building new hen house

renita_wa(z8)June 17, 2006

Ok, we made the leap and got our first farm animals, 6 baby chicks. Now I need to go out and build the coop. I've been drawing up plans, checking out websites. I'm wondering what I should I do for a floor. The choices are dirt and plywood. Anything that you would do if you could start from scratch?

Also, I forgot to ask how old our chicks were when I was at the feed store. The have feathers on the wings and little tail feathers. What do you think?

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pricem11(z7 NC)

Hi Renita, sounds like you guys are in the same boat as us. Be careful, chicks and domestic fowl can fast become an addiction!

I like the dirt floor in our coop, but I wish we had installed a French drain. I may do this when the weather cools a bit. Essentially, I'll just dig a gravel pit about 24 inches deep by 18 inches wide with a small trench leading from the bottom and out of the coop. Then I'll install a small pvc pipe at the bottom of the hole leading out via the trench, refill the trench with dirt, and hole with gravel, and finally pile 4 inches of wood shavings/straw on top for the floor.

Plywood may stay too damp, especially if you decide to get ducks as well like we have. Ducks are messy and splash their drinking water everywhere. If you go that route, you'd probably want treated plywood, but I'm not sure if the chemicals are bad for your birds.

If you do a traditional elevated ccop, keep only chickens, and are religious about changing their litter, then I'd say plywood would be fine.

As for the age of your babies, if their wing feathers completely cover their backs when the wings are folded, I'd say they're around 2 or 2.5 weeks. If you're just seeing feathers coming out of the tips of the wings and a few little pointy tail feathers, substract a few days.

I'm sure others will have lots of great advice. This is great forum.


    Bookmark   June 17, 2006 at 1:12PM
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velvet_sparrow(Zone 5b, Gardnerville, NV)

Depends on your weather. If you get lots of rain, allow for lots of drainage and ventilation. You'll need to clean and hose out the coop every so often regardless, chickens poop alot at night.

My coop sits on the ground, it isn't raised. The floor is 3/4 cement and the rest is dirt, and is in a corner of the yard so it has cinder block walls on three sides. We follow the 'deep litter' method and use straw, and we muck it out totally several times a year. It also sits in a higher part of the yard so when it REALLY rains the coop is less likely to flood. When we built we made sure to extend the hardware cloth down below ground level about 8 inches and bent it outwards, so vermin couldn't tunnel into the coop.

Our coop is 11 years old and will be rebuilt this summer, the design will basically stay the same except for a large enclosed run we will be attaching to it and more roosts. :)

Growing up we had a raised coop with a hardware cloth bottom, it was around 4 feet off the ground and had a large door below so we could muck out the manure when needed. It was great and very clean. The coop had a ramp down to the ground leading into an enclosed run, with a door on IT so the chickens could be let out to roam the yard.

Your chicks are still fuzzy but have the beginnings of tail feathers and primary flight feathers on their wings? Sounds like they are around 1 1/2 to 2 weeks old.

Enjoy your chicks! :)

Velvet ~:>

    Bookmark   June 17, 2006 at 2:29PM
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ok, more coop questions. We live in the northwest, specifically in SW Washington. In the winters, it rains a lot, mild temps usually high 30's and 40's. We don't get many freezing days, but it happens. So, I'm thinking we will need to make a portion of the outdoor run under cover. My question is though, do we need to insulate the coop? And what kind of windows should I put in there?

And I can tell that this chicken thing is going to be addictive. We have already enlarged the brooder and have three viewing chairs out in the garage.

thanks for your advice...for current and future postings!

    Bookmark   June 17, 2006 at 7:49PM
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brendan_of_bonsai(4b AK)

For only 6 chickens I'd say insulation wouldn't be a bad idea, rigid Blue foam in the walls would be a good way of doing it, impervious to the vapors of chicken poo and doesn't out gas formeldahyde.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2006 at 8:13PM
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velvet_sparrow(Zone 5b, Gardnerville, NV)

Viewing chairs...oh dear, you ARE addicted! *L* When the chicks grow up, you will want to be hatching eggs. It happens to all of us. *G* We started out 11 years ago with three little cute baby chicks...

