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PostPosted: Fri Aug 25, 2017 4:12 pm 
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Dapper Duck
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Joined: Sun Mar 09, 2008 10:43 pm
Posts: 26
Location: Gowrie, Canberra ACT
Hello poultry peoples,
Any feedback on my housing plans before I commence site preparation (and make too many mistakes!) would be much appreciated.

Here's what I'm currently thinking:
> I'm looking to get around 5 laying hens (mixed flock including a few bantams). My reason for getting hens is as a part of a garden system so they can recycle weeds/scraps, provide fertilizer and turn compost. Eggs and chooky personalities will be added bonuses
> I plan to build a 3250x1800 permanent walk-in run (hoop coop). This is the maximum run size my suburban site will allow (contending with trees/slope/neighbours/existing infrastructure)
> 30-40cm deep treated pine sleeper base to run, like a raised garden bed (to contain deep litter)
> Reo Mesh under base to protect from digging predators (am presuming depth of litter at around 30cm will protect hens feet from damage on this mesh? I can't go the apron or trench options due to tree roots)
> corrugated iron 2-3 sheets wide as roof along entire length of run, with 25 mm cage mesh on open sides and door end
> corrugated iron 1 sheet deep around most or all of circumference at back of pen for shelter (see example image below)
> timber framed door
> painted plywood back facing west with 2 wooden nesting boxes attached (external access).
> grape vine to cover run during hot weather
> considering platform below roost/s in sheltered section?
> external access homemade pvc feeder and waterer (with poultry nipples)

I'm presuming Canberra's climate and hardiness of hens means I need to build to protect against hot weather more than cold (we find Canberra cold, but it's nothing compared to Europe/US!).

I work school hours so girls will be in coop/run for most of the day. I'm hoping scraps/weeds/mulch I plan to add to deep litter each morning will keep them amused during the day until I can let them out. We also go away for 2 weeks a year so need them to be ok if left penned up that long with a friend checking them just once a day.

Have I forgotten anything?

NB. Since I last posted 9 months ago asking about tips for starting out with a metal shed as a coop I've had to postpone my new chicken adventure. When we bought our suburban property we didn't do a search of planning applications by our new neighbours. I heard in December that our neighbours had permission to create a dual occupancy and would be building in their backyard. Now the new house has been finished and is on the market. Unfortunately it is right on the fence line we'd been planning to house the chooks so I've been forced to rethink my options.


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 27, 2017 11:52 am 
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Golden Kingfisher
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Location: Canberra
I think your plans sound good. The coop would be big enough and also secure from fox attack though I would make sure the holes in the floor mesh are no bigger than 75mm x 50mm. Otherwise a fox could get through. Might be best to use welded mesh panels on the floor. If you can afford it welded mesh panels on the walls and roof are also better than the mesh that comes in rolls. It's more rigid, much stronger, and it doesn't curl up and whack you in the face when you try to work with it.....

I'd also consider using plywood for all wall and roof panels, maybe with corrugated iron over the top on the roof. Metal alone will get really hot and radiate heat into the coop, unless your cop is totally covered in shade. Edit: just realised you are doing a hoop design and that's why you want to use metal, so it will bend to shape. So, just make sure it's fully shaded :)

Another thought it that at night chooks prefer to be a bit more hidden away than they can be in a 3 sided shelter. Consider a half width wall along the nesting area on the inside.

The deep litter would definitely be enough to protect the chooks' feet from the mesh. I have the same arrangement you describe and about 20cm of litter and the chooks are absolutely fine. I have only gone with 1 sleeper height on the base (20cm). By all means go with a 30-40cm high sleeper sides/base though as this will definitely keep the litter in. With 20cm it does get kicked out a little bit. Not much but enough to mean it needs tidying up now and then.

You are right that the heat is way more of an issue than the cold, even in Canberra. Chooks cope with Canberra cold just fine, as long as they can get out of the wind and rain. I use a misting system in my coop that I turn on when it gets over 35 degrees and this helps hugely. Up to 35 degrees the chooks seem ok, especially if you wet down the deep litter a bit. The grape wine over the coop will help too.

How to you plan to attach the mesh to the frame? I've found the U-shaped fencing clips to be the best. I will get a few photos of the attachment methods I've used. Foxes will work away at the mesh to try to loosen it so it's really important to over-engineer your attachment mechanism!

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Cheerio, Rach
Blue Swedish Ducks


Last edited by 70%cocoa on Sun Aug 27, 2017 12:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 27, 2017 12:08 pm 
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Golden Kingfisher
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Location: Canberra
Below I've posted some pics of examples of attaching mesh to a timber frame.

The one below shows fencing staples that you hammer in, about 1.5-2cm long. These are a pain to hammer in (half the time you hammer yourself..or I do...unless you hold the staple with pliers). Also, these can be loosed over time by a patient fox working away at the mesh. Not recommended.

