Preparing our new coop.. .. Lots of questions!

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by RidgeRoost, Sep 3, 2016.

  1. RidgeRoost

    RidgeRoost Just Hatched

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    So, here's the story. My husband and I are getting ready to close on our first home together, and its out in the country! That means, per zoning laws... I can have pretty much as much chickens as I want... but we are going to keep it close to a max of 20... but about 10 to start with. Im sure some chicken math will play in but thats down the road. As it is... we have no chickens now.

    My husband had chickens growing up (30 chickens I think). I at one time had 6... Its amazing they survived... I had no idea what I was doing.. and well.. My first coop was a 55gl rubbermaid tote that was raised up, they were totally free range, and no protection from predators other than their wits. My grandparents ended up rehoming them when a rooster attacked my grandmother. (i bought straight run, and ended up with 4 roosters and 2 females.) ANYHOW... that was 14 years ago.

    Now, Im more educated, constantly researching, and feel knowledgeable enough to delve into chicken keeping.

    There are just SOO MANY cute coops out there, but i havent found "The one". They either arent big enough, or dont have things I want, etc. I've been researching and looking for weeks now in preparation. We dont plan to buy chicks until spring, but figure we could get the coop ready before that. I think when it comes down to it, we will just design it ourselves. I've learned its better to build then it is to build. BUt... I still have questions and keep going back and forth over different things.

    I know for a fact, I am going for a... all in one style of sorts. And we are planning to build bigger, than what our future flock needs intially, as we plan to let them raise some of their own babies.

    Question 1. Size of coop... Soo if you go by 4 sqft per chicken, and eventually we want 20... soo the coop alone needs to be a minimum of 80 sq ft. Right? I was thinking a 9' x 9' layout of the coop. Does that seem about right, or do i need to make an adjustment on my size?

    Question 2. The raised coop. Now.. I know all coops should be raised for predator protection. However, at what height? I love the idea of those raised higher than a wheel barrow, to make scraping the bedding out an easier task (Plus the look of them). But... Will this make it hard to "scrub" the walls down? Or would a good rinse every once in the while do the trick? I'd be willing to build a walk in for ease of cleaning, I just feel I am losing something there. Opinions on this?

    Question 3. Covered run. Now.. I plan to cover the run with welded wire, again for predator protection. However, should I put a roof over the entire run instead? The area our home, offers no trees. (Use to be a working field for crop production). WE do plan to plant some. But that means, I need to provide shade for them.I want to give them a big square run to play in. I was thinking of half roofed run, and a half wire mesh covered roof, to allow for sun bathing in direct sun. OR would an entirely roofed run be best? I do want to make this a walk in part to spend time with my chickens.

    Question 4. Insulation. So.. I live in the midwest.. our winters, while chilly, rarely dip below 0, and snow.. varies depending on the year. Sometimes its nothing, and sometimes its a lot! Do i need to add any insulation,even if its just foam board insulation, into the chicken coop? Or would this be a bad idea?

    Question 5. Ventilation. I know they need ventilation, does said ventilation need to be on each side, just one side, what? I read that you dont want drafts, but I'm concerned cross ventilation might cause drafts. I am also thinking of making a matching duck coop next door, and need to determine if I can butt then against one another, or put space inbetween for ventilation.

    I think thats it for now.. Cant wait to hear your responses!
     
  2. Dmontgomery

    Dmontgomery Chillin' With My Peeps Premium Member

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    Longville, La
    Congratulations on your new home! You came to the right place for advice. These people are great at helping out.
    9x9 is an odd size because your building material is likely going to be based on 4' and 8' lengths. Build 8x12 (just my opinion).
    My coop and run are on the dirt so I have no clue on raised coops.
    Covering the half of the run closest to the coop is a good idea so they can get some sun at the other end.
    From what I've read, only really cold climates should have insulation on the walls of the coop. You shouldn't need it.
    Ventilation would need to be on at least 2 walls for circulation. All 4 walls with a way to block it off some times is the better option.

