Hey everyone, I'm new to this forum, and also very curious/excited about (maybe) raising chickens next spring. I want to keep it small, only 4-6 hens (I can hear some of ya now..."only 4-6 hens..yeah right", LOL). Anyway, that's the plan at this point. They would be free range in a fairly large fenced backyard in a neighborhood with no dogs and a few cats. I would like to get it built sometime this fall while the weather is nice, and I could monitor how warm/cold it gets in the coop over the winter, that way I have time to make changes to the coop before next winter comes and my hens are depending on me to keep them warm!
The problem I have at this point is trying to find a coop; most of the ones on eBay, or anywhere else for that matter, are way out of my budget. I'd like to build my own out of scrap lumber, but I'm not sure how to get started. How many of you built your own coop? How much did it cost to build? Is it hard to do? I know I need about 4 feet of roosting space and 2 nesting boxes and some space for their food and water. What measurements should the coop be for 6 hens? Just so ya know, I'd like to have some Rhode Island Reds, a Sussex, and a Barred Plymouth Rock (or a Blue Hamburg). Sound like a good mix? I know I asked a lot of questions, and I appreciate your answers.
Hi there lilliesandme and Welcome!!! We were all new at one point, and we will find something new to ask about for as long as we have chickens! ONe of the first things I learned Many many years ago , was that Chickens are happy creatures as long as they have food water and shelter. they do not worry about any thing other than that. they leave all the other worries to us, mainly security and their health. Its up to us to provide predator safe environments,which is not the easiest thing to do, and keep up with their growth and health conditions. Stick with us and we will all learn together! If you like , there is a radio/net, program that you would also like. My friend
Andy Schnieder,"the Chicken Whisperer", out of Atlanta, is the Head"chicken Head"! Just google him and you will be surprised at all the info.
My coops are mostly open on three sides - just covered by 1/2"x1" hardware cloth. I've never had a predator break-in. In some the rigid structure that supports the wire consists of cattle panels. It makes for a very easily built coop.
That sounds like a good, very strong coop then. It wouldn't keep out snow, though, which can be a problem here.
We had a mink do a lot of damage to our flock when we first moved the chickens into the new henhouse, but it was because there was just light screening on the louvered windows. We hadn't thought anything could get in when they were opened just a crack, but the mink managed. Now that we have rat wire over the windows it seems much safer.
I have coops similar to what porkpal describes. We have hot summers, so the open form is great then. Winters aren't usually very harsh, although last year was trying. So far this year, we have been mild except for the last few days, getting us into the teens one night, and 20 the other. I hang tarps where the door are, and cover the open (especially the north and west) sides/windows with "insulating plastic" that I get from HD. That way there is pretty good wind protection, but still adequate ventilation. The tarps come down to cover the rest at night, and protect from any rain or snow. It still gets cold enough to freeze water when it's in the low 20's, but since I take the water out at night and refill with warm when I open the coops, there seems to be no real problem.
Probably not enough in colder areas, but seems fine for here.
No one should ever use anything less than hardware cloth for wire on their coops no matter where they are if they are concerned about predators. People keep using chicken wire because it has the word chicken in it, and it's cheap..and there lies a lot of the problems. Keeping out snow is not really a huge issue..chickens do just fine in cold weather. Some breeds will even lay when it is zero degrees. And they do better with exercise so letting them play in the snow while getting sun is much better for them than keeping them in a coop. That's another great reason to have a wired side..sun. What we want to keep out are the wet winds and give them a dry place to be. I really recommend the book. Over and over they found they had much healthier chickens due to the fresh air content.
I see people time and time building solid wooden houses and then they wonder why they have health issues in their chickens. Chickens produce A LOT of waste. They need a lot of air flow to combat that. A couple of tiny screened vents don't usually cut it.
We too have mainly wire. We use chain link with a hardware cloth lining and it works great. As Catmad said, tarps work great for winds or really below freezing temps..and I can put them up or take them down as I need...other than that, chickens huddle and produce a lot of heat.
I just read another article the other day talking about how during the turn of the century there was usually a "scratching shed" with walls on only 3 sides, then a wire front to give the chickens somewhere to go and scratch. If your weather usually stays above freezing for the most part...then chickens are ok...if it goes below, there are still options based on more air flow. Lots of hay on the ground for insulation, grain for them to burn, exercise looking for it and they made the point again, don't have less ventilation for the sake of a warmer house.
If you search plamondon winter chicken care, you can find it. Just didn't know if I could outside link source here. And that article recommends another open air book as well.
I recently began using 1/2"x1" welded wire instead of the 1/2" hardware cloth, and I like it much better. it's _much_ easier to work with, to say nothing of being cheaper. I also think it's going to last longer. Still small enough to exclude rats and snakes, I think. Time will tell, but so far, so good. I have also made individual (hospital) cages from it, and it is again, much easier to use with J-clips. I always like easier, as long as it (seems) equally effective.
Bottom line it's about the strength. The gauge is the real concern. Chicken wire is just too flimsy..it's like 20 gauge and the other wires are usually like 16 and 14.. I have heard it called welded wire, wire mesh & cage wire instead of hardware cloth. They come in many sizes & check around..many times you can get something shipped for a lot less than at big box stores.
Found this 'chicken tractor' a week or so ago. We used this as a base for the one we built.
Says it can be built for $290 not sure if that is today's dollars, but I think if you are using some scrap lumber you could probably do it lots cheaper. The hardware cloth or welded wire is a must if you have racoons or possums around.
Went and looked at my 1/2' "hardware cloth" and my 1x1/2" welded wire. I can't find the labels, so I can't comment as to the actual gauge, but the wire on the welded wire appears to be approximately twice as thick as that making up the hardware cloth. I have had no problems with either, just find the welded wire much easier to work with.
Pretty much what Ive been using. Ive tried both, Im just a clutz when it comes to cutting wire.
I want to enclose a brooder pen that sits four feet above the ground on legs. I want to put hardware cloth around the 2X4 legs on one long side and plywood wall on the back long side, and one short side. Then a door on the other short side. Open the bottom of the pen and place a ramp from the ground to the inside of the brooder Pen. Seems do-able but once again Im no carpenter.