Some coop and run design and ventilation questions

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by catchthewind, Mar 7, 2011.

  1. catchthewind

    catchthewind Chillin' With My Peeps

    366
    2
    113
    Jan 27, 2011
    Vancouver Island
    I'm in the process of drawing up plans and going to start buying materials. Hope it's okay if I run some of the ideas past some of you gurus here. [​IMG]

    As a background, our coop is going to be modified from an old greenhouse on our land that's in a pretty poor place for a greenhouse. This time of year it gets dappled sun and full shade. We only just moved here so I don't know yet what the sun will be like in the summer, but it's pretty close to some very tall trees on the south side so I assume it won't ever get full sun. It has a dirt floor and is about 7.5'x10'. I will actually have 17 chickens in there this summer (chicken math got me already), but we plan to be down to around 10 by the fall and stay around that. I'm hoping pushing the limits in the summer is okay since they'll be free range. I'm in the Pacific Northwest on Vancouver Island, BC, and if anyone cares to look our average temperatures are here: http://www.theweathernetwork.com/statistics/summary/cl1017230/imperial Our humidity is high in the winter.

    I've read the ventilation and the cold weather coop pages in, I believe, "Patandchickens" signature and they've been pretty helpful. Our winters rarely get below freezing during the day but do tend to go below freezing at night for a couple of months. Should we insulate the coop? Is "air" insulation enough (just putting two layers of wall with nothing in between) or should we go all out and use real insulation. Most of the breeders I've talked to around here don't insulate their coops, but they have a lot more coops and birds than we will. They will likely lay better if we have insulation, right?

    For ventilation, the walls around about 6 feet tall or so, and the roof is peaked. We may actually pull some of the frame off and have a carpenter friend help us reframe it (some of it is rotting), so we could change that and have a sloped roof. I'm not picky. I thought on the long sides and back of having hardware cloth along the top 6" or so, and the front side having all hardware cloth. We could cover that front side with a tarp or something in the winter if needed. My concern is that we are in a very rainy climate, so I'm not sure having a completely open front like that would actually work regardless of temperatures. Another idea I just read on another thread was to have a "screen" door made out of hardware cloth with a solid door in front of it, and that might be a good idea for us too. I'm going to be reading and rereading the ventilation pages, as I want to make sure we don't have drafts of course.

    I wanted the coop to be nice and light, so I was thinking of having a skylight in the south side of the roof. Good idea or bad? It would probably be glass. We might even be able to find a window and have it able to open for the summer time. Then we'd have one large window or two medium ones on the south wall and another one on the west wall.

    As far as predators, the floor is a dirt floor. We plan to put a two-foot apron around the outside. Does this need to be buried at all? Should we also cover the floor inside with hardware cloth and then put lots of bedding on top? I would think that even if a predator somehow did manage to figure out that they should back up, it would take longer than one night to dig 2 feet under, right? Do you just secure the apron with landscape pins?

    For the run/pastures, we plan to rotate them around 3 different pastures, as well as have a secure, smaller run that would only be used if we were away. I'm hoping to make the pastures predator-proof enough that we can leave them in them even if we're out for the day, and only have to use the small run for longer periods (like a weekend). There are lots of people who free range chickens near us, though a few who have given up because of hawks. However, the area that we're going to have the pastures in has tons of trees and very little open space, so I think we're ok in that regards for the most part. Is electric poultry mesh going to be the most predator proof? I asked a little about in in another thread and realize it will need some maintaining, but I'm okay with that if it's going to keep my chickens the safest. I do have kids though. Would a regular wire fence of some sort with an electric wire along the bottom be better though, since then it's not solely depending on the electricity?