    There are thousands of different coop designs on the coops tab up at the top of this page. Spend some time there and pick out stuff that will work for you. Drive around your new area and meet the neighbors. Someone else nearby will have chickens and you can see what works or doesn't work for them.
     
  3. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

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    Northwest Arkansas
    Question 1. Size of coop... Soo if you go by 4 sqft per chicken, and eventually we want 20... soo the coop alone needs to be a minimum of 80 sq ft. Right? I was thinking a 9' x 9' layout of the coop. Does that seem about right, or do i need to make an adjustment on my size?

    You might follow the link in my signature for some thoughts on size. People like to think there are magic numbers associated with chickens, if you use a certain number everything is going to be perfect but if you use something just slightly different disaster looms. It doesn’t work that way. We are all unique in so many ways that no one number works for all of us. I understand that people starting out need some guidelines, that 4 square feet is a decent starting spot, but whether or not it is sufficient or overkill will depend on your management techniques, climate, flock make-up, and whether outside areas are available. I find the tighter I squeeze them the harder I have to work, the more behavioral problems I have to deal with, and the less flexibility I have to deal with issues. These are mostly things that affect you, not the chickens. While you can often get by with less room, I suggest you provide as much room as reasonable.

    As Dmontgomery mentioned, if you are buying new most building materials come in 4’ or 8’ standard dimensions. If you use those you can get by with less cutting and waste, plus normally build a bigger coop for the same money. An 8’ x 12’ may sound big to you but if you carve out a small storage area for feed, it is not and it makes things a lot more convenient for you.

    Question 2. The raised coop. Now.. I know all coops should be raised for predator protection. However, at what height? I love the idea of those raised higher than a wheel barrow, to make scraping the bedding out an easier task (Plus the look of them). But... Will this make it hard to "scrub" the walls down? Or would a good rinse every once in the while do the trick? I'd be willing to build a walk in for ease of cleaning, I just feel I am losing something there. Opinions on this?

    I have no idea why a raised coop is better for predator protection. You stop predators by building barriers, not building it up higher. Climbing predators can still climb. Jumping predators can still jump.

    If you only raise it a bit you create the perfect place for some critters to raise families, like mice and rats. Snakes often are attracted to mice and rats. If you raise it, raise it high enough that you can get under there. A raised coop provides a great space for chickens to get out of the sun, but they might decide to lay under there. You need to be able to get the eggs if they do. If you raise it enough for the chickens to get under there, they will keep the mice and rats from building nests under there.

    Some people tend to think that the coop needs to be cleaned to the standard of your bathroom. I don’t. The chickens don’t either. Chickens poop a lot. As long as it doesn’t get too thick or wet, life is good. The main thing you want to avoid is for it to start smelling. I don’t mind a nice earthy scent, that’s a healthy scent. It’s when it gets that sharp acrid stink it’s a problem. That’s primarily a factor of wet. Wet poop stinks, dry poop does not stink. A wet compost pile will stink, a slightly damp one has a nice healthy earthy scent. It’s the same thing.

    You need to be able to reach every part of the inside of the coop. You may need to do maintenance, make modifications, retrieve eggs from who knows where, or retrieve a sick or injured chicken. For the size you are talking about a walk-in coop is mandatory in my opinion. You are just making your life too hard otherwise. There is nothing wrong with a raised coop but it does need to be walk-in.

    Question 3. Covered run. Now.. I plan to cover the run with welded wire, again for predator protection. However, should I put a roof over the entire run instead? The area our home, offers no trees. (Use to be a working field for crop production). WE do plan to plant some. But that means, I need to provide shade for them.I want to give them a big square run to play in. I was thinking of half roofed run, and a half wire mesh covered roof, to allow for sun bathing in direct sun. OR would an entirely roofed run be best? I do want to make this a walk in part to spend time with my chickens.

