Wire Pen in garage instead of a regular coop?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by limabean, Apr 17, 2011.

  1. limabean

    limabean Chillin' With My Peeps

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    After some discussion, and paired with some hilarity imagining chickens in a flexible hose-like tunnel, morelcabin gave me the idea of simply putting a pen in the garage instead of a traditional coop. (And an exit to an outdoor pen)

    Factors to consider
    -garage is insulated, but detached from house
    -the big garage door probably lets a draft in - would having one solid wall on the pen facing that direction help with that?
    -Central Ontario - hot humid summers, cold winters
    -Garage is quite cool in summer. Not sure how it is in winter, haven't paid attention
    -one openable window which I originally was going to use as a chicken exit, but am considering cutting a separate exit so the window can be used for natural light & airflow - is one window enough for ventilation (it's fairly big, but then there's no cross-ventilation)
    -garage is in shade much of the day...not sure if this matters in any way.
    -garage has cement floor and floor drain - considering whether to put pen/coop directly on floor, or raised


    All thoughts & feedback appreciated. Total chicken newbie, planning to get chicks in May.

    ~Limabean
     
  2. 6chickens in St. Charles

    6chickens in St. Charles Chillin' With My Peeps

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    ONE thing we learned the hard way: the chickens DO NOT SEEK WARMTH IN THE WINTER; they get a serious set of winter feathers and down, and they're happier in a non heated, non lit environment in the fresh air! It's shocking, but they're not like us. Maybe they're aliens. [​IMG]

    At first we were so attached to our baby chickens we wanted them to be close, and safe, warm, etc, but our efforts at housing them partway in our own home only annoyed the chickens and created crazy work for us, trying to manage their waste and living space, which really belongs on the ground and requires sunlight. Now I'm a pretty good soil composter. Deep litter starting in October, flip it into the compost heap after last frost, that's the ticket!

    In the garage - Our chickens had one mite infestation. I am very grateful that occurred out there, in their coop, and not in our space. Treatment for mites and lice usually contains poisonous chemistry, I wouldn't want that OR mites mixing into my home air quality or getting into my car. Also, predators will make a terrible mess trying to get to their late-nite chicken dinner; repairing your garage door, window, and siding could be costly. Once in the garage, if it's not truly secure from predators, the chickens will easily be pulled through wire cages and devoured. Their coop really has to be Fort Knox for overnites. Garage doors are no match for raccoons. Devious monkeys. With thumbs.

    Shade - check out histoplasmosis, a disease which will occurr if bat guano or bird droppings collect in dry, dark places. Chicken poop has to be managed hygeinically, such as transforming it into good compost vs letting it collect fungi and stench in shady spaces. The risk of that going airborne via dust in your garage is for real. The spores would require a few years to build up, though, so you have time to figure out your best case scenario.

    Cage - Many chickens will be devastated by confinement in a small space. Our smallest hen, no bigger than a crow, is our furthest wanderer/forager. Once you meet your birds and experience their scratching/foraging/curious nature, you'll know what I mean! They require things to do and places to go, including a nice pit of dirty dust somewhere for laying around dustbathing in.

    We've been trying to do this well since 2008, and we're still learning what works best for ours. Just sayin', so you don't feel too much overwhelmed. We've done many revisions, and it helps us feel smarter every time! I wish you the best of luck! And we love pictures! Can you post pics so we can indulge in your hard earned success?
     
  3. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Hi there! I'm not quite an hour north of Toronto <waves hi>

    An insulated detached garage is, in many ways, a real good place for chickens in a northern winter. It has considerable thermal mass and will not be getting nearly as cold as your outdoor temps (or as cold as a small standalone coop would). If you have a large enough garage and few enough chickens you may not need to even worry about adding any ventilation to your garage. Although you may wish to weatherstrip around the garage door so there are not major breezes coming in and (perhaps more important) to discourage hungry animals from coming in and taking advantage of the buffet (not just the chickens themselves, but their food). It will be important that you have no "fume-y" things stored in the garage, like gasoline or solvents or fertilizer, though. Chickens have fairly sensitive respiratory systems.

    The downside of putting the coop in the garage is that MAN are chickens ever DUSTY. All-wire walls would be a Bad Idea; even with mostly-solid walls (with large ventilation openings in them) you will get *some* dust on yer garage stuff. So you would have to decide if that is ok. If you restore antique cars or repair computer hard drives or something like that in there, it would probably be bad to have chickens anywhere around; if you have $5,000 of expensive tools, you would *at least* want them very well covered at all times and then of course when you uncover them all that dust will go into the air; but if it is a more vacant type garage and you can live with some dust, then sure. But DO do at least mostly-solid walls.

