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locating chicken coop on future house site  RSS feed

 
Posts: 88
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We've just settled on a house site layout for a future home (build begins in 2020). We had input from a couple permaculture designers, but the guy who did the drawing below just plunked the coop down wherever. I'm thinking it might be good to put the coop on the north side of the garden. Ideally, we'd like the chickens to free-range, because their biggest job will be tick control.

Another option would be to put it under the screened porch? This is also really good space for storage though.

This is probably something that will become clearer when we're onsite, but I don't want to put hardscape in that makes a good option much harder or more expensive to achieve.



 
pollinator
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One don't put chickens where they have to go through the garden, you may find you want them locked out. I found that free range chickens and garden was incompatible they eat and scratch EVERYTHING despite being quite free to go wherever they wanted.
Second in my opinion chickens should be close to the house as going out to check on them and shut them in gets to be a chore if you have to traipse through mud/snow etc to get to them.
Third are you going to have a cockerel? If so you may want them further away than my second point :p


PS it seems odd to me that you have a septic tank on one side of the garden and the drain field on the other, that means you can never expand the garden if you want too, and isn't it more expensive/easier to get faults with that set up?
 
Erica Colmenares
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Hey, thanks for this input. You brought up things I wasn't keeping in mind.

Skandi Rogers wrote:One don't put chickens where they have to go through the garden, you may find you want them locked out. I found that free range chickens and garden was incompatible they eat and scratch EVERYTHING despite being quite free to go wherever they wanted.



I was worried about that. If they are outside the garden, how tall does fencing have to be to keep them out? I would like them to get into sections of it occasionally, the areas that aren't planted.

Second in my opinion chickens should be close to the house as going out to check on them and shut them in gets to be a chore if you have to traipse through mud/snow etc to get to them.
Third are you going to have a cockerel? If so you may want them further away than my second point :p


We will probably have a rooster. So yeah, that's a pro-con situation for how close they are to our bedroom. I definitely want them north of the garden, so that will be fairly close to the house. Another option would be to put the coop north of the house, between the house and the garage. Not as convenient then to throw produce in for them, or allow them access to parts of the garden that are resting.


PS it seems odd to me that you have a septic tank on one side of the garden and the drain field on the other, that means you can never expand the garden if you want too, and isn't it more expensive/easier to get faults with that set up?



I am not sure I have an answer for that. Could you explain what is making it more expensive? Is it the distance between the tank and the field? The drain field is downhill from the house, up against the tree line. I believe that if we were going to expand the garden, it would be to the west of the house, but thanks for pointing that out, it's something to consider.
 
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I can't read the contour lines.  Does the land slope down to the road or away?  Having the pond uphill from the garden is helpful.  

Based on my free range chicken experience:
  • They shit on everything.  Front patio, that nice bench you intended to sit one, the car, etc
  • If they can free range in the garden you won't get much food from the garden
  • My hens figured out on their second summer how to fly 4' high to land on the garden door and then hop down into the garden.  So I'm guessing a 5' fence would work for them.  Then again, they're heavy birds.
  • As long as the garden is within 150' of their coop they should be willing to travel that far to forage in it if you want
  • Their tick/grass/bug eating will be most concentrated near the coop.  I don't have to mow within 30' of the coop.

  • Don't forget to plan storage room for chicken gear (food, buckets, grit, brooder, etc) in or near the coop.
     
    Erica Colmenares
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    Mike Jay wrote:I can't read the contour lines.  Does the land slope down to the road or away?  Having the pond uphill from the garden is helpful.  



    It's a very gradual downhill slope down from the road. The pond is at about the same level as the garden. The thought is that the pond will be primarily fed from rain harvesting (directly off the garage, and as overflow from the house's cistern), plus the rain runoff that it will capture. The cistern will be for garden use.

