Question about free ranged hen coop size - can I fudge the guidelines?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Lil Mucket, Feb 16, 2011.

  1. Lil Mucket

    Lil Mucket Out Of The Brooder

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    Jun 23, 2010
    WA
    Hello hello!

    OK here's my question - I'm wanting to get chickens. I was initially planning on getting 5, but what with the mexico vegetable crop losses and just a general economic stability I am considering getting a few more and maybe a rooster. 10, MAX.

    I was planning on renovating an old doghouse that is 4 feet x 4 feet and has an angled roof that is 5.5 feet high in the front and 3.5 feet high in the back. So not as much floor space, but there is space to go UP.

    My hens will be totally free ranged. The yard is fenced securely enough and I'll be getting a chicken proof dog as well which ought to help. Our yard is an acre in size on a three acre parcel, and is fenced within the main property which is also fenced. Free ranging them will make a big difference in feed costs just because we live in a very kind of "rain foresty" area of Washington that is very shady and pretty moist and so we have tons of bugs all over the place. We also have about 15 fruit trees that I imagine will be dropping fruit (just moved here a few months ago).

    So I guess here is my question - given the fact that the hens will have about an acre to free range, would the 4x4 coop be enough for 8-10 chickens if I installed some kind of second floor or loft for them? Or would it be better to just build a small add-on? And if I do an add-on, could I just build a shelter that has 3 sides and a roof or can it be a roof with a draft guard around the bottom? I'll try to go get a picture so I can show you what I'm talking about.

    I have materials to build an add-on, just would rather not take the time since I also need to build a greenhouse and learn beekeeping this spring [​IMG] OH YEAH and put in my gardens, start my seeds, transplant, and all of this while (hopefully) expecting! I have a feeling that instead of raised beds I'll be growing in random piles of compost [​IMG] Just not enough time to do stuff. Good thing the ground is super fertile here... we just don't get hardly any sun.
     
  2. bantyhen'sfriend

    bantyhen'sfriend Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I don't know where you are located, but if you get much rainy weather, or snow in the winter, your hens will not be able to free range all year round. And unless you're getting bantams a 4X4 coop will not hold 10 hens comfortably at all (4 times 4 is 16 square feet, divided by 10 is 1.6 square feet per bird). It will hold about 5 hens (at 3+ square feet per bird. But ten hens will be very crowded, even if they only sleep in there.

    ETA

    I would definately add on to the coop, with at least another 4X4 section, if you want 10 hens. The design of this add on will depend on your climate. In WI, I would make another coop the same size and fasten them together so I have a 4X8 coop for them, and maybe cut a few winows with sutters to close in the winter, but open in the summer for ventilation. I would also add a secure covered run in case you had to go away or a weekend.
     
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2011
  3. elmo

    elmo Chillin' With My Peeps

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    DFW
    Sure, you can fudge the guidelines. But I wouldn't recommend it. I think it would be very likely you yourself would end up very displeased with the results.

    Just in terms of roost space, you'd pretty much need a shoehorn to cram 10 chickens inside a 4' by 4' coop, even if you ran two 4' long roosts along adjoining walls. You can't put in parallel roosts because chickens need some horizontal space to get up and down from the roost...more than you'd think. They can fly almost straight up pretty well, but they need more room to fly down. Usually it's recommended to allow for about 12 inches of roost width per chicken. Chickens usuallly squabble some when they settle in for the night about roost location, who sleeps next to whom, etc. Having enough space allows the more timid birds to get out of the way before they get seriously injured by the fiercer, more agressive ones.

    I don't think your "double decker" idea will work, either. Chickens like to roost high, so all of them would be fighting and squabbling for the top level. And have you measured the height of a standard chicken lately? They'd kinda have to stoop if you try to put two levels in a coop that's only 5 1/2 feet tall on one end, with bedding and roosts put in each level.

    I don't think you'd be very pleased with the odor when you open the door to this setup in the morning, either. Chickens poop constantly all night, and that's a lot of chicken poop in a very confined space. Which brings me to my next point. Ventilation. A coop that houses 10 chickens should have at least 10 square feet of vents that are not positioned right next to roosts (so as to avoid drafts). Consider how you'd build this much ventilation into the small coop you're thinking about.

    Planning to free range constantly is one thing, but once you actually get chickens you may well find that it is impractical to do this all day every day. Are you going to be home at daybreak every morning without fail to let the chickens out? If not, you'll need one of those automatic door openers, and with 10 chickens in a 16 square foot coop, you better hope the mechanism never fails.

