super new here and have a bunch of questions

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by imama2many, Oct 15, 2015.

  1. imama2many

    imama2many Out Of The Brooder

    Oct 14, 2015
    No. Utah
    First, I'm starting to feel I'm not as prepared as I thought I was to start this whole backyard chicken thing! :/ I researched for about a year before we bought chicks from a farm supply store in late April/early May (chicks were sexed and only a few days old). We bought a premade "coop" (I'm assuming that is what we are all calling an enclosed area where nesting boxes are kept) I'm guessing on dimensions here (I'm at work and obviously don't have access to that info) but the coop is about 5 ft by 3 ft? So far we have kept a layer of pine bedding and baskets with more bedding. The chickens mostly sleep (from what we can tell, obviously they move when we open the top to look), nestled together, on the bedding on the "floor" and not in the baskets... they poop in here also. Then, off to the side, there is a ramp that leads to an enclosed "run" (again I'm assuming this is what we are calling an area that is entirely enclosed by chicken wire). This area was about the same dimensions as the coop, 5 ft by 3 ft. It seemed ok when they were smaller... but they have gotten much bigger (obviously)... oh.... 2 are barred rocks and 2 are Dom's (I know... they all 4 look basically identical! ;) ) Anyways, so 2 weeks ago we built a much larger enclosure on the front of the existing run... this time it is 5 ft by 46 inches by 5 ft tall (I know these exact measurements because we built it from scratch, measuring 2x4's as the frame, etc). The top is plywood covered in house shingles, the sides are chicken wire, the front is plywood and an access door (I'm 5'1 so I only have to slightly bend my head to climb inside the "pen") In this area we have a hanging feeder. They were being fed a mash (bought at the farm supply store) but moved them into a pellet per instructions from the employees there.

    (Sorry I got diverted and lost my train of thought)... haha

    So, my questions are:

    1) in the coop/sleeping area, do the chickens need something better to "nest" in? Something more "private"? The baskets are open topped... 4 of them, just placed in there. They are often toppled over when we look, some covered in poop, etc.

    2) Do the chickens typically poop where they sleep? (I just foolishly assumed like other animals, they typically wont poop where they sleep?) Is there a way to break them of this? Are they doing this because the flooring is covered in a pine bedding/wood shavings?

    3) Is the food I'm giving them ok? They are 24 weeks and have not produced their first eggs yet!

    4) What is the best way to water them? current method is filling 2 water tins that are mounted to the side of the newest pen area. It's not working because they stand in the tins? We've also done water bucket set on the floor (dirt) but also didn't work, they tipped it over, spilling water within minutes of it being placed. We also did nipplers in a PVC pipe, which I think worked the best except it was difficult to keep the water container (a 5 gallon jug) clean. We bought another 5 gallon jug to make another nippler system but were trying easier methods first (I think we will end up back at the nipplers).

    5) How do I keep their water freezing once temps dip low enough? Currently, we have a heat lamp in the coop area only and have not used it for many months (too hot, not needed). We are thinking if we install another heat lamp in the top corner of the pen area (remember it's 5 ft tall), it will be enough warmth to keep water from freezing.???

    Thanks in advance for reading to the end of this! :)
    1 person likes this.
  2. 123RedBeard

    123RedBeard Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 20, 2014
    Chickens need a "roost" to perch on at night to sleep ... A 2X4 place a couple of feet off the floor with the wider 4" side facing up, will work fine! This way they are up in the air, and their poop will fall to the floor, and they won't have to lay in it! Yes, they poop a lot while sleeping!

    Not sure on the pellets ... Does it say "layer" on it?

    Water can be brought inside at night, or a small heater put on it, depending on how cold it gets where you live ...

    ETA - yes, you gave the coop and run definitions correct, but your hens would like a tad more of a run ... About double (or more) what you have total now ... If you have predators around you may want to get welded wire or hardware cloth to use instead of chicken wire ... As the chicken wire/mesh is real wimpy, and will not keep any critter out, only keeps the hens in ...
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2015
  3. boskelli1571

    boskelli1571 Overrun With Chickens

    Mar 7, 2011
    Finger Lakes, NY
    Welcome! [​IMG] Overwhelming isn't it? It will get better...

    Ok - at 24 weeks you need to supply them with a perch to roost on at night. Allow 1 ft/bird, although they will likely all cram together [​IMG] Toss the baskets out. Yes, they do poop when they sleep - no way to change that. Try putting an aluminum baking sheet or something similar under them. That way you can de-poop the coop daily. They should be eating 16% - 18% layer pellets, give them free choice oyster shell and same with some grit. Put them in separate containers from the food.
    I suggest hanging a metal or plastic waterer from the roof of the coop. A plastic, heated waterer costs about $40 - well worth the money if you don't want to run out 3-4 x day to replace frozen water. remember, when they do start laying, in the cold weather you need to pick up your eggs frequently in case they freeze.
    Please, please, please do not put a heat lamp in with your birds. They will tolerate the cold very well as long as they are dry, draft free and well ventilated. The number of coop fires and roasted chickens is dismal........
    Did I get everything? [​IMG] hope it helps,
  4. Cheep N Peep

    Cheep N Peep Chillin' With My Peeps

    I use TSC's blue nipple waterer bucket. I don't know what it is called, but it is 3.5 gal, an blue see-throughish. I hang it above the ground in the coop.

    For winter, I'm either planning to buy a heated dog dish, or a fish tank heater to place inside the blue bucket.
    As said before, chickens need a roost. They feel safer up above the ground, and sometimes play on the roosts during the day. You can also research poop boards, if it interests you.