    Lastly, still on the topic of the pastures and run. Should I make three different pop doors that go to each of the pastures, or should I make one pop door into the run and have doors going into each pasture from there? I think I would prefer to do the second option, just based on our lay out, but would the chickens actually leave the run in that case? I've heard sometimes they won't go very far. How big of an area would we need to have to keep the number of chickens we have happy and not scratching the entire thing bare? (I know the minimums of 10sq ft/chicken, I'm talking more in regards to actually always having greenery and bugs to eat.) We were thinking of sectioning around a quarter of an acre into three pastures for them, is that enough? Overkill? I know it will somewhat depend on the chickens and our climate, but I guess just generally does that seem like it would be enough? Does the run need to be planned for 10 sq ft per chicken considering we will rarely end up needing to confine them solely to the run or would having it a bit smaller be okay?

    Wow, sorry, this ended up being a lot more questions than I thought I had. Thank you for any help or info!
     
  2. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    12,521
    102
    341
    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Quote:Sounds pretty reasonable to me.

    winters rarely get below freezing during the day but do tend to go below freezing at night for a couple of months. Should we insulate the coop? Is "air" insulation enough (just putting two layers of wall with nothing in between) or should we go all out and use real insulation. <snip>They will likely lay better if we have insulation, right?

    Well, temperature may make some difference to laying (contrasting super-cold versus not-so-cold)... but you don't actually GET super cold. With a dirt floor in your decent-sized coop, GOOD insulation would likely make some difference in indoor temperature, but "half-assed" insulation is not likely to make much if any difference (especially given taht the coop is apparently going to get little if any sun thru the windows this time ofyear).

    So honestly I'm not sure I'd bother. (And I say that as generally a fan of insulation <g>). It would certainly be easy enough to retrofit if you change your mind, if you just leave the walls totally open (studs exposed, no inner layer of plywood). Closing off the studs to create a dead airspace in there won't really give you *much* insulation value anyhow. I think if it were me in your shoes I'd leave the studs exposed at least for now.

    I thought on the long sides and back of having hardware cloth along the top 6" or so, and the front side having all hardware cloth. We could cover that front side with a tarp or something in the winter if needed. My concern is that we are in a very rainy climate, so I'm not sure having a completely open front like that would actually work regardless of temperatures.

    In principle your plans sound real good (it is pretty easy to make a big bolt-on panel to cover the mesh wall for wintertime); in practice, as you say, you will have to keep rain from raining in too much in summertime. A substantial roof overhang plus overhanging trees and a non-windy site may be enough. With less overhang or more exposure to windblown rain, you may need to do one or more of the following: build a little 'porch roof' to shelter the open side; make the bottom few feet solid so that rain that goes in past the overhang doesn't get the bedding excessively wet; or make the top portion of the wall solid (perhaps leaving an open slot under the roof overhang) so that only the outer portion of the bedding gets wet and rely on it air-drying. You should be able to figure out which of these seems most-plausible given the realities of your climate,coop and site; but to a large degree you can also rejig and retrofit those sorts of solutions too, so it is not *crucial* to get it right the first time.

    I wanted the coop to be nice and light, so I was thinking of having a skylight in the south side of the roof. Good idea or bad? It would probably be glass.

    I would be leery of doing that, a) because you don't know for sure how much sun it will get and it's not hard for a coop to overheat, b) because a glass skylight under a tree sounds to me like a big kick-me sign (falling branches), and c) because your weather does get cool enough for condensation to be a problem on a highly-conductive ceiling panel like that. Also skylights often develop leaks which is bad enough in a house let alone in a wintertime chicken-coop.

    I would suggest putting translucent or transparent panels, or Actual Windows, on the WALLS of the building rather than the roof.

    As far as predators, the floor is a dirt floor. We plan to put a two-foot apron around the outside. Does this need to be buried at all? Should we also cover the floor inside with hardware cloth and then put lots of bedding on top? I would think that even if a predator somehow did manage to figure out that they should back up, it would take longer than one night to dig 2 feet under, right? Do you just secure the apron with landscape pins?

    A 2' apron is reasonable protection against yer bigger caliber of predators; but are there rats on Vancouver Island? If so, your plan of hardwarecloth on the coop floor is not a bad idea, though some would say it is excessively paranoid. Alternatively you could flatten the floor out Real Good and put big concrete pavers down, at least 12x18" and tightly-fitted, under the bedding. (If the pavers are big and heavy and tight-set enough, this can eliminate the need for an apron). Do make sure that the floor is not going to flood -- do any necessary filling or trenching outside NOW, rather than discovering soggy chickens someday.