    Based on my free range chicken experience:

  • They shit on everything.  Front patio, that nice bench you intended to sit one, the car, etc
  • If they can free range in the garden you won't get much food from the garden
  • My hens figured out on their second summer how to fly 4' high to land on the garden door and then hop down into the garden.  So I'm guessing a 5' fence would work for them.  Then again, they're heavy birds.
  • As long as the garden is within 150' of their coop they should be willing to travel that far to forage in it if you want
  • Their tick/grass/bug eating will be most concentrated near the coop.  I don't have to mow within 30' of the coop.


  • LOL, that's a good list! Five feet, eh? That is higher than I would have though. I wonder if I want to try to do a chicken tractor, and move them around with electric fences. A friend recommended not doing that, just because it's a pain moving a chicken tractor if the ground isn't level. But it might solve some of the issues you experienced while still getting the chickens all around the property (but not shitting on the bench/car/patio).


    Don't forget to plan storage room for chicken gear (food, buckets, grit, brooder, etc) in or near the coop.


    Is this because they'll figure out a way in?
     
    Mike Jay
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    Luckily if you have deer you'll need a taller fence yet so it does double duty.

    The storage is just to store stuff.  People sometimes forget to leave space for that in their designs.  

    I don't know if tractors would work for you either.  Moving one all the time would suck.  I'm tempted to fence my house off from the chickens (put me in the enclosure) since it's easier...
     
    master pollinator
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    How many chickens? Putting the coop downwind during summer might be something to consider.
     
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    My chickens have a 5' tall coop and many of them can fly onto its roof. They are heavier dual purpose breeds, too.
     
    Erica Colmenares
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    The storage is just to store stuff.  People sometimes forget to leave space for that in their designs.  

    I completely misread what you originally wrote. I thought you were cautioning me not to put the food, etc near the chickens. :-)

    I'm tempted to fence my house off from the chickens (put me in the enclosure) since it's easier...

    I'll add that approach to the list of possible solutions.
     
    Erica Colmenares
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    Mike Barkley wrote:How many chickens? Putting the coop downwind during summer might be something to consider.



    Another good question. We'll start with ten to twelve, I think, but could go up (or down) depending on how that goes. As to prevailing winds, it looks like during the summer it's mainly south, southwest. South is easy. Not putting the coop too close to the screened porch might be a good thing.

    Juniper Zen wrote:My chickens have a 5' tall coop and many of them can fly onto its roof.


    That is impressive.
     
    pollinator
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    Let me be *really* specific. Unless your chickens can forage for all their food in all seasons, you will need a rat/mouse proof area to keep chicken feed. Raccoon and mink are natural predators for rats, so keeping feed contained, helps to also control predators. We hang our chicken feeders above the perches as we found that helped a lot to keep rats out also. I really like Paul Wheaton's multiple paddock system for chickens, but we're not there yet. I've not got the necessary fencing, but I'm starting to get specific chicken feed plants established in the area I'm planning to use.
     
    Erica Colmenares
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    Jay Angler wrote:We hang our chicken feeders above the perches as we found that helped a lot to keep rats out also.


    I'm having a hard time visualizing this.

    I really like Paul Wheaton's multiple paddock system for chickens, but we're not there yet. I've not got the necessary fencing, but I'm starting to get specific chicken feed plants established in the area I'm planning to use.

    I think that's more than we'll do, the multiple paddocks, but I'm curious about the plants you've chosen to establish.
     
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    I have 6 foot chain link fence around my chicken yard and I have several birds that fly out every day and fly back in every night to put themselves away.  People won't believe it, but it happens every day all summer here.  My birds are not big meat birds, so depending on the type you raise, you may not have this.  Some of mine also roost very high in trees in warm weather, but to get that high, they go branch to branch rather than flying up.  Several of them roost at 20 or 25 feet above ground.  I have seen them fly down from that height.

