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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Fresh-Air Poultry Houses: The Classic Guide to Open-Front Chicken Coops for Healthier Poultry

Now that the bee hive is done, I've resumed work on the hutch for the kitchen, which is Goal Number One on my list, and one I don't expect to take very long.  The next project after that is to get the hen house done.  Miriam of Mucky Boots Farm suggested that I read Fresh Air Poultry Houses, by Prince T. Woods, M.D.

Another library copy
Originally printed in 1924 as 'Modern Fresh-Air Poultry Houses', it's been republished by Robert Plamondon of the Norton Creek Press.  I've actually been following Robert's blog for awhile now and ran across the book there.  While Robert doesn't post very often, his blog has a wealth of information on the raising of chickens.  One page in particular has some very interesting information on it which I think anyone raising or contemplating raising chickens ought to find useful.

So I was glad to be reminded about this book, which I borrowed from the library. I'll be honest here; it was written in 1924, and a great majority of the book seems to be an argument in favor of using open air housing, a nail which he hammers over and over and over to the point that I found myself skimming over vast sections of the book. He also spent most of the book describing housing sufficient for 100 birds at a time, which is twenty times the number approved by my local municipality, and which might be useful for someone who wants to keep a hundred birds at a time, but isn't what I want to do. However, I am convinced enough that it works and am willing to try it for my hen house.  I finally found what I was looking for on pages 124 and 125: dimensions and descriptions for a 6X10 house small enough for my backyard.

So the gist of the review of Fresh Air Poultry Houses: The Classic Guide to Open-Front Chicken Coops for Healthier Poultry is that the information in it is worth reading.  Borrow it if you can, buy it if you must, but don't expect detailed plans.

I'm glad I read it, and have a better idea of what I'm going to do, but since I have other ideas about this hen house that I'll be making, I'll be using the information from the book as a guide only.  I'll have to create plans from the ground up (literally) for myself from scratch.

Which is kind of a funny chicken pun.


Lisa said...

Hi Paula.
A 6' x 10' coop is HUGE for 5 birds! I have 8 birds who are in a 5' x 8' coop. Yes-the birds would have plenty of room to move about and have their own space-but for you-that is a lot of bedding needed to cover that amount of space and a lot of shoveling for you to clean it out. Also, if your coop is that large, you will need to think about where you want to put the food, water, nest boxes etc. Close to the "human door" is best as you will inevitably go out to the coop and see an egg to gather or food and water to fill/change-and be in the wrong footwear! It's best if you can reach and don't have to go in!!

Paula said...

Thanks Lisa; he mentioned that the 6X10 was adequate for twenty-five hens, which is still five times what I can do legally, so I'd planned to scale it down from there, as I can keep only five birds, tops. I still need the ratio of the dimensions to be correct in order to create the cushion of air that keeps the draft off the birds but still allows me to be able to get into the house (I guess it's a good thing I'm only five two!) I said, I'm only using this as a guide.

And I guess you don't know me very well yet; I've already established that my first clothing choice (after pajamas) are my overalls; I have a variety of muck boots and and garden clogs that I don when going outside, aside from the fact that I live in the very wet, read: muddy Pacific Northwest- you always have to be prepared for mud. I've considered the nesting boxes with the outside access and at this writing believe that I really want to have to go into the coop in order to get eggs so that I can actively manage the deep litter, see to the hens' water, food, and to their general spirits and health every day, and then go get my eggs. All my livestock choices are for the good of my garden first; they're more like partners, really, and then for the product they produce second. Bees are for pollination first, honey and wax second. Hens are for manure and insect control first, eggs second. It's just the way I roll.

And I plan on using the deep litter method, for all the reasons cited on Plamondon's site, so the shoveling will be kept to a minimum. I wish that practice worked in my house; I am such a lousy housekeeper!!!!

Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said...

I am so glad you're planning for chickens!

I haven't read about the open-front chicken houses, but I suspect they're about keeping disease risk low in a relatively crowded environment. Since you're limited to five birds, if you've got enough space for them to peck and dust-bathe and roost, you've got a low disease risk to begin with.

Kevin always says that we design chicken coops for us, not for the chickens -- they have to be easy to manage, convenient for the gathering of eggs, inexpensive to build and maintain. Chickens just need a nice box, away from wind and weather, and space to do what chickens do.

I'd second the convenience of being able to get eggs from outside the coop. I check on my chickens every day, but it's nice to be able to gather the eggs without getting poo on your shoes.

Can't wait to see your coop!

Paula said...

Okay...I'll think about outside access for eggs...I'm just afraid that it will make me too lazy to stay on top of the girls' well-being. But I'll still consider it!