Several Chicken Coop Questions???????

sullicorbitt(z5 MA)June 16, 2005

My 16 chicks are now about 5.5 weeks old, they are still in our basement in a large cage made with wooden strapping and hardware cloth so that we can change the paper daily and it keeps them fairly clean. We are currently finishing the shed/convertion to coop and hope to have it finished by this weekend. Our rush to get them outside is due to the smell! I cannot believe the output of these girls.

Our coop will be about 45 feet away from our house, am I going to regret that they are so close (smell) or will frequent cleaning keep the smell down? The inside coop will be 8x8' and the outside enclosed run will be at the least 12x16'The floor will be vinyl tiles for easy cleaning (lovely floral design on sale at Lowes!)

I can dump the dirty litter way back in the woods to compost so I am hoping that the overall smell will not be bad.

So I'm just curious as to how often most people clean out their coops?

How long does the chicken manure need to compost before it can be used safely in the garden?

There will be two layers of siding on the walls, the exterior is the existing wooden slats of the shed and the interior will be lined with OSB 1/2 inch board. We live in New England and our winters can get very cold, do you think we should add insulation between the two layers? all of our variety of birds are "winter hardy" and chosen for that reason but 2 years ago it was 27 below zero and they canceled school it was so cold.

Thanks in advance for any input! I read this forum constantly and enjoy the wonderful people here, I would post more but I am too inexperienced to offer advice :)

Thanks so much!


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sumac(SE MI)

Depends on what type of litter (I use straw) and how much time they acctually spend in the coop. I hope yours is ventilated (a small window or two is good) even in winter I leave one open just a crack. Adding insulation can't hurt and now is the time to do it. Our girls do fine in our cold winters but they don't like to come out much especially if there is snow. I don't supplement light to encouraging laying thru the winter as I believe Mother Nature knows best and the poor girls need a break. If any of yours have large combs frostbite could be a problem. Vasiline will help. I put the bedding both on the compost and directly in the garden with good results. Keep your cage around after they go into their coop as it will make an excellent sick bay if you need to seperate anyone as stuff does happen such as sickness and injuries. Hope this helps. Enjoy your girls!

    Bookmark   June 16, 2005 at 3:39PM
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HerringboneD28(z7 Central AR)

I can't blame you for wanting to get the girls out of the basement. It sounds like you've built just the right size coop & yard and your 16 chicks are going to love it.!

I would definitely insulate the walls if I were you because you'll want to retain as much heat as possible in the winter.

As for coop cleaning, I too use straw and generally take it all out every couple months, sometimes three. It will be much colder where you live though and you'll leave it longer in the winter time if you decide to use the deep litter method. You should be OK at 45' from the house. Mine are 120' (and downwind) from the bedrooms but I can't smell anything until I get within 20 feet or so.

I plan to compost mine about a year but actually tilled some fairly fresh stuff under when I prepped the garden this year and everything is doing fine. Just don't over due it.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2005 at 4:13PM
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pamcleod(z4 NH Lakes)

We don't have insulated walls and I wish we did (we are in NH) - our next coop will definitely have insulation. You want LOTS of ventilation in the summer and lots of warmth (with a little ventilation) in the winter. In our next coop, I also plan to add a little trap door for winter - about 12x18" so there is a smaller opening for the cold air to get in.

In this area, shavings are usually easier to come by than straw (straw costs us something like $10/bale at the feed store, shavings are $3/bag). We do deep litter also, and clean it every couple of months. Shavings are not quite as good for gardens as straw, so you might make that a consideration - we let our compost sit 6-12 months.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2005 at 4:36PM
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sullicorbitt(z5 MA)

Our coop should get good ventilation (I think?), we have two small windows on each side of the front door that can be propped open and lined with hardware cloth and we plan to install a vinyl replacement window that was left over from my mum's addition to put on the opposite wall from the other windows to give it some good cross ventilation.

I really appreciate the feedback, we weren't sure if the insulation was really necessary. It seems kinda tricky, you want to retain as much heat in the winter as possible but still get some fresh air circulating.


    Bookmark   June 16, 2005 at 7:19PM
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erinluchsinger(z4 - Upstate NY)

I live in upstate NY where it gets very cold. I wish that my coop was insulated, and every fall I swear that it's on my to-do list, and it never gets done. I end up hanging a heat lamp in there when it gets down below zero. More b/c I feel bad for them! When I do that I don't use artificial light during the day (and turn off the heat lamp during the day), so that they aren't all lit up 24/7.
My coop does not smell, and I clean it about 2-4 times per year. Probably once a season I'd say. I mean, if you want to hang out in there, sure it starts to smell, but over all it has no odor. Especially if you're standing outside.
I use what ever I have on hand for bedding. Sometimes I use good alfalfa hay and they LOVE that. Mostly in the winter so they get some greens in 'em.
I started with a fairly good sized run, but I hated the look of a dirt patch in the yard, so they now free range and we're all happier about that... well, everyone except for my garden that is.
They are stinky little creatures... and dusty! I kicked mine out to the coop at 3 weeks old b/c I couldn't stand the dust any longer!
Good luck! They are fantastic entertainment.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2005 at 8:12PM
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sullicorbitt(z5 MA)

What is the best type of insulation to use? is it going to be a mouse magnet? (that's my biggest concern).

