Some people build coops with either a wooden floor, or pour a cement slab. Due to the cost of having a wooden floor and the cost of pouring cement, I am going with a bare earth floor. Also, a bare earth floor is natural to the chickens. This is the way chickens have been raised for thousands of years. My option is to either build a pole barn, or build a leanto chicken coop. At the current time I am leaning towards a pole barn.
Issues that need to be addressed: Square footage, security, food, water, lighting and laying boxes.
In another article we discussed how many chickens are needed for SHTF. In that article we talked about having as many as 60 – 80 laying hens. Lets go with a high number of 80 chickens. 80 X 3 = 240 square feet.
Keep in mind 3 square feet is a bare minimum. The more space chickens have, the better. When chickens are packed together, they get bored and will start fighting and pecking each other.
The pole barn I am looking at building provides 192 square feet, which is 12 feet wide and 16 feet long.
The local building supply stores sell metal roofing in 8 and 12 foot long sections. Two pieces 12 feet long will be enough to do one end. Four pieces 8 feet long will be enough to do one side. This way the metal does not have to be cut to size and there is no scrap material left over.
192 square feet divided by 3 = 64 chickens.
Lets say we have 60 laying hens and 4 roosters. This gives an estimated 40 eggs a day during the summer months.
Keep in mind, this 12 X 16 pole barn will be attached to a 25 X 50 chicken yard. During bad weather and nighttime will probably be the only time when all of the chickens will be in the coop at the same time.
With the coop and the attached chicken yard, 64 chickens would have at estimated 22.5 square feet each. If that is not enough room, the chickens will be let out of the chicken yard to free range. I plan on letting the chickens free range as much as possible, as this will reduce the feed cost.
Security – We can not invest all of this time, effort and money into a project, only for the chickens to be killed by a coyote, fox or bobcat.
To prevent something from digging under the wall of the pole barn, I plan on using 2X4X48 inch tall galvanized wire, bend it 90 degrees so that 2 feet of wire is on the ground and 2 feet is secured to the wall. A shorter layer of 1/2 inch hardware cloth will be laid over the 2×4 wire. The metal sheeting would go over the wire on the wall.
Metal sheeting will extend 8 feet up the wall.
The double wire is to prevent large predators, and snakes from entering the coop. I can not be to worried about snakes as they are going to find a way in. But what I can do is make it difficult for the snakes to get in.
The wire extending 24 inches away from the wall is to prevent foxes and coyotes from digging under the wall. To help hold the wire down, large stones will be placed around the edge of the wall.
The problem with open chicken feeders, chickens like to scratch at the feed as they eat. The scratching throws feed on the floor where it can go to waste.
To prevent the chickens from scratching and wasting feed, take a piece of 3 inch PVC pipe, drill a 2 inch hole every few inches along the pipe.
Glue a 90 degree elbow on one end, place a PVC cap on the other end. Glue 3 – 4 foot section of PVC onto the elbow.
Position the device so the holes are set at a slight angle from the top, and the supply tube is straight up.
I am thinking of placing the PVC chicken feeder in the middle of the coop secured to an upright. This will provide access from two sides.
Water – this coop is being designed for anywhere from 30 – 60 chickens. With that many chickens it will be impossible to go with a bowl type waterer. As soon as the chickens start dipping their beaks in the water, dirt will enter the water.
The only viable option I see is to install PVC pipe with water nipples.
How is the water supposed to get to the chicken coop? That is the fun part. I am looking at a solar powered 12 volt water pump. One example is a 12 volt sump pump system marketed to people who have basements. When the power goes out, the 12 volt system kicks in to keep the basement pumped out. The kits include on/off float that goes into the sump of the basement and 12 volt pump. All I need to supply is battery, solar panel, and solar charge controller.
Where the water supposed to come from? There is a stream maybe about 30 feet from the chicken coop.
What will the water be stored in? A pair of 55 gallon plastic drums stored under an extension of the pole barn roof. The drums will be connected with PVC pipe so the water level is distributed equally.
Lets say the drums will only have 40 gallons in them – this is to provide head room for the float. Two drums would provide 80 gallons of water. Need more then 80 gallons, add another drum.
Math time. This is not rocket science so we are going with rough estimated numbers.
Lets say my 13 hens drink 2 gallons of water a day during peak summer months. I live in southeast Texas. During July and August high 90s and low 100s are not uncommon.
128 ounces per gallon, 256 ounces for 2 gallons.
256 ounces divided by 13 hens = 19.7 liquid ounces per chicken per day. Lets round that up to 20 ounces per hen per day.
30 chickens X 20 ounces = 600 ounces (4.68 gallons) of water a day.
60 chickens X 20 ounces = 1,200 ounces (9.37 gallons) of water a day.
80 chickens X 20 ounces = 1,600 ounces (12.5 gallons) of water a day.
600 ounces divided by 128 ounces per gallon = 4.6 gallons per day. Lets round that up to 5 gallons. For 30 chickens we need an estimated 5 gallons of water every day during peak summer months.
Since the coop is being designed for up to 60 chickens, we need to plan on 10 gallons a day during peak summer months.
The water supply is being designed for 80 gallons between two 55 gallon plastic drums. This gives an estimated 7 – 8 days without having to refill the drums.
Keep in mind these are rough estimates that have been rounded up, so the numbers are probably going to be very conservative.
If we need more water, add another 55 gallon drum to the system for an estimated 120 gallons.
Lighting – This ties in with the water system as the light system is going to be 12 volt and solar powered.
The roof of the pole barn will be facing north and south. I plan on mounting the solar panels on the south facing overhang directly above the water barrel, batteries and charge controller. This way everything is in the same location.
With the lights and the water pump sharing the batteries I need to make sure the solar panels are large enough to fully charge the batteries when not in use.
I plan on installing a light switch at the door to the coop, which will turn on the LED lights mounted to the rafters.
The lights will either be boat or RV 12 volt LED lights, which can be found just about anywhere.
Laying Boxes – Will be accessible from the outside of the coop.
Why do we want the laying boxes accessible from outside of the coop? Do you want to step in chicken crap every time the eggs are collected?
My current chicken flock of 13 hens use 2 – 3 of the 5 laying boxes. A lot of times they only use 2 boxes.
I may start out with 6 – 8 laying boxes in the pole barn. If that is not enough more will be added later.
Keep in mind everything in this article is still in the planning phase.
In the next few months my wife and I plan on moving to the homestead. After we get moved behind the water and septic, the pole barn chicken coop will be my main project.
Something I am a little worried about is the limit of around 64 chickens for this coop design. But, I have an existing chicken coop that can easily support 10 chickens. The plan is to turn the existing chicken coop into a chicken tractor that can be moved around the garden area. Now we are at 70 – 75 chickens and with no crowding.
During a long term SHTF survival situation I would like to be able to house at least 70 – 80 chickens. Between the pole barn and the existing chicken tractor, I think that number can be achieved.
Suggestions and feedback are welcome.