When you build and/or insulate your coop, be sure to make it so the chickens cannot possibly peck at or ingest the insulation. Chickens peck at EVERYTHING, and then swallow it just to see if they can die from it, I swear.

Mainly you'll need to protect your birds from drafts and getting soaked--a draft can kill. Chickens are pretty darned hardy mostly. Here in So. CA we have a problem with heat, I need to provide lots of shade, water and when it gets really hot, I go out and hose 'em down. People in places like Minnesota find that in winter they need to insulate and provide a little extra heat in the form of a light bulb or two for their birds. It's the extremes you need to worry about.

If you click on my 'My Page' link there is a link there to my chicken info site, it may help also. Plus you can laugh at how chicken addicted I've become. :)

Velvet ~:>

    Bookmark   June 17, 2006 at 10:28PM
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HerringboneD28(z7 Central AR)

If you go with a plywood floor you may want to lay down a sheet vinyl remnant on the floor. Makes it very easy to clean whether you use straw or wood chips.

For the windows, I cut and framed in square holes in the siding, made a simple 2x2 window frame, covered it with plexiglass and used hinges at the top. In the summer I keep all the windows propped open. I also left a 4 inch high opening all the way across one wall up near the roofline and covered it with hardware cloth. It stays open all the time. Ventilation is very important in your coop.

One last suggestion - build the coop large enough to house more than 6 chickens. It's also nice to fence off a section inside the coop big enough to store a rubbermade garbage can for food and a bale of straw under roof.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2006 at 8:39AM
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nhsuzanne(z5 SW-NH)

I am a new chick addict too! I was wondering about the vinyl flooring........wouldn't it get slippery?

Also, does anyone here use wood shavings like the ones I use for my horses stalls?

    Bookmark   June 19, 2006 at 3:36PM
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HerringboneD28(z7 Central AR)

I use DE in the chicken coop so with it, and the dirt they track in, and the dust off their food, and the straw and, it isn't slippery.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2006 at 8:43AM
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well, this is what we settled on. We are building a 8X12 structure. 8X8 is for the chickens, and the other space will be for storage of bedding and feed and such. I think for now the 4X8 section is just going to be a screened in porch for now, with the ability to build up the walls if we expand our chicken operation. We are going to do a plywood floor, and I'll look around for a vinyl scrap or two. And we decided no on the insulation. I visited a farm nearby yesterday, and she said in this area it's not necessary.

What she did say was that predators are a huge problem for her. The coyotes will grab and run off with a chicken even when she is the middle of the day!!!! I haven't seen any coyotes here, but I hear them most nights. I imagine after they realize we have some food around here, they will be visiting more often.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2006 at 1:54PM
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nhsuzanne(z5 SW-NH)

Herringbone, what is DE?

Anyone here use wood shavings?

    Bookmark   June 20, 2006 at 3:46PM
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We too live in the northwest and are familiar with the predators - and the weather - likewise, we are new at raising poultry. The remnants of an old coop existed when we moved on to the acreage, but needed some remodeling. We first visited other farmers set ups and began talking with the folks around to get pointers and avoid mistakes.

The coop: From toe to waist level the existing coop is brick. From there up, plywood with windows and cedar shake roof top. The floor was dirt however. With the continuous mold and dampness in these parts, we opted to go through the hassle of pouring a 4" cement floor, with a mild grade sloping toward a 3" diameter drain we put in the floor. Took elbow grease and mind you, weÂre novices at this too, but we did it! So far, clean up has been a real breeze and I'm glad we went the extra mile (despite the time it took). This allowed us to put in brackets to hold vertical 4x4's so we can continue to fix up the interior. We also don't have to worry about predators digging under at night. If you go this route you'll have to be sure to put bedding over the concrete as I've read that fowl can get bumble foot from walking over bare concrete for extended periods.