    It's really very useful to have a secure run attached to an adequately sized coop, just in case something comes up that you aren't anticipating that would make free ranging on a particular day a very bad idea (like a heavy raptor presence during the winter, or a pack of feral dogs hanging around the area, etc.).
     
  4. Lil Mucket

    Lil Mucket Out Of The Brooder

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    Jun 23, 2010
    WA
    Ahh thank you!

    OK here's some more info. First, some pictures of the shed thingy.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The previous tenant decided to pile bags of garbage inside, which has caused some mold on the bottom parts. I am going to rip out the floor and the inside walls just to make sure it's even usable, because I won't put anything in it if it's got mold I can't remove.

    But you can see it is on concrete footers and is pretty weather-secure which is a nice thing. There's a larger latching door that I could use, and a bottom space where I could put a chicken door. vents may be a problem, I'll see what I can do to cut more vents unless one at the top of the door will do, that would be the easiest way.

    So if I need to build an addition, I am thinking it would be best to build an addition to the side of it and perhaps remove one wall? So basically, two little sheds that are connected on one side.

    As far as our climate, it's pretty even - doesn't get hot in the summer or super cold in the winter. It does snow, and we get some hot days, but we are in zone 7. When we do get snow, it only lasts for a few days and not usually much accumulation. We do get lots of rain.

    Good idea about the covered run - I didn't even think about that. I am a work at home mom and I don't leave much, so being out there every day isn't a problem except when I'm gone to visit my folks!
     
  5. midget_farms

    midget_farms Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 15, 2008
    Dunlap Illinois
    The issue with coop space is for periods when they can't go outside - Not sure if you get much snow where you are but chickens will flat REFUSE to go outside in the snow.

    So if you get snow - you cant fudge that much on the size requirement - you can somewhat - but not that much.

    If however you don't get snow - & they have lots of outside time (they really wont care if it rains they will be soaked & love it) then you can fudge much more.

    For your coop - what I would do is this.

    Run a 2x4 length wise down both sides of the coop. One on either side of the door. Both have to be the same height off the ground - say 24inches.

    If you are totally desperate for roost space run another across the back wall too. All the same height.

    Keep in mind that the floor under the roosts will be a disgusting mess & you will want some sort of plastic storage container to catch the mess for easy clean up. That may not leave much if any floor space for the birds.

    They wont tell you if they don't like it - they will pick on the lowest birds on the pecking order. If the lowest birds don't have the space to "get away" they will be pummelled.

    If I were you - & you don't get snow - I'd stop around 6 birds MAX!
     
  6. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    I have a flock kept in a manner similar to which you intend where housing is limited to providing a quality roost. Roost tweaked to make access by racoons, oppossums, and owls difficult if not impossible. Roost area set so has double capacity needed, based on number that can physically fit. Heavy snow days (20") they will still come and move to feeding station and feed. If really cold they will return to roost until feeding again at end of day. I like to not have feed supplied near roost, as it attracts predators.

    Your shed as shown not secure against nocturnal predators that I am concerned with.
     
  7. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    Sep 19, 2009
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    Midget,

    My birds deal with similar winter conditions to yours and they do go outside every single day. Zone 7 should have no problems either.
     
  8. Judy

    Judy Chicken Obsessed Staff Member Premium Member

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    South Georgia
    I predict that within a year, you will regret having used time and money to "make do," and be building a new coop, 8x8, walk in.
     
  9. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    Holts Summit, Missouri
    Setup as shown is a canned chicken hunt. Needs re-think.
     
  10. Lil Mucket

    Lil Mucket Out Of The Brooder

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    Jun 23, 2010
    WA
    Quote:Could you elaborate on this a bit? besides the gaping hole in the front, of course, which will be fixed [​IMG]

    I'm not set on using this shed, I actually was initially thinking about building a tractor setup but this shed is already there so i thought I could use it. I may still do a hybrid of both if I do decide to get more chickens - I haven't even decided for sure if I want to get more.

    ddawn - I would normally want to build a nice new coop, but we are only renting here and will only be here for a year or two, it doesn't make sense to me to invest in anything like that just yet until we move to our property. Not only that, but our budget doesn't really permit investing in a nice coop right now anyway - repurposed materials and what we've got here is what I need to be able to use primarily. If I do build something completely from scratch, I'll want to do a tractor that I could somehow take apart and move with us when it's time to go.
     

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