    If you do go with the apron, it is up to you what to do. I'd turn the outer edge downwards (if nothing else so it doesn't catch toes and lawnmowers), but beyond that it is personal choice. You can pin it down and let turf grow up thru it; you can cover it with mulch or gravel or pavers or ornamental rocks or whatever. It doesn't really matter very much, so do whatever you like [​IMG]

    Is electric poultry mesh going to be the most predator proof? I asked a little about in in another thread and realize it will need some maintaining, but I'm okay with that if it's going to keep my chickens the safest. I do have kids though. Would a regular wire fence of some sort with an electric wire along the bottom be better though, since then it's not solely depending on the electricity?

    If you can do regular wire fence with electric added, that is your best bet by far. The only reason for using electronet would be the portability factor.

    Lastly, still on the topic of the pastures and run. Should I make three different pop doors that go to each of the pastures, or should I make one pop door into the run and have doors going into each pasture from there? I think I would prefer to do the second option, just based on our lay out, but would the chickens actually leave the run in that case?

    IMO the second option is usually the best (and yes, they will leave the run once they learn the joys of the great bug-filled outdoors) as long as your run is not going to be a mudpit. It allows you to put the popdoor of the coop on the most-sheltered wall of the coop, rather than forcing you to sometimes use a popdoor on an upwind wall.

    How big of an area would we need to have to keep the number of chickens we have happy and not scratching the entire thing bare? (I know the minimums of 10sq ft/chicken, I'm talking more in regards to actually always having greenery and bugs to eat.) We were thinking of sectioning around a quarter of an acre into three pastures for them, is that enough?

    Ten chickens on a quarter of an acre is not bad, especially with rotation. You will still get some holes dug and areas scratched bare, and the area right around the door into the run or coop is likely to get pretty heavily-trafficked and perhaps bare and muddy; but you know that will happen no matter HOW big an area the chickens have to use.

    Does the run need to be planned for 10 sq ft per chicken considering we will rarely end up needing to confine them solely to the run or would having it a bit smaller be okay?

    If you *have* to make it smaller it's not the end of the world if you really are committed to free-ranging most of the time long-term, but since it is hard to tell how your needs may change, it would be best if you can build the run "as if" they will be limited to that with no pasture time. That way you will be prepared for however things shake out.

    Good luck, have fun,

    Pat​
     
  3. elmo

    elmo Chillin' With My Peeps

    4,852
    37
    249
    May 23, 2009
    DFW
    Quote:It depends on the way you'll use your runs and what predators you're likely to deal with. If your chickens are going to be in the runs only in daytime and locked inside a secure coop at night, electric fencing might not be necessary. And of course an electric fence or wire won't keep out raptors; your run would need to have some kind of roof or covering to guard against that. Having lots of trees helps but it's no assurance. We live in a heavily wooded area with huge oak trees all around our house and two summers ago we came home to white downy feathers fluttering all over the driveway. Some kind of hawk had taken one of the mourning doves that had been hanging around our bird feeder. Another day we spotted a young Cooper's hawk sitting on the luggage rack on top of our car, looking in one of our picture windows to our indoor bird room. As you can imagine, our indoor birds were frantic!
     
  4. catchthewind

    catchthewind Chillin' With My Peeps

    366
    2
    113
    Jan 27, 2011
    Vancouver Island
    Thank you so much Pat for making it through my post and the detailed reply. [​IMG]

    Quote:That all makes sense. I think we will go that route.

