Where to put these fast-growing things!?

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by soldieratheart, Sep 20, 2009.

  1. soldieratheart

    soldieratheart Out Of The Brooder

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    Sep 7, 2009
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    I'm not sure if this belongs here or in the Coop/Run forum but since we're dealing with babies I thought I'd stick it here...

    My 15 chicks are currently split up into a group of 5 meaties in a 25" x 42" brooder (18" high), and the other 10 (boys=meat, hens=layers) are in a 2ft high x 2ft x 4ft brooder. We have almost finished the coop which is a 4ft x 8ft A-frame construction and will have a sand floor over plywood. The inside is pretty pitched, but it sits over a fully-wired-in 3ft tall base, so they have protected outdoor access. Even the bottom is wired. Since Tennessee stays mild for quite a while, my plan is to leave their little hatch door open at night so they can have twice the space while enclosed in the coop, and then letting them out into a sizable pen during the day, probably something constructed out of 48" netting or wire fence or such.

    I thought this would be okay with 15 birds until the boys reach slaughter age, but didn't realize how FAST the chicks would grow!!! I have Speckled Sussex, Buff Orpingtons, and White Plymouth Rocks, 5 of each. Ultimately there will only be a few hens as the SS and BO came as a straight run so I don't expect more than 4-5 girls at most, if I'm lucky. The Rocks are all cockerels.

    Given that slaughter age should be around 12-16 weeks, do you think they will be okay crowded in that coop until then? (This sounds like a math problem [​IMG]). I've spent hours making that coop snug and safe and don't have anywhere else to stick the birds. Is it going to get horrirbly filthy and nasty in that coop? Is this a really bad idea? This is -obviously!- my first go with chickens and I kind of under-estimated their growth rate....

    What do I do?
     
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

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    The way I understand this, you will soon have a 32 square foor elevated coop with a 32 square foot outside but protected access underneath. You will also have some sized ??? run for daytime access. This is for 15 chickens, all fairly young dual purpose breeds. (When you said meaties, I first thought you were talking about the cornish crosses, which are different) You plan to butcher all males before they are 16 weeks old.

    In direct answer to your question, I don't see a huge problem with this. If you use the elevated coop section primarily as a roosting area only (you might want to wait to add the nesting boxes) feed and water in the enclosed area underneath, and have a daytime pen that gives them about 10 square feet per chicken, you should meet their basic requirements for space. This will also work as permanent space for up to 8 hens should you be so lucky. As an aside, I got 7 straight run buff orpingtons and they all look like pullets, a 0.8% chance, so it is possible but highly unlikely.

    You will have to assess the predator risk of your run during the day. I'd suggest using welded wire as a dog or most other predators can go through netting or chicken wire with no problem, but that was not your question.
     
  3. soldieratheart

    soldieratheart Out Of The Brooder

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    Thanks RidgeRunner. That summed up my situation pretty well. The wire around the bottom of the coop area is poultry netting (sides and bottom) but the run I plan to build will either be welded wire or electroplastic netting - haven't made up my mind about it yet. If welded wire, though, I would most likely add a couple electric wires around the outside. Definitely bigger than 10 sq.ft per bird, though!

    The coop has roosting poles both inside and out. I am a little concerned though about leaving the hatch door open all the time - I might want to close it if it is too cold for young birds (30s? 40s? 50s?). Also, if poultry netting is not going to cut it, would it be safe? Again it would be within the fenced yard, so they would only be able to access the lower level of their coop and not the whole run.

    Good point about leaving the nest boxes out, though. That will help some. Also, I was thinking of putting waterers and maybe feeders too both inside and out.

    So 15 young birds should be okay? What if they can only have the upstairs for some nights - only the 32 sq.ft? Will that still be okay without major health and filth issues?
     
  4. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

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    As far as the filth, you can clean as required. I'd think with that set-up, you will not have bedding upstairs so you may have to scrape it regularly. As long as they have ventilation but are not in drafts, you should not have health issues, again provided you keep a handle on the filth. Kind of trust your nose on this one.

    If you open the hatch fairly early in the morning and they have water inside, they should be OK with the hatch closed. Just don't leave them in there very long after the sun comes up. Again I'll mention, ventilation is important. You don't want the ammonia or moisture from the poop to build up. The ammonia can hurt their respiratory system and the moisture can lead to frostbite. Chickens can handle cold weather very well as long as they are not in drafts or high humidity.

    I don't know how old yours are, but I'd think they will be fully feathered out long before you have to worry about a frosty night. I would suggest not to pamper them too much. They do need to adjust to the cold weather as the season cools off. They build up a better resistance to cold that way.

    Good luck!
     
  5. soldieratheart

    soldieratheart Out Of The Brooder

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    Okay. So I won't worry about over-crowding for now... phew! It's a relief because so far I have build 3 separate brooder boxes and need to make yet another one! Don't want to do that with the coops, too - I already know that my current coop will only work for our pet layers and we need to find/build another one if I ever want any more... * evil cackle* .

