What counts as square footage?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by lexa, May 12, 2007.

  1. lexa

    lexa Out Of The Brooder

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    May 10, 2007
    So I inherited a holey (literally) coop on this great piece of property. It was being used as storage for car parts and seemed like it would have been cat's wet dream had we just emptied it and stuck some birds in. I don't even know if they would have been contained by it! There was nothing secure about it. It was a mish-mash of chain link, 2x4 welded wire and other small bits of whatever was around. I should have taken a picture before we began destruction, but of course I forgot!

    So, we took everything out and removed everything except the four huge corner posts (railroad ties!) that are cemented into the ground. The railroad ties make about a 6 by 12 foot rectangle (maybe a little larger). I want to expand the coop by going another six (or more) feet wide and 12 feet long (adding 3x more space at least). However, I can make this larger if it won't give enough inside room for the girls, there is plenty space out there! I was thinking of having one section as the inside area and the other three open for grazing (one covered for shade, two sunny). Does the 4 sq ft rule apply to the 'inside' area of the coop only, or do I get to count the fenced are as well? I was also thinking about having some outdoor roosts since these guys have been sleeping in the trees I thought they might be more comfortable outside, is that possible? Does anyone have outdoor roosts?

    The property came with about 5 roosters, 40 chickens, and there are probably about 20 chicks at this point. We used to have more chicks but they are slowly dying off since these chickens are completely free range. [​IMG] I want to protect these guys better! I expect to have to get rid of some, but I want to be able to keep about 20 to 30 hens depending on the advice I get here. Their feeding area will not be inside the 'house' part of the coop, it will be under the roofed section outside. So, that will leave the whole interior of the coop for nest boxes and roosting bars. How close will they sit? Do they each need one foot, two feet? Also, do hens sleep in the nest boxes? So can I count off a few places on the roosting bars? I've found so much information my head is spinning and I don't know what to believe! [​IMG]

    Sorry this ended up so long, but I'd really appreciate any help or suggestions!
     
  2. kstaven

    kstaven Overrun With Chickens Premium Member

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    Jan 26, 2007
    BC, Washington Border
    The 4 square foot rule is a general guidline for inside space. Many use 3 square feet as a lower limit. In climates with colder weather this works better for the winter. Then you end up with some hens and roosters that 40 square feet wouldn't be enough for them.

    I use about 1 foot of roost space per bird as a lower limit with large breeds. I have found having lots of roost space is more critical than floor space.

    Are you still allowing daytime free ranging? If they have grown up ranging the confinement may bring out aggression.

    It is just like the 4 nest boxes per bird average you often see. I have 40 hens in one of my coops, 12 nest boxes and they only use 3 of them.

    Do not encourage your hens to sleep in the nests. The eggs will be a mess (fecal material)

    You will find different opinions with different chicken people. What you find out in the end, is you do what works best for you and your chickens and everybody is happy.
     
  3. lexa

    lexa Out Of The Brooder

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    kstaven - Thanks! I'll make sure to have plenty roosting space and I'll plan to make the new area a little bigger to accommodate more chickens. We don't have particularly cold winters so I don't think keeping it warm will be a problem. Also, they survived last winter in the open without ANY coop so they're pretty hardy birds.

    I was actually planning on keeping them penned for a while because a neighbor has asked me to keep the chickens out of her yard for the summer because she is planting a garden. I didn't realize it could cause aggression, even between the hens, or just the roosters? I was thinking about clipping wings so they couldn't get over the fences anymore, but I wanted to teach them to start roosting in the coop rather than wherever and since they've never been cooped before I didn't think they'd take to it naturally. Right now they roost in the trees, but I think they can only get up there because there are a few places for them to jump up to low hanging branches from stuff on the ground. I also thought clipping their wings would make them a little less acrobatic. Do you think clipping their wings and making it impossible for them to get over the fence as well as up into trees will make them naturally seek the coop to roost, it being the next best thing?
     
  4. kstaven

    kstaven Overrun With Chickens Premium Member

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    BC, Washington Border
    Clipping will keep them where you want them to be. Do BOTH wings and not just one. If they get out and need to run from anything they can still maneuver. Just doing one kills there balance and in panick flight it makes them an easier target. When clipped they will seek out other shelter. Which just happens to be their coop and new roosts.[​IMG]

    Wasn't sure of your location so I figured it was good to mention the wintering issue.

    If you can get them all in the new coop on the same day it will be easier. If a few are introduced a few days later there may be a bit of a territory issue. Birds that range all the time may stress a little and become agressive to begin with when penned. So you will have to watch them for a few days to see no one is getting beat up. Hens can be just as prone to it as roosters.

    Overall it sounds like you have a good handle on things.
     
  5. cookinmom

    cookinmom Chillin' With My Peeps

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    One more little note, even with clipping the wings, they can still jump, so you may want to remove those low limbs from the trees too. [​IMG]
     
  6. lexa

    lexa Out Of The Brooder

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    Thanks again for the good advise! I keep reading that only one wing should be clipped. I understand the balance issue so I'll try doing both.

    kstaven - I wish I could catch them all in one day! Our chicks are turning into pullets now and we decided to try and catch one yesterday just to see what it would take. It took the two of us 10 minutes of chasing him around! The poor little guy was so exhausted [​IMG] I felt terrible. Almost all of the rest of the flock (broken up by which rooster each of the girls was following) was in our various neighbor's yards eating bugs & grazing. We were going to try catching a couple pullets every day and put them in a temporary enclosure. I think it will be impossible for us to catch them all, especially the big ones, in one day (we don't live there, it is a 25 minute drive from home, so we just go there to check on things and do some work every day). Also, our coop isn't anywhere near ready, we haven't even finished the destruction phase! We'll keep as many pullets as we can in our little enclosure and try to get them used to us so that our young little girls aren't so scared of us.

    Has anyone had any luck catching chickens with nets? I tried a U-hook yesterday and it didn't work at all, but I think that may just be because I need practice! Also, you can't just walk up behind these guys, they panic when you get within about 20 feet so getting that little thing around their ankle is tough!.
     
  7. aran

    aran Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 28, 2007
    rochester ny
    come on mate lets see some pics of this coop it sounds huge! Tell us more about this awesome property that you got that comes with chickens!

    aran:cool:
     
  8. lexa

    lexa Out Of The Brooder

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    aran - Don't worry! The pictures will be coming... but we have to start construction first! We're supposed to be in the desert down here but it's been raining every day. Yesterday it rained about an inch in an hour! [​IMG] I can't really complain since we need the rain, but it's put a damper on getting started. So far we've just been cutting down suckers on the Chinese Elms to clear the fence line as an attempt to keep the chickens in and to restrict the trees they can use as roosts. Anyone else hate these trees!? They come up everywhere! This property hasn't been maintained for over a year, so some of these suckers are over two inches in diameter! My arms are killing me from all the sawing and clipping!

    I'm also still working on the coop design. I'm considering how to utilize the inside space. I know we need a storage room/closet for all the necessities. I'm also not quite sure how to make the roosts accessible to the chickens and yet not be in our way. Anyone know of a good Cad program for Mac that's free!? [​IMG]
     

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