I'm so excited to get some chickens for my farm. I want a variety so I'm going to have to order from a hatchery, but that requires a minimum order of 25 chicks. I read that you can expect about a 25% die off your first time but that still leaves me with 19 or so chicks, right?
**my math skills stink**
How much room does each chicken need inside the coop? I have some books but they all say something different. Say each chicken needs 4 square feet, that would be 74 square feet of floor space? So a coop that was 10x8? The spot I have picked out isn't really large, can the coop be an odd shape? The chickens will have a generous outside fenced area, they wont be able to free-range because of my crazy dog.
Windward Farm, Washougal, WA- our work in progress, our money pit, our home!
Odd size is ok, but remember this: you need to go inside and clean/feed/gather eggs. 10 x 8 with at least 6 or 8 nesting boxes and enough roosting space for all the ladies should be enough. My girls live under the loft stairs in a 4 x 9 space. I have 12. That gives them a bit of space to mosey about. However, on bitterly cold or very windy days (I live in the Gorge) I lock them in and create a "play pen" with pallets in the barn for them.
Depending on the hatchery, you may end up with 25 hens--no die off. If these are egg layers, not meat chix, then ask yourself this: can I eat or sell 20 eggs a day? That is nearly 12 dozen eggs a week. And, when those girls get going, they'll be laying nearly an egg a day.
We have a great feed store that brings in healthy chicks in a wide variety, so I always buy my girls there. Maybe there is a such a place in your area, so you can get fewer??
No I dont think even we, egg eating fools, could get through 20 eggs a day. Last year the feed store only had Ameracaunas, Red Sex Links, and Black Sex Links. What a really want is some Wyandottes and Buff Orpingtons and Barred Rocks.
I figured I could make a lift roof over the egg boxes to get the eggs from outside the coop. I dont have a barn so I guess I will have to figure in space for the chickens to stay inside comfortably when the weather is bad?
On selling eggs, do you ever worry about liability? What if someone buys your eggs, stores them incorrectly and gets sick? Wouldn't they sue you? (We moved here from California)
My mother and I have each gotten several batches of chicks and we don't have anywhere near that percentage of die off. In fact, it's pretty rare for us to lose one at all, and usually it is one of the tricky Cornish X's, not standard chick.
Bigger is better. Odd shaped is fine.
Don't forget to calculate for roost space. That could ultimately affect your dimensions if you need more places to put roosts. They need a foot of running length per chicken, and more is better. It speeds up bedtime if they aren't jockeying for the best roost position.
Same as you I wanted breeds that I could not get locally so I ordered from a hatchery that has all sorts of heritage breeds that I wanted. The minimum order was 25. I picked up my teeny-tiny box at the post office and when I opened it, it was like a clown-car....they just kept coming and coming. It was unbelievable! Anyhow, I ended up with 27, I guess sometimes they throw in a few extra. Only one small one died so I had 26.
I only wanted 5, so I gave 2 to a friend, and sold the rest. I just posted an add online and they were gone instantly.
I adored brooding these chicks in my garage, they were so cute and fun. Unfortunately after a move to a friends farm they were eaten by a predator, but I plan on getting more this year and having a more predator-proof coop!
Oh, for coop size, depends on how much time they will spend in/out and your climate. If they have to be in a lot in winter, plan on a bigger coop. If they are in a large run, or ranging during the day you can have them in a smaller coop at night!
for coop size, depends on how much time they will spend in/out and your climate. If they have to be in a lot in winter, plan on a bigger coop. If they are in a large run, or ranging during the day you can have them in a smaller coop at night
My five BIG hens (now four, lost one last summer) have an 8x10 foot dog kennel they live in, plus a coop that is about 3x4 feet of floor space with a roost for spending the night. In the winter they move into the barn and share a 5 x 8 foot pen with just a little nest box. They much prefer the larger area, of course, but cope just fine with this much space.
I keep 6 hens & 1 I-told-You-NOT-To-Be-A-Rooster in a converted metal toolshed.
They have access to a fenced in yard about 20'X30' and my entire 5ac when the weather is nice.
They freerange all day long & put themselves up in the coop when it gets dark.
I have 3 nestboxes (repurposed fruit crates) but they all seem to lay in one box - the "Best" one.
Plenty of room for the 7 of them, even in our latest Arctic Deepfreeze weather when I confined them to the coop.
