How many hens for this coop?

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RicksChicks
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How many hens for this coop?

Post by RicksChicks » Sun Jul 16, 2017 10:20 pm

Hi,
I'm new here and a bit new to the whole forum concept too, so apologies if this is in the wrong place....

So we have changed our dog kennel into a coop by adding 2 best boxes onto the side, lifting it a bit off the ground and installing a perch. Internally it measures about 3ft2 x 2ft2 which is know isn't very big (that's excluding the nest boxes). We've sectioned off part of our garden as their run, and the plan is that they'll be there until mid afternoon most days and then we will let them free range from about 3/4pm when people are back in the house, the run about 16.5ft square.

How many hens do you think I could comfortably keep? They'll be ex-battery hens, and I want to give them a good qualify of life. I'm worried that the coop will be too small, but then I think they'll have plenty of outside space....?

Any advice would be great.
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rick
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Re: How many hens for this coop?

Post by rick » Sun Jul 16, 2017 10:52 pm

Hi RicksChicks and welcome to the forum,

Going to scrub what I said before because I got a bit tied in knots! I've left the original below in brackets as the evidence! :)

The site that hosts this forum has all the info for starting out - the link is at the bottom of the page i.e. - http://poultrykeeper.com/

I'm trying to imagine the size and arrangement of the nest boxes you've added and if they are in proportion with the dog kennel then they are going to be quite small. It is better, I think, to look at the run and make sure that it is reasonably robust. People use 2 main methods of protecting against the dreaded fox (who always shows up sooner or later). The best is to make the run fox proof and preferably covered. Then you can work on the quality and size of your nest boxes and roosting at your leisure. Second way is to have an ample roost that is fox proof (usually, but not essentially, containing the nest boxes.) Then they get securely shut in at night but have to be let out in the morning - which is first light.
The 5 x 5 metre run area you have would home a max of 12 hens, more realistically 10 and would be a des res for 6 to 8 hens.
how many were you thinking of getting?


#####
(I think you need to rewind a bit and think it through from the top - there will be lots of help and info here.
I know that the first thing most think of when getting hens is the 'coop' (know I did) but really chickens live in a run so that is the main consideration. You might just roost 3 hens in the converted kennel, at a pinch, but they can't stay in there after sunrise [realised you weren't saying that..see below], will need nest boxes added and need permanent access to at least 2 square metres (approx 1.4m x 1.4m) each of run in the day. More is better that but can be less continuous.
You can probably do something with the kennel for starters but only within a suitable, secure run. If the run is covered you might find that they even prefer to roost on top of the kennel and lay their eggs inside! :)

Sorry, read your post a bit wrong! You would have room for about 10 hens in your 5 x 5 metre run. 6 to 8 should be more than comfortable with ex-batts but the kennel will be much too small to roost that many in. Still would say that if you have a good safe run then you can be a bit more make do and mend with the nesting and roosting.)
RicksChicks
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Re: How many hens for this coop?

Post by RicksChicks » Mon Jul 17, 2017 7:16 pm

Thanks for getting back!
We put two nest boxes on one side of the kennel, they're 12"x12"x12" side by side and they're attached on to exterior wall of one of the sides of the kennel. The original plan was 4 hens but then I was thinking about how they're ex batts and that all the rest of the hens wold be "disposed of" and I thought if I could squeeze an extra one or two in and save another few lives that would be great, but I don't want to get too many and have 5 miserable hens. I'd rather have 3 happy ones.
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rick
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Re: How many hens for this coop?

Post by rick » Mon Jul 17, 2017 8:11 pm

Well, this is my take on it:
12 inch square is, unfortunatly, a bit too small for commercial hybrid size hens to nest in. My nest compartments are about as small as it gets but, that said, my Orpington can get in and lay and she is pretty big. Mine are 16 x 16 with a sloping roof about 10 inch at the back and 20 at the front. The slope isn't important, they are a on a shelf under the eves of the run roof. Chickens stand up to lay (a wonder to see for the first time!) so they need a bit of headroom but also need to get themselves in a private space so others are not getting behind them when they expose their red oviduct lining when the egg comes out.
You could go a bit smaller (as Orp proves) but I think 12 x 12 x 12 is bantam size.
The ex-batts will be accustomed to a bit less space but then they wont necessarily have met before, coming from a very large 'flock' so will still have the pecking order to sort out between them. They will also quickly adjust to the new accommodation (especially that more than ample run space you have) so you should assume normal minimum requirements.
My roosting shelf is just over 3 foot long and sits 5 comfortably. They need quite a lot of room behind though, at least 16 inches and the same at the front (they will roost both ways round.) 18 inches preferably. The roosting bar should be at least 2 x 2 inch with rounded corners and off the floor but preferably higher than the nest boxes or they will go for the higher perch and poop in the nests.
If you have an enclosed coop for roosting in it must have lots of ventilation. They are very hardy and British sub-zero temperatures don't bother them much as long as they can get out of the direct wind. Mine roost on an open perch in the run with open mesh sides to the run and rely on the garden fencing for wind cover and they can do that no problem at all right through the winter. The only problem if it gets very cold is eggs freezing or possibly combs getting frostbite though it has to be very cold for that to happen.
If a coop isn't ventilated enough it will get roasting in the summer and very humid. Chickens make a lot of heat at night in their feather duvets.
Its great that you are thinking of taking them in. My 3 commercial hybrids were such great characters.
Of course, you know they will probably look 'oven ready' when you get them! Feathers soon grow back though with good food and not being pecked at all the time.
What are you using to enclose the run? A covered part of it, at least, would be very useful - a bit that doesn't turn to mush when it rains with some low perches, feeders and drinkers in the dry.
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Re: How many hens for this coop?

