The Coop: Planning
May 5, 2011 by wolfandfinch
OK so after my whiny post the other day the man has acquiesced to me at least getting the coop built. So, I’m in full planning mode now. Well, let’s be honest I have been planning for a while. Here’s what I’ve been thinking about to get ready:
- site placement
- site size
- coop and run placement in site
- coop dimensions
- chicken needs
- maintenance requirements
- garden add-ons
- family stuff
So obviously that is a lot. I’ll be starting to put together posts on each of these elements for you to follow my progress. Today I’ll start with site, coop and run sizes and placement.
Chickens need sunlight, but not as much as plants, obviously. So when choosing the site I wanted to keep in mind that some shade was fine, but not total shade. I didn’t want to steal a great sunny spot from the vegetables, either.
There are other important “rules” too, including the real rules – City of Vancouver bylaws (see below) – that say the coop must be no closer than 3′ from the property line (not the fence), although I have to say that’s been told to me by people in the know, but not apparent in the actual bylaw.
You also don’t want the coop too close to your house in case it attracts rats (keep your coop clean!) and you don’t want it too far since you need to go get the eggs and check in every day.
Another factor is the ground. Chickens will destroy it. You want to choose one of the higher points in your property to avoid a mud pit, and you shouldn’t care too much about what’s there. I.E., this isn’t going to be lawn area when the chickens are done with it (or you’re done with them!)
I’ve chosen a high-ish spot off to the side where there is a tree stump for them to play on. The ground doesn’t get boggy, and it’s partly shaded. I intend to use a combination of straw and sand to keep the mud down. You do have to make sure there is space for them to dirt bathe though – that’s how you keep mites and fleas at bay. I’ll be putting a sort of sandbox in for them under their coop since it will stay relatively dry.
City bylaws state that each chicken requires 4 square feet of coop space, and 10 square feet of enclosed and partially roofed run. You can have a maximum of 4 birds. So I need a minimum of 16 square feet in the coop and 40 in the run. After researching chickens online for the past 6 months or so I would say this is a minimum. I am planning a 5X6 coop (so 30 square feet) and a 13X 5 run, or 65 square feet. The coop will be up on legs, sitting inside the run – to save space while giving the chickens the advantage of the entire run.
If you have seen the garden layout or the pictures, the coop is going in between the syringa bush on the west side, about midway down the lot. The fence on that side is currently 18″ over the property line (towards us) but we’re about to replace that fence, properly on the line. When we do that the coop will be 3′ from the line, and the run starts at the end of the coop. It will also be up against the “lean-to” we currently have up housing reno odds and ends, which may one day be taken down. Between the fence and the coop will be a spot to house feed and straw securely. You can’t have it accessible or rats and other pests, along with weather, will get in and ruin it. So I’ll be building a short, covered spot to store metal garbage cans in.
So that is it for site, coop and run placement and dimensions. Next up I’ll be talking about chicken needs and maintenance.
Here’s the applicable provisions of the Vancouver bylaw on hen-keeping.
7.16 A person who keeps one or more hens must:
(a) provide each hen with at least 0.37 m² of coop floor area, and at least 0.92 m²
of roofed outdoor enclosure;
(b) provide and maintain a floor of any combination of vegetated or bare earth in
each outdoor enclosure;
(c) provide and maintain, in each coop, at least one perch, for each hen, that is at
least 15 cm long, and one nest box;
(d) keep each hen in the enclosed area at all times;
(e) provide each hen with food, water, shelter, light, ventilation, veterinary care,
and opportunities for essential behaviours such as scratching, dust-bathing, and
roosting, all sufficient to maintain the hen in good health;
(f) maintain each hen enclosure in good repair and sanitary condition, and free
from vermin and obnoxious smells and substances;
(g) construct and maintain each hen enclosure to prevent any rodent from
harbouring underneath or within it or within its walls, and to prevent entrance
by any other animal;
(h) keep a food container and water container in each coop;
(i) keep each coop locked from sunset to sunrise; - 12 -
(j) remove leftover feed, trash, and manure in a timely manner;
(k) store manure within a fully enclosed structure, and store no more than three
cubic feet of manure at a time;
(l) remove all other manure not used for composting or fertilizing;
(m) follow biosecurity procedures recommended by the Canadian Food Inspection
(n) keep hens for personal use only, and not sell eggs, manure, meat, or other
products derived from hens;
(o) not slaughter, or attempt to euthanize, a hen on the property;
(p) not dispose of a hen except by delivering it to the Poundkeeper, or to a farm,
abattoir, veterinarian, mobile slaughter unit, or other facility that has the
ability to dispose of hens lawfully; or
(q) not keep a hen in a cage.