Sure, larger is better but BEWARE:
Chickens are like potato chips.
One, or for that matter a dozen, is never enough.
I originally wanted just 2 or 3 hens & now would like to add some Ameraucanas to the flock. Such pretty birds & such colorful eggs!
I give away my excess eggs & feed some of them back to the hens - scrambled with plain yogurt.
My hens: Spoiled much?
*friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon: Steppin' Out 1988-2004 Hey Vern! 1982-2009 Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
As an aside to the original question, does anyone have a coop attached to their barn? I am building a new barn and trying to decide whether to have a separate coop somewhere else, or to incorporate it into the barn design....
Would love to see photos!
I had my coop designed so I could open a door in the back and have the chickens able to go into the small area in my barn that's their "winter turnout". This to avoid moving the 600 pound coop! But it would've meant cutting a hole in the side of my barn, and my husband talked me out of it. So the coop sits empty in the winter, the chickens move inside, and it works out.
Having the hens in the barn is NOISY, and it's always a relief to get them back outside in the spring so I don't have to listen as closely to their racket! I don't think I'd want them loose in the barn--they crap EVERYWHERE.
Our old chicken coop is a 6' by 8' building that faces south with a man door on the southern 8' wall. A small ground level "chicken" door is on the west side and a smaller "summer window" is on the north side. We had two roosting poles running on the 8' walls. There were two brooding boxes in it but any hen sitting on eggs found a spot in the barn and left those boxes for daily egg drops.
Our were free range hens and a pleasure to have around. Yes, they do make barn floors messy so it's a trade off. If we ever get back into hens I will probably make a nice, large fenced yard for the hens and keep farm free ranging to a minimun.
I have a rooster, 4 hens and 5 guineas that share a 6X12 shed by the house during the winter - I move them to their coop in the barn for the rest of the year. They free-range during the day year round. Yes they're noisy (the guineas, especially) and poop everywhere, but they're entertaining. The guineas like to stand on the horses backs and scream - talk about bomb-proofing! They eat everything in sight (the guineas take care of the ticks), including the flies they can catch (and the dead ones from the non-chemical fly trap) - and all the leftovers my dogs wont eat, old veggies, fruit ends - and give back eggs. Great trade-off. But, four hens are enough for my family - I gather 3 eggs most days, and we eat only one or two a day, so we give away a dozen ever couple of weeks. One thought - if you're not interested in a box of 25 chicks, check out craigslist, or put a wanted ad out. You'd be surprised how many people are interested in making your chicken dream a reality.
Re: coop attached or in the barn - you are going to want to heat your chicken's water, or the chickens themselves, in the deep winter with a light, etc. Both the water warmer and the light pose a fire hazard - especially when surrounded by nice, warm hay so the chickens can deep-bed. This is why I have two chicken houses - the winter one away from the barn so I can plug stuff in that I would be too afraid to leave unattended in the barn. Consider that when you're planning your barn. Of course, my coops are not insulated, so they're prey to the temperature outside - which was -27 a few weeks ago. If yours will be insulated, you may have less of a problem keeping your chickens from getting frostbite. Which leads me to another great bit of advice I got when choosing my chickens - add to your list of priorities a breed with the smallest comb (pea), which is the least susceptible to frostbite.
Thanks everyone, I'm going to print this out and keep it for reference.
Alas, my chicken plans are being put on hold because of my big dumb gelding. He's taken to rolling right next to his electric fence and getting his legs tangled up. I could just murderate him! So now we are having to redo all his fencing to no-climb, the expense is giving me migraines.
I'm leery about getting chicks too late in the year in case its really cold again. SO it looks like I will probably have to wait another year.
Windward Farm, Washougal, WA- our work in progress, our money pit, our home!
I have my coop built inside my barn. We framed in a space under our stairs, but we could have done it stand alone style. We put a ceiling on, built 3 nest boxes and put up a set of two roost poles. We cut a hole in the metal of the barn wall and made a wee tiny wooden door for the hens. This opens out to their pen, which is roughly 8 by 20 feet, and runs along one side of the barn. This in turn opens to the old "goat pen" that was fenced in when we bought our place--a 60 x 60 grass paddock fenced in 8 foot heavy duty no-climb.
You could search CL for a dog kennel (chain link) they make great chicken pens. Add a garden shed from the same CL search and you are in the chicken business! It doesn't have to be fancy, just water proof, wind-blocking and critter-proof.