Gettting started with chickens

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Re: Gettting started with chickens

Postby Jenny-the-Bear (grr) » Sun Oct 26, 2014 5:13 am

Manny, that looks great. I have to say, I think you're doing a better job on yours than we did on ours. We had to make all kinds of mistakes to learn from. I wish we had put in linoleum as well, but we have a board floor, and I regret that every time I clean the coop. Other parts have worked out better, fortunately.

I have a some suggestions you might want to consider, if you haven't already thought of it. The first are for the nest boxes. If you put a perch-pole in front of the nests, so hens can jump up on the pole first, that will help them avoid barging into an already occupied nest. They'll likely do that a bit anyway, but if they land on the pole first, it could help minimize squabbling and egg breakage. The other is for your safety, opening the lid from the outside to get the eggs. You might want to rig a pulley and a rope to open the lid while you stand back. We've encountered snakes in nest boxes several times, once it was a copperhead, my DH narrowly missed being struck by it.

I'm sure you've already thought about a way to secure the lid when it's closed, so raccoons and other critters can't get it open. You might want to make the rear panel on the outside a drop down panel, for ease of cleaning the nests. Just open and scrape them out.

The next are for mice, and broody hens.

If you rig up some sort of outer pen with a door to open under the coop, you can put a few chickens in there from time to time, and they'll keep it clear of mice. This in turn, makes it less attractive to snakes. You may not have the trouble with mice we've had, because your floor will be solid, whereas ours has gaps between the boards. Over the years, all kinds of stuff, cedar shavings, straw, hay, feed, poop and dirt have fallen between the boards. This makes for a mighty inviting habitat for both rodents and snakes. (and bugs)

However, mice and snakes can burrow, and so you could have a problem develop anyway. It's protected, so mice would find it a safe haven. They'll bring in bedding on their own. Chickens will eat mice, (if they can catch them) and they'll scratch up mouse nests and eat the babies. Since we started making the space under to coop available to the birds, we've had no more mice. They used to over-run the place, I had to set traps in the coop all the time.

The last thing is some sort of separate area for broody hens. You can leave them in with then general population, but you'll have to make sure you mark the eggs, and remove new eggs daily, because the other hens will intrude and lay in the same nest. This also increases the risk of eggs being broken, if hens are arguing over the nest.

It's easy to relocate most broodies. You just wait until dark, move the eggs, move the broody hen to the eggs. It's dark, she'll stay on them all night. By morning, she'll probably be used to the idea that she's in a better place. Or maybe they forget by then, it's hard to tell. You can put multiple broodies in the same brooding area, but the more you get, the more likely trouble will eventually develop. But that's probably enough for now.

We have 2 runs off our coop, chicken wire on the inside, welded wire on the outside. Raccoons reaching through haven't been a problem, because the fences aren't anywhere near where the chickens roost at night. Our flock gets turned loose to roam free in the daytime, they go back in at night and we lock up the coop.

Here's some old pics from the last time I put anything on photobucket. We've made some changes since, and of course, we have all different chickens now, too.
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This is my idea of free-range.

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The main room of the coop, small door out to an enclosed run in back.

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You can see through the chicken wire, sort of, the Maternity Ward. When there are no broodies and new moms with babies, it's left open to all.

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The coop as seen from behind our house, as it was a few years ago, we've made some changes.
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Re: Gettting started with chickens

Postby 4seasons » Mon Oct 27, 2014 12:52 am

Got the windows in, one door on and part of the inside trimmed out this weekend.
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Jenny, thanks for the tips. I am really hoping to avoid a mouse and snake problem by limiting access to 1/4 inch or less opening into the hen house. I am building a swing down door for access to the nesting boxes rather than a lifting lid. I haven't got that door, the other entry door or the pop door built yet. Also need to do the roost, and poop board. I was planning on putting 3 roosts in, one in front of the nesting boxes, one halfway up to use as a step up to the high roost, and the high roost for sleep at the top. And I haven't even started on the run yet.
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Re: Gettting started with chickens

Postby matt walker » Mon Oct 27, 2014 2:49 am

4, the coop looks awesome. I wish I had put all the forethought into mine, it is going to pay off for sure. Jenny, awesome post! I need to do better at managing the broody hens for sure.
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Re: Gettting started with chickens

Postby Jenny-the-Bear (grr) » Tue Oct 28, 2014 8:27 am

It was easier this year, I only had one hen get broody. But she did it twice, so I have one batch mostly grown, and 11 new ones. Well, not brand new, they're almost 2 months now, mom will be abandoning them before long.

