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Feedback on chicken coop design

 
Posts: 715
Location: PA-Zone 6
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Hey thats a nice design! Is the run underneath the only outside place where they can run around or do you let them out of that. It looks like you have another fence so I wasn't sure. Thanks very much for the pics.
 
Posts: 91
Location: Portland Maine
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We do let them out of that. Depending on the weather. We have a side yard with the stockade fence that you saw. I took Bird X plastic netting (usually used to keep birds off of fruit trees) for fencing over the top. I took some perlon climbing rope, threw it over a maple tree branch, attached it to a squirrel baffel/ dome. The rope was fished through the center point of the netting. Then the baffel/ dome was hauled up about 30' in to the air making a canopy of sorts with the bird netting.
If we are outside, we let them run in the gardens, etc.
 
Rob Sigg
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Location: PA-Zone 6
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Karl, did you use the bird netting to keep the chickens in, or is it to protect them from predators.


Im thinking of an open paddock system, that has 4 foot high mobile fencing. I would put them out in that for the day to help clean out areas and give them more exercise. Im planning on getting RIR and B Rocks, do you guys think I will need to clip their wings or will they stay in the paddock?

Here are some 3d pics of my coop design, it is for 4-6 hens. It is 3 ft wide, 6 ft long and 4 ft high. You can see 2 laying boxes, and one extra compartment for automatic watering. I will put a feed metering system on the outside. Thoughts?

coop1.jpg
[Thumbnail for coop1.jpg]
coop2.jpg
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Rob Sigg
Posts: 715
Location: PA-Zone 6
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and more
coop3.jpg
[Thumbnail for coop3.jpg]
coop4.jpg
[Thumbnail for coop4.jpg]
 
Karl Teceno
Posts: 91
Location: Portland Maine
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Rob
The netting is mostly to keep out predators. We have a lot of hawks and falcons in the area.  My wife is also convinced that the chickens would fly out and escape but I doubt it.
Years ago I livrd in the middle of no where in northern Maine. I had 40 or fifty50 hens, a large geodesic dome hen house and two huge paddocks. The paddocks had 1" chicken wire buried into the ground 6"-8" and was 6' tall but the top was completely open. My hens never flew out. On occassion a winged  predator might get one but they never tried to fly the coop. It might be because I would alternate paddocks and plant winter rye or some type of cover crop in the paddock that was resting so they had plenty of forage upon their return

Karl
 
                            
Posts: 158
Location: Abilene, KS
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I like your design, Rob, and Karl, what an awesome coop!
My original hens that I raised from chicks wouldn't fly over 4' fencing.  We were 'gifted' some hens from our neighbors and they'd go right over the 5' fencing of my garden.  Like Karl said, most will be contained with 6' fencing, or so I have heard.
I personally don't clip wings, I want the hens to have every advantage they can muster in case of predators.  But a lot of people do clip.
 
Rob Sigg
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Thanks for the feedback, Im going to go ahead with this design and just experiment
 
Rob Sigg
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I posted some pics of my final coop/run in action in this post below. Id appreciate any feedback you might have. Thanks!!

https://permies.com/permaculture-forums/9127_0/critter-care/chicken-help-with-pics
 
Posts: 254
Location: Virginia
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id recommend two nests.  and roost poles turned up on end.  1 1/2 -2"  over a flat board.  how did you decide to do your waterer?
 
Rob Sigg
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2 nests really? Everything Ive read says 1 is enough for the 4. They have 2 roosting poles as well.

Ill post pics on the waterer tomorrow. Pics a thousand words.
 
T. Pierce
Posts: 254
Location: Virginia
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hens can be finicky and hard to figure at times.  they will not always use the same nest.  they seem to like options.  if you only give them one option, you run the risk of them choosing to lay on the floor, outside,  anywhere and everywhere you dont want them to lay. 

they like smaller areas,  dark, quiet, more private.  so i recommend building nests accordingly.  if they dont like it,  they wont use it.
 
Rob Sigg
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They have found the nest box now, I put some fake eggs in there. They keep moving the eggs aside though, and the second morning now ive found poop in the nesting box. I will consider putting in another box, although I don't have the room on the first floor but the second floor might work if I can figure it out.

The waterer is simply a pressurized 5 gallon gas container(new) with a hole in the bottom. It sits in a tray about 3 inches high. The end that the chickens eat out of just sticks out enough that they can get their heads into, but not their bodies. It has been fairly clean so far. Time will tell if this is a good setup or not, I could see it getting frozen too quick in winter, which if that is the case I can just switch out smaller containers. The tray never moves unless I clean it.
 
T. Pierce
Posts: 254
Location: Virginia
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your roost poles must be higher than nest box.  at times you have to "train" a chicken to roost where you want them to.  which means you have to go out after dark and put them on the roost.  the roost and how its built may not be to their liking,  so that may be something to consider. but you def. dont want them roosting in nest box.
 