    Actually the inside floor of this coop will have bedding, I'm going to use sand. The plywood sits on top of the 3ft tall, netted-in base (which also has netting on the bottom to prevent anything from digging up into the base). The top is the indoor, A-frame portion. There is a hatch door in the plywoon and a ladder connecting the levels, and as mentioned the hatch door can be closed. One side of the A-frame roof is made of two 4x4 panels, hinged at the top, so I can open up the sides for access and cleaning.

    I am concerned now that the poultry netting won't keep them safe enough though... of course their yard, that the coop will sit in, will have stouter fence or electrified netting, but the point of my two-level coop was to give the chickens "outside" access in the base of their coop, by leaving their hatch door open all night unless the weather is really bad. As a matter of fact, I was going to do that even before I had their yard fence up, since it will take me a while to do that. Do you think the coop base will keep them safe enough as it's totally enclosed in poultry wire? It will be fairly close to the house by the way.
     
  6. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

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    The chicken netting will not stop a dog, raccoon, or fox. I'd suggest hardware cloth around the bottom section.

    I am envisioning you closing that hatch at night for extra predator protection and to stop drafts. Chickens fully feathered out can handle cold pretty well as long as they are not in drafts. You may not have enough roost length upstairs for all 15 chicks, especially as they get older and bigger, but I'd expect them to sleep on the floor upstairs instead of on any roost down below. Temporarily, until you process the roosters, you could maybe put an extra roost upstairs if it is needed. Just make sure you open that hatch around sunrise and they should be fine.

    One of the difficulties of A-frames is that it is hard to provide adequate space up top and also provide adequate ventilation. Yours should be tall enough to provide openings at the top on both ends above their roost, covered with hardware cloth, so the humidity and ammonia can escape. If you do not provide adequate ventilation to remove the moisture, they can get frostbite. With good ventilation and no drafts, I'm comfortable with mine in single digit weather. You'll have quite a few and their body heat will help keep them warm, but they will also put out a lot of humidity. Don't neglect ventilation.
     
  7. soldieratheart

    soldieratheart Out Of The Brooder

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    All right, so I will close that hatch until we get a fenced-in yard. Thanks so much for taking the time to explain all this to me!

    As far as ventilation and inside height... the inside is not tall at all, unfortunately. Maybe 3ft tall in the middle and pitching to the floor on either side. I do have a roost, but they will have to figure out how to jump up on it without knocking against the pitched roof - they couldn't stand up straight on the roost. Of course, it will just be at night - they have the bottom "outdoor" portion otherwise, and in nice weather at night too once a good fence is around their yard.

    For ventilation, I cut out a rectangle on each side of the coop (the "triangle" sides, not the sloping roof panels) above where the roost pole sits. Then I inset a register cover in each rectangle - the same kind you put in your house over your heat registers in your floor. They can open and close and I thought they would work well for ventilation. I also cut out 4 windows, two on each sloping roof side. The windows can be opened or closed and are screened. So in the summer I can leave them open and help keep the chickens from getting too hot.

    I MUST take pictures because it's just about done and looks really nice... maybe I will do that soon and post in the Coop & Run section...

    Thanks again for all your advice and help and replies. I've really appreciated it!
     
  8. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

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    I'd suggest lowering the roost since they will be in a draft up where you have it now. It needs to be just higher than the openings to your nesting boxes and make the tops of your nesting boxes sloped so they cannot perch or roost up there when you install them. I don't know how big those registers are, but I would give them as much ventilation in those triangular ends as I could while keeping them below the draft created when they are roosting.

    With you between Clarksville and Nashville, I'd expect your summer days to normally be in the 90's with occasional days in the 100's and nights down into the 70's, maybe low 80's. I'd expect your normal winter nights to have lows in the 30's with an occasional night as low as single digits. You might see nights below zero once every 4 or 5 years.

    You are right that you can leave the hatch open in the summer for ventilation if you predator proof that lower section. That is a good idea. But ventilation is just as important in the winter. They can handle cold temperatures very well as long as they are not in a draft and the humidity is not too high, so you do need to lower that roost. They will generate a lot of humidity themselves from their bodies and their poop, so just because the cold weather normally has very dry air do not expect the humidity in the coop to be low. As you can probably tell, my main worry is the winter-time humidity of the coop.

    I would seriously consider feeding and watering in the lower section. How are you going to position the feed and water in the upper section so they are not roosting over it and pooping in it and still provide enough roost length?

    With 10 straight run chicks, the odds are pretty good that you will have 4 to 6 hens. But remember my 7 pullets out of 7 straight run. Anything can happen. That coop should work well with 4 to 6 hens. And I don't know how old your chicks are. I'm guessing 3 to 4 weeks from your comments on how fast they are growing, so I expect them to be fully feathered before you have cold weather and I expect you to have processed the cockerels before the really cold weather hits. I think you will be OK unless some really unusual weather hits.
     
  9. soldieratheart

    soldieratheart Out Of The Brooder

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    Okay RidgeRunner,

    Just for you... some coop pictures!