    Both the coop and the run need to be tall enough for you to walk in without banging your head. If you don’t do that you will regret it. Sun, rain, and snow comes in from the side as well as directly overhead. Wind comes in from the sides. In summer heat is your enemy, they absolutely need shade. Wet is always your enemy, a wet coop or run is a dangerous place from a disease standpoint. Cold is not your enemy in winter, a cold wind is. Any kind of roof sloped so the water runs away from the run is good, it will help keep the run drier and provide some shade at certain times of the day. You may find it very beneficial to close in a part of the run, say the west side where the hot afternoon sun comes from, to provide better shade plus give them some protection from a winter wind. I took this photo when the temperature was 4 degrees above zero Fahrenheit. I left the pop door open and gave them the option to come out. If a strong wind had been blowing they would not have been out like this, though they would probably have been in an area I have blocked off to give them wind protection. Cold is not your enemy.

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    When my chickens wake up to a white world they normally avoid the snow for a few days, but eventually one builds up the courage to walk in it and they then go out to forage. It’s not the snow being cold that bothers them, they just don’t like change. Walking in snow doesn’t bother them any more than it bothers the wild birds that overwinter. In this photo, it snowed during the day when they were already out. The change was gradual enough they never bothered to go in.


    [​IMG]

    Creating an area in the run that blocks the wind and keeps snow from accumulating can greatly increase your usable area in winter.

    Question 4. Insulation. So.. I live in the midwest.. our winters, while chilly, rarely dip below 0, and snow.. varies depending on the year. Sometimes its nothing, and sometimes its a lot! Do i need to add any insulation,even if its just foam board insulation, into the chicken coop? Or would this be a bad idea?

    Chickens will eat foam board and it’s not good for them. If you use foam board insulation cover it with something so they can’t eat it.

    You can insulate if you want. There is a lot of debate on here about how necessary that is or how much good it does. I don’t insulate. My winters usually don’t get much below zero Fahrenheit. My chickens don’t have problems with cold. People that add insulation say their coops feel a lot warmer than they were before they insulated them, so that’s a benefit to the people that may work in there. It’s not that important to the chickens.

    Question 5. Ventilation. I know they need ventilation, does said ventilation need to be on each side, just one side, what? I read that you dont want drafts, but I'm concerned cross ventilation might cause drafts. I am also thinking of making a matching duck coop next door, and need to determine if I can butt then against one another, or put space inbetween for ventilation.

    When people see the word “draft”, they tend to think of the very gentle air movement around a window or closed door in their house, the kind that you need to hold a candle next to so you can see the air movement. That kind of gentle air movement is not a problem, it’s actually good in winter. That means good air is replacing bad air. It’s when a breeze strong enough to ruffle their feathers hits them that you have a risk.

    You do not need to keep the area the chickens are in warm, any more than you need to heat the outdoors for the birds that overwinter. Chickens and the wild birds wear down coats, they can handle cold. What chickens need is to be able to get out of direct breezes (remember, they don’t like cold winds) and to have really good ventilation. In winter the danger to your chickens is frostbite. Moisture is a huge factor in the frostbite risk. You get moisture from their breathing, their poop, and water dishes if you have thawed water in the coop. The wild birds have great ventilation, sleeping in protected places out of the wind in trees or bushes. Ventilation gets the moisture away from your chickens. In summer you need as much ventilation as you can get, high and low. To me the easiest way to provide good ventilation is to have openings up high so any breezes pass over their heads.

    There are several ways to provide openings up high. I like to have overhang to keep the rainwater out and leave the tops of the walls open (covered with hardware cloth for predator protection). Gable vents and roof vents can also move a lot of air. There are specialty designs where you leave one end pretty open and put the roosts in a sort of cul de sac in the back out of direct breezes. Yes, heat will escape, which is fine. What you do not want to do is close the coop up so tightly that the moisture cannot escape. People further north than us have solved frostbite problems by providing more ventilation. People a lot further south than us where it barely freezes have created frostbite problems by making their coops so tight that moisture cannot escape.
     

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