Rob Sigg
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The problem is that my coop is not big enough for me to go in there to put them on it. Any suggestions on how to get around it?
 
T. Pierce
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Location: Virginia
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wow.  that does create a problem. 

my only suggestion is to hinge the roof.  id say you should always have access to the coop.  it must be cleaned and occasionally repaired.

since its built.  perhaps a side wall hinged.
 
Rob Sigg
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I was thinking of the end wall as well, its nearest the roost. The farmer I bought them from told me that they would eventually figure it out on there own after they become familiar with the place.
 
T. Pierce
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Location: Virginia
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Rob S. aka Blitz wrote:
I was thinking of the end wall as well, its nearest the roost. The farmer I bought them from told me that they would eventually figure it out on there own after they become familiar with the place.



possibly, but more than likely if they are grown,  and they have picked a place they like, they will continue to use what you dont want them to for a roost.

you gotta start them young on what you want them to do.  even then some are hardheaded.  remeber they want comfort, and they generally want the highest place they can get to for a roost.

thats why most nest boxes have a tall, steep, extremely sloped roof over them.  discourages any type of roosting on them.
 
Rob Sigg
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HA! You are not going to believe this. I took my sick girl to the farmer that I bought her from, he wanted to "destroy" her and give me a replacement, so being the novice that I am I listened. He gave me a much larger girl than what I currently have, another RIR and the current smaller one has been chasing her around and pecking her.....but, I looked in the coop today and the new girl is using the roost!! I hope that she will teach the others. Now the next question is, if these girls are all supposed to be around the same age, then why is the new one so much bigger?
 
T. Pierce
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w/o knowing details, knowing the flock, the farmer, etc.  and being the realist (pesimist) that i am, my guess would be he sold you a couple of "culls" that shoulda been destroyed and now hes trying to right the wrong by giving you a better quality hen. 

well bred  PURE BRED fowl from a good line should come like peas in a pod. and be picture perfect.  if there is alot of difference in the looks they are either shotgun bred,  poorly bred, or have sickness, disease problems and/or parasite problems.

shotgun bred isnt a bad thing per say,  just means they have been all crossed up like a bunch of mutts.  but everything else mentioned above is very bad.  parasites can be erradicated and the hens can recoup,  IF they havent gone too long. 

either way, thats why its so important to get fowl that are bred well, fed well, and come from a clean environment.    any poor traits,  flaws,  sicknesses,  should deem something as being a cull.
 
Rob Sigg
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I saw about a hundred or so in the same area when he grabbed the initial 4, so I don't think they were culls, Im sure that being cooped up with that many chicks in a closed area isn't good for them. He didn't do vaccines or anything like that, and Im not sure if he wormed them. My brand new girl pooped out some normal looking poop mixed with some little red looking things...almost like worms, I thought it was blood at first. My guess is that the new one is probably similar age, but mine have been free range vs his that sit in a dim environment eating heavy grains, mine have had very little grains, only as a treat. So he probably got them bigger, faster than me. Time will tell. Hes a mennonite farmer, so I don't think he was being dishonest, but you never know.
 
                                
Posts: 62
Location: Western Pennsylvania
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More than likely the one hen roosting will help the others on their way, especially if she is higher in the pecking order.  If the other smaller hen was pecking at her, it's just them working it out.  The smaller hen was "here first" and is trying to keep her position in the order.

As for nesting boxes, my first flock was 9 hens and a rooster.  All nine hens wanted the same nesting space and would line up and wait their turn, every now and then they would try to muscle in on another, but the pecking order won and the lower hens would pace and wait.

They are moving the egg around most likely because they know it's something foreign.  When I was training a "we want to lay where we want" group of new hens I tried golf balls, plastic easter eggs, etc but they would roll the eggs or balls out of the nesting area, sit down, and then go lay in the weeds where they wanted.  I finally invested in ceramic eggs that look VERY real and still use these when I need to.  Keep putting your fake eggs back in the nesting box with some nice fluffy straw and when they settle and are ready to lay, they should get the picture.  A hen likes to lay her eggs where someone else has laid, unless she's one of those cheeky hens that makes a game of it!!

You'll know they are close to laying because their combs and waddles will be bright red and they will have more of the look of a mature hen instead of the silly look of a pullet.  I know it sounds funny, but you'll see. 

Tami

I don't think I would over think the roosting on the roost or the floor.  I still have a few hens that choose nesting under the roosts on the floor with the others above them, even though they are almost 2 years old!  It's the pecking order and what makes them feel safe.
 
Rob Sigg
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Im not sure if I mentioned this or not, but the largest hen who is soon going to lay is the new one, and as far as I can tell she is the lowest on the pecking order. So what are my chances that she will teach the others to use the roost? I don’t mind if they want to sleep on the ground, as long as they don’t use the nesting box to sleep in. I suspect that since the nesting box is 2 inches above the ground that its why they are sleeping there. I have closed it off for now in hopes that they will learn to use it.