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Sorry this one is sideways:
    [​IMG]

    And a last glory shot:
    [​IMG]

    So, I'm not sure I CAN lower the roost pole... it would only be a few inches off the ground. Yes, I know I will need another coop at some point but this will just have to do for now. I was going to hold off on the nest boxes until only the hens are left, and then put them at ground level against a hinged sloping side with a partition between (just 2 nest boxes) so it will be nice and dark and I can access the eggs when I lft up the roof panel. The waterer would hang from the girder on the side without the roost pole - the hatch side - and the feeder would be a trough somewhere it won't get pooped on, probably along the other hinged roof panel.

    The windows you see all open, by the way, and are plastic not glass. (The nifty window plastic from Lowe's). There will be sand as bedding, which I hope will help keep things dry. I didn't want to put the food/water in the bottom since I do not plan to crawl in there daily! The far side of the bottom has a door (far right half of the wire base in third picture) so the chickens can be kept in the coop or let out into their future yard. And there is a roost of sorts down there, really the beam that supports the chicken ladder. But it's not made for human access down there, especially not after they've pooped on the ground there for a while! Hopefully I can get away without moving the durn thing too much and periodically add somekind of sand, DZ, or peatmoss down there, and hope that having a big yard will keep that bottom floor from getting too nasty.

    Okay... so what do I change, and how?
     
  10. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

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    The photos do help a lot. It is obvious you put some work into it.

    First, the chicken wire will not stop many predators. You need to use either welded wire or hardware cloth. If you use welded wire, you can leave the chicken wire where you have it as it will stop the chickens from poking their heads out where a raccoon or dog can get it. Hardware cloth is probably more expensive but would look better.

    I'm concerned about your windows too. They might make that top half a greenhouse if they are in direct sunlight. It's something for you to watch. You may need to cover the ones on the sunny side or paint them black.

    I don't think those registers give you enough ventilation. If I had been doing it, I would have covered the entire top half of both ends above that cross brace with hardware cloth and had enough roof overhang to keep the rain out. The dangers from lack of ventilation are ammonia and frostbite. If you keep the poop dry and remove it before it builds up (supposedly not that hard to do with sand but it takes effort to do it) you should be able to handle the ammonia issue. Maybe on a cold night where you need to shut that trap to stop drafts, you might consider a heat lamp to help keep them warm if possible. They will put off a lot of heat and will squeeze together on the roost to help keep warm, but I'd be concerned if it got below freezing. Covering their comb and wattles with petroleum jelly is also supposed to help prevent frostbite.

    You have two different situations that will require two different management procedures and will require some changes. Let's discuss the 15 chickens first. The nest boxes do not exist yet.

    The roost looks like it is 4 feet long. That is 48 inches. That gives about 3" per bird to roost. It is not enough. A fully grown chicken needs at least 9" of roost space. You plan to process the cockerels before they are fully grown, somewhere between 12 and 16 weeks. Chickens that size probably need around 6 to 7 inches each. I think I would lower that cross brace that is supportig the one roost to where it is a few inches above the sand or maybe use a 2x6 or 2x8 on its side and resting on the floor as a support for the roosts. (All you need is enough height to keep them from sleeping in their poop.) Then I would put in two roost, running from the end wall away from the hatch to overhang the support by 12" or so. That will give you two 5' long roosts which should be enough. And they will be as far out of the draft as you can get them. Keep them 12" apart horizontally and center them in the available space.

    As I said in my first post, if you use this upstairs section primarily as a roosting area and feed and water downstairs, this should work. I really don't see how you can put feed and water upstairs and give them the access to it they need without putting it where it will get pooped in. I can't see how big your door to the downstairs is, but you need to look at it real hard and figure out how you can put food and water down there without crawling inside.

    When you are only left with hens, things change. We don't know how many you will have out of those 10 straight run. Upstairs, they need a minimum of 9" each for roosts. You can adjust what you have to fit what you need and make more room upstairs. Maybe just move that 2x6 or 2x8 support down and keep two shorter roosts, still as low as possible and 12" apart. Hopefully you can free up enough room upstairs for feed and water unless you decide you really like it in the lower level. Who knows. You may come up with something down there you like. Yeah, right.

    I notice your vertical supports on the lower section are two feet apart. I'd consider hanging two nesting boxes between two of these supports and make a door so you can gather the eggs from outside. This way they are lower than the roosts so they should not be sleeping in the nesting boxes and they don't take up valuable space upstairs. You would have to bend a bit to gather the eggs, and you will have to lock the door so a raccoon could not open it, but this door would be a lot lighter than the 4 x 4 panel upstairs and you would have less chance of a chicken flying the coop when you open it.

    These A-frames can be hard, especially considering cold weather. One thing that actualy helps yours is that the bottom half is rectangular. When you build your other coop, you might consider not building an A-frame but take the sides straight up. That will give you a lot more room upstairs and a lot more ventilation possibilities. Of course a walk in coop will hold more chickens and give you even more flexibility.

    Good luck.
     

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