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Chicken coops/pens??
December 7, 2010
11:43 am
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robyn
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I got my first chickens this fall since i was a little girl living at home on the farm.  We basically bought a yard barn and then remodeled it.  I insulated the entire building and then my husband put board over all of that we build a false wall down one third with the back for feed and straw and he also build my nesting boxes.  Wish i could post picture but i am not sure how to do that on here.  We also put up 20 foot dog panels that we got from the feed store, you bolt them together really easy if you have two people and it is very large.  then we bought a load of what is called crusher run gravel and spread all around the fence.  the gravel packs together and nothing can dig in or out. We live where everything is rock and really really hard to dig down.  i didn't put a cover over the top of the fence but the panels are about 6 ft. tall.  I went on goggle and got an example of how to cut the chicken's wings and did it all by myself.  i was so proud.  my chickens were 18 wks old when they arrived and i kept them in the coop locked up for 4 days before i let them out in open.  they automatically come back every night and go in by themselves.  Of course, now i know where i need to improve.  Next spring for sure a water line is going in.  it is really hard carrying water up the hill (we have 21 inches of snow today) and also i put in a small gate opening so no way to carry in feed or straw except carry it by hand.  I also want to install a pet door so you don't have to open a big door for the chickens to go in and out.  So far so good.  they are such cute little girls.  I got 10 and they are all laying at this time.  I certainly don't have problems getting rid of eggs.  everyone asks for eggs.

December 7, 2010
11:57 am
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BuckeyeGirl
N.E. Ohio
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It sounds like you've got a LOT to be proud of Robyn!  That's a lot of work and it sounds like you've done great.

Chickens are not terribly fussy critters, but with a bit of shelter, plenty of water, good food and a little care, they are a blast to have.  I don't have a water line out to my coop so I sympathize on you wanting a water line.  It's not going to happen for me in the winter though, I'll be carrying a bucket of water forever I'm afraid! (too many reasons to go into, just have to take my word for it!)

Located in N.E. Ohio

December 7, 2010
2:58 pm
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NorthCountryGirl
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I know what you mean about the water line.  I have a hose in the Spring, Summer, and Fall that runs out to the chicken yard.  It's really handy to water the girls and clean any messes that come up. HOWEVER, when winter comes, the hose gets put away (Sniff!!!) and the old bucket comes out. YUCK!  I hate carrying water to the yard as I have to wend my way down slippery deck stairs, slog across the mushy yard and wade into the messy chicken yard to “unfreeze” the frozen waterer. That's always “fun” and it's then that I wish I could have a water pipe buried and run out to the chicken house. NOT GOING TO HAPPEN ANYTIME SOON!!!  So, it's the bucket brigade for now. Can't wait till Spring comes!    hissy-fit

December 12, 2010
7:13 pm
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chickensohmyagain
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The water hauling started today for me! The water pans are long and narrow and sit inside the pens… and when I dumped out ice and put in fresh water, the chickens jumped in the new water and walked up and down! A muddy mess of course.  But unlikely to change… if we ran water out there, wouldn't the faucet just freeze up?

We have about 35 in all, banties and big boys and girls. We use the deep litter method as well, and this is our second winter for having chickens. The three pens back up to the west, and the runs are 8ft wide by 24 ft long, so they have plenty of room.  We recently put a bale of hay in each coop area and they really had fun that day.  They had it all raked out 10 feet by nightfall and we had to scoop it back in.  Keeps them warm and dry.  

They have not laid in a month, and today we had 24 eggs!!  shimmy  Neighbors are happy.

Anyway… the pens are netted over the top with fence wire and we rarely let them out because of the hawks which actually nest in the bare top of a neighbor's tree.  The pens form one wall of the garden as well, and we finally got the other walls up with nice gates and most of the raised beds are done.

December 12, 2010
7:23 pm
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lizzie
Grass Valley
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I also carry water out to the coop, I have a very long hose hooked up out to the garden area, but with the temps being so cold, we unhooked it.  So now I haul the water out, its ok, I only have seven chickens.  My tenants dogs almost dug into the coop yesterday, I love the dogs, but I love my chickens toooooooo, so I spent yesterday shoveling mud back into the holes and put big logs up against the hen house and pen, the dogs got into BIG trouble, they are on a time out for now.  I have a question, could someone explain to me the deep litter method?  I clean the hen house out about once a month, I use pine shavings and straw.  Thanks chicken

December 13, 2010
8:04 am
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chickensohmyagain
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Well, we may not be doing it correctly, but it all depends on what type of floor you have.  Ours is just the dirt that was there when the coops were built, so that floor can be cold and muddy if the rain or snow blows in.  We have added a lot of sand to that part to make it higher and make it drain better. This is our second winter with chickens.