    Bookmark   June 16, 2005 at 8:32PM
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HerringboneD28(z7 Central AR)

I'd go with fiberglass batting but styrofoam would probably be OK too. I'd think the fiberglass would be a little cheaper and give a higher insulating value.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2005 at 11:57AM
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The biggest issue with an insulated coop in winter is ventilation. We built a new coop for last winter and we insulated the walls and ceiling with batts and then covered it with a vapour barrier then OSB, this makes the coop very airtight. For ventilation, we cut a hole in the ceiling and used styrofoam insulation to form a chute up into the attic, then we put a gable vent on each gable end of the coop in the attic for the air to vent to the outside. We have a south facing window and a not so quite airtight door for incoming airflow. This coop was also heated as it gets extremely cold here. We bed with straw and everything was nice and dry with no smell all winter until early spring when it warmed up a bit. Then it seemed damp in the coop and we had to clean it out every week for a few weeks until it warmed up enough to have dry warmer airflow from the outside.

To prevent rodents from getting in we stapled hardware cloth to the underside of the floor sheathing and folded it up the outside walls for a bit, the coop is completely rodent proof.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2005 at 12:51PM
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    Bookmark   August 17, 2007 at 11:58PM
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sullicorbitt(z5 MA)

This post is over 2 years old! seems like a lifetime ago.

Our coops do not have any heating, they are insulated and they do have a ridge and gable vent on each side. So far we haven't had any problems. The worst was when we had the ducks in w/the chickens as they produced lots of moisture. The chickens we have are mostly all heavy breeds, they are all very winter hearty.


    Bookmark   August 18, 2007 at 6:06AM
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We are only in our second year of raising our free-range chickens and can say that all those who said it would never work (because of predators) are totally wrong. These chickens only use the coop to lay eggs and to go in at night. We lock them in only then. I should say here though that one of us is always home and the predators know that.

Changing bedding: We have never done it. In the winter, I stir it every week and add additional pine bedding if it starts to smell. Since they are outdoors most of the time, the poop decomposes and we now have a very deep bedding. Last year, we insulated the coop (on the outside) with three layers of square bales of hay. I used the mostly decomposed hay to mulch my gardens this spring and we have already ordered the hay to insulate the coop for the winter. Last winter was absolutely brutal and yes, some of the hens and two roosters had some frost-bite on their combs. I don't think it happened at night though ---- they spent lots of time outdoors even in the coldest weather.

We are in Z4, so I think the chickens can weather what ever nature brings as long as they have fresh water and feed in the winter. (We strung an electric cord out to the coop for a thermostat controlled waterer.)

    Bookmark   August 18, 2007 at 6:24PM
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Sullicorbitt- You may already know this, but chickens will actually eat mice! We keep our feed in air-tight spin containers and have no rodent problems. We live in the Southeastern Mountains. Our winters aren't as cold as NY, but still pretty wicked. Chickens are very hearty and can tolerate low temps. It is more important for us to keep the coop well ventilated and cool in summers. As for cleaning, we do not use wooden nesting boxes because they harbor mites. We use wire baskets and plastic milk crates- which are easier to clean and disinfect. We change the nest bedding regularly. Pressure washing is done about once a year and a wash with PoultryShield. Our girls are healthy, free-range chickens and they only come in at night to sleep, or during the day to lay their eggs. Free range is the only way to keep healthy chickens.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2009 at 2:31AM
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sandykk(z6 MD)

For those that free range their chickens, how to you keep the predators away? I've had my 6 chickens for only one week in a 5 1/2 ft wired 25x50 ft area and today found one dead on the ground. The others were terrified, so I'm thinking a Hawk.

We were thinking we should put the 2" netting over the entire area. We do back up to a large wooded area.

Any suggestions?


