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PostPosted: Wed Jan 02, 2019 7:33 pm 
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Showy Hen
Showy Hen
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Joined: Sun Jan 11, 2009 9:57 pm
Posts: 111
Hi we have been at our 5 acres for 26 years. When we built our first pen we had no idea or money for that matter :oops: but we did a reasonable job. We are now moving to 100 acres and have a blank canvas to work with, I have some ideas but thought I would put it out to you guys for your wealth of knowledge. What would you do , what mistakes did you make? I am hoping to free range them of a day with a guardian , either maremma or alpaca but want a pen big enough to leave them in when we are not home and at night. I am expecting a lot of wildlife there so a roof would be handy as we have goanna problems here. Maybe include my veggie patch for chicken clean up? Oh and I have about fifty chickens know so maybe big enough to hold a few more?So let your creative juices flow and hit me with all your ideas!!! Tia!!


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 03, 2019 9:09 pm 
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Showy Hen
Showy Hen

Joined: Fri Apr 28, 2017 6:04 pm
Posts: 226
Location: NSW Southern Highlands
What an exciting project you have. As an experienced chicken owner, I guess you already have your own ideas. Sorry in advance for the very long post. I hope you get some ideas from it. :-)

These are things I wish I'd thought of.... (or known)

In justice to the construction of our chook coop, we were never going to be addicted to chickens, nor were we ever going to have more than 5 or 6 to lighten up our lives and provide a few eggs. There was never going to be that passion that belongs to the true "chicken nutters",  who interrupt their paying work with little (or lots of) thoughts about what their birds are doing right at that moment.  We also never comprehended the possibility of boring our workmates with stories about the chicken antics from the weekend.  This, however, is what we have amounted to, admitted freely and proud of it. :roll:

Given the original premise, however,  it was also unrealistic to build a coop of a magnitude of detail and construction expenses that was going to require 22000 eggs to pay for itself. (OK, our 3 cats were originally  using half of it as an outside dwelling, on those occasions our indoor cats needed to go outside.) Nevertheless, even 11000 eggs was a highly ambitious target for the 5 girls we originally bought. :think:

Mistake number one - lots of concrete. Apart from the concrete being a major contributor to the 11000 egg bill, concrete is not nice for scratching in.  Our original 2 pens, (yes.... Now two, since our cats have been evicted), have the back 6 square metres, which is a solid raised lump  of concrete. The back portion of one pen is the original planned area for bird sleeping and egg laying with a scratching yard out the front. The back portion of the second pen is also concrete, but has a multi-purpose functionality. (good decision!!!)

Whether sleeping over a concrete floor is a good thing or bad thing is debatable. I don't mind it, (i sleep in my own bed!!) :rofl: but suspect chicken owners with earthen coop-floors have less cleaning to do than me. To keep the concrete tolerably sanitary with 15-20 birds aside at any given time requires lime and wood shavings, (lots of lime and wood shavings), which are emptied weekly and replaced. (This is not altogether bad..... We have an extensive fruit and vegetable garden, which requires lots of compost, the bulk of it coming from composted chook droppings... And lime, and wood shavings.....) 

Mistake number 2, the compost heaps (yes, plural) would have been better placed MUCH closer to the chicken coops.
Mistake number 3, we need 4 compost bays, not 3.

Also, since the original plan for 5 or 6 friendly girls never included the possibility that they might
want to brood some chicks, we didn't accommodate for this eventuality.

Point of consideraton: are your broody hens going to be in close contact with your main flocks, or
completely secluded from them?
Another point: with 50 chooks, perhaps you will need to accommodate more than one broody at a time?

Since no-one was ever going to be broody at our place, we didn't cover the fact that every hatch is
about 50% boys, who get a bit boisterous and unruly in time.

At present, our cockerels are in a separate area, in a not very well protected yard. They sleep on the roof of their house, which is a clear 1.5 m jump from the floor and then another hop to the roof. They are there in all weather, even though there is shelter, but I am not happy with the
arrangement. OK,  there is a 1.8 m fence around it, but it is not 100% fox proof nor protected from eagles nor powerful owls. In the next 12 months, we want to enclose a yard, away from girls, for the cockerels. This yard will be covered on the top and have something acting as a discouragement from digging around the perimeter.

The probability that one had reached their limit in terms of capacity in terms of accommodation also means discouraging the broody hens from producing more birds (that were never planned for), on a rather frequent basis. This also means the accommodations would have been better if they could
have included that kind of facility.

At the moment, the most effective manner we found for de-broodying chickens has been to move them to our fully enclosed fruit yard. I have two dog houses in there. (good!, non-permanent structure means flexibility!!) one is shelter and sleeping area for the girls that happen to be broody.
The other is to keep their feed dry. The area is shady and lush. On average, it takes less than 24 hours to convince a broody girl that the nice light, airy, shady lush fruit yard is preferable to a dark dingy nesting box any day. I wait until they lay an egg before putting them back with the main flock.

The fact that sometimes some of my very heavy birds does something silly, like jumping from a ridiculous height, or arguing with snakes, :doh means that having a first aid and hospital area might be worth considering. I don't have many injuries or illnesses, but I am sure if an emergency arose, it
would be important to have somewhere to put them - away from the main group. The only spot I have at the moment is the fruit yard, which has the revolving door for broody hens....... Not sure how that would work with an injured girl.

Things that were good: Mr O recently created a hatch between the two halves of the coop. The hatch
can be closed. This means that if you have to, you can segregate one group from another.
The 3 nest boxes,are going to become 5, which includes some close to floor level boxes for one of the silkies (the only one afraid of heights), and for one or two other girls that seem to prefer laying closer to the ground.

We experimented with an automatic watering system over the christmas break. This looks good (seems to be working), and will save a lot of time. Since that worked, the next step is feeders that take a whole bag of feed. (I haven't told Mr O about that one yet....) :hiding

Something else I didn't realize until we actually got chickens was that just one chook has capacity, by itself, to denude any given area of grass in about 20 seconds flat. A rework of any chook area at chez Okaru would include access to not one or two, but at least 4 grassed/pastured areas from any coop, leaving 3 in various stages of regrowth or replenishment. Why not catch the rain from the roof
of the coop and use it to water your pastures?

But hey, with 100 acres, you could electrify an acre or two and just let the chooks out of a day. Not perfectly safe, but I imagine you would be doing lots outside in the beginning, so you would definitely get the lay of the land..... Having them with more tree cover would probably be safer. It's hard for an eagle to swoop when he has to dodge branches.......

Something else I am grateful for (apart from being able to have chooks at all), is that every area has standing room height. This makes any kind of job much easier to do.

That's about all I can think of right now. Please tell us what you are planning! :peece


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