The coop space in each pen is 8 feet wide by 8 feet deep and about 6 feet high, with a tarp protecting about 6 feet of the front.  The roost poles are in one corner about 18″ below the roof itself, and the nest boxes are on the other side. 

The center walls are just wire with no door… a mistake in my mind, but, what can you tell someone else?  Especially the three “someone elses” that built the things… So, you have to go in and out only by the wide door in the end, do whatever you have to do in each coop, and go out and then into the run next door!  There is a light in each one for a little extra heat on the roost poles, with a yellow bulb so it won't draw bugs.  A fan replaces the lights in the summer.  No, they don't roost or poop on either one.

In the deep litter method, you don't have to clean it out.  Ours have been raked out to the center of the pens, but that is all.  New straw… not eating quality hay, just straw… is put down, by dragging the whole bale down the length of the run and then breaking it apart and tossing it around.  Then the chickens have the happy chicken dance going on for quite a while. 

By the time they get finished rearranging their furniture, shimmythe straw is about 6 to 8 inches deep.  We did that before we dropped the tarps that are the front of the coops, that  keep the snow out and most of the rain.  We have snow in the forecast now, not looking forward to that.  We have found that chickens need more ventilation in the summer than they need heat in the winter. Oh, we added a windbreak on the north side of the fence yesterday. Just plastic, but it really helps.

The chickens nestle down in the straw for daytime naps and as a bonus, kill any mice that dare to come in, and have killed a snake during the summer.  (Sometimes they lay eggs UNDER the nest boxes in the straw.) Generally the big roosters are good internal protection.  warrior

Our dog acts as guard dog and escorts any stray dogs off the property, so no one digs in.  We have not seen any coyotes or raccoons, just deer. The dog was also a stray puppy with a broken leg,  is a black and white part sheep dog, who thinks he is a chicken herder now.  He lays on guard duty out in the yard and just watches. shame-on-you

We put a new bale in about every six months, or, when it looks thin.  I don't know what they do with it, but eventually it disappears.  If there is any left in the spring, we plan to rake it into my little wagon and put it on the garden beds.  Or maybe where we plan to move the melon bed… yum.

December 13, 2010
11:13 am
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sparrowgrass
Iron County MO
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I don't have a faucet out by the chicken house either, but I use the hose in the winter.  I live on a hill, and I have the hose laid out on the hillside so that the middle of it is higher than the faucet, and higher than the water bucket. 

I fill the bucket, and then take the hose off the faucet.  The water in the hose drains out both ends, so there is no water to freeze inside the hose.  Next time I want to use it, I hook it back onto the faucet.  As long as I remember to disconnect the hose, I am ok.  I do have to make sure the hose stays in position, and doesn't have any kinks or loops in it.

Does this make any sense?

I just haven't been the same since that house fell on my sister.

December 13, 2010
6:44 pm
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BuckeyeGirl
N.E. Ohio
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Ooooh yeah Sparrograss, since I live on a hill, this makes a LOT of sense!  This is very helpfull!  Thanks!

Last winter I forgot to drain a faucet in the late fall and we got a freeze, so a pipe burst.  Very annoying and only myself to blame.  Thanx! 

Located in N.E. Ohio

January 8, 2011
12:30 am
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Julia K
Northern California
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We live in Northern California and have chickens on our lot in town. We moved to town and didn't know there was  a lot of wild life around. We initially allowed our chickens to live in a separate, closed extension from a storage unit. We lost a few chickens because skunks were digging through the dirt to get to them. My husband ended up building a fenced area with cedar fencing and digging in the ground 12 ” and putting wire fencing down in the ground to keep the critters out. The first coop was made of wood and plywood. Unfortunately termites started to eat it. (Which Termites in our area is not the norm). So our second coop is made of the fencing, insulated and wired for electricity. Not cheap and I don't recommend it unless you live in an area like us; numerous wild critters and cold weather. (We have even get snow, briefly, in July sometimes.

January 13, 2011
5:26 pm
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KitKat
Banty
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Hi Pete, have been reading this post about chickens and
found it quite interesting. We have chickens (4 hens and as one went clucky,
now 4 chicks as well) Hubby built a coop for me with left over building
materials from our house build. Anyway the coop is the size of a small bedroom
and he also built a nest box off one side. I am not so keen on the lid for the
nest box but otherwise it is great. We call it the chicken Palace. I insulated
the roof  and put in a gyp rock ceiling
then painted it. I have a dirt floor and use the deep litter method for the
flooring. Hubby concreted a surround around the coop about 18” deepand the same
wide, (which also became the footing for the coop to stand on) so no foxes
could dig in and I lock the girls up of a night time. During the day they get
free roam at the moment although I am hoping this changes as they are decimating
my garden (the little that I have). I was going to suggest backyard chickens
.com but see someone else already has so I will second that. It is a great
place for information of any description regarding the keeping of chickens.