    Bookmark   July 28, 2009 at 6:37PM
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2"netting over the open area is a good idea but just so u know it could of been a hawk or an owl i know owl dont come out during the day but u never know just thought u should know

    Bookmark   December 16, 2010 at 9:41AM
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NO WE WERENT ALL WRONG YOU JUST DIDNT GET YOURS YET ,i LOST 2 batches of all kinds of chickens.2 times to dogs and I saw a weasel come out of the chicken house with a chicken.No more free range for me,one day when you least expect boom theyll be gone.Im on my 3rd set but these guys are safe.
As far as insuilating chickens give off heat if you dont have an overly large chicken house ,they should befine.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2010 at 2:54PM
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oregonwoodsmoke(5 OR Sunset 1A)

My chickens had a large fenced yard attached to the hen house. They were locked in at night and had access to their yard during the day. That's a lot more free range than commercial hens will ever see.

Since they would come when called, they got to putter around the yard if, and only if, I was working outside and had the dogs with me. If they were outside their yard, they were never allowed out of my sight.

50 degrees is too warm to keep the coop in the winter. My chickens never had damage and it went to 50 below (F) one week. I kept a drop light with a porcelain socket hanging where they could get under it if they wanted to. I used a red colored 100 watt spotlight in the drop light. That's all the supplemental heat they got and they generally would just sleep in their nest boxes and not use the light.

If you use a light, only buy one with a porcelain socket. They are getting hard to find, but a farm supply store will have them because they are used as brooder lights. Every year around here a couple of barns will burn down from heat lamps. Make sure that light is well secured and can't come in contact with anything flammable.

I've seen plenty of coyotes out and about in the day and the hawks and eagles are all hunting by daylight. Day is just as dangerous to hens as night.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2010 at 3:43PM
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Sorry to gatecrash this site but we have just been given 3 silkie chickens. We have built them a large pen completely wired top and sides but they are sleeping in an old hen coop we had years ago. My husband is building a new one and has lined it with plywood then wire wool and then overlap. Is ventilation and insulation such a problem as we put them to bed at dusk and open up at about 8am. Would hate to get up and find them roasted or something. He has drilled holes along top and isn't insulation between layers front and back. Any advice much appreciated. Oh I live in UK in the middle of a forest.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2011 at 6:49AM
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We use shavings easier than straw.I use it in nest boxes too.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2011 at 5:05PM
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Greetings! Can I take the floor out of my shed/coop, cover it with straw for deep bedding, and avoid having to wash an old wooden floor to keep the coop clean? We have small stones lining the periphery of the shed - hopefully to prevent predators and the entire site is enclosed in a sizable frame of chicken wire. Any cleaning tips would be helpful!

    Bookmark   June 7, 2012 at 2:45AM
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I have 13 baby chicks about 5 weeks old. They too are getting too large for their pen. I have what I call a really large dog pen that we fenced in with net wiring and a hot wire on the bottom. I have a 8x8ft concrete pad that I want to build or put an already made shed onto for the house and 2 tall dog pens to put together for the chicken run with the shade type tarp to put over to deter chicken hawks. I have my dogs out there too and the hot wire will keep all the town dogs out. It's almost the size of 1/2 of a block, maybe 300 x 150 which the chickens will not be free ranging on because of our dogs.
That 8x8 house should be large enough right?

    Bookmark   June 7, 2012 at 11:03PM
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We tried straw too much work,we too use shavings ,like them better.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2012 at 11:06PM
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We have a 10x10 coop 3 pop doors, 4 bathroom windows (salvage), no insulated but does have siding. Wood floor coverd with shavings. The only place I use hay is in the nesting boxes. I take a pooper scooper at dinner time and scoop, always dry and clean, never smells. Clean their run the same way. No heat lamp, body heat only we live in New England also. Their perches are wide so they can cover their feet during the winter. Sun comes in windows warms the coop during the day nights they huddle. Their run is completely covered. 6 dog kennel sections wrapped in chicken wire. The wire flaps at the bottom and is covered with large size rocks. The top is also covered with double chicken wire braced with wooden slats to hold the weight of the snow. They do have a heated water dish in the coop during the winter. They have a light that comes on just before dark they go in 1/2 hr lights out. Summer doors and windows stay open all day they come and go in their run/coop. Winter just after they go in (same time every night) I close all doors and open again in morning. They have 24/7 grain/cracked corn in hanging feeders but after work they get left overs any veggie/potato/meat/pastas. I warm it in winter and in summer they get watermelon, frozen yogert. yummy. We throw nothing away. Can't figure out how to post pictures.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2012 at 8:25AM
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I have not read all of the replies, so this may have been mentioned already, but my coop is right in my front smell! I use wood shavings, and sprinkle DE (diatomaceous earth) once a week or so. Takes care of the smell! I do fully strip my coop (it's 8x12) twice a year, usually spring and fall, and replace with new bedding.

If you use DE, make sure it's food grade...I think the brand I use is Perma-Guard.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 2:48PM
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