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Topic of the Week - Kitting out the Coop

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by sumi, Dec 11, 2016.

  1. sumi

    sumi Égalité Staff Member

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    It's the time of year when our flocks spent much of their time indoors, in their coops, so this week I want to talk about coops and what we put in there for our flocks. Specifically...

    - What bedding/material works best for the coop floor and the nest boxes?
    - How can you keep the coop dry, especially now, over the winter months?
    - Roosts and nest boxes - How many do you provide, how much space on the roosts, what do you use as nest boxes and how do you make them attractive for the hens, etc?
    - What "boredom busters" can you provide to amuse and distract bored, cooped up birds when the weather is really bad?
    - What else do you provide/do to make sure the flock is happy and comfortable in there?





    For a complete list of our Topic of the Week threads, see here: https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/topic-of-the-week-thread-archive
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2017
  2. woodbootcher17

    woodbootcher17 New Egg

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    This is our first winter with chickens so I will be following this thread. We are in Michigan.
     
  3. junkman56

    junkman56 Chillin' With My Peeps

    I use pine needles, leaves, and pine shavings for bedding in the coop and the run. I do not have my nesting boxes set-up yet,
    ( chickens are not laying yet )

    inside the coop I have two roost for 7 hens, made out of 2x4s six ft. long
    I keep their feed and water in the coop all the time.

    my run is enclosed except for an area under the overhang of the coop for ventilation, so my chickens can go out to the run or stay in the coop if they wish.

    I hang a treat block from a chain in the run for them to peck at, and I will give them cabbage, pumpkins and I hang those also.

    I throw a couple handfuls of dried meal-worms in the run to scratch for along with scratch, and sunflower seeds

    so far I have not seen any pecking or feather pulling... knock on wood

    I also have stumps, large rocks and a couple roost out in the run for them to climb on, along with a dirt bath area. and a couple bales of straw under the coop, they seem to enjoy pulling straw out of the bales.
     
  4. BantyChooks

    BantyChooks Turtle Rock Poultry Premium Member

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    It's the time of year when our flocks spent much of their time indoors, in their coops, so this week I want to talk about coops and what we put in there for our flocks. Specifically...

    - What bedding/material works best for the coop floor and the nest boxes?
    Pine shavings. I provide extra ventilation for the first few days while it airs out. After it gets "old," it's a low-dust solution for winter bedding. I use it in nesting boxes because the hens can't kick a while clump of it out like they could with hay.

    - How can you keep the coop dry, especially now, over the winter months?
    Don't put water in the coop. Scraping poop off poop boards helps as well.

    - Roosts and nest boxes - How many do you provide, how much space on the roosts, what do you use as nest boxes and how do you make them attractive for the hens, etc?
    I just stuck four 8 ft long or so roost poles up there, and the hens seem to be happy with it. I have about 21 wooden nest boxes. I make sure the boxes are clean, and not much else.... They're naturally dark, so I don't bother with curtains.

    - What "boredom busters" can you provide to amuse and distract bored, cooped up birds when the weather is really bad?
    Hanging cabbage heads work great!

    - What else do you provide/do to make sure the flock is happy and comfortable in there?

    One thing my flock seems to enjoy is climbing on things, AKA playing "the shavings are lava". [​IMG]
    Providing boxes or such for them to sit on is also good for reducing pecking order fights.... The big guys sit on top, little guys on the bottom. No disputes.

    And, perhaps the biggest thing of all... Provide extra space!! IMO the 4ft minimum is just that, a minimum for birds to exist. I'd prefer to have 10 square feet per bird, and I did last winter, but as I've doubled flock size they're only getting about 5-6 square feet. Not happy about that.... (I've tried to sell a few, but no dice)
     
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2016
    4 people like this.
  5. I Love Layers

    I Love Layers Chillin' With My Peeps

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    In my point of view these topics have a lot to do with where you live. I live in North Dakota, me and someone from Oklahoma are not going to hags the same opinions.
    So I find it best that id you're going to post, post your state with it also so people know where you're from and if your answers, or ideas will work for them.


    - What bedding/material works best for the coop floor and the nest boxes?
    I use hay all the way. I live on a ranch so its readily available to me, whereas woodchips cost money and don't offer much insulation.
    Another reason I use hay over woodchips of any sort of because my coop is not insulated whatsoever. I have thatches along the walls that I stuff with hay, and floor also gets hay.
    Another reason is my coop is an old wooden grainery, so there's LOTS of cracks etc.

    - How can you keep the coop dry, especially now, over the winter months?
    First suggestion is if you are in a colder climate like me don't get ducks. Especially if they're going to be with your chickens.
    Other then that basically don't spill water everywhere, don't track snow in, don't use leaking waterers, don't use things such as buckets, as when they get a close to empty chickens will spill them.


    - Roosts and nest boxes - How many do you provide, how much space on the roosts, what do you use as nest boxes and how do you make them attractive for the hens, etc?
    For my current 20 laying hens I have 8 nest boxes. When I had 50-60 hens it worked then too. I just downsized for the winter this year. I don't know how much space is on the roosts, enough for all my birds to sit.
    I don't make my nest boxes attractive for the birds or me. They're rollaway metal nest boxes that were my Great Grandmas. My birds don't like the rollaway and neither do I so I stuff them with hay.


    - What "boredom busters" can you provide to amuse and distract bored, cooped up birds when the weather is really bad?
    Apples and table scraps is basically it. My birds don't get to bored in the winter. They do have a silver necklace that I hung up through

    - What else do you provide/do to make sure the flock is happy and comfortable in there?

