What are the most basic elements of a coop? And other newbie questions

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by RabbitRabbit, Apr 25, 2009.

  1. RabbitRabbit

    RabbitRabbit New Egg

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    Apr 9, 2009
    Bujumbura, Burundi
    We are getting two chickens and I'd like to have up to four eventually. We'd like to put up a basic shelter for the first two and upgrade to a more elaborate coop later on. (Neighbors want to get rid of two very quickly, this weekend if possible; we don't have a lot of materials on hand this weekend.)

    We have a large walled-in yard, so the chickens will be able to safely roam around and we'll have few predator problems. I think hawks will be the greatest predator issue. (Can chickens defend themselves from scrawny stray cats?)

    My questions:
    Are perches necessary if there are plenty of low branches outside?

    Do chickens sleep on the perches or in the nesting boxes? (And where do roosters sleep if hens sleep in the nesting boxes?)

    The 4 square feet per chicken, does that include nesting box area?

    Do we clean out the nesting boxes? Do we need to provide nesting materials? Or will the hens take care of all this themselves?

    Should food and water be inside the coop or outside?

    We live near the equator so the weather is warm year round and daylight is always for 11 to 12 hours. No lights, heaters, etc., will be necessary. If we don't need to lock up the chickens at night, is a roofed, 3-sided shelter sufficient? We envision two platforms and a roof, with an open side so the chickens can jump in and out.

    Does it need a floor or is grass okay?

    I think that's enough to get me started. Thanks!

    Stephanie
     
  2. Judy

    Judy Chicken Obsessed Staff Member Premium Member

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    South Georgia
    This thread will give you an idea of what some people in the southern US use for coops:

    https://www.backyardchickens.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=163417

    We have many ground predators here, though. And you may find you have more than you realize; I have no idea!

    On the other hand, some of my neighbors provide only food, water and an open shelter for them to use to get out of the rain. And not even much food, if they have plenty of bugs and vegetation to eat. Sometimes, their chickens roost in the trees and nest in leaves on the ground. In most cases, though, they do provide nest boxes in the shelter as they are more likely to find all the eggs! And yes, if you provide nest boxes, you need to put some nesting material in there to prevent the eggs from getting cracked when laid. Chickens will sometimes sleep in nest boxes, but you will want to discourage this as they will also poop there and this will get the eggs dirty. They can usually be retrained to sleep on roosts pretty easily, and this is really their natural way to sleep. You might have to put them on the roosts for a week or two, or close off the next boxes at night. It's really up to you whether you provide a roost or let them use branches. If you don't know how they have been living, you might want to find out, if only to know what they are used to.

    A coop can really be anything from an insulated mini people house to nothing at all. I'm not saying that little or no housing will lead to chickens that are just as healthy and safe, of course. A floor is not really necessary, but the grass won't last long, and you will have a dirt floor. Food and water can be in our out, but you do need to keep the food dry. They can do without food at night but need access to water, at least from early in the morning to when they go to roost, and especially in a warm climate like yours. Chickens actually tolerate cold better than heat, though they should be fine with some breeze and enough shade and water.

    A cat can take a chicken, although they generally do not. They will certainly take young or baby chicks, though. My cat is afraid of the chickens, and this is more the usual case. Of course, my cat gets fed, though....

    The 4 sq ft does include nesting boxes. But if they are not locked up, you don't need to go by this; this is for confined birds. Two chickens need only one nest box and about 18" of roost space. What you envision should be just fine, if there are no ground predators.

    Mostly, it is really up to you. There are about as many opinions out there as there are chicken owners. You are wise to realize that you will most likely want to change some part of whatever you construct over the weekend.

    Good luck, and enjoy your chickens!
     
  3. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

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    Northwest Arkansas
    I think ddawn gave great advice. I just wanted to say welcome.
     
  4. RabbitRabbit

    RabbitRabbit New Egg

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    Apr 9, 2009
    Bujumbura, Burundi
    Thanks ddawn and ridgerunner!

    No chickens yet today. I'm anxious to get them, but the extra time is better for making a nicer coop. My husband is out salvaging for materials now and just called to say he'll be home in a bit with some great pieces of wood. If he doesn't get too annoyed by my "help" I'll take some photos of the construction.

    We met our chickens yesterday. We're getting one rooster and one hen. The chickens here have a great survival instinct and they run for cover whenever a hawk flies over the yard. We have plenty of bushes for them to hide in. We don't know if snakes will be a problem. We've never seen one in the 8 months we've lived here. I suppose they could appear with eggs or chicks around. However, some people keep roosters as a yard guard to keep snakes away. Apparently there's a band of neighborhood monkeys, although we've never seen them in our yard. The monkeys have been known to harass chickens.

    So much to think about. And I'm so excited.

    Stephanie
     
  5. Judy

    Judy Chicken Obsessed Staff Member Premium Member

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    Feb 5, 2009
    South Georgia
    Sounds like you'll have quite an adventure. Here, snakes will eat baby chicks and eggs. But chickens also kill and eat snakes, at least smaller ones.

    Good luck!
     

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