    In principle your plans sound real good (it is pretty easy to make a big bolt-on panel to cover the mesh wall for wintertime); in practice, as you say, you will have to keep rain from raining in too much in summertime. A substantial roof overhang plus overhanging trees and a non-windy site may be enough. With less overhang or more exposure to windblown rain, you may need to do one or more of the following: build a little 'porch roof' to shelter the open side; make the bottom few feet solid so that rain that goes in past the overhang doesn't get the bedding excessively wet; or make the top portion of the wall solid (perhaps leaving an open slot under the roof overhang) so that only the outer portion of the bedding gets wet and rely on it air-drying. You should be able to figure out which of these seems most-plausible given the realities of your climate,coop and site; but to a large degree you can also rejig and retrofit those sorts of solutions too, so it is not *crucial* to get it right the first time.

    We don't get much rain in the summer. At least not normally. [​IMG] (Though I suppose it's all relative, I am in the Pacific Northwest after all.) The bottom of the coop is actually already solid for about two feet up too. So maybe it won't be too much of an issue. We can reuse the roof that's on the greenhouse now for porch roofs or the like too though. How much of an overhang should we aim for on the roof?

    I wanted the coop to be nice and light, so I was thinking of having a skylight in the south side of the roof. Good idea or bad? It would probably be glass.

    I would be leery of doing that, a) because you don't know for sure how much sun it will get and it's not hard for a coop to overheat, b) because a glass skylight under a tree sounds to me like a big kick-me sign (falling branches), and c) because your weather does get cool enough for condensation to be a problem on a highly-conductive ceiling panel like that. Also skylights often develop leaks which is bad enough in a house let alone in a wintertime chicken-coop.​

    Okay, good points, thanks.

    A 2' apron is reasonable protection against yer bigger caliber of predators; but are there rats on Vancouver Island?

    Yes, we do have rats. Are rats a danger to full-grown chickens, or is the worry more about the rats stealing food/eggs? As for the flooding, through these last couple of months even with heavy rain, the floor in there has always seemed dry, but there is some run off nearby we are going to do something about. There is one area that has a natural pond when it's wet, but doesn't flood the coop or anything. Is that going to be a problem if that ends up in one of the pastures? I just read your mud page too and I'm reasonably certain we can keep the run/coop from getting muddy.

    Ten chickens on a quarter of an acre is not bad, especially with rotation. You will still get some holes dug and areas scratched bare, and the area right around the door into the run or coop is likely to get pretty heavily-trafficked and perhaps bare and muddy; but you know that will happen no matter HOW big an area the chickens have to use.

    Okay great, thanks. We may even do slightly bigger (or do four pastures and rotate through three at a time while giving one a longer break. Trying to figure out what a good size would be that would be sustainable though. As for the run, I'll likely stick with 10 sq ft per bird, but it will depend somewhat on how we lay everything out.​
     
  5. catchthewind

    catchthewind Chillin' With My Peeps

    366
    2
    113
    Jan 27, 2011
    Vancouver Island
    Quote:Thanks Elmo, all good to know and keep in mind. I'll have to consider how we want to protect against hawks. I know there have been people around here who have had problems, but we also see lots of completely free-range chickens with no cover at all too. Hard to know if they sustain a lot of losses though. I'd rather not learn that the hard way.
     
  6. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    12,521
    102
    341
    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Quote:As much as you can without going thru excessive contortions. More is always better, until you get to the point of structural or wind-catching challenges. I wouldn't do less than 4-6", and that's really pretty seriously minimal IMHO. A foot or two is nice.

    Yes, we do have rats. Are rats a danger to full-grown chickens, or is the worry more about the rats stealing food/eggs?

    They can chew on grown chickens' toes while chickens are asleep on the roost, ask me how I know. And they can eat eggs and run through a very expensive amount of food. But IMO the very biggest consideration is simply that you want to be farming up CHICKENS not rats -- if a large rat population develops around the coop, it isn't going to stay there, it is going to send its youngsters off to colonize fresh untapped habitats such as the walls of your house. Believe me, you do NOT want to be encouraging ANY more rats around than can be avoided. And they are far easier to prevent than to get rid of.

    There is one area that has a natural pond when it's wet, but doesn't flood the coop or anything. Is that going to be a problem if that ends up in one of the pastures?

    Nope, no problem [​IMG]

    Good luck, have fun,

    Pat​
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by