I can’t answer you regarding the concrete issue as we have a
dirt floor. It was about a fortnight after building the coop before the young
pullets went into it as things were anyway. Our coop was built in the orchard,
currently they  spend more time in the
areas surrounding the orchard though as they are able to get out under the
fence and do so at every opportunity. I see a future project in the wings, we
need to finish the orchard fencing.

 

As I read through the posts I see you have finished your
coop, looks great as do the pics of others coops.

Kitkat wave

January 13, 2011
6:45 pm
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Pete
WV
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Thanks for the input, KitKat!  Yes, we seem to be about finished with at least that part of the construction project.  There is still an open drain behind the pole building to be finished, but with any luck, it will not involve the Terramite in the garden any more!

We keep a good thickness of pine shavings on top of the concrete, but the “kids” seem to like to dig down to the concrete, leaving bare spots.  I worry that they will injure themselves landing from their high roost, so keep moving the shavings around to cover those bare spots.  It's a daily thing!

I really, really like that we sloped the floor just a little bit and put a drain, made from a length of PVC pipe cut in half length-wise, at the low end along the front wall.  Makes for easy cleaning, for sure.  Not that we have actually removed all the shavings and scrubbed it out yet, but we have had a couple of water spills, and partial cleanings for which that drain has already “paid” for itself.

Will most likely give everything another coat of paint next summer, especially the doors.  They took a beating in the summer rains and now snow.  The girls and the roo seem VERY happy with the arrangements, as are we.  They have a 10×20 dog run under roof, with gates at each end for play when the snow is this deep, but they much prefer to be out on a creekbank or hillside during the day.

We discovered that 5 used plastic signs picked up along the road following the elections last fall covered the ventilation panels perfectly!  Not quite sure what those candidates would think of where their signs ended up, but, oh, well!  Just KNEW we would find a use for those signs…and they are helping to protect the flock during these cold nights.  Sounds like a great repurposing project here!  Plus, there is still a bit of airflow where a couple of the signs didn't quite fit all the way to the edge.  But, it IS much warmer inside now.

Anulos qui animum ostendunt omnes gestemus!

March 20, 2011
5:38 pm
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The Reluctant Homesteaders
Willamette Valley, OR
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I am new to this forum ( really nice to find you all) but I am not new to chickens. I have had chickens all my life (with a brief intermission in my early 20's) and I have dealt with all sorts of chicken problems. I see that the initial issue has been resolved, but I thought that for those who are new and reading for their future chicken pen, I would put my 2cents in. I agree that deep litter and locking up at night are key to dealing with chickens in a high predation zone. I would also suggest a trick that has worked very well for me in all situations, from inner city to living in the middle of nowhere. It is a less extreme and much cheaper approach for the digging under issue. If you just make your side wall wire too long at the bottom by about a foot or two and flair it ,very flat, out along the ground and then throw dirt or chips or whatever over that “skirt” of wire, varmints will be completely flumixed by it. It's sort of the same science as a lobster pot.

The critters just don't get that they have to back up a foot to dig under and always try to dig right where the pen frame meets the ground. They dig with the wire a little and try somewhere else but if you are thorough with your wire skirt, they will not get in by digging under.

One place you do want to put cement blocks or large heavy rocks into the ground is at the threshold of your doors, so you don't have the wire skirt dragging back and forth when you open the door but it will still be dig-proof there. This method has worked for many years for me , I have never had a dig-under since I started doing it.

I have always done this with my permanent coops, but I am now trying to figure out how to do it easily with my mobile coop that is destined to hold my meat chickens this summer. There is a bit of discussion going on about this at my blog http://thereluctanthomesteaders.blogspot.com/ .There are some pics of our current varmint proof mobile coop and we also talk about the shortcomings of the “chicken tractor”.

March 21, 2011
8:18 pm
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aprilejoi
Michigan
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I love hearing what methods others use in caring for chickens! Because of this particular thread I gave straw a try this winter instead of the wood shavings I've used for 10 years, and I LOVE the straw. It doesn't break down as quickly therefore it keeps the coop dryer feeling. the chickens do indeed love to play in it too. And it is 1/3 the cost. Crazy I didn't try it before..My 2 cents on keeping predaters out? My husband dug a trench at the base of the coop all the way around. He poured concrete in the trench and pushed wire fencing into     the wet concrete. He then pulled the fencing up against the outside walls of the coop and used heavy duty staples to staple in place. That was 10 years ago and nary a wily critter has breached the fortress, lol! And they do try. I've seen racoon, opossum, skunk and fox. Or rather I've seen their paw prints in the freshly dug dirt that they left behind!