    Floor space for them to lay on especially when it gets -25 without windchill and then -45 with windchill
     
    2 people like this.
  6. henny1129

    henny1129 Crazy Livestock Gal

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    Ohio!
    - What bedding/material works best for the coop floor and the nest boxes?
    When it gets cold outside we put down straw on the floor and in the nest boxes. Remember, there is a difference between straw and hay, so when buying straw, make sure you buy the right thing. Straw is hollow, and therefore provides instillation and warmth for your chickens. Hay is simply just used to feed to livestock, and will not provide any warmth for your chickens.
    - How can you keep the coop dry, especially now, over the winter months?
    Others may not agree with this, but this is what we do. We never (not even in the summer) have the water inside the coop. This is even more vital in the winter because if the water were to spill in the coop it could kill all the chickens. The cold is not nessacarily what kills chickens, it's the dampness/chill of the coop. If water were to spill in the coop it would make the coop damp and chilled, killing the chickens. If the water is outside of the coop, even if it spills, it can't kill any chickens because it can't go inside the coop and make it damp.
    - Roosts and nest boxes - How many do you provide, how much space on the roosts, what do you use as nest boxes and how do you make them attractive for the hens, etc?
    Boxes ~ Many say that one nest box is sufficient enough for 2-3 birds. So, say, if you have 12 chickens, you need at least 4 nest boxes, if you have 21 chickens you need at least 7 nest boxes, etc. Now, we used to have many more chickens, but we have 6 nest boxes for 4 chickens. Statistically speaking, each chicken has its own nest box, but all of our chickens just lay in one box. If you find that your birds are just laying in one or two nest boxes, never take any of the tiger boxes out! While it might seem the other boxes aren't needed, they are! If a chicken is being a bully and won't let the tiger chickens into their "normal laying box", it's important that the tiger chickens have another box to go lay in. We make nest boxes more attractive for the girls by putting fake eggs in the boxes. This seems to work very well, but we don't have any experience with other methods to make the boxes more attractive either. Roosts ~ I've read that happy chickens need at least one foot of roosting space. We have 3 roosts that are all 4 feet long. 3 times 4 is 12 and if we have 4 chickens that means that each of my chickens gets 3 feet of roosting space. We use large sticks found in our backyard as roosts. It makes the coop look nice as well as giving the chickens the feel of their natural environment.
    - What "boredom busters" can you provide to amuse and distract bored, cooped up birds when the weather is really bad? 
    We have a chicken swing that we use for our birds. They have a lot of fun trying to get on it and figuring out how to stay on it from there! Other "boredom busters" you can use for chickens is strings around the run (they'll have fun pulling at the strings), CD's, a mirror, and many other different things that I can't remember. :p If you have livestock, put a flake of hay in for the chickens....they'll enjoy digging through the hay eating bugs and the different greens. Oh, and you can get a suet cake and hanger for your chickens too! It's very tasty for the birds and will keep them distracted for a while.
    - What else do you provide/do to make sure the flock is happy and comfortable in there?
    The most important thing is to just keep chickens warm during winter. Remember, chickens will die if they aren't warm/dry, they won't die if they are just bored. It's great when your chickens can have fun in the winter, but what's most important is to keep them alive and warm.
     
    1 person likes this.
  7. EggSighted4Life

    EggSighted4Life Overrun With Chickens

    Hi @sumi [​IMG]

    I wonder if there is any way you might be able to include the photos that are on the carousel in the thread they are about? I often wish to look at them longer and for more detail but when I try to open or figure out where they came from there doesn't seem to be a way for me to do that. [​IMG]

    I know it's off topic, but thanks for your consideration. [​IMG]
     
  8. sumi

    sumi Égalité Staff Member

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    Sure! [​IMG] Here's today's pic: https://www.backyardchickens.com/g/i/6257425/a/6353522/avatars/
     
  9. woodbootcher17

    woodbootcher17 New Egg

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    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    This is the inside of our run and it was treat time this morning. Run is 16x8.
     
  10. crealbilly

    crealbilly Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I use the deep beding method inside the coop. The bedding is mainly maple sawdust and planer shavings. I might have some ash shavings in there also. I do a fair share of wood working, dust and shavings from non-toxic woods go on the coop floor. I throw down a layer of barn lime and turn it when it starts to smell musky. Barn lime breaks down poop, in the process generates a little heat. So every turd contributes to keeping the coop warmer :)

    In the late winter, i'll change out the bedding and put the it in the spring / fall garden and till it in, a few weeks later i'll set out my seedlings and sow seed. Deep bedding contains lots of nitrogen - my vegatable plants love it.

    [​IMG]

    I've also moved all water out doors, because when it gets into the deep bedding it gives off ammonia smell and requires a lot more lime and turning to keep the odor down.

    In the yards i've rolled out round bales of late summer hay. Its also pretty deep but will mostly be gone come late spring. This also helps with moisture somewhat plus the chickens and turkeys love rummaging through it for seeds and bugs. In the early spring they spend a big part of their days scratching it up for earth worms and other bugs.

    I like to think its kind of like the circle of life. I provide chickens & turkeys food, water and shelter. They supply me meat, eggs and more chickens and turkeys. Their waste also contributes to my vegatable garden. so i spirit of true farming mentality - I guess i put the chickens and turkeys to work :)
     
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2016

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