    I haven't seen any reduction in ticks from having chickens.  Mine used to free range until I built them a very big fenced area.  I keep between 25-30 and didn't notice any reduction in total number of ticks between the time I had them and when I had none.  
     
    gardener
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    As for how high a chicken fence needs to be: the place I'm at has 4 foot chain link fencing that they were going over. I added chicken wire up about 8 inches, the idea being it would be wobbly and they wouldn't like landing on it to go over. Ineffective. I wove sticks into it all pointing upward, to add visual confusion to it, so there's no place that looks like a good spot to fly up to, and that's working. The wild grape vines are also making areas they don't jump. Consider psychology more than restraint.

    They don't like to be in the middle of open spaces, the edge is where it's at!  The Edge - Formidable Vegetable   So giving them edges to work, that feel less open, will be most effective way to get ticks cleared. I'm thinking about a... hm.. not a tractor, I don't like that idea for happy birds, and it doesn't work for my land and strength, but something between Paul's sector system, and a tractor, with movable edges that they can work in small sectors. Not managing to explain well this morning. Big sectors, with movable subdivisions? That might be good words. Because in a full sector they will work the edges the most, and I can't imagine them being happy in a small square footage tractor.  

    Something to consider: deer don't like jumping fences that look iffy and have an iffy looking landing space on the other side. So a fence with the sticks pointing up will make them think twice, and a secondary fence that looks too close to them (3 or 4 foot wide aisle) also with the sticks will REALLY make them consider it. The space between is a  GREAT chicken run. I'm planning to try that around my production area, double fence so the chickens can slow down bugs moving in, and the deer are less inclined to try to go over, as long as there is a lot of food for them on the non-garden side. I have no problem with planting enough for the deer too, and that aisle is full of edges for chickens. :)

     
    Jay Angler
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    Erica Colmenares wrote:

    I think that's more than we'll do, the multiple paddocks, but I'm curious about the plants you've chosen to establish.

    Jessi Bloom wrote, Free-range chicken gardens : how to create a beautiful, chicken-friendly yard, and it has lovely lists of plants that are forage for chickens, and a smaller section on plants that are poisonous for chickens.

    The mulberry shrub is highly recommended for its nutritious fruit and long production, but I gather it's considered invasive in some states, so I'd check.  I've already got two planted in the future paddocks and plan on trying to spread some seed in the next week to see if we can get some to sprout. We seem to be at its limit, as it certainly doesn't show invasiveness here.

    One way to decrease the "edge" problem is to have lots of shrubby plants that give them cover. I'm going to try raspberries, thornless blackberries, Saskatoon berries and possibly goumi if they made it through the winter. It's important to move the chickens often enough that they don't start damaging the roots and their high nitrogen poop doesn't start to kill the soil. Chickens need to be 'taught' to eat things they might not otherwise taste and if often takes them a few days to decide it sits well. This is a normal healthy response to new things. They may have individual tastes also.

    Ideally the paddock areas should also have some mulchy areas that will attract worms and bugs. Chickens are instectovores and bugs are an important source of both protein and other nutrients.

    It's good to have a deep-mulched thoroughly secure run for when either weather or life requires it. That's not going to be as happy a place for chickens unless you throw them interesting things, but if a coon comes calling, or worse a mink, you'll be glad you've got it. I've been meaning to search for a thread about deep mulching, but from my experience adding a little mulch daily when birds are in residence is far more effective than adding a larger quantity weekly or longer. Large leaves tend to mat down, but small leaves and chipped tree duff work fine. Chickens and predators both dig, so burying the wire near the edges and using large rocks or even a 2x6 flat on the ground to protect the edge can be helpful.

    The biggest issue with all of this is the cost of fencing. Modern chicken wire will just barely keep chickens in - it won't keep anything else out including and especially rabbits. I've tried to talk my spouse into the the "chicken moat" idea, but he didn't like the cost of double fencing. Yes, chickens will "ladder up" to get over fencing as well as fly, so keeping them happy where you want them is important. I have trimmed flight feathers on one side under special circumstances to prevent effective flying, but you've now removed one way they have of getting away from trouble/danger, so it is not something I do unless a bird is causing trouble (such as getting on the neighbor's roof!)
     
