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Author Topic: chicken coop or learnings of a novice chicken person  (Read 817 times)
Gerald Boggs
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« on: May 06, 2009, 10:23:21 AM »

Good Day to all

Here's some bits of what I've learned as I've started raising chickens.  I know this is old hat for many, but maybe the other new chicken folks can get some use from it.

It mostly revolves around the coop.  The Hen needs four items in her living arrangements. 

She needs a snug roosting area which is out of the weather and safe from predators.  As you'll be the one cleaning it, you might want to make it tall enough to stand in.

She needs a laying box.  The books say one per five.  I have 16 hens and four boxes.  Ten of them will lay in one and one, they don't lay in at all. To line the boxes, I tried hay, but they mostly knocked it out on the floor.  So I tried wood shavings, worked OK, but it didn't seem very friendly, so I started layering the boxes with wood shavings on the bottom to absorb moisture and then lots of grass cuttings.  The hens appear to like this arrangement.

She needs an area for dust baths.  This is something the chicken really, really loves to do and it's also a necessary part of her cleaning herself.

She needs a place outside of the night roosting area, but still shaded, where she can roost and take shelter from the heat of the sun.  The dust bath area and this can be the same.

On the subject of predators.  If there is a way, they will get in.  Once in, they'll keep coming back.  Hey, everything likes chicken.  Prevention is the best method of dealing with predators.  When I built my coop, I put chicken wire underneath to thwart digging predators and put chicken wire over all the ventilation openings to thwart the climbers.  Once the coop door is closed, nothing can get in.  It only takes a very small hole in the wire and you'll be surprised (unpleasantly) at what can work it's way in.

Coop size...  Lots of information out there on this...  After two coop builds, this is what I've decided for my third.  An eight by eight foot coop, build like a small shed.  One half is enclosed and this is the night roosting area and where I'll put the laying boxes.  I already have this and it works very well.  The other half will be a wired in area for the daytime roosting and dust baths.  Extending off of this, is a wired in area that is open to the sky.  This way, if I'm going to be gone for the day, the chickens still have access to the outside.  When I'm home, I have a larger fenced area for them to roam in.  Chickens love to scratch in the grass.  I will normally let them out to free range a couple of hours in the evening.  As I have neighbors with gardens, I can't let them free range all the time.
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Cindi
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« Reply #1 on: May 07, 2009, 10:35:42 AM »

Gerald, well to start I am not a new chicken keeper, neither am I a seasoned one, only been keeping the species for a couple of years.  Your description was wonderful, well written and was so good it took me, in my mind's eye, right to your coop area.  Very nice.  I am sure that your description will be helping some new chicken owners to understand what minimal needs the chickens really require, nice job.  Have a wonderful and most awesome day, to love this life we live, health.  Cindi
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Gerald Boggs
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« Reply #2 on: May 08, 2009, 01:23:35 PM »

Thank you Cindi

One of the other things I did wrong, but didn't realize it until a few months had passed.  The area I decided to use for my chickens, had a pretty severe sloop.  To fix it, I build a retaining wall and backfilled.  Gave me a nice level area.  The problem didn't start until we got a lot of rain.  The wall has acted as a dam.  With poor drainage the area got all muddy.  And I mean soupy nasty mud.  Well, I'll fix that, or so I thought.  Several times, I put down bunches of hay.  The problem is between the hay, the poor drainage and chicken poop, it quickly became a rotting mass of yuck.  I removed part of the wall to allow drainage and have given the chickens a larger area to roam, but to really fix it, I think I'm going to have to dig out the muck and put in new dirt. 

Of course, I now have a bunch of great fertilizer.  I'll just compost it up this year and till it in this fall.
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