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Coopless Biddies - Who's tried it?  RSS feed

 
Jen Fan
Posts: 34
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For years I was telling myself "someday I want to try a more 'basic/cheap/ancient/whatev' chicken keeping method".  The notion that people have been keeping poultry for ages, and there's absolutely no way every single bird keeper had a fancy little coop fascinated me for awhile.  I tried researching it to no avail.  In retrospect, what is there to even research?  lol.

Well this March I had to move my birds again (currently unsettled and 'farm surfing') and they've now been coopless tree biddies for 5 months.  5?  Is that right?  However many months since March.  Turkeys, ducks, pigeons, and chickens both large and small fowl, all coopless.

Anyways.  I'm inclined, on the one hand, to pursue making them an earth-coop down the road, something underground and more stable temp wise (biggest incentive is better/longer laying and hatching season, I breed rare varieties).  However I do kind of enjoy not having a coop to clean or tend.  I keep nest boxes (aka old furniture, trash cans, leaky totes, and buckets full of straw/grass) in a little "egg enclave" beneath the trees that everyone uses with enthusiasm.  And my that I mean 50 hens use the same 3 boxes.  As we all know they inevitably do.

I like that my birds are sometimes 6-20' up in the air at night, nestled in the swaying pines.
I like that my broodies have their chicks roosting in the trees by 1 month old.
I like that they have fresh moving air.
I like that I don't have to deal with deep litter, turning, cleaning, and flies in the coop (not that it was ever 'bad' with the good diet they're on)

I don't like that they get soaked to the bone when it rains, or blown out of the trees in brutal wind storms.
I worry about what that might be like all winter long.  They endured a month of freezing in March, but it warmed up pretty quick.  But then that's a silly worry because I like drafty uninsulated coops, so the most winter comfort they've ever had is shelter from wind and precipitation.

I dunno.  I go back and forth.  I like it, but I want my fancy underground coop.  Maybe it's not even about the birds and I'm just too ambitious.

Who else has tried coopleess bird keeping? 
Yea or Nay?
What do you like/dislike, what did you learn, what did you decide?
 
Drew Moffatt
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Location: New Zealand
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I liked it till they discovered my vegetable garden and seedlings. After that I built a run on their house.
It was always fun trying to find their new egg hiding spots, some were 3m up in macrocarpa trees.
Definitely cleaner and healthier though.
 
John Weiland
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Location: RRV of da Nort
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Jen Fan wrote:
Who else has tried coopleess bird keeping? 
Yea or Nay?
What do you like/dislike, what did you learn, what did you decide?


Dislikes:  Harder to keep alive, even with guard dogs for keeping predators away.  They will hide their nests in the most invisible places.  They are kept from the garden by fencing, so that is not a problem, but wind up on the back porch, the deck, the bird-feeder,.....the road in front of the property, etc.

Likes:  They've become hardy little buggers!  Roost in the rafters of several outbuildings through a Minnesota winter.  With the garden fenced and free roaming of the property, they reduce nasties like stable flies, ticks, grasshoppers,....complementing the barn swallows that at least try to reduce mosquitoes.  Since you know they are hiding a nest somewhere, any nest you come across is fair game for taking the eggs.  At this point we are at stasis, with new chickies appearing as fast as older hens are taken by predators and obnoxious roos are taken by my pellet gun.  The population somewhat self-regulates by territorialism:  The bands that wander past the perimeter fence disappear faster than those that stay within.

Overall at this point a decent "yea"
 
Jen Fan
Posts: 34
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I suppose, for the record, I should mention that I've never kept my birds strictly contained.  They've virtually always had free-run everywhere I go.  The trials of keeping poultry and gardens together is a separate beast, with or without the coop :P   Typically what I do, even what I'm doing now, is have a run that I can contain them in if I want/need to, or open it when they can free range.  I have the stand of trees they're roosting in encompassed in chainlink panels at the moment.

I think predators will always be a problem if we're not keeping birds in a coop and run that's proofed and sealed.  Between the dogs and turkeys my flock manages to stay pretty safe.  We have skunks, foxes, coyotes, and all manner of birds of prey visit and leave hungry :)
 
Jen Fan
Posts: 34
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And the egg topic; like I said, I use stand-alone nest boxes and the birds virtually never hide their eggs ^_^  Old cupboards/night stands with the top drawer removed and the bottom drawer lined with straw are their favorites!   I highly recommend this method of providing nests boxes!  Even the turkeys prefer these to hiding in a bush or clump of grass!  The ducks, however...  no, they still hide eggs.
 
Wes Hunter
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Location: Missouri Ozarks
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It depends, perhaps, on what you consider a "coop."