    Skandi Rogers
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    Erica Colmenares wrote:Hey, thanks for this input. You brought up things I wasn't keeping in mind.


    I was worried about that. If they are outside the garden, how tall does fencing have to be to keep them out? I would like them to get into sections of it occasionally, the areas that aren't planted.



    Mine were kept in by a 4.5ft fence when they had one wing clipped, (both dual birds and light egg layers) but unclipped they could all comfortably clear that, my best flyer was happy to land 20-30ft up in trees, don't believe anyone who says chickens can't fly!

    Erica Colmenares wrote:
    I am not sure I have an answer for that. Could you explain what is making it more expensive? Is it the distance between the tank and the field? The drain field is downhill from the house, up against the tree line. I believe that if we were going to expand the garden, it would be to the west of the house, but thanks for pointing that out, it's something to consider.



    I'm just thinking it gives another pipe with poor access (only accessible from inside the septic tank) if something goes wrong in there and it gets blocked it's going to be a pain. Here is it more normal to have the long pipe running from the house to the tank and the tank connected directly to the field. But I DO NOT KNOW which is actually better I am not a septic designer!
     
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    Fencing for chickens. Good luck. I used to have Icelandic chickens. They could fly up into the barn rafters to roost. My buff Orpingtons are a heavier breed bird, but can fly up to at least 7 feet - I have one that likes to rest on a board just inside the chicken house door that is about 7 feet off the ground.

    I know it isn’t permaculture-correct, but I confess we have a roof over our outdoor run and I harvest and bring their food to them. It keeps them in and predators out. I can’t fence them in and I really don’t want to clip wings. So we have a roofed outdoor run. I harvest lambs quarters and lemon balm from the garden by the arm loads all summer and give them those daily. That is supplemented with weeds pulled from the garden, bugs picked off leaves, overripe fruits and veggies, and some fermented chicken feed. It works for me.
     
    Juniper Zen
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    Myrth Montana wrote:I know it isn’t permaculture-correct, but I confess we have a roof over our outdoor run and I harvest and bring their food to them. It keeps them in and predators out.



    As I understand it, one of the core ideas of permaculture is creating closed loop, self-sustaining systems. Having to keep replacing your chickens because predators eat them is not a self-sustaining, closed loop. So I wouldn't say that keeping them in a covered run is un-permie. :)
     
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    Critera for coop location.

    1.  wind direction.  The coop should be down wind or out of the wind path for both insect and smell reasons.  Here winds our mostly out of the north-northwest and otherwise out of the south-southeast.  They almost never run perpendicular to that.  So the coop is ideal located west south-west here.  Your location may very.


    2.  distance.  If you don't want crap all over every thing you want them at least 50 yds from the house.  If they must be closer then if you can provide trees, food, water, dusting area and multiple shelter locations you can mostly keep them away from stuff down to about 20 yards if they have better choices close to them or on the other side of them  Remember this is a walk you will be taking at least 4 times per day.  You want paths that are straight and clean and the minimal number of things like gates to get thru.  Why 4 trips per day you ask,  one to open the coop, one to open the pen, one to gather the eggs and finally one to shut stuff up for the night to protect them from predators.  You will feed and water on one of those trips.


    3.  Keep them away from the garden or fence them out of it.   Some day I want to try running the chicken pen fence clear around the garden fence.  Two fences about 8 to 12 feet apart and at least 10 feet high.   Coop, small coop pen, and then the large coop pen around the whole garden.  The goal to create a chicken wall around the garden to try and keep bugs out.

    Fence height depends on breed.    Shortest valid fence is about 6 feet.  Size of pen for take off slope matters too.  Aricanas and guineas are the worst things we fenced.  Guineas going over the fence will encourage chickens to follow suit.  Pheasants and other real birds you need to roof the pen.
     


