Prepping the site for a pre-fab coop

MrsHedgehog

Chirping
7 Years
I'm feeling a little overwhelmed. I've been studying BYC and a few other resources for more than a year now and thought I was sufficiently equipped for chickens but now am in a bit of trouble. Here is the background (pardon the long-windedness). When we first began planning this a year ago the local feed store informed us that the minimum flock for our area was 3 birds. So we bought a used 3' x5' coop last summer that the previous owner said housed 6 birds comfortably, although she modified the little run area to open onto a larger yard. We knew this coop was a bit of a "starter home" but we had no clue how fast it would become woefully inadequate. In March, we anxiously went in to buy our chicks and were informed that the minimum was 5, not 3. FWIW, we wound up with 1 BO, 1 RIR, 1 Golden Comet, 1 Silver Laced Wyandotte and 1 Araucana (Ameraucana?). It seemed like winter would never end here in north central Maryland but one day 2 weeks ago we got our 4 days of spring and we began introducing the girls to the great outdoors. I think we brought them back to the brooder about 3 nights before summer showed up and it seemed fine to leave them in their outdoor digs 24/7. It is now abundantly clear that the girls need a new home ASAP. Hubby and I are absolutely not capable of building a coop. It is just not an option. Trust me! We have asked some handymen and the turnaround time is the end of summer. So that leaves prefab. I have read the horror stories about prefabs here and we are lucky to have some local coop/shed/barn builders and we have actually checked a few out in person and found them pretty sturdy (solid wood, and no chicken wire - it's hardware cloth on the windows and vents and the run is enclosed with a powder-coated heavy-gauge wire mesh). They seem to be reasonably ventilated and much MUCH easier to clean than the glorified canary cage we have now. The turnaround time seems to be 3-4 weeks and yes, they are pricey but so is a trip to the trauma center and/or divorce court, which is where we would wind up should hubby and I try to build a coop, or even modify a shed.

If you have stuck with me this long, bless you. You are a saint. Here come my questions (finally!) - how should I prep the site for this coop? The one I have in mind is the 5th one down on this page:

http://www.penndutchstructures.com/chicken-coops-combination.htm

It has a 36 sq ft run, and I have read multiple places that 4 sq ft/ bird is minimum for standard breeds, so this should suffice our five, right? Plus, someday we hope to create a little yard for supervised play. If I understand the specs correctly, the coop itself is 24 sq ft, which again (in theory?) is OK for our flock - judging by our past two winters the girls will see an awful lot of the inside of the coop November through March. My biggest question is since this thing is on 4x4 skids, what is the best way to deter predators and keep the run material(s) in the run? I was going to line the base of the outside with some sort big pavers like Castle Wall Blocks, since I have built garden walls with these in the past. Would this be adequate? Would lumber be better? (I think I have the tools and skills to do that if necessary). Also, I was pondering the material inside the run, and since there are some local quarries was thinking of river sand in all or part of the run. Our little yard is nice and flat and pouring a concrete pad is not an option at this point. Also, We would like to have the option of relocating the coop if necessary. Any input would be much appreciated - I feel horrible I have put the girls in this mess.
 

WthrLady

Free Ranging
6 Years
Jul 24, 2014
4,187
17,202
631
WestOak, Nebraska
It's too bad the store forced you into more birds than you could handle.

Our Tractor supply requires you to buy 6.

Orschelen has no minimum.

Anyway. The coop should have 4 sq feet per bird, and the outdoor run/play area should be 10 sq feet per bird.

If they will shut in for long periods of time, more sq Ft per bird is better.



And there is nothing wrong with having someone else do the work for you.
 

Wise Woman

Crowing
Apr 12, 2011
875
724
266
My Cottage
Hi there. I am not an expert, but I can tell you what we have done in the past. We have had 3 different coops. The first one, my husband did pour a cement floor in the coop, but in the run, he set it on some sort of pavers. They looked like the top pieces that go onto a cinder block wall. He put the 2 x 4's right on top of them. Once it was built, he lined the outside of the run with large river rocks. We never lost a chicken. I am thinking you could do something similar. Here is a picture I found on Pinterest of a run with pavers laid down. Not sure if it will work for you or not.


Hope this helps.

Cheers.
 

MrsHedgehog

Chirping
7 Years
Wthrlady, please know it's not the store requirements, it's the county! (The co-op is headquartered in one county and our particular store is in another, so the main store, which sponsored the seminar, is allowed to sell 3 while our store must sell a minimum of 5 unless the buyer is a 4-H'er). The sales girls apologized for the misinformation and we could have (should have?) chosen to pass on getting the chicks once we knew. I totally understand - they are flock animals, and as a horse person (horses also are usually happier in a herd of more than 3) I get it. I applaud the regulation and don't resent having the extra two girls; I kick myself for not double- and triple-checking that we could have the proper home ready by the time these girls needed it. Thanks for the input about the run area ratio; I thought it was the same as the coop area ratio. Hmmm. I do hope we can add a nice safe yard to the run by the end of summer. Thanks for making me feel better about not being handy with plans and tools! I look at the coops on BYC and feel awed and humbled.
 

