I thought I had it all figured out. That's how I should have known that I didn't have it quite right. So, after taking a step back and getting some wonderful advice I have reviewed, and revamped the chicken coop plans!
Many things are not going to change... but the size of the overall design of the chicken pastures is going to be MUCH larger.
In my article Chickens - The Coop I talked about our plans for setting up
- Hen House Design/Size
- Nesting boxes
- Water Source
Most of those things are staying the same. The biggest change that we're going to make with the chickens is the size of each of the chicken pastures/paddocks/runs. The original plan called for a 20'x20' (400 sq ft) pasture that was divided into 4 sections that were 10'x10' (100 sq ft) each. But I got some feedback that indicated my paddocks were too small to support the 20 laying hens that we had planned to keep in them.
They would have been adequate if our intentions were to simply use chicken feed as 100% of their diet - but if we wanted to make any attempt to use Paul Wheaton's methods to Eliminate the Cost of Chicken Feed then we were going to have to make some changes. The feedback indicated that we either needed to change the number of chickens that we planned to keep (SIGNIFICANTLY), or we needed to expand the space available to our chickens.
We decided on both! We are still playing with the exact number of chickens that we're going to have, but I think we'll probably end up somewhere around 10 laying hens (half of the original number). We also went out with some string and a measuring tape and looked at how much space we would be able/willing to give up for the chickens. We feel pretty comfortable that we can take the original concept of 20'x20' and modify that to be a 40'x60' chicken area. The smaller box in the picture below represents the space that we were originally going to give the chickens, and the red box represents the new chicken area (roughly).
So, with the new configuration, each chicken run/pasture/paddock will go from 10'x10' (100 sq feet) to 20'x30' (600 sq feet). The question is - will that be enough space for around 10 chickens... if the plan is to move them from pasture to pasture every 10 days.
We have also discussed the possibility of waiting until next year to have chickens. We have a ton of work left to finish on the house, and the chickens are not a priority. The area where the chickens will go is currently the home of the falling shed... you may remember from another post (Officially Our Mini Farm!). The old red shed was built in 1917, and is being held up by cables that run through the interior of the building. Inside the shed has been packed down over the last 100 years by a variety of farming implements and people... there is a ton of debri that needs to be cleaned up before chickens can take over that area.
So, we are thinking that our goal for the chickens this year, might be to get the red shed taken down, get the debris cleaned up, get the packed earth turned over and to plant some alfalfa, clover, sunflower, berries, etc. That will give this year for the ground to get somewhat established before we put chickens on it next year. In case you're wondering why all of this matters so much to us - please feel free to read another article by Paul Wheaton on Raising Chickens.