I am so excited to be getting chickens this spring. I am thinking of a flock of about 6-12 egg layers, and have narrowed down what breeds I am looking at.
I am hoping you can help me decide where to put my chicken coop. Here is a link to what the layout of my place looks like: http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5174/...cb165955_o.png (Excuse the mess...this aerial was taken a few years ago before our pasture fully came in....)
The red areas are the places I am considering for the coop and fenced chicken area. The blue area is where our large vegetable garden is now (it wasn't planted when this image was taken.) The top of the image is North.
I am expecting that during spring-summer-fall, the chickens will be in their run from 8-5 while I am at work, and I'll be able to let them out to roam in the evenings while I'm outside working with the horses and in the garden.
The advantages of the spot by the horse barn are that it is on the south side so protected from weather (I am in Michigan, it gets cold here) and plenty of sunlight during most of the day. Also, with it so close, it will be easier for me to manage the chores--quicker in the mornings before work, and closer to the supplies stored in the big barn. The disadvantages of this spot are that it's closer to the neighbor (whose yard is about 300 feet farther down the driveway) and closer to the driveway.
The advantages of the spot up by the house are that it's farther away from the neighbor and the neighbor's dog (the neighbor has chickens too so I'm not anticipating any problems with the neighbor or the dog but you really never know), and it's closer to my garden. But that area has more of a slope and farther away from the barnyard, so less chance for me to check in on them as I'm running back and forth.
OR, would you choose a different spot entirely?? I'm open to suggestions because I'm totally new at this!
I would put it further away from the house...Put up a cute little shed near the garden, and they can do their magic in the garden in the fall after all your veggies are harvested. Is the garden currently fenced? Because if it's not, you're gonna have a heck of a hard time keeping them out of there when they are free ranging! JMHO...
This is my first year of having chickens and I have learned a bit from experience. 1. Keep them out of your garden at all costs until it has been harvested otherwise you will have nothing left. 2. they do not really like wide open pasture like places. they get very nervouse out in the open and will squwak and scramble for cover if hawks fly over head. (kinda fun to see them send out the alarm though) and if you have any close neighbors make sure they like chickens too as they can wander quite far and make a mess of people really nice landscaping. I have found that I really like chickens. they are quite personable and talkative. Just for your info you do not need a rooster to get eggs. Stay away from Roosters at all costs for a variety of reasons! (had a one on one with my rooster today. I won and he has a new respect for the kitchen broom!)
So its sounding like a better idea would be to put it independent from either of the other buildings? Logistically that would actually solve some problems--we could put it by the roundpen or towards the north side of the dry lot, in unused space.
BUT the big problem there is I wouldn't have water or electric! I don't mind hauling water but in the winter, electric is a biggie I would think. Even with a well-insulated coop, wouldn't it be hard to keep a water bowl from freezing if I wasn't running a heated bowl? It hovers between 10 and 20 degrees for weeks at a time here and dips into the single and negative digits once in awhile too...
I've had chickens for a few years now, they really are fun. I started out with portable pens and poultry netting. Yes you need to ground the power if you want the netting charged. The benefits of that set-up is you can move the pens frequently, the grass grows great with all that fertilizer!
I use this setup from spring until freezeup. I'm in Alberta, so I get the not wanting to haul water in the winter. In the winter they go into the chicken coop. I run power to that and use a heated water dish for them. It works great!
You really don't want the chickens by your house, they can get smelly!
The fence works very well. I can attest to that. It is pricey but seems to be durable and it's not too bad to move. There may be some pics on my website if you want to look.
They make a base heater that you can use in the winter to keep water from freezing. It is just a platform you put your waterer on. I take buckets out to the chickens and fill them up. My 40 hens only need their 5 gallon waterer filled about every other day as cold as it's been. In the summer you can set up automatic waterers and that does save a lot of work.
BUT the big problem there is I wouldn't have water or electric! I don't mind hauling water but in the winter, electric is a biggie I would think.
You WILL miss the electric in Michigan. Water isn't such a biggie. This month's Hobby Farm magazine has an article on building a solar chicken coop.
I live in Western NY, and with winters like we have, you will want the option of put a heat lamp in. Yes, the water will freeze. Plug in waterers are such an awesome invention. If it gets really cold, and your chickens aren't rose combed, you will start losing comb tips. Plus, coming home in the dark, it's really nice to be able to flip on the light for evening chores.