    Also, you may find that because of the high thermal mass of the garage there may be a bit of a humidity problem on late-winter-early-spring days when the floor of the garage is still winter-cold and you get a real warm humid air mass coming thru. Like last week [​IMG] But, you can cope with that, and it shouldn't be as bad in your garage as it is in some situations (e.g. the underneath of a bank barn) and it won't last for THAT long. So this is not a dealbreaker, just something to be aware that you may have to deal with seasonally.

    Quote:You will have vents into the rest of the garage interior, so having an actual exterior window in the coop would actually be PERFECT, it lets you let outdoor air in when you want to (nice part of year) and good light and something for chickens to see out of. If you *can* cut a separate pophole, lower down (but preferably 12-18" above the floor, to allow for depth of bedding and snow without either one getting excessively kicked thru the door) that would be best. OTOH if you HAVE to use the window, you could screw it permanently open 14", and install a filler thing that has a pophole and the remainder is mesh-covered vent with a plexiglas flap to close.

    -garage has cement floor and floor drain - considering whether to put pen/coop directly on floor, or raised

    Achieving a rodentproof coop is a lot easier if it's directly on the floor. Also that is coincidentally easier and cheaper LOL. Just use a good depth of bedding in winter and it'll be fine.

    Hopefully you can put the run on the S or E side of the garage? (Having it on the upwind side in winter is very discouraging to the chickens, and also tends to give you a lot of snow blowing in thru the pophole [​IMG])

    Good luck, have fun,

    Pat​
     
  4. scratch'n'peck

    scratch'n'peck Overrun With Chickens

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    My Coop
    I have had a few chickens in the garage temporarily when they needed to be separated from the flock. Here a few considerations:

    What sort of bedding will you use and how will you keep it from going all over the place (chickens love to scratch in their bedding)?

    How do you promote ventilation ( I'm not sure one window is enough ventalation?

    How do you plan to clean the coop area?



    Fortunately you are starting with a small group and most chicken breeds are quite winter hardy.

    You probably should not put bedding directly on cement floor because is could promote mold growth.
     
  5. limabean

    limabean Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hmm, such differing opinions.

    Unfortunately, the only side of the garage that is on the grass, facing into our yard, is the north side. [​IMG] The east is in our yard, but on the patio.

    Hmmmmmmm.

    Oh, and there's nothing in the garage of concern for harm to the chickens. Of our stuff - there's a storage freezer, bikes, stroller, that sort of thing. A few garden tools but nothing fancy.
     
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2011
  6. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    How do you promote ventilation ( I'm not sure one window is enough ventalation?

    You don't need lots of ventilation if the building is large in relation to the # chickens. Actually if the building is large enough adn the chickens few enough you may not need ANY ventilation beyond what you normally get from the popdoor and people door. "Dilution is hte solution to pollution" is to a very large extent true [​IMG]

    You probably should not put bedding directly on cement floor because is could promote mold growth.

    I have pens directly on concrete and no mold occurs. Really really.

    Actually in a sense my original situation was kind of like what the o.p. describes -- it was a former kennel building not garage, but, heavily insulated, slab floor, 3 chickens in a pen within a 15x40 building, with no ventilation beyond popdoor. Worked really well. Good air quality, happy chickens.

    Pat​
     
  7. limabean

    limabean Chillin' With My Peeps

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    scratch'n'peck :

    What sort of bedding will you use and how will you keep it from going all over the place (chickens love to scratch in their bedding)?

    How do you promote ventilation ( I'm not sure one window is enough ventalation?

    How do you plan to clean the coop area?

    .

    I was thinking of pine shavings, deep litter, and, when I had visualized a wire pen I figured it would at least have short (12"??) walls to hold in the litter....with some sort of door for raking out.​
     
  8. limabean

    limabean Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I don't have the exact size handy, but the garage is a single car garage (we don't park in there though) that could actually probably fit two small modern cars. High ceiling.

    eta: Pat, what do you have to say about the fact that the run would be on the north side? There's no alternative if we are going to use the garage scenario.
     
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2011
  9. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Quote:Hm. Well, at best, I'd say it's not ideal. You will need to do something pretty significant in the way of a windbreak and roof (unless the area is already well-sheltered by something else e.g. a cedar hedge) if you want the chickens go outdoors at all during the colder months. Or I suppose you could build them a LARGE LARGE coop inside, and not put too many chickens in it, and just have them stay in the garage for four or five months.

    (For summertime of course the north-side thing is fine of course).

    No way of having the run on the east, or even west, side of the building?

    Pat
     
  10. limabean

    limabean Chillin' With My Peeps

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    The east faces onto the patio - no grass/dirt. The south faces onto the neighbours yard, and the west is the big door out to a laneway.
     

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