The girls are moved in! Sunday evening they were put in their new coop. They’d waited in the back of a truck and, by that time, were clucking and pretty much pointing with their little beaks at their little chicken wrists as if to say “don’t you know it’s bedtime?” It didn’t take long, after they’d explored and scratched and ate their welcome wagon treats. They flew up to their perch and bedded down.
The dogs are fascinated. First thing they do when they go out is check their chickens. I doubt it’s concern for their welfare so they haven’t met without mesh between them. Cats too look at them like, wow, big sparrows!
The last remaining big job is replacing the wheels and axle. The small wheels just couldn’t take the weight. So a bigger set will go on. Then we should be able to haul that coop just about anywhere. (See Have Chicken – Will Travel for coop construction.)
Fine-tuning the coop interior
We’ve been fine-tuning the interior since they moved in, putting in a small plastic chick waterer and trough style metal feeder raised on 2x4s and making nest boxes. We’d put a ladder in so they could climb up to their shelf. But they quickly showed they didn’t need it by flying up. So it’s gone. Less is more is the best design philosophy for a henhouse.
They need a small enough space to keep warm in the winter but enough let them freely and easily move around when they are cooped up. Between 2 to 4 square feet coop space and up to 10 square feet run space per bird (depending on whether bantam or full size), according to Backyard Chickens. So, with a 4 x 4 x 8 foot coop and 8 foot long run, their space is what real estate agents call “cozy”, but it’s ok. They’ll get more outdoor space next year, in Phase II of the development.
But in winter, they’re not likely to be outside much. So you want to balance their need for movement with the amount of space that they can keep warm. We insulated with Styrofoam sheets. You can use fiberglass batts too but make sure they can’t peck at it.
Panelboard is nailed over the insulation. There is no vapour barrier, despite the advice of one chicken man. Without an inside heat source, if moisture builds up because the building materials cannot breathe, that may cause greater problems than passage of air.
High, dry and warm
Their waterer has no heater. My advisor said the coop should be warm in winter so the chickens don’t have to expend all their energy generating heat. So we hope that the insulation will hold in the body heat they generate in their small space.
You want to keep them from sitting in their food dish and want to keep dirt and faeces out of their food and water. Also it’s easier for them to digest food and water when their dishes are at neck height. They put their heads up in order to swallow properly so raised containers make that easier to do.
“High, dry and warm” is the key to healthy chickens, according to a lifelong chicken farmer. His words were passed on to me by the people at J & P Farm Services. They and the people at Shur-Gain Feeds and the Co-op in Sussex have been wonderful, helping to outfit the girls in style.