    Heating your coop is dangerous. Even if it doesn't start a fire, if the power goes out, the shock will kill your chickens, and going out to cold temps. and back in to warmth can cause them to catch a cold.

    Their run needs to be larger. You can build a long, low tunnel like wooden frame run or a hoop run sort of like this:
    to give them more room.
  5. imama2many

    imama2many Out Of The Brooder

    Oct 14, 2015
    No. Utah
    ok so a roost in the coop where they sleep.... got it! Will do tomorrow. Do they need a roost in the run/pen area? For day time chilling out, relaxing?
  6. imama2many

    imama2many Out Of The Brooder

    Oct 14, 2015
    No. Utah
    haha overwhelming is right! I thought I was so prepared, read a ton, researched, planned and now I've changed everything I started out thinking I was doing! ;) I think the pellets I have are 16% protein. I'm not familiar with the oyster shell and grit? I do from time to time toss veggie scraps and egg shells out (my brother suggested this as he does this with his chickens)

    Also, I totally get it with the great lamp... won't use it at all. What about a regular light bulb for light? I read that a timer will help to augment day light? And laying chickens need 14-16 hours of simulated and natural day light. Should I do this? Should we have the light source outside the coop? In the run/pen area?
  7. imama2many

    imama2many Out Of The Brooder

    Oct 14, 2015
    No. Utah
    thanks for the suggestions on heating sources for the water. I'm going to head over to the farm supply store tomorrow and see about the hanging water bucket.I still have 4 nippelers. They really did well with those.

    I'm still confused on the coop with roosts, etc. So I'm assuming you all do not use the deep layer method? And what about nesting boxes? I was using baskets but someone told me to chuck those? What can I do for them to nest? And where do I put those in the coop so they're out of the way of the roosts?
  8. ChickenMammX4

    ChickenMammX4 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 17, 2015
    SW Ohio
    Could you post a pic of your set-up? It may let us help better.

    There is a lot to learn at first! I read everything I could get my hands on when we first bought our chicks.

    Their needs are pretty basic and simple...

    A roost, we have a 2" x 4" (4" side up). This is where they sleep. We have a 'poopboard' below it filled with Sweet PDZ. This catches the poop making it easy to clean up each day. The PDZ absorbs odor and moisture. The roost should be higher than the nesting boxes.

    Nesting boxes, 1 box for every 2 or 3 birds. This is where they lay eggs. We fill ours with timothy hay, some use pine shavings. You don't want them sleeping in these boxes. Chickens poop alot when they sleep so poopy nesting boxes = dirty eggs. If the roost is higher than the nesting boxes they will choose the roost to sleep.

    Clean water

    Grower feed until they start laying, then Layer feed. We also give ours fresh greens,fruits
    and veggies

    Oyster shell available in seperate container

    Grit available in seperate container

    A dry coop with ventilation

    A run protected from predators

    We use pine shavings in the coop and use the DLM in the run. I prefer a covered run but I live in a rainy climate and it would be a muddy mess if not covered. Many have open runs.

    We have 6 hens, our coop is 8' x 18' (8' x 9' for chickens) with a 8' x 16' run.

    Most of the people on this forum are far more knowledgable than I, but I hope some of these ideas help.
  9. N F C

    N F C doo be doo be doo Premium Member Project Manager

    Dec 12, 2013
    You've received some excellent responses. Hope it all works out well for you.
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2015
  10. Egghead_Jr

    Egghead_Jr Overrun With Chickens

    Oct 16, 2010
    NEK, VT
    1) The nests are where you want them to lay eggs. People do all sorts of things for nest boxes from 5 gallon pails with half moon cut into half of lid to a plastic tub with hay in it. You may have to mess with this to find what your girls will use on a regular basis. I like external nesting boxes- holes cut in coop wall to external mounted box with lid on hinge. The idea is to create an out of way nook for privacy that they will naturally want to put a clutch in.

    Roosting bar in coop and one in run is an excellent idea.

    2) chickens poop right off the roost. Some like to install a poop board to aid in keeping coop clean. A board that is directly below the roosts that can be scrapped clean. I just shovel that row of poo out from pine shavings directly below roosts about every two weeks and add a bit more shavings mixing all together.

    3) At 6 months of age moving to a layer pellet is perfectly fine. Being hatchery layers they will be laying very soon so the bump in calcium now is right. I run mixed ages and cockerels so always us a same feed for everyone. Unmedicated crumble starter if small birds or turkey finisher in pellet once smallest are 12-14 weeks. I just toss oyster shell to layers for the needed calcium. But with only layers of same age a layer feed is easiest.

    4 & 5) You need to find a solution that works for you in keeping water from freezing in winter. I guess there are ideas on here for keeping nipple waterers from freezing. I just use a metal water fountain. In winter it sits on a heated base. These you can purchase or build one from a cookie tin, search cookie tin heater here. Unless you've a large coop and plan to keep birds in the coop most of winter you should only keep feed and water out in the run and let the birds out every morning. Winter requires good ventilation to get rid of moisture in coop. Keeping water in there is counter productive, if they only use coop to lay and roost then it's also unnecessary. Your birds do not require heat. With protection from elements, thawed water and well ventilated coop they will thrive in winter.

    My management style is to have birds only use coop to roost at night and lay eggs. To do this I provide a wind shield on prevailing wind corner or two sides of run with a tarp. Toss a bit of hay on ground in winter for icy run. Have a heated water system in run and hanging feeder. I live in a climate zone of 3 and on those few -30F mornings the birds will stay in coop on their own until about 10 am (happens about 3 times a year). Those mornings I just toss a few handfuls of sunflower seed to them to hold them over until they come out when it's -10F.

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