Monday, February 13, 2012

Tips for building a chicken coop...

It is the time of year for building your chicken run in anticipation of spring chicks.  Here are some tips I gathered from my friends at TEG!
  • super nifty idea- Build a brooder/nest so you can lock a hen in there if you want to.  It can come in handy  for different reasons.  It just adds flexibility to your ability to manage your hens.  You can build with a space between where you can lock a hen in the nest and give her food, 
  • water, and some room to go poop.    This has also can come in handy for a few things, a broody while hatching, a place to isolate an injured chicken, a broody buster, many different uses. The builder of this brooder said they would build it bigger if they were to do it again.
  • If you elevate something, elevate it enough for the chickens to get under it.  This applies to an elevated coop or things inside the coop like nest boxes or maybe waterers and feeders.  And in the coop, consider the height of the bedding if you use any.  If chickens cannot get under anything, it becomes a great place for Mommy Mouse to raise a family, or possibly rats, snakes, or other things you don't want around can hide under there.  Also consider that you might need to get an injured or sick chicken that does not want to be caught from under a coop or somewhere inside your coop.  Also, they can lay eggs anywhere.  You need access and chickens need access.
  • Size of the coop and run matters.  There is no one answer for everyone on how big the coop and run need to be because we all have different climates and different management techniques, but build it bigger than you think you need to.  It gives you more flexibility in how you manage your chickens, it allows you to possibly expand the number of chickens, it helps reduce the chances of social problems from overcrowding like featherpicking and cannibalism, and the bigger it is the less work I have to do.  If you squeeze them in a small space, you probably have to do a lot more poop management, for example.  
  • Most building material comes in 4' and 8' dimensions.  If you size your coop in increments of 4' and 8', you can use the material more efficiently.  For example, you can probably build an 8' x 12' for about the same price as a 7' x 11' and have less waste and cutting.  

  • Chickens prefer low nesting boxes.  My hens all used the same box on the ground. On the left they have created several nesting boxes for a larger pen.
  • If you have the slope of the roof on the north and south then you can have a steep pitch on the south facing roof and cover the roof with *corrugated pvc then have as many windows as possible on the south wall you really only need lights for for when you go in at night.
  • Slope any roof, whether in the coop or the run, so the water flows away from the run, not into the run.  Sounds obvious, but you'd be surprised how many people don't do this.  Also when positioning your coop and run, locate them where water does not run into them.  Build them on slight rises or divert rainwater run-off with a ditch or, my preference, a berm.  And try to position you run where any water that does get in drains.   This is super important here in the NW!
  • Keep any width that you're going to cover, coop or run, to 8' maximum.  The wider you make it, the stronger and more expensive the material to support snow, ice or wind load will be.  8' is plenty wide enough for you to be able to work inside if you have a walk-in coop and does not really waste space.  You can span that width reasonably.
  • Ventilation is extremely important in the coop, but you don't want drafts directly on the chickens if you have cold winters.  Wind chill can be an issue, but your big risk in cold weather is moisture build-up in the coop.  That can cause frostbite.  Chickens handle cold much better than heat, so you really need a lot of ventilation in the summer if you are in a hot climate, but they need ventilation in the winter too.  The way I recommend getting around the draft versus ventilation issue is to have overhangs on your roof and leave pretty large openings up there.  As long as the openings are over their heads when they are roosting, they are out of drafts.  A cross breeze over their heads won't hurt them.  The overhangs will help keep rain out.  In the summer, openings low to let in more ventilation is great, but you need to be able to block off any low ventilation openings in cold winter weather to avoid drafts directly in them.  Cover any opening with hardware cloth or chicken wire so predators cannot climb in.  
  • You can put in doors so you can collect the eggs without going in the coop.  They can be drafty, may let in rainwater, and may be weak spots that can allow predators access, depending on how you build them.  It is important to look in the coop when you collect eggs. Folks have  found  possums, snakes, and dead or injured chickens in the coop when they looked inside.  You can see the back side nest opening to the left

  • You can make roosting perches removable by drilling a hole slightly larger than the large nail you drive through your roosting perch.  You can remove perches for cleaning and greater mobility in the coup.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this post. Do you know where to buy a good and not too expensive chicken coop?