     My problems with predators happen in broad daylight, and I never actually see the attacks. Not a lot, I lost 2 birds (all free-range) in the last year. But something just takes them. The last 2 I on ly found clumps of feathers. Before that I recall finding a headless carcass.  It's disheartening. Thanks for letting me share!

March 21, 2011
10:16 pm
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Birdi
Western Maine
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Thanks for sharing, April. It is particularly hard to deal with loss and predators.  Last summer we lost 25 of our meatie birds…different pen and we did not electrify fence as we had in previos years.  Weasel got 11 in one night and the rest were feeding a fox.  The hen house is very protected an we have never lost one to a predator.  We also did the trick like the reluctant homesteaders with the wire.  Its funny  how animals don't know how to get past that.

"simple pleasures make my heart smile"

March 23, 2011
11:56 pm
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The Reluctant Homesteaders
Willamette Valley, OR
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I love the deep litter method. I get a kick out of the way the hens go crazy about corn thrown over their straw. It is like throwing candy over the living room and having your kids clean it to get the candy. It's very gratifying to come back later and find the straw fluffed, turned, looking and smelling nice and clean. I rub my hands together with glee thinking of the lovely compost I will be shoveling out this spring!

But, the only way I think I will be getting anyone to clean the living room is to throw money all over it.

December 5, 2011
1:38 pm
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sparrowgrass
Iron County MO
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Just google 'chicken coop plans'–you will get a million of them, and one should suit you.  If you want a university research backed plan, try this one:  http://pubs.ext.vt.edu/2902/2902-1092/2902-1092_pdf.pdf

I just haven't been the same since that house fell on my sister.

December 5, 2011
1:40 pm
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BuckeyeGirl
N.E. Ohio
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Those are nice plans sparrowgrass.  The feeders marked there are not the sort most use these days, and there’s other details that won’t work for everyone but it covers a lot of things like the importance of ventilation and head-room, two things that it seems to me a lot of people forget in their desire to get building.  I also like the comments about keeping the area clean and well groomed.  That not only keeps your neighbors happy but it gives less cover for predators to sneak up!

Considering the whole ‘common sense’ part is a very smart thing that some people just don’t seem to find all that common!!

Here’s a link to the Backyardchickens.com coop pages.  not many blueprints, but you sure will have fun looking at all the coops!!!!!

http://www.backyardchickens.com/coopdesigns.html

Located in N.E. Ohio

December 5, 2011
1:42 pm
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Leah's Mom
Northern Indiana
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Any comments on the nests that can be accessed from outside?  That is something I’ve wanted but wanted to hear from you experienced to hear your pros/conson this.

I love the look of this one (want it to be nice looking) and I do want one on wheels  http://www.backyardchickens.com/web/viewblog.php?id=14375

chicken

BUT…. it want it to be tall enough to walk in easily and NOT have a mesh floor… so if we do something like this it will have to be w/modifications and large enough to have up to 30 chickens.  Maybe that will bee to large for wheels????

December 5, 2011
1:58 pm
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BuckeyeGirl
N.E. Ohio
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Moved things around as you probably noticed!

I think making a tractor (common name for having it on wheels) would be a bit difficult for a coop large enough for 30 hens.

Having the nest boxes accessible from the outside is an option many people like.  Totally up to you!  They need to be weatherproof of course but it’s totally doable for a halfway decent carpenter! 

General size for a coop in an area that has relatively harsh winters, where they may be expected to need to be indoors for bad weather times is at least 3 sq. feet per chicken, some say 4 sq feet is necessary, I say it’s better but not totally necessary.  if in a warmer climate where winters won’t force them to be locked up indoors is probably 2 sq feet as a minimum.

If you aren’t going to free range them and you want to build a run plan on about 4-5 sq. feet outdoors per chicken.. more of course is always acceptable!

For roosting space you’ll want to allow about 1 linear foot per bird, they need room to shift around and such when getting settled.

Probably you’ll want one nesting box for every 4-6 hens.  You can put more of course, but they’ll all fight and wait in line for the favorite 2 or 3 boxes, so I’m not sure it’s necessary… again, up to you there.

Located in N.E. Ohio

December 5, 2011
2:34 pm
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SarahGrace
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Our coop isn't a movable coop, but our nests are reachable from the outside.  I do like it this way.  The lid lifts up.  We had it on a pulley, but the rope broke.  Not a problem unless I send the little one out to gather eggs.  Our chickens are free range during the day.  Right now they aren't laying in the coop.  Instead, they are laying under our front porch.  cool 

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