The Chicken Coop
Like us you probably have looked online at all the different chicken coop ideas and chicken runs for sale. And we even bought (and returned one). We even went off the recommendations from the people at the store and when it arrived it was, well how to put it kindly...not what we would expect our hard work and efforts to result in. The coops that are mass produced are undersized and not well constructed. Maybe this is why so many people are frustrated with the whole chicken process. As my father always said, "if you're going to do something, do it right from the beginning." With as much effort and hard work you will have to put into your chickens over years, you should also think ahead at your budget and also your frustrations to come. I got all Pintrest and Youtube crazy and looked at hundreds of different ideas before build my own to take into account things I know would be good for us. Bending down to clean, Reaching up to fix things, space vs cramped, the odors, the wind, the light, etc... Take the time to pick out the right ideas for you. This is supposed to be an enjoyable and fun sustainable living adventure and if we shoot ourselves in the foot by skimping on budget (when we have a little extra) and also making something tall enough to walk into vs crawl then it will directly affect our happiness later.
There is some math involved when deciding to build a chicken Coop and Chicken Run. For the Chicken Coop each chicken will need at least 2-3 square feet of space. Now this is a space of controversy in the chicken raising world. There are so many breeds and many different styles of raising chickens from Free range and extra large breeds to confined and meat birds. We decided to do a 4 x 8 floor plan not including nesting boxes. This is important because the nesting boxes can increase your sq ft. Our nesting boxes are both 3 13 inch x 13 inch stalls giving an extra 6 sq ft in the coop. Our coop with have a 38 sq ft floor plan and have 25+ roosts. We wanted to end up with 10-15 egg layers with the option of using some for meat. Our end goal was 10-12 chickens in the Coop/Roost. Our decision on staring with 15 was based on advice from the breeders and other research to expect some males and some to not make it to egg laying age. The attrition rate we expected would be approx 10-12 remaining. We also live in NorCal and have very stable weather no snow, little rain and mostly sunny. Remember if you live in areas that you have the possibility of your chickens being cooped up for days, weeks or more at a time-make sure to give them way more space per chicken.
The biggest thing with egg layers in a smaller coop is that they will need roosts and areas to get away from each other. Chickens that are too close to each other will become stressed and basically the pecking order will begin and sometimes may not stop before cannibalism. So to prevent the silence of the lambs occurring in our coop we are putting in enough roosts for the birds to have options. The roosts if possible should give the chickens the ability to look outside as well. This will help with their temperament. There is some disagreement in the chicken raising ranks about roost size and height. The cliff notes are the width and thickness of the preferred roosts and the detriment to the chicken feet. if the roost is too wide or flat then the chicken feet may deform or give the chicken alignment issues over time. We are using 2 inch wood rods with 2 inch beams so they will have enough space to securely hold on and enough choice to have a curved or flat roost. Also chickens like to be up in the air (Roosting) to calm their instinctual habit to relax away from predators reach. Depending on the breed and if their wings are clipped, then there may be a height issue for the roost. the average recommendations we have found and are using in 24 to 27 inches based on our chicken breeds and that they will not be free range birds. they will most likely be larger and heavier than free range birds and jumping down may increase stress on their joints. But taking with a grain of salt we see chickens in our neighborhood 10 feet up in trees. If the chickens need you can also make or given them steps or a ladder to get up higher. Now the Pecking order... there is a natural hierarchy that will occur in the coop and they need to figure it out between themselves. We tried to come up with math to see how many birds would need to be a what level of the roost and it was not possible to predict how many and what percentage would need to be at what level so we are going to start with all the roosts on the same level. If we need more space we can make higher roosts and deal with it then but for now they will all have space and be on the same level.
The Chicken Run
OK again the size of your run will be determined on the same requirements of breed, temperament, your homestead's ability. The general rule for a chicken run space is 8-10 sq ft per bird. We have an elevated coop so the space under our coop is also going to be part of the ground floor plan. We have an 8 ft x 16 ft run plus the 4 ft x 8 ft under the coop bringing our total Chicken Run space to 160 sq ft. this should allow us to have plenty of space with the 10-15 birds. You can make it out of so many materials and plans and that's the fun of it. We also decided to put up roofing completely over the run to keep the rain and elements off the birds. The Goal of you run is to allow the birds to have space, scratch and be outside but most importantly the same number one thing as your coop. Protection.
On a side note: being in an urban and rental situation, we decided to create a Run/Coop that could be broken down and be a Portable Chicken Coop and Run. Check out the videos and see how we did it.
Chicken is Chicken and every critter out there knows it. so our primary responsibility as chicken caretakers is to keep them safe. We chose to go with a very solid design that used 1/2 inch hardware cloth with studs and an enclosed roof. we also put down a 360 degree perimeter of Hardware cloth around everything so critters won't be able to dig under the walls and get inside. The Run and the Coop will have Latches that will be locked and secured so animals will not be able to get inside night or day.