Image


In the one below I've used button head screws, about 3cm long and also hex head screws. These are easy to put in but if the frame shifts a bit over time (as the ground expands and contracts with rainfall) the mesh can pop off the head of the screw. You need to check these every so often.

Image

Image


Below I've used U-clips. This is by far the best approach. They stay put. Highly recommended.

Image


A similar option involves using washers instead of the U-clips. This works fine too, and is cheaper than the U-clips. Also suitable for smaller mesh that you can't fit a U-clip through.

Image


And this is my chook pen:

Image

Image

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Cheerio, Rach
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 10, 2018 7:46 am 
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Newbie
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Joined: Tue Sep 12, 2017 5:50 am
Posts: 12
Location: Geneva, hopefully moving soon to Canberra
I hope to move back to Canberra from overseas sometime soon, and had some of the same questions as Feijoa. I particularly took in the idea of a higher base to the frame of the run to properly contain the deep litter. I feel reassured that the Canberra cold isn't too intimidating for chooks.

Your observations and the photos are very helpful. I like your coop, Rach. It is functional but has its own pleasant and unpretentious style. Do you mind explaining how you manage poop under the roosts in the coop section of your setup? And what breed are your chickens, by the way?

Another question: Is a watering system using watering cups attached to PVC piping likely to freeze up in the winter, and if so, how do you deal with that?

Cheers, Phil


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 10, 2018 11:38 am 
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Golden Kingfisher
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Hi Phil, thanks for your nice comments :) The chooks are two Australorps and one bantam crossbreed (who is the boss!).

Canberra is definitely not too cold for chooks. You won’t have any problems wth the cold. Heat is the main challenge. Make sure the coop has lots of shade. The misting system I have in mine (from Bunnings) is also a huge help. Was 40 degrees here the other day but the chooks looked ok even though they are big, very heavy black birds.

Under the perch (in the house part) there’s wood shavings, so I periodically clean that out and put it in a compost tumbler. Having said that the chooks have taken to roosting outside on the perches outside the enclose part, even in heavy rain...! So at the moment poop is just falling to the ground and being integrated into the litter. I need to add a little roof for them above where they like to sleep.

The water in little drinker cups would definitely freeze in winter. Not sure how badly though or if pipes would be damaged.... For water I’ve taken to using a couple of buckets on the floor of the run. Easy to refill and to tip out and scrub out if needed.

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Cheerio, Rach
Blue Swedish Ducks


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 11, 2018 10:39 pm 
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Newbie
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Joined: Tue Sep 12, 2017 5:50 am
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Location: Geneva, hopefully moving soon to Canberra
Thanks tons, Rach. You are very kind to reply, and so quickly at that.

I feel reassured about the Canberra cold, and your advice about dealing with the hot weather is very useful. I lived in Canberra for 20 years until I moved overseas 27 years ago, but I haven't kept chooks since I lived in Adelaide as a teenager. The climate there is very different from Canberra, of course.

I will try to automate feeding and watering, partly for convenience, if not laziness (early morning excursions into the back yard are not my thing these days), and partly for the fun of the challenge. I'm thinking about possibilities for avoiding freezing up of PVC water pipes without breaking the bank. Drinking nipples are an alternative to drinking cups, although they wouldn't deliver frozen water any better than cups. I'll have to dig out my thinking cap.

Another point that occurred to me after re-reading the posts above: It sounds like both of you (Rach and Feijoa) have a mesh floor that extends across the complete bottom of the coop. I understand that deep litter would keep the chooks' feet from damage by the mesh, and I intend to use the deep litter method in any event. But would a skirt of buried mesh extending outwards from the coop walls do as good a job of keeping predators out? Foxes in Canberra suburbs are a new one on me, but neighborhood dogs were always an irritation when I lived there. My tenants have also had a possum problem in the years since I've been away, but I don't know if possums bother chooks. God forbid that a goanna might materialize in my back yard, but a friend over the back fence swears that she saw an echidna sauntering across her front lawn one day -- not that echidnas are likely to mistake chooks for termites, or whatever it is that they eat.

Rach, do your Australorps go broody? And are their eggs lighter or darker in color? I know that egg colour is only an aesthetic consideration, but it matters to me. I am thinking about a small mixed flock of Barnevelders and Australorps, starting with a broody hen and some fertile eggs. There will inevitably be both girls and boys among the chicks, and since roosters and neighbours don't mix so well, I am thinking about dual-purpose breeds. It's just as well that chickens aren't up to contemplating their own future too deeply!

