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Chicken Condo

 
Amit Enventres
Posts: 262
Location: Ohio, USA
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I live in zone 5-6 in a city that allows chickens. I was raised with some access to raising chickens, both paddock and coop in CA. In the small space and cold air here I am thinking innovative- a chicken condo.

I'm combining a natural "being in a bush" habitat with their love for compost + the heat it provides.

So, I'm planning on using an old, broken-down stone oven, building it up about 5 ft with glass bottles. The chickens will have 3 stories: a compost pile ground floor (where we will throw scraps and food/poop will drop), a food and water second floor that has metal mesh flooring, and a staggered 3rd floor with branches and nest boxes. In the chimney portion of the old oven I plan on growing a mulberry tree to provide deciduous shade. The top of the chimney will be screened to allow the chickens to play without raccoon intrusion. The roof will be clear plastic, but the water will drain through the coop for self-watering and compost wetting. The chimney and door will have air vents. I think I might have one on the bottom of the door and one on the top that I can slide closed, as necessary. The house will have a foot print of about 4 ft by 3 ft, but have a total walking area of about 23 sqft. I was thinking 4 chickens, which would be about 2 dozen eggs a week in the best of times and about 6 ft per chicken.

Has anyone does something like this? Thoughts?
 
Miranda Converse
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Sounds pretty interesting. I just have a few questions/things to consider;

Are you planning on keeping them in there year round? Or are you just trying to keep them content when it's too cold to go outside? I think regardless of the temperature, they should have the choice to go outside or not. Chickens can withstand much colder temperatures than a lot of people think and chickens need room to run and jump for their mental well being.

I think you will need to provide more ventilation than just through the chimney and door. The stone won't breath at all and I imagine it would be a great place for mold to form, especially in damp, warm areas closest to the floor.

Compost floor is great, if you haven't already, do a search for 'deep litter method' which is basically what you described. I would also incorporate something like wood chips, pine straw, or other material that will dilute the food scraps and poop. I throw all sorts of yard waste in my coop like leaves, weeds, pine straw, shredded branches, and whatever else I find that will eventually break down.

For the level that is mesh, I would try to make it easily removable for cleaning. After a couple weeks of them pooping on it, all the mesh will be blocked off and the poop will just build up on it. If you could have a back-up piece of mesh, you could take one out and while it is soaking in water you could put another one in. Or, what I do with my mesh-bottomed brooder is just lay down some weed barrier fabric. It still breaths, the poop dries, spilled water drains out, and no mold forms. When it gets funky, I just take it out and replace it.

Hope this helps!
 
Amit Enventres
Posts: 262
Location: Ohio, USA
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fish food preservation forest garden
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I was thinking of it possibly being year-round, but that's why I'm giving them three stories and a tree to run/jump in. The dog loves hunting and the neighbors might oppose + winter is up to 6 months. I will be paying attention to the ventilation. However, the door will be an entire wall of the condo, so that sounds like a lot. I'm hoping to bond my dog with the chickens, but no guarantees. If you have a better idea, that would be great, but space is REALLY tight in the city for homesteading.
 
Miranda Converse
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I didn't realize the door would be the whole front. That should be plenty but just monitor your chickens for any respiratory issues or mold growth and adjust as necessary.

I would say, if you are potentially going to keep them in there all year, I would only get 2, maybe 3 chickens max. And even then, I would try to work something out where you either build them a run or put your dog inside for a couple hours a day to let the chickens get a little running around out of their system.

I know you said space is limited but how much are we talking? Is there any fencing up already? If so, maybe you could make a perimeter run, maybe 2 feet wide, along the fence so the chickens have a bit of space to run and the dog can be out there too. If you have some pictures, it would help me, or anyone else that wants to chime in, to come up with some ideas on how to allow the chickens and dog to share the space...
 
Amit Enventres
Posts: 262
Location: Ohio, USA
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fish food preservation forest garden
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Hi Miranda,

Thank you. I will consider these things. And, I'm REALLY hoping my dog will think of the chickens as puppies rather than food. Thanks!
 
Christina Fletcher
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Hi Amit!

Sounds like you have some pretty creative plans for your coop!

Ventilation and moisture levels are pretty important. Make sure you don't have any drafts. I design and build custom coops here in Indiana (zone 6). The sides of your coop that face into the wind should have minimal open area to reduce the drafts. Frostbite is primarily caused by too much moisture in the air, not the actual cold. Respiratory illnesses are also linked to poor ventilation.

I also recommend the deep litter method. It will end up producing additional heat for the coop in the winter. Your birds themselves will produce heat as well. You may find that you don't need the compost pile in the bottom. The birds' droppings are pretty wet and tend to add just enough moisture to the deep litter. I would be concerned that a damp compost pile would be too moist for the cold winters.

It's okay to keep your hens in the coop for the winter but they should be provided with some time in a run or supervised in your yard. Never leave them unattended in an urban setting if you don't have a fence over 4 ft tall. Your hens could fly over the fence or other critters/pets in the neighborhood could get into your yard (even with a higher fence). As for your dog, make sure you are present if they are out together. One of our dogs was such a good girl when we were out. If we went in, even for a minute, she would chase them until they dropped.

Good luck with your girls! Neighbors bribed with fresh eggs normally end up being very supportive.
 
Amit Enventres
Posts: 262
Location: Ohio, USA
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fish food preservation forest garden
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Great advice! Thank you. I will make sure the north and west sides are solid. There will be a side chimney/tree area that I'm hoping will be like a "jungle gym": 10"wx 24"lx 48"h. I'm thinking with draft concerns that maybe I should put a screen at the bottom to vent the compost rather than the entire door and have a chimney at the top so that the warm moist air escapes. What do you think? Now I'm breed hunting. I'm thinking "normal" chickens might not be ideal, but instead a smaller breed, less active that likes climbing. I do have a dog-proof fence around the yard. It is only partly chicken-proof. Climbing chickens will be able to escape, so I will have to limit out-doors time, I think. Not sure. Still working on gather enough glass bottle. We don't drink enough beer/wine.
 
Christina Fletcher
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Location: Franklin, Indiana
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Chickens don't really "climb" fences in my experience. The typically fly to the top and over. If you're up for clipping their wings, they will have a much more difficult time getting over the fence and probably won't even bother. I always build my coops with at least 2 sq ft of ventilation per bird, at least 2 sq ft of floor space per bird, 1 linear foot of roost space each and 10 sq ft per bird in the run. You will need to let them out some. The coop can't be a giant bird cage. Do you have a picture of the structure you are wanting to convert. That will make it easier for me to visualize what you are doing.
 
Amit Enventres
Posts: 262
Location: Ohio, USA
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I know, it's been a while. I was trying to wait until I actually made the design presentable to others- well, that's a pipe dream right now. In the mean time, exploring some additional city codes, and learning about alternative poultry, I'm thinking this set up is much more conducive to the coturnix quail. They are small, quiet, grow fast, are bred for captivity, and can be bred because there's no law against male quail and they don't crow. Another modification I intend is to make it a little taller and include a greenhouse floor on top. This will provide heat and insulation for them and the seedlings. Perhaps I'll grow sprouted grain up there and turn it into a grazing zone when the seedlings are out. All floors will have the ability to open and close to the other floor. Each set of penned animals will have access to a dust bath, nest boxes, food, and water. The size of the pen should be conducive to three separate males, which will be enough for a breeding program. My goal being to get them to brood and raise their own young. With as short of a maturity as 2 months, I think I can do this. To slaughter, I will have to call someone, I think. Hand-raising to slaughter is a little too much for me atm.
 
I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
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