It's funny how a hen will be totally devoted, attack anything or anybody that gets too close o her chicks, then one day she decides they're big enough be take care of themselves. She goes back to the rest of the flock and never looks back. Usually they won't even let the chicks perch near them, once they've decided they're done.
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Re: Gettting started with chickens

Postby 4seasons » Sun Nov 02, 2014 1:10 pm

Got my doors done yesterday, now just need to put the interior together.
Main doors on the west side:
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Nesting boxes door on the north side:
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I still need to get the metal on the nesting boxes.
Just a window on the east side:
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Pop door on the south side:
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I will have a rope to the outside to lift the pop door and a latch to hold it closed also so that I can lock it without going into the run. But I will build those when I am working on the run. I just wedged it up with my hammer for the pic:
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Now I need to roof the nesting boxes, get hardware cloth over the vent and windows, install the roosting bars, add a poop board, trim out the nesting boxes, and put the linoleum down. Then I can line the floor with leaves, the nesting boxes with straw, the poop board with sawdust, and get my chickens. Then I can start the run.
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Re: Gettting started with chickens

Postby mannytheseacow » Sun Nov 02, 2014 5:31 pm

Looking really good, 4. You could probably put some chickens in there the way it is. Good idea on the leaves, too. I might do that.
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Re: Gettting started with chickens

Postby Jenny-the-Bear (grr) » Mon Nov 03, 2014 7:42 am

That looks very good, Manny.

Are you going to let your chicken roam in the daytime? We have the enclosed and covered runs for days when we have to leave them in, like if we both have to be gone all day and expect not to be home by dark, or once in a while if the weather's too bad, (like when we had a huge ice storm) but most days they get let out to run around during the day. It's less stressful for them, less mess in the coop, and allows them to eat plenty of greens, bugs, and weed seeds. The access to greens makes the eggs a lot better, with nice orange yolks, rather than those anemic looking pale yellow ones.

I also use the run on one end as a segregation camp for roosters when I have too many, so they don't harass the hens to death before I get around to butchering. It has a roosting pole, and that's the end where they can run around under the coop and catch mice.
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Re: Gettting started with chickens

Postby 4seasons » Tue Nov 04, 2014 11:44 pm

I got the roost in and the linoleum on the floor and the supports for the poop board in place now. I know I could get the chickens now but I really want to get the inside finished first. If I don't I will have to finish the run so I can run the chickens out of the house to finish it. It sure is taking too long to get this thing done. I have too little time thru the week to get anything done at home and come weekend I get a few hours that I can devote to a project like this, but that time ends up getting divided up between other chores that I am behind on.
Jenny-the-Bear (grr) wrote:That looks very good, Manny.

Are you going to let your chicken roam in the daytime? We have the enclosed and covered runs for days when we have to leave them in, like if we both have to be gone all day and expect not to be home by dark, or once in a while if the weather's too bad, (like when we had a huge ice storm) but most days they get let out to run around during the day. It's less stressful for them, less mess in the coop, and allows them to eat plenty of greens, bugs, and weed seeds.

I'm not planning on free ranging them, at least not at first. The size I am building should let me run up to 12 hens with very little stress and I am a bit worried about predators where we live.

PS. Jenny this is my coop (4seasons), not Manny's.
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Re: Gettting started with chickens

Postby mannytheseacow » Thu Nov 06, 2014 3:45 am

4seasons wrote:
PS. Jenny this is my coop (4seasons), not Manny's.


Yeah I caught that a couple times, 4. I thought maybe you two knew each other and your name was Manny. My name's not Manny, that's just the silly screen name I picked when I signed up. I never planned on staying!
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Re: Gettting started with chickens

Postby Jenny-the-Bear (grr) » Fri Nov 07, 2014 8:44 am

Sorry, I got people mixed up. So the coop belongs to 4seasons, not Mannytheseacow who's name is not actually Manny. My name actual is Jenny.
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