Wise Woman

Crowing
Apr 12, 2011
875
724
266
My Cottage
Yes, yes Wise Woman! I like that better than my idea. That looks very safe and tidy, too. I'm grateful for the input :)
Oh good. Glad it helps. This site has gotten so big and it is overwhelming trying to find information and decide what to do. There are so many opinions and options presented on here. We are going to be building a new coop over this summer as we are downsizing from goat keeping and will be focused on chickens only. The problem is, this is my last ever coop and if I get it wrong, I will be stuck with it for the next 30 years or so. It is hard to decide what to do as there are pluses and minuses to everything. One person swears by one method and another by another. You just have to do the best you can.

Another suggestion for you is if you have a local high school with a wood shop, ask the instructor if the students could build a coop and or run for you as a project. I worked for a local water district and we did this frequently with the local high school. They built all sorts of things for us and it gave them experience doing something besides making a bookcase. We paid for the materials and they did the work for free and were graded on it.

In my experience (14 years) the more room you can give your chickens, the better. If we had a covered run (our new coop will have one) our girls would be outside all day long. They only retreat to their coop in bad weather because our run is wide open and exposed to the elements. So I would say that if you have a good, dry, protected outside area, you can get away with a bit of a smaller coop. Just be sure there is room for everyone to roost at night.

My current coop is 6' x 10' and we have 13 chickens. They also have access to the goat's house which is in the same shed as theirs and that is also 6' by 10' and they hang around in the hallway between the two which is 3' by 10'. Their outside yard is 24' across and about 34' long. This seems to be more than enough room. Our new coop will be 8' by 8' and while they will lose the goat house access, they will gain an enclosed, covered run, protected on two sides by a block wall, which will be 7' by 27' and have a small side section that will be 4' by about 8'. This should work fine as they will never have days when they have to stay inside all day long. Will will be planting things in front of the run in summer to keep it cool and will cover it with plastic if necessary in the winter. It will sit directly behind our house under a huge pine tree and so it will be very well protected. Good luck with your project.

Cheers.
 

junebuggena

Crowing
Apr 17, 2015
23,102
8,201
491
Long Beach, WA
I'm feeling a little overwhelmed. I've been studying BYC and a few other resources for more than a year now and thought I was sufficiently equipped for chickens but now am in a bit of trouble. Here is the background (pardon the long-windedness). When we first began planning this a year ago the local feed store informed us that the minimum flock for our area was 3 birds. So we bought a used 3' x5' coop last summer that the previous owner said housed 6 birds comfortably, although she modified the little run area to open onto a larger yard. We knew this coop was a bit of a "starter home" but we had no clue how fast it would become woefully inadequate. In March, we anxiously went in to buy our chicks and were informed that the minimum was 5, not 3. FWIW, we wound up with 1 BO, 1 RIR, 1 Golden Comet, 1 Silver Laced Wyandotte and 1 Araucana (Ameraucana?). It seemed like winter would never end here in north central Maryland but one day 2 weeks ago we got our 4 days of spring and we began introducing the girls to the great outdoors. I think we brought them back to the brooder about 3 nights before summer showed up and it seemed fine to leave them in their outdoor digs 24/7. It is now abundantly clear that the girls need a new home ASAP. Hubby and I are absolutely not capable of building a coop. It is just not an option. Trust me! We have asked some handymen and the turnaround time is the end of summer. So that leaves prefab. I have read the horror stories about prefabs here and we are lucky to have some local coop/shed/barn builders and we have actually checked a few out in person and found them pretty sturdy (solid wood, and no chicken wire - it's hardware cloth on the windows and vents and the run is enclosed with a powder-coated heavy-gauge wire mesh). They seem to be reasonably ventilated and much MUCH easier to clean than the glorified canary cage we have now. The turnaround time seems to be 3-4 weeks and yes, they are pricey but so is a trip to the trauma center and/or divorce court, which is where we would wind up should hubby and I try to build a coop, or even modify a shed.

If you have stuck with me this long, bless you. You are a saint. Here come my questions (finally!) - how should I prep the site for this coop? The one I have in mind is the 5th one down on this page:

http://www.penndutchstructures.com/chicken-coops-combination.htm

It has a 36 sq ft run, and I have read multiple places that 4 sq ft/ bird is minimum for standard breeds, so this should suffice our five, right? Plus, someday we hope to create a little yard for supervised play. If I understand the specs correctly, the coop itself is 24 sq ft, which again (in theory?) is OK for our flock - judging by our past two winters the girls will see an awful lot of the inside of the coop November through March. My biggest question is since this thing is on 4x4 skids, what is the best way to deter predators and keep the run material(s) in the run? I was going to line the base of the outside with some sort big pavers like Castle Wall Blocks, since I have built garden walls with these in the past. Would this be adequate? Would lumber be better? (I think I have the tools and skills to do that if necessary). Also, I was pondering the material inside the run, and since there are some local quarries was thinking of river sand in all or part of the run. Our little yard is nice and flat and pouring a concrete pad is not an option at this point. Also, We would like to have the option of relocating the coop if necessary. Any input would be much appreciated - I feel horrible I have put the girls in this mess.
When calculating how much space you need, do not include nest box space. Nest boxes will require additional space. If they will be spending weeks at a time in the coop, adjust your sq. ft. accordingly. No one was ever sorry for making their coop a little too big. It's a lot harder to make more room latter, if crowding becomes a problem. Your run size needs to be rethought. Runs should be at least 10 sq. ft. per bird. The more space you can give them to do their chicken things, the better.
 

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