Thursday, January 17, 2013

Hurt Rabbit? Also chicken coop planning pt 2

We start today's post with a bit of concern, one of our babies is either hurt or has some cerebral problem. His back legs seem to almost be lagging and not moving correctly most of the time. Sometimes he can hop just fine and make a rapid movement, sometimes he can't even sit properly and his back end twists to the side. He is eating and drinking fine, isn't concerned with being picked up and held beyond the normal. He actually just sat there and kept eating his hay as I had him upside down to check his feet. He doesn't seem to be in pain either. Our best guess is an injured back, but we are going to be keeping our eye on him. We don't have a video of him moving or photos since we were a bit busy this morning sadly. Right now our plan is to take care of him, and watch to make sure it isn't something catchy and that he isn't in pain.

Below the cut I'll discuss the next phase of chicken coop design, brainstorming an ideal structure that's at least somewhat reasonable.

So now we come into the starting to think things out part of the design. What do we want, and where do we want to go with it? I've mentioned most of the basic needs and considerations in the last post  about coop design, so I'm going to just get right into it.
So ideally due to our snow load we would have a roof with an angle like the one pictured Right. Unfortunately that ends up requiring a gabled roof, or taking up quite a lot of space with a shed style roof, so it won't be practical. I'd go with a gabled roof if I was confident in my skills with angle cutting, but I'm just not. I want to get this right the first try, thus sticking with a shed roof.

Above is a more practical roof style. Still a good strong angled roof, but it doesn't take up quite as much space as a 45 degree angled roof. The face pictured there is the West side of the coop, which will be facing the house. In this ideal structure there would be a concrete pad poured that is 9 feet 6 inches wide and 12 feet 8 inches long. The reason for the somewhat odd dimensions is an idea I really like. The building will be placed on the pad, and then a layer of cinder blocks will be built up around the edges of the building to prevent there being any gaps near the bottom that could even be conceivably be exploited by vermin or predators. 

We are looking at the width Above. The West side has a covered storage area to the left and covering you when entering the man door to the coop to allow for easy storage of food and other supplies, as well as a place to put the water collection system for an automatic water collection system. Essentially the North side of the roof which is the low edge would have a gutter sloping down a bit to the West side where the water would run into a water storage tank in the covered area. That water tank would have some sort of pipe running inside to an auto waterer system.
Above is the South face, and it is somewhat difficult to read due to me having hashed this out in Google SketchUp in an hour or so. As you can see on the left is the open area for storage and getting to the door of the coop. The storage area is about 4 feet wide which should be plenty of room to store chicken supplies. Should is always an unfortunate word when it comes to design, but we don't want to get too extravagant here. The main body of the coop is 8 feet by 8 feet floor dimensions, giving 64 square feet on the ground which would be sufficient for 16 chickens.  As you can see the South face would ideally have 3 windows spaced out along the south wall. I'd want to put them between the studs, which I will probably be doing 16" on center for strength due to our weather, and wanting this to last a long long time. I would also want to build shutters for them for storms, and to close at night to keep the warmth in during the winter.

As you can see I haven't put in the structural members so walls and the roof are currently at 0 size, that's because this is the brainstorming for a first thought of look and feel stage. Things that aren't represented on this partially due to the lack of structural members being accounted for is the approximately 6" gap between the top of the wall and the bottom of the roof for the roof supports. That will be left there and not filled for ventilation. It will be covered with two layers of hardware cloth, and will probably have secure-able vent flaps to close down ventilation if we need to in the winter to protect from bad weather. The same things aren't yet sketched in for any of the other sides. Given the 1 square foot of ventilation per chicken there will need to be at least 8 square feet more of ventilation than will be provided by those simple gaps caused by the roof. They will probably be East and West side to maximize the air flow efficiency, and will probably include at least one at a lower level for use during the summer.
The most uninteresting face of the coop, the North face can be seen Left. There is one modification that I'd make to it now that I'm looking at it a day later, and that is to take the nesting boxes that are inside the hutch right now, and put them on the outside wall for ease of access for us, and to preserve floor space for the chickens. All you can see on the North wall at the moment is the sketched outline for the pop hatch near the center. It's very close to the wall of the human and storage area so it is easy to get at in the winter. I don't want to have to shovel any more than I already will if an automatic hatch doesn't work for some reason, and winter makes a lot of things not work.  
Above is a cut away of the East side showing a basic concept of the inside of the coop, again without the size of the building materials accounted for yet. You can see the nesting boxes that I want to have on the outside of the coop currently on the inside. I like the basic idea of how they are built though, and will be keeping that basic concept for them. For 12 chickens 6 nesting boxes would be enough, for 16 we would want 8 nesting boxes which just means shifting dimensions around a bit. One complication with putting them outside the hutch is making sure to not screw up structural integrity too much. With 16" on center studs though, and 16" wide nesting boxes that isn't too difficult. I will have to draw up a design for that to show in the future.

The scale figure shows that there should be plenty of room for humans to move around in the coop to clean and care for the chickens, as well as space to put roosting poles, food and water. It should also allow chickens to meander around easily enough. The big concern ethically is space and air flow, with protection being obvious because living in fear isn't a good life. That's partially what the heavy construction will do and partially what the low row of cinder blocks is for.

So, that's the brainstorming step of the process. Next stage is figuring out how much it will cost and what it would take to actually build it. In essence, is it reasonable? That will be the next installment of planning our chicken coop.


  1. Thanks for continuing to blog about your experiences - as an Australian city-dweller wishing to be a homesteader it's quite amazing to read :)

    1. Hey there James, thanks for the comment. I'm glad you are enjoying the blog and that you're a regular reader. I hope we can keep up interesting posts, and we'd love to keep hearing from you. Good luck on your dreams! Hopefully you can start small where you are, maybe even just a small indoor garden. It's amazing how nice it can be to make even that small step.

  2. About your oddly-behaving rabbit: In college some of my friends had a (fixed) pair of Flemmish giants (not good dorm pets!). One summer Natasha cause some kind of virus (supposition, but our best guess) that did something to either her brain or her ear, because ever after she could only move in a counter-clockwise circle. Boris never caught whatever it was, but Natasha was sick enough that her summer keeper was certain she was dead. The least I heard she was still moving in circles, but it never seemed to bother her.

    I know that's pretty different from what you're seeing here, but it might be something to think about.

    1. It may not be so different. When I went out Saturday I couldn't find the one that had been limping by the limp. I found it by behavior and appearance, but no limp. It seems it may have been a pulled muscle or a temporary inner ear problem or something of the sort.