Open Air Coop - Dirt Floor - Minimal Extra Feed

Kris64

In the Brooder
5 Years
Oct 8, 2014
86
5
48
Black Mountain, NC
I'm brand brand new to chickens--haven't even gardened in almost 20 years and am starting slowly now.

My concern is that my plan is too beautifully simple, but if it works that's the good news: super simple.

I have a 30 x 40 foot area that has been a garden for over 5 years (house I just bought). I'd like to put up a fence down the middle and use one 30 x 20 area for a garden and one 30 x 20 area for ~3 chickens. Each year I would swap them so the garden could be planted in the tilled soil that the chickens have been working on for the past year.

The chickens would start each rotation in the fall to munch up any left overs from the garden. The space, I think, is big enough for just a few chickens to enjoy grubs in the ground and with kitchen scraps I was hoping to not have to purchase food or only small amounts.

For the coop, I was interested in an open-air dirt-floor--I saw one at Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa, NC. They have an electric fence; I would not have this and would attempt to keep rodents at bay with wire mesh a foot deep underground.

The dirt floor appeals because I read about a "deep mulch" system where I could just toss straw or pine shavings down and let the poop compost without having to clean a wood floor.

The open air appeals because I could easily walk into the coop for cleaning and keeping an eye on things. Also, the order and chance of too much humidity (I'm in NC) would decrease with a large opening at the front.

Main question: will this general idea work or have I simplified too much?

The fence around the garden is 5-6 feet and with 30 x 20 areas, I wasn't planning on netting overhead.
 

Primo

Songster
6 Years
May 1, 2013
268
48
106
Texas
Not sure what you mean by open air but my next coop will definitely be three sided with the open side faceing east,with a dirt floor. Much easier to take care of.I live in texas though. Probably not applicable to far northern climates
 

Kris64

In the Brooder
5 Years
Oct 8, 2014
86
5
48
Black Mountain, NC
Yep, that's pretty much what I meant: 3 sides with the front just screen. The one I've seen doesn't even have a screen on the front. I'm thinking 7 feet tall in the front and then the roof sloping back and down a bit. Maybe 4 or 5 feet deep. If drafts become a problem, I could lean some plywood at the front or even close it off maybe make two large doors.

What are you planning to keep predators out? Do you think I can get away without extra feed other than what's on the ground from the garden?
 

mightymax

Songster
6 Years
Oct 8, 2013
655
102
128
Central Coast, CA
I guess I'd have to ask, what is your main goal in keeping chickens? Eggs, meat or ??? Although you could probably get away with feeding just grubs and kitchen scraps, the quality of everything (birds, eggs, meat) will go down tremendously without any supplemental chicken feed. And some breeds of chickens can fly, so a 5 - 6 foot tall fence without any covering is not a good idea. Not to mention the predators you'll be attracting with your open air buffet. But if all that you want chickens for is to hoe the ground for you then I guess your off to a good start.
 

Primo

Songster
6 Years
May 1, 2013
268
48
106
Texas
I would have the 3 sided coop enclosed in the run. Fencing would be 6' with at least 3' up from the ground being hardware cloth. I would surround the fencing with an apron of some type of fence material extending about 18" flat on the ground to prevent anything from digging in. Then you have to decide if your going to cover the whole thing to prevent hawks from swooping in. I built this exact set up for our goats this year (lost one to a coyote in January) They go in this fortress at night. Has worked well
Don't know about the feed, but my guess is in such a small area you will have to still feed them. A 50lb bag only costs about $12 where I live and would last 3 chickens a three or four months, maybe longer.
 

Kris64

In the Brooder
5 Years
Oct 8, 2014
86
5
48
Black Mountain, NC
Thanks for the reply. I was shooting for eggs. I'm starting to think I might need extra feed and a smaller area so I can fence the roof. Maybe a tractor idea instead. I wanted to keep the cost down and the feed organic thus the hope to get away with just what's on the ground and scraps. With just a screened front wall, it felt more comfortable to me. My favorite coop I've seen was at a local college and it didn't even have screens in the front, but they do have an electric fence. I'm starting to debate if this is all worth it for eggs, fertilizer, tilling, and fun. Maybe there are breeds that can't fly much. . . .
 

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