Aug 3, 2019
Hi. I am finding that the onesy-twosy approach isn't growing my flock as quickly as I would like. My end goal is to put chicken tractors on my acreage, rotating them to the same spot about once every month, and to sell meat and eggs while doing that. Ideally a self-sustaining operation beyond the initial outlay to purchase a starter flock (would have enough eggs every day to incubate replacement birds to sustain flock size and replace aging hens when desired/needed).

The "small box / tupperware storage tub brooder and heat lamp" approach isn't going to work any longer, and the "chicken condo" coop and run will no longer suffice. With a starting flock of 500 birds, I'm wanting to purchase a suitable brooder and large coop, preferably that is "pre fab" that I can finish setting up on site (rather than building from scratch - I just don't have the time or experience). Does anyone have any thoughts on commercial brooders and prefab henhouses suitable for up to 500 birds (that's 1000 square feet, if I give 2 sq ft to each bird).

Thanks in advance for helpful replies.
You can buy a barn or carport from Lowe's that might be big enough
But you're lucky to find a prefab coop that can hold more than a quartet of birds.

Also it's 4 feet per bird without worrying quite as much about bullying. 2 feet would be almost shoulder to shoulder
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Brooders: you could get one of the metal battery brooders, that are all stacked up tall.
Here's one example.
But you would have to dump the pans underneath each level quite frequently, and of course it only works until the chicks reach a certain size. So you'd still need somewhere to move them to after that (maybe chicken tractors would work, if you choose the season when the weather is right.)

Or you could get a shed and put in multiple heat lamps, and brood the chicks on the floor. I think that's usually easier. Plan for about 1/2 square foot per bird for the first three weeks or so, double that space for the next few weeks, and by about 8 weeks you should have 2 square feet each. By the time they're adults, plan on four square feet per chicken in the coop or tractor.

If you're only doing it once, you could brood the chicks in the coop where they will later live as hens. But since you will probably need to raise plenty of replacement chicks on a regular basis, a separate brooder space is likely to work better.

You can also use a chicken tractor to brood chicks, although it depends a bit on the weather and the style of chicken tractor. Plan to have reasonably good weather (spring or summer), a heat lamp, and a few tarps to cover the sides (to block wind.) You would probably leave it in one place for at least the first week, and for the next few weeks be careful to only move it when the ground is dry (because a chick pen with a wet floor is not a good idea.)

If you've only dealt with small numbers, I would suggest trying 50 or 100 at once before going all the way to 500. Once those have their feathers and move outside, you'll be able to decide whether you want to do several batches that size, or whether you want to do one giant batch and be done until next year.

Those ideas apply if you're raising chicks that will be laying hens.
For Cornish Cross meat birds that will be butchered at about 8 weeks old, they will never need "adult" housing, so you just brood them until they're ready for chicken tractors, and butcher them long before they are actually mature.

For housing the hens:
A lot depends on your climate.

If you're using chicken tractors, and if you do not have a snowy winter, you may not need a chicken coop for the hens at all. They could just live in the tractors all year long.

If you do need a chicken coop for winter time, I suggest you look into buying a shed or prefab garage or something like that.

Some shed companies also sell chicken coops (a shed with roosts, nestboxes, and a pop door.) But it would be pretty easy to add roosts and nestboxes to a shed or garage. And you don't really need the pop door for the chickens if you're willing to leave the person-sized door open for them to go in and out.

If you're planning to let the chickens go outside each day, think about the weather where you live. If you have long snowy winters, you may need more space per hen in the coop because they spend more time indoors.

In some hot climates, you would do better without solid sides: more like a covered run with perches and nestboxes added. (Or chicken tractors.) You need to keep predators out somehow, but that can be done with hardware cloth rather than anything solid.

If you have warm summers and cold winters, you could have one large building that is the chicken coop in the winter time, but in the summer the hens could live in tractors and you could use that same coop to brood chicks for the next year. Then sell or butcher hens in the fall when they molt, so you have a number that can all live in the coop during the next winter.
If you're going to be dealing with commercial quantities of chickens and running it as a business you'll probably want commercial equipment rather than upscaled backyarder equipment.

Your local Ag Extension should be able to help you find what you need. :)
Everyone, I greatly appreciate your replies.

I think a poultry house makes sense for my needs. We have fairly tough winters in the Midwest, so it will be good to have a place for the chickens to go to get out of the weather. I'll look into prefab options.

I assume a dirt floor is best? My preference is actually to have a solid floor of some sort, but I'm not sure how to clean it out and am concerned that using water to wash floors would rot wood used in construction. Do people really invest in concrete slab and concrete block construction? Maybe I'd lay a slab and use concrete blocks for the first couple feet off the ground...? Debating whether to construct, myself, in this way or buy a prefab building...
That's Factory Farming space......most folks here are trying to get away from that type of environment..

Yup, realized folks are going at least 4 sq ft per bird after posting. I'm working forward with that figure in mind (20 x 20 building is what I am thinking).
Ah, so you're down to 100 birds instead of 500?

Yes, starting smaller. I am starting a new farm from scratch. None of it was given to me, infrastructure is dated or nonexistent, and this stuff is EXPEN$IVE!!

If I can make 100 chickens work, then I'll go from there. Start small, put in infrastructure intelligently, and build over time.
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