I've got chickens that roost in a coop, though with the door never shut.  They just put themselves up at night and get up (or down, really) when they're ready in the morning.  I've got chickens that roost in the rafters of a shed that do the same.  Interestingly, even with plenty of trees around, they all opt to go to bed under cover of a roof.

If you stay in one place long enough, you will have predator pressure, perhaps to a significant degree.  If the birds are just roosting in trees, I think your losses would be greater than if they're roosting with a roof over their heads, whether or not they're shut in.  Owls and other night-time critters will figure it out eventually.

One downside to the birds being able to get out and about as soon as they're ready in the morning is that, should they wander a little too far, they'll make easier prey for those predators active at dawn.  That's been my experience, at least.

I question whether you'll be saving yourself much cleaning by going coopless.  Won't they roost in the same tree and just make a pile under the tree instead of in the coop?  Wouldn't you want to deal with it eventually?
 
Jen Fan
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Wes Hunter wrote:It depends, perhaps, on what you consider a "coop."

I've got chickens that roost in a coop, though with the door never shut.  They just put themselves up at night and get up (or down, really) when they're ready in the morning.  I've got chickens that roost in the rafters of a shed that do the same.  Interestingly, even with plenty of trees around, they all opt to go to bed under cover of a roof.

If you stay in one place long enough, you will have predator pressure, perhaps to a significant degree.  If the birds are just roosting in trees, I think your losses would be greater than if they're roosting with a roof over their heads, whether or not they're shut in.  Owls and other night-time critters will figure it out eventually.

One downside to the birds being able to get out and about as soon as they're ready in the morning is that, should they wander a little too far, they'll make easier prey for those predators active at dawn.  That's been my experience, at least.

I question whether you'll be saving yourself much cleaning by going coopless.  Won't they roost in the same tree and just make a pile under the tree instead of in the coop?  Wouldn't you want to deal with it eventually?


Good point on the predators.  Here they've been quite safe, but more remote, as I will probably end up, it will be a different story.
The main reason I initially entertained the idea, aside from curiosity, was the cost of putting up a coop.  I know it's minimal, sure- I put up my 7x12 coop for $100.  But it's money and time that, when getting onto raw land, might not happen right away.  It was a thought exploration that has unintentionally become reality

And actually no, feces does not accumulate under the trees.  I've had 50+ birds crapping in this stand of trees for many months and it's not apparent.  The weather; rain, sun, wind, etc, combined with bird foot traffic breaks it down really quickly, it's quite nice!  I can walk around barefoot in the trees without much worry!
 
Marcus Billings
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Location: South Central Indiana
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Hi Jen,  I tried this with pines near my old coop a few years ago.  The chickens just started going up themselves  and I really didn't have a problem for about a month.  Then an owl found them and started knocking one off every couple of days.  So I had to remove the lower branches and basically force them into the coop again.  It seems to work good, with the exception of predators.
 
Wes Hunter
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Jen Fan wrote:Good point on the predators.  Here they've been quite safe, but more remote, as I will probably end up, it will be a different story.
The main reason I initially entertained the idea, aside from curiosity, was the cost of putting up a coop.  I know it's minimal, sure- I put up my 7x12 coop for $100.  But it's money and time that, when getting onto raw land, might not happen right away.  It was a thought exploration that has unintentionally become reality


While relative remoteness will probably be a factor in total predator numbers, I think that time is the biggest concern.  With folks who raise pastured poultry, the rule of thumb is that you've probably got two years of relative safety, but that by year three the local predators will have started to figure it out.  That's been my experience, and has held true for others in this general area.

And it seems that often enough it isn't even an issue with a predator population, but with particular animals.  All it takes is one owl, coyote, raccoon, you name it; as soon as that one learns that there is a steady and easily-attainable food source, it will keep coming back (and, I suspect, that information will eventually get transmitted to others).

So going totally coopless will probably be fine for a relatively short amount of time (as it apparently has, for you), but I don't think it's a workable long-term solution.
 
Todd Parr
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Location: Wisconsin, zone 4
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I have lost birds to possums, raccoons, and cars.  From that point forward, my birds have been contained at night in a coop.  I have never lost a bird since, except for a night I forgot to close the coop.  The money is less important to me than my responsibilities to my animals.  If I moved and couldn't afford to make a safe coop, I wouldn't have chickens until I could.
 
Angela Percival
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Location: Olympia, Washington
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What about building a simple night shelter with stacked straw bales and maybe a metal roof and some plywood for a door? Then after a winter or two you can use the straw and litter as mulch? Rats would be able to dig through if you have them around. Weasels can get through very tiny spaces. Hardware cloth could be used to block both.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/email
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