     
    Mike Jay
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    C. Letellier wrote: Why 4 trips per day you ask,  one to open the coop, one to open the pen, one to gather the eggs and finally one to shut stuff up for the night to protect them from predators.  You will feed and water on one of those trips.



    I must admit, I only visit mine once in the winter and 2-3 times in the summer.  I think it's highly dependent upon your coop/run/free-range design.  

  • My coop has an automatic door to the run
  • There's a chicken door at the end of the run I open in summer for free-ranging. They still put themselves to bed.
  • I have a heated bucket with chicken nipples to keep it from freezing
  • I put a seedling heat mat under the nest boxes to keep eggs from freezing as fast in the depth of winter
  • Their enclosed run keeps them happy and warm-ish in the winter

  • In winter I visit once to get eggs and give them a cracked corn supplement.  I do food/water at that same time.  If it's below 0F I visit more often with warmer treats.  

    In summer I open the run door when I'm ok with them being outside (usually after 9am and if we aren't having visitors).  I close it at dusk (if I forget or can't, it's fine due to the automatic door on the coop).  And I do an egg/food/water run once.  The opening and closing visits are just as I pass by so they take 10 seconds.

    Having the coop/run between your house and your daily destinations (garden, shop, mailbox, etc) helps reduce the separate trips.
     
    Myrth Montana
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    Juniper Zen wrote:

    Myrth Montana wrote:I know it isn’t permaculture-correct, but I confess we have a roof over our outdoor run and I harvest and bring their food to them. It keeps them in and predators out.



    As I understand it, one of the core ideas of permaculture is creating closed loop, self-sustaining systems. Having to keep replacing your chickens because predators eat them is not a self-sustaining, closed loop. So I wouldn't say that keeping them in a covered run is un-permie. :)



    Thanks, Juniper. The reason I view it as un-permie is that it involves labor. It involves ME harvesting the food, not the animals harvesting the food. But I tried a daytime free ranging situation here with a previous flock, and it was a disaster. So, I chose to do a more homesteader approach this time around.

    Permaculture tries to minimize labor. I am not a permaculture purist, though. I am a homesteader who adopts some permaculture ideas where they work for me. Sometimes doing it like my grandparents did it during the Great Depression works too. I combine old and new, try on ideas, and adopt what works for me.
     
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    Erica Colmenares wrote:
    I was worried about that. If they are outside the garden, how tall does fencing have to be to keep them out?



    This really depends on the chickens intelligence and boils down to the food which is offered to them on both sides of the fence. Their range is about 80-100 m from their house, though they do not really like open spots that much, fearing predators. Best idea is to create 3 or so fenced areas, where their house is in the middle and fences/ports setup so they can always use just one area. So the other can regrow and you can easily rotate. The size for each spot depends on the number of chickens. Do not let them completely free-range, you are likely to get great eggs, but won't have much else in your garden. They are compost machines, as about 80% of their output is nightly, you can quite easily make use of it (compost). For a few (3-5 or so) a chicken tractor might be a solution, but it needs the terrain to be useful.

    One should put their house (window(s) east) so they get sun early, have some shade whenever they want, some place for a dust/sand bath, they enjoy some much (helps getting rid of bugs). With little attention you can keep them happy and as thank they will even produce eggs during winter times, when other chicken keeper have more or less nothing! But do not make the mistake, which seems not uncommon, to tread them as if they were humans.
     
    Jay Angler
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    @ Erica - sorry this took a while, but here's a picture of what I meant about the chicken feed being above the perches.
    hanging-feeder.JPG
    [Thumbnail for hanging-feeder.JPG]
     
    No. No. No. No. Changed my mind. Wanna come down. To see this tiny ad:
    permaculture bootcamp - learn permaculture through a little hard work
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