To build a new coop, or not... that is the question!

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In the Brooder
10 Years
Sep 7, 2009
Coopertown, TN
I have my first-ever chickies who are a month old. DH and I build a cute little A-frame coop with a "lower level" that is all wired in, including the bottom, and an "upper-story" that is enclosed on a 4' x 8' base. We have yet to move the chicks in there, as we just finished building it and need to drag it outside and make sure it is weatherproof before setting it in place. My only concerns with it, are that I haven't allowed enough ventilation, and that the poultry netting will not be enough. Both of those are fixable issues, however they would need to be addressed. I had also always planned on fencing off a good-sized run or yard that the coop would sit inside. So, we are about to finish this up by the end of the month.

HOWEVER, yesterday I took the chickies out for their first taste of the great outdoors. I put them in our 20'by 30' dog pen, which is butted up against the side of the garage, has tall chainlink, is reinforced at the bottom with 1/2" hardware cloth buried 6"-8"deep (we had a digging dog at the time we needed to contain), has sun, shade, deep gravel for drainage along the garage side, and is close enough to the house for comfort but far away enough to make any crowing rooster bearable in the early a.m. There is also a pet door with access to the garage, and DH is thinking that we should build a new coop INSIDE the garage, and the chickens can use the pet door to go outside. I guess we could cut out windows and ventilation for the chickens in the side of the garage - would have to check with DH for that - but it would certainly be convenient since the garage has water going to it, too. Then I would just need a new pen for the dog, but she is a Basset who does not jump, so I could get away with a 4' - 5' tall wire fence if necessary.

OR, maybe I could put our current A-frame coop INTO the dog pen, somehow - but how???? - and then if the dog was sharing the pen with the chickens, I could shut the chickens into their coop so they could still be outside, but in the wired-in bottom level of their coop. Our dog is pretty mellow and I feel confident that she wouldn't be ripping into the poultry netting... she's too lazy, laid-back and well-fed!

On the other hand, the A-frame would make a great brooder coop! New chicks could be kept in the indoor upper portion at first, with a heat lamp, and then allowed down the ladder into the enclosed bottom. The access from top/bottom is sturdy enough to be predator-proof, or we could put it in a separate fenced yard for added security.

So... what should I do? Build a whole new coop inside the garage? Find a way to stuff the A-frame into the dog pen? Keep to the original plan of putting the A-frame into a fenced yard and finishing that first, and then having the option of expanding into the garage + dog pen? Decisions, decisions....

Or should I see if there is a relatively feasible way to get the A-frame in and out of the dog pen, so I can put it in there right away, and THEN work on a new coop inside the garage... and when that's done, I can take the A-frame out and make a new separate yard for it? I kind of like that as it allows me to work with what I already have (A-frame & dog pen), but HOW do I get a 54" wide, 6ft tall coop into a chainlink enclosure????

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it all depends on how many chickens you want to keep. the a frame would make a good brooder. build the big girls their own coop but put the a frame inside the large run. they would get to know each other well that way and would fight less once you mingled the flocks.
Those A frame things may be cute but they are not great chicken quarters... whereas what you describe (20x30 run, with garage coop) would be WONDERFUL for the chickens. The only thing I can possibly think of that'd argue against it is that either you'll have to put up with occasional losses to hawks (tho putting vegetation or structures in as refuges would help) or pop for some netting over the top, which will not work during heavy snowfalls.

If I were your chicken I would sure prefer the plan B

If you are concerned about chicken dust getting on garage things, or garage fumes (if there are any) harming the chickens, you could build a pretty tight wall there, and have the coop's ventilation all to the outdoors.

Having the coop in the garage will also keep it warmer in wintertime and a bit cooler in summer; I know you're "only" in TN but still, can't hurt

As you say, you can use the A-frame for chicks or for tractoring small numbers on garden beds or sell it for $ for more chickens or something <g>

Good luck, have fun,

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Well, I suppose I could put up netting over the top... but do you think it would really be necessary so close to a big structure like our garage?

And would you mind explaining the drawbacks of A-frames? I can kind of see some difficulties, like the lack of vertical space, but they seem like such a popular design that it's hard for a newbie like me to compare it to anything.

I am thinking of some kind of compromise for now, whereby I will leave the A-frame IN the garage, but opening onto the pet door, for the winter. Then in the spring, I can drag it out and rig up some kind of access into the pen, while DH and I build a new bigger coop inside the garage. Once that's built, I can use the A-frame for a brooer and fence it in it's own little space.

How does that sound? Anyone have a better idea?
I do not think a garage is particularly going to discourage hawks, sorry. But if you put some things in there that chickens can duck under when they see something suspicious -- bushes, trees, tall plants, picnic table(s), little table-type shelters, brush piles, whatever -- that will help; and in many areas losses to hawks are not *that* common. It is such a wonderful area for you to use as a run, I am *really* not trying to talk you out of it!

The main difficulty with A-frames is that they have exceptionally little indoor space -- both in terms of usable floorspace (extra relevant in winter, when birds may want to spend a lot of their time indoors and can develop picking/cannibalism habits that can be real hard to break) and in terms of air volume. The tiny air volume means that you need extra-a-lot-of ventilation, because the water vapor output from the birds is concentrated into so little air; yet the tiny air volume *also* means it is real real hard to ventilate that area without it acting as a direct draft on the birds. Also, enough ventilation to effectively remove humidity tends to also effectively remove most of the body heat generated by the chickens. So you get stuck in an unfavorable attempt to compromise between ventilation, drafts and temperature. You *can* overwinter chickens in an A frame, especially if there are few chickens per sq ft and/or you can find somewhere to (safely) wedge an electric lightbulb in there for heat; but it is really not an especially good setup for anywhere that gets Actual Winters.

Certainly you can use it for now, but both you and your chickens will be FAR happier if you can get a coop built in the garage. Really it should not take much in materials or time -- just add two very small stud-type walls, that's a few 2x4s and a sheet or two of plywood, and there ya go, basic coop to be fancied up as desired later on

Good luck, have fun,

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