The pen around the perimeter is another matter entirely! We bought 10' T-posts (yep! ten feet!) and sunk them to 6.5 feet or so. We then dug a 6-8" trench all the way around. We bought a roll of 18" cage wire and sunk this at least 6" below ground level, (again so nothing could dig under) and attached to the t-posts. If your ground isn't level, its rough going to get it taught, but worth the sleep you'll get at night. After this, itÂs chicken wire straight up (with the option to drape wire or mesh over the top to keep varmints from 'dropping in for a visit'. Here's one real trick we can share when installing the chicken wire - forget the clips and baling wire  go to the hardware an get plastic zip ties! You can't re-use them, but it sure makes fastening fast and easy!

When our pullets were ready to leave the brooder, we weren't quite finished with the pen/coop yet so we had to keep them in a 4X8' cage. To keep the draft off and give them a snuggly little house we provided them with one of those plastic storage tubs with a lid (you can get them at any household store), upturned it and cut a whole for entry/exit. We filled it with straw and voia-la! They took to it instantly. They had each other for warmth and just loved the darn thing. I have since, of course, moved them into the coop - tub and all - and even though it's got to be getting a little tight in there, they still prefer the security of their little tub. When they out grow it and begin to roost, IÂll discard the lid, turn it right side up and use it as a nest box, I guess.

Hope this is helpful information. Good luck and enjoy your flock. WeÂre having a ball!

    Bookmark   June 20, 2006 at 9:01PM
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HerringboneD28(z7 Central AR)

DE stands for Diatomaceous Earth. Do a search and you will see alot of discussion on DE and what folks use it for. Personally, I dust the nest boxes and floor with it to prevent mites and other critters. I also mix some with the chicken feed regularly. There is a good amount of disagreement on whether it helps control internal parasites or not. My hope is that it will help in controlling the fly population in the chicken droppings.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2006 at 1:14PM
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nhsuzanne, I use wood chips. Just regular pine, but NOT cedar, like hubby uses in horse stalls.


    Bookmark   June 22, 2006 at 7:11PM
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brendan_of_bonsai(4b AK)

I don't know about putting DE inside of critters, I was unfortunate enought to end up with about a teaspoon of it inside of my mouth in a chemistry accident (I was forceing water theough a DE filter and something burst and shot a whole lot of DE back into my mouth) and I felt sick for a week, Just distilled water and DE.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2006 at 5:08AM
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sullicorbitt(z5 MA)

nhsuzanne, I use wood shavings on a vinyl floor and it works out perfectly! Vinyl is a breeze to clean and does not get slippery if you have pine shavings down.

We do have 4 ducks in our coop addition and have a special water set up to keep the place dry. We have a cement mixing tub with some bricks inside to build up a base to hold the waterer. We covered the plastic tub with hardware cloth and place the waterer on top so the bricks support the waterer. This way the duck mess drains into the tub and it can be dumped outside when needed, the coop floor stays dry. Our ulitimate goal is to separate the ducks in their own pad but for now this set up works.


    Bookmark   June 23, 2006 at 7:02AM
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hi, all. i am considering one bantam hen to help control earwigs. i've been googling, then thought i'd come here (you're a great bunch!).

as i'm only getting one (yeah--right), any ideas for housing just her?

the last time i had fowl, i had ducks and geese. they had free run of the place ('way out of town), & settled in at night close to the house (never lost one to the coyotes. several large dog-houses (the plastic ones) served well for rain or cooler temps, and all worked out fine.

now i have a chain-link dog-kennel with chicken-wire across the top. it's about six feet long; about four feet wide. i've read that a dog-carrier/-kennel will work for a "house;" i also have corrugated roofing if she needs shade.

what do you guys think?


:::back to googling:::

    Bookmark   August 4, 2006 at 10:44PM
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Howdy folks!

I have a couple dozen laying hens, two banty hens (1 feather footed cochin, 1 clean legged Japanese buff) a short legged, clean legged white male banty rooster, and a large pure blood RIR rooster. I have had lots of other birds, but due to where I live, I get dinged by predators fairly regularly. Snakes are the main concern. The bulk of my hens are RIR. They are great all around birds and produce good eggs and are fairly broody. They are great moms and will sit a nest and hatch their own young.

