Now I need coop/pen help!

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Red Star, May 6, 2007.

  1. Red Star

    Red Star In the Brooder

    May 4, 2007
    Ok, I am moving to a new place. I will be inheriting a regular coop, room for 25 birds, up on blocks with an attached, (uncovered) run. (She's leaving me some hens, but I am going to be getting some more chicks next week.)

    The run, of course, has no grass. It is not covered.

    The lady said that she has never had a problem with predators until last year, and then she lost about 10 hens to hawks over the course of a few weeks, when they were free-ranging. (About 7 acres.) She's not sure if the same hawk will be back or if it was a migratory hawk problem, since she had not had any issues for the previous 5 years.

    So, she has really limited the free-ranging and bought netting for the run but not installed it, in case there are troubles.

    So, that's where it stands and now that I'll be coming into the picture.

    I do not want my chickens sitting in their coop, I want them to free range.

    But I don't know anything about chickens!

    Can I build pens (similar to tractors, but not as permanent homes) out of pvc and chicken wire that they can be in all day and then put them back in the coop at night? I am thinking about two circular pens (22 total birds) that are 10 feet in diameter each (hubby says they are 128sq ft each) with enough door to get them in/out and get water in/out. I will move these pens all over the place.

    Wind is not a problem. I can fill the PVC with sand or water to weigh it down. I will cover a section with tarp for shade.

    Does anyone do this? It seems like everyone either has the all-in-one tractor or a coop, not a coop and a portable pen.

    Do I need to put one nesting box in each pen? I only want them to lay in the coop - but maybe that will be confusing.

    How do I get the chickens in/out every day? I don't know anything about this!!!

    I'd appreciate your thoughts.
  2. kiaya611

    kiaya611 Songster

    Mar 5, 2007
    Lebanon, OR
    Hi Red Star,

    I am not sure I can answer all of your questions, but I will try to give you at least some hints based on my limited experience. I have 42 chickens (young 9 and 10 weeks old). I built a coop and permanent covered pen for them. I would suggest that you get a book on chickens (at least for reference). One you might get is Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens. It is very popular and covers most everything. It is easily available also. Besides that, I have one big question...have you ever tried to catch chickens before? If you are going to be trying to move chickens from one pen to a coop every night, you will have a very interesting time on your hands trying to get them into the coop since they are separate structures. I know with mine that now that they are "trained", they are at the door in the morning to be let out and in the evening, they are in the coop and all I have to do is close the chicken door to keep them in the coop at night and keep the predators out. In those instances where I need to catch one in the chicken yard (basically 12X32), it is quite a challenge to catch a chicken that doesn't want to be caught. I can just see you trying to wrangle your chickens from movable pen to coop and back again each day. I personally wouldn't recommend that.

    You mentioned nest boxes. The general rule is 1 box for every 4 laying hens you have...and I wouldn't put any in the movable pens since you are putting the chickens in their coop at night (could be wrong on this one, because mine aren't old enough to lay and when they are, they are "attached to their coop). Water is the biggest thing that you need to provide for them whether or not they are out of their coop. Shelter from the weather of course is very important as well. When you mentioned that you would be building these movable pens out of PVC and filling them with water or sand and covering them with tarps, I got to thinking of two different things. One...I would want wheels on these so I could move these around easily because you are going to want them adequately weighted to prevent being blown over by wind especially when you attach a tarp to you don't want a four legged critter to be able to lift one up to get to your chickens and that means they will be heavy. Second...(and I am not sure of this), but trying to get them from the movable pens to the coop I think could be your biggest issue. I know that I have read about and seen pictures of tractors and it seems that the chickens live in them full time. They are equipted with feeders and waterers and nest boxes. They are just moved around periodically to give the chickens new ground to forage on.

    If you want to have these both a coop and movable pens, then I would try to make some sort of "docking" device where you can out the "tractor" to a chute that leads to the coop and let the chickens go in for the night and the same in the morning when you let them out. They will go through the chute into the "tractor" and then you can move them to where you want them.

    Chickens can be trained...especially young ones...and creating routines is one of the best ways to train them.

    One thing I can say is that chickens are very easy and enjoyable to keep and making things as simple as possible is important (at least to me). For instance, if I had to clean the coop 3 times a day, I wouldn't do it. I used to have exotic birds,and they were too much work (for me). Chickens on the other hand, if some thought is put into the design of their coop and their needs can be quite simple and not very time consuming at all. I have disabilities and I simply can't be out constantly tending to them, but I can go and open the chicken door twice a day and I can fill their feed containers (2 22lb hanging feeders) 3 times a week and fill their 7 gallon waterer every 2 to 3 days. I will eventually get an automatic waterer and that will take care of itself. I still just have to do the plumbing.

    In any case, I hope I have at least given you something to think about and maybe mentioned something you hadn't thought about yet. I am sure that there are more seasoned people here that can be of more help than I, but I thought I would at least give it a try.

    My best wishes to you.

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