Cheers, Phil


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 12, 2018 12:26 am 
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Old Mother Goose
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Location: ACT area
Hi Phil, another local here (but out of town). Fox proofing is an essential part of poultry keeping in Canberra. A heavy mesh skirt extending about 60 cm from the pen should be adequate. Choose a product which won't rust out. You can get small submersible water heaters to prevent freezing but I've not found it necessary. Even on the coldest days the ice melts by mid morning, at least enough for a hole to be pecked.


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 12, 2018 12:58 am 
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Newbie
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Location: Geneva, hopefully moving soon to Canberra
Hi, Sue. We exchanged posts in the New Member's Lounge a few months ago. I remember that you keep Barnevelders.

Thanks for the benefit of your experience about water. I was thinking about so-called "heating tape" (or "heating cable"), but it sounds like I should wait and see before getting over-sophisticated. I can easily have a more straightforward alternative at the ready (like a bucket) until I'm comfortable with the watering cups or nipples, but I'd prefer to have cups or nipples to minimize water being slopped around, not to mention being pooped in.

People are so kind on this forum, answering loads of newbie questions.

Cheers, Phil


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 12, 2018 8:18 am 
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Golden Kingfisher
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Definitely wait and see how it goes before investing in anything fancy. Good plan to try the cups and initially have a bucket handy just in case :)

As Sue says a mesh skirt would be fine, especially if you make it 60cm as she suggests. I do think that covering the entire floor is the most secure approach for the very paranoid though (that’s me! So, yes, I have mesh that covers the whole floor). Consider the cost of each option too. I’d calculate the surface area of mesh you’d need for the whole floor model versus the skirt model and see how the cost works out. For myself, due to the location of the driveway and trees/plants I couldn’t manage a wide enough skirt all around the coop so that is another reason I went with the ‘whole floor’ model. Might be a factor in your case too, depending on where you site your coop.

My Australorps are young and I’ve had them for less than a year. They haven’t gone broody yet though. They lay a light brown egg. They are excellent layers but actually lay a pretty small egg, given the size of the chook! My little bantam lays an egg that is only a tiny bit smaller! They are show bred birds.

We have 4-5 possums living in our yard and they never bother or interact with the chooks in any way. Never seen a goanna in the suburbs. I have seen a brown snake not far from here in my suburb but not in my yard, touch wood. Foxes are extremely common in Canberra and you will definitely have these visiting and night and possibly early morning as well. I do let my chooks out of their coops but I wait till the sun is up and there’s a bit of activity out in the streets (i.e. not at dawn). There is always the small possibility of an attack at any time of day of course....just a risk we take when letting birds out.

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Blue Swedish Ducks


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 12, 2018 8:33 am 
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Golden Kingfisher
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Just weighed this morning’s Australorp eggs and they’re 56grams each. Commercial ‘Australorps’ (often cross breds) or birds from other lines might lay bigger eggs. Australorps are dual purpose birds though so egg laying isn’t their only goal in life....they are big girls!

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Blue Swedish Ducks


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 12, 2018 8:45 am 
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Location: Geneva, hopefully moving soon to Canberra
Thanks tons, Rach. It's comforting to know there are people out there who know Canberra and who are prepared to give sensible advice to newbies.

I've been amazed to read in a number of places about the prevalence of foxes in Canberra. Maybe they've always been there, but I certainly was never aware of them when I lived there a couple of decades ago.

Interesting about your Australorps laying smallish eggs. Maybe breeders for show purposes don't pay much attention to utility factors like egg size. It's egg frequency, size and colour that would matter most to me -- not to mention temperament. I guess I'm too ancient to develop much interest in whether birds meet show standards. It will be interesting to see whether your hens lay bigger eggs in their second season. I've read on the American backyardchickens.com site that Australorps lay large eggs, but of course the breeding lines will inevitably be different from those in Australia. Well, it will be interesting to see for myself how it works out.

Anyway, many thanks for your kindness in sharing your experience.

Cheers, Phil


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 12, 2018 8:54 am 
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Old Mother Goose
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Thought I recognised your name
My 'Lorps lay a good sized egg - not show birds but breeding to standard. Now I need to weigh them. :laughing
Most of my pens have a mesh floor rather than a skirt - it's generally more economical, looks tidier (unless it's buried) and is less risk with the mower.


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 12, 2018 9:04 am 
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Thanks Sue. Your point about the lawn-mower isn't something I'd thought about, but it seems almost immediately like it's a decider in favour of a mesh floor rather than a skirt.

I must check up on another thread how the Barnevelder breeding discussion is proceeding. Questions of egg colour and show breeding came up there, I seem to remember.


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 12, 2018 9:27 am 
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Old Mother Goose
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That thread has pretty well gone into hibernation. Face book is taking over


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 12, 2018 9:51 am 
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Sue: Do you have a link to the Facebook page on Barnies by any chance? I hate Facebook but it seems you can't escape it.


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