Post by RicksChicks » Mon Jul 17, 2017 8:21 pm

It's in the corner of our garden so 3 sides are fended in and we put in some posts and mesh on the 4th side. There's nothing covering the top of the run at the moment. Ive only just read the "shelter" section on the website, but I have sme corrugated plastic sheets in the garage, so I'll get cracking on some outdoor shelter for them tomorrow. Did your ex batts ever roost? I've just read I've to take my roots out initially, which is no problem, except I spent yesterday making them lol.
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Re: How many hens for this coop?

Post by rick » Mon Jul 17, 2017 9:41 pm

Well at least you'll have the roosts ready when you need them!
Mine came from a school hatch of eggs so they never worked an honest day in their lives. They took to perching as pullets though they did like roosting on the low perches where they could watch the house lights at night.
Natural light levels is something that you have to provide as much as possible. They will have been in pretty much constant lighting as working girls to stimulate all year round laying (although I think a young commercial hybrid would probably lay in an winter igloo at the north pole!) They just don't stop.
They will slow down to grow new feathers and you will still get plenty of eggs from 5 of these girls even when they are 'off' (when they are 'on' you'll probably get 30 a week and be giving them away!) But they deserve a bit of a rest through the winter so try to keep it sunlight only - they run risks laying so many eggs and it usually shortens their lives.
3 sides fenced is a good start. You could tack some relatively fine mesh around the bottom with bricks on the skirt if the mice start raiding.
Oh, and it's never too early to put out some enquiries for a vet that knows (and likes) birds.
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Marigold
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Re: How many hens for this coop?

Post by Marigold » Mon Jul 17, 2017 9:41 pm

I agree with Rick, that you will need to reconsider your coop arrangements, so that the nest boxes are bigger and so that each hen will have about 9" minimum of roosting bar, with the space in front and behind as Rick says. If there's not enough space for their tails, they will be squashed and uncomfortable, and all the overnight poo will stick on the door or wall behind. I also think that it is actually very important to get the coop arrangements sorted out before any hens arrive, because moving home is traumatic for any hens, let alone exbatts for whom the change is so great, and if they get used to one arrangement and then you have to change it, they will be upset all over again. If you can give them a lovely big run, as you propose, and put a secure roof on it, you can leave the pophole open all the time in all weathers, which means you'll have no problems with condensation in the coop and respiratory diseases for the hens. They also like a long, low perch in the run, where they can sit in a row and look out into the garden. Mine do that a lot and I love seeing them there.
Also remember that your exbatts will probably have at least one and maybe two or more years of lay left in them, - so even with only 6, maybe 30+ eggs per week - which is quite a lot of eggs. I would advise getting 4 hens this time round and then see how you get on. Exbatts are not bred for a long life, sadly, and many will die from one reason or another within the first couple of years (usually from egg-laying problems such as prolapse or peritonitis,) by which time you'll have a bit more experience with hens and will be able to decide if you want to add more exbatts, or go for different breeds of point of lay young birds. If you get so many to start with that you're left with a lot of non-laying pensioners in year or two, and no room for younger replacements, you probably won't have the heart to cull the lot and get new ones, will you? Nobody ever complains that their run is too big for their chickens, but plenty of people start out and realise what they have is much too small! Chickens are hard work in the winter, in the dark, when they go to roost at 4.00p.m. and don't come out until 8.00a.m. - some people who go to work every day have problems seeing them except at weekends, and then you still have to deal with the poo, the feeding, and the frozen drinkers.
Hens poo an enormous amount, and unless you can get a cover on at least part of the run it will become a sordid muddy mess in winter. If it's got a roof, and you put down bedding such as Aubiose over the floor, the birds will stay dry and comfortable and you'll be able to pick up the poo daily and easily keep everything clean. Also they must have shade, either from bamboo screening fixed round the sides of the run with cable ties, our from trees and shrubs if you're lucky. They like a bit of sun, but unrelenting hot sun with no respite is awful for them as they overheat easily. They can stand very low temperatures as they're so well insulated, so if they have screening from prevailing winds and cover from rain, they don't mind the winter.
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Re: How many hens for this coop?

Post by Icemaiden » Sat Jul 29, 2017 1:10 pm

As your run is a decent size, you could do what I've done & put a cheap plastic patio table in it. It gives shade for the hens, somwhere dry underneath for the feeder and a handy surface for a bowl of hot water when you clean the coop & perches. It also gives the girls something else to stand on.
Chickens are a girl's best friend (though diamonds would be nice too!)
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