My hen/roost house is 8x5 and about 7Â tall. It has a heavy concrete floor, the walls consist of cyclone fence with corrugated tin over that. The roof is made of landscape timber with corrugated tin and sealed with pitch.

The floor has no drain, as that would simply become clogged when hosing down. I have 6 boxes that are about 2 square feet per box, with straw inside and these are for laying. I also have several poles running the length of the house for night time roosting. I am currently exploring different ideas for the laying boxes. I donÂt want to have them get dirty so quickly so IÂm moving them from under the roost poles.

Anyone with questions can feel free to say hi and email me. I also keep rabbits, a garden, and am glad to share ideas with anyone. I live by myself and always seem to be busy with "chores" so itÂs always nice to hear of other folks ideas on saving time and maximizing enjoyment.


    Bookmark   July 15, 2007 at 11:48AM
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We're actually redoing our coop right now, too. Our neighbor 2 doors down has an old wooden shed she no longer wants, and I'm looking for something large enough for us to walk into to clean. Our current coop is big enough for the hens, but I have to really become a contortionist to scrape the roosts. Our plan is to take this coop and slice out 2/3 of the length from the middle, then put the 2 ends back together so it's about 8' wide x 6' deep. I'd like to put down a cement slab and remove the old rotten plywood bottom, but we'll see if that actually happens. I'm going to cut 2 small windows in for ventilation and cover them with wire, and I'm cutting a square out of the back to build in recessed nesting boxes with a hinged lid so I can access the eggs from the outside. The double doors will open to the side into a gated run, so we can let them roam the yard when the dogs aren't outside. The run is going to be recycled low chain link fencing, but i'm going to bend 1" sewer pipe from front to back in 3 places and secure it with a horizontal support pipe running across the tops of all 3 and attaching to the top of the shed. Then I'll drape poultry netting or more chicken wire over the top of all that. The idea is that we'll be able to leave town for a weekend, leaving the dogs outside and the chickens safe in their run/coop area (with plenty of food and water, of course).

We're in zone 8 and didn't insulate the coop last year - Our current coop is wire on 3 sides with a roost at the back. We had it wedged between a side of the house and a wing wall, so it was slightly protected, but they still were probably very cold. We covered it all with heavy plastic on the 2 exposed sides. I am going to take a good look at this shed once it's installed, and I may find a way to insulate the north-facing side.

And to whoever asked about wood shavings, I use them. Love them. I use them in the nest boxes, too. I have 5 hens - 3 banty auracanas and 2 wyandottes - and they all prefer wood shavings or pine needles for laying.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2007 at 2:48PM
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Having Hens is such a great idea! I wish we could have more but the city where we live only allows 2 on the parcel size we have. To compensate for the lack of space that we have, I learned keeping hens on wood chippings is a great solution.

Hens and chickens need to digg and scratch so laying 4 inches of wood chips is perfect for this. This also makes cleaning the run is as simple as raking out and replacing the soiled chippings every month or so.

Making a chipped area for your chicken coop doesn't take long and is quite cheap too.

Pour the wood chippings into the edged area. Then rake it out ensuring all the ground is covered to a depth of around 4in. Make sure that the wood chips are nice and flat so your chickens do not have a hard time walking around.

Now you have a safe cozy run for your chickens in place and let your chickens give you a well deserved pat on the back!

For those of you who are not convinved that having a hen House or a chicken coop is a good idea here is a great resource to answer any questions you may have

Good Cluck Y'all!

Here is a link that might be useful: Benefits of Building a Chicken Coop!

    Bookmark   December 1, 2008 at 7:34PM
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brendan_of_bonsai(4b AK)

FYI I did an uncontrolled experiment where I ate a teaspoon proper of DE (much ore than before as it turns out) and I was just fine, must have just been the uncomfortable situation of a lab accident that caused me to feel sick, Psychosomatic; or I felt fine for psychosomatic reasons, and I'm not much worse for the wear.

As a side note they used to put DE in toothpaste.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2008 at 3:23AM
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discover how easy you can build a healthy hen house with that new plan

Here is a link that might be useful: build a hen house

    Bookmark   April 28, 2010 at 12:56PM
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