and different, meat out of a 16-20 wk dual purpose cockerel than you do out of a 6-9 wk CornishX. Mind you, I like the meat better -- it is tastier and has more texture -- but it is CONSIDERABLY more expensive meat and you cannot use all the same cooking methods on it as you may be accustomed to for supermarket chicken.

    My experience with CornishX and red broilers has actually been pretty good. I've done small batches (like a dozen) and given them LOTS of room including a run outside, and in I think three or four batches to date have had ZERO losses before slaughter. Mind you the latest I processed any of the CornishX was about 9-10 wks and I would not have cared to leave them much longer as they were starting to have to 'work' to walk around. But, they seemed happy enough for what they are, and even hopped and flapped around and played and enjoyed being chickens before they got too huge, and definitely you do not need to kill as many chickens for as much meat AND the meat is way cheaper to produce. I found that the meat from the CornishX and red broilers was considerably better than supermarket chicken meat, tastier and not as flabby and squishy. I think because mine had more exercise. They also had substantial muscles in places where supermarket chickens have none. And the soup stock made from their bones was REALLY GOOD, unlike made from supermarket chcikens.

    So, if economics and a large tender carcass do not matter to you, certainly you can try a good line of some meat-type dual purpose breed, which will be tastier and have the advantage that if you keep a roo over winter and either have a broody hen or build/buy an incubator you can then produce your OWN chicks to raise up and eat.

    OTOH if economics matter, or you want a large or supermarket-tender carcass, I do think it is worth TRYING a batch of meat chicks, since as I say as long as you give them lots of room and some reason to move around, my experience is that they are not NEAR as bad as a lot of people will tell you.

    Good luck, have fun,


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