Here is another twist though, the last 2 nights when she did use the roost it was after it was a little dark and they were all in the coop. I opened up the nesting box and found them in the corner, all 4 of them! So I turned my flashlight on so they could see in the coop, as soon as I did that the new hen flew up to the roost. Do I have to do this every night with a light or will she automatically go there?

The smallest RIR is the one pecking at the new one, since she was the lowest before. I call her Indie..for independent because she acted that way from the beginning, always doing her own thing…now I understand why.
 
                                
Posts: 62
Location: Western Pennsylvania
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More than likely they will catch onto the roost on their own.  I read that the farm they came from they were just in an open (indoor) space without roosts etc.  So they really don't know what the roost is for.  As they mature they will probably figure it out.

I usually introduce a "junior roost" to my peeps at 3 weeks.  They are bouncing around and like to be above the others, even if the roost is only 3 inches above the ground at first.  I also bring them outside at that age and they are very savvy with height and foraging by the time they are going into the coop with the big girls by 6-8 weeks.

As for "messing" in the nesting box, they will more and more check out their surroundings and sit in the box, and yes, poo in the box.  Keep it clean, but as they get the urge to start nesting they will act like they are laying eggs without anything happening.  I always like to have my new girls with my old girls quite young ( I used to wait until about 16+ weeks before mixing the new and old).  I have found that this extra time allows the young girls to spend time with the old ones and watching their nesting behavior, so when the time comes they emulate it and then they lay where I want them to.

But....don't be surprised if when the time comes they decide to make a small space under a cozy bush and lay their eggs there.  Once they lay you may have to keep them cooped up to get them thinking nesting box instead of under a bush.

My first flock came up to lay at different ages (I had a mixed flock with 6 difference breeds) and the first to lay kept wandering through my makeshift hoop/house greenhouse.  I had a table in there with plants on it, but at night it was getting cool, so I put the plants under the table and covered the whole thing with old sheets and an old tablecloth (a pink tablecloth).  One hen (upper pecking order) started nesting under the tablecloth, but she didn't lay any eggs yet.  Then the others started coming in and peeking around the tablecloth at her sitting on the nest, peep show style!!

Anyway, they ALL started taking turns behind the tablecloth!!  Then they started laying eggs, behind the tablecloth!! I tried to get them in the coop, but they wanted the pink tablecloth.  They won.  I crawled into the coop with a hammer and put nails at the top of the wall in the back where the lovely nesting boxes were.  Then I took clothespins and pinned the pink tablecloth up making a curtain over the back corner and added more straw to the corner.  My husband put in a cute little door in the back, so I could just go around, open up and gather the eggs.  Yup.....they all started (well, all but one cheeky hen who NEVER laid in the coop) to take their turns behind the pink curtain to lay their eggs.  Even when I added more hens the following year, they learned from the older ones that the magic curtain was the "place" to lay the eggs!!  Sometimes you just have to watch them and give in to their wants over yours. 


As for pecking order, that will iron itself out as well.  It isn't always size, but attitude that wins in the end.  Since the little one was there first, she may let the others know she is boss, but if the larger one decides she's willing to fight it out, you may even see some "rooster" behavior.  One sitting on top of the other, beak to beak confrontation with jumping in the air and lashing out with their feet etc.  They will decide for themselves, then they will settle into their flock and that will be that.

If you even decide to add more, or to replace a new one you will not be able to just toss it in with the others.  You will need to keep the new one confined BUT in sight of the others, like building a 4x4 cage that can be placed in the run with the others.  This is so they can see the new girl, but not fight.  In a few days to a week they have had conversations and gotten to know the new one so they can be put together.  They will still peck, but not usually as nasty as if you just tossed the new one into their space.

Aaaaahhhh chickens, and people think they are stupid!!

Tami
 
Rob Sigg
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Thanks for the good info Tami!
 
                                
Posts: 62
Location: Western Pennsylvania
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Anytime!!  I love my girls, even when they push me to pull my hair out.  Just when you think you have them figured, they come up with something new.

Plus I'm just procrastinating, I should be in the garden today, but it's just too hot...............

Tami
 
Rob Sigg
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I hear ya, its 95 here in PA today...its why I painted the coop a light color and I actually built it out of OSB with a metal coating that reflects heat. It is designed for roofs, its much cooler in there. They like to hang out there during the day.
 
                                
Posts: 62
Location: Western Pennsylvania
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My house is surrounded by mature pine trees, so the girls like to hang out and dust bathe under the trees during the day.  It helps keep them out of the range of hawks as well.  On cool days they will come to the edge of the branches, lay on their sides and stretch out sun bathing. 

Tami
 
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