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Author Topic: Building the Best Breeding Pens?  (Read 4110 times)

Courtney Galle

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Building the Best Breeding Pens?
« on: May 31, 2015, 01:23:12 PM »
Hello everyone,

I'm brand new to ABC and about a year into my Ameraucana breeding program. My husband and I realized that we really need to get our breeding pens designed and built for our up coming cockerels and pullets. To date we have one large (really big) coop with my two AM (is it okay to abbreviate?) hens and two AM cocks, mixed with my egg layers. It has been fine having the two cock birds together as they were raised together and don't tend to fight but obviously this won't be sustainable next year when I have more than the two breeder hens.

SO I have a huge favor to ask the group. Could you please let me know what you have ended up with as your breeding pen set up, what you tried and hated, loved, etc. Our history has been to build based on "cool internet plans" or to fit existing structures (which turned out not to be square, ugh) and then months later regretting large portions of the design.

At the moment we are leaning toward this type of design: http://www.backyardchickens.com/t/731570/my-lg-fowl-breeding-pens

We have it set up as a 4x4 pens divided by solid wood two feet up and then wire between pens and with solid wood back and ends. Each pen would also have a pop door leading to a 10x4 wire run for each pen. I would plan to alternate which group was outside to prevent fighting, and free ranging one group a day for exercise etc.

I think we may be focused too much on giving them room and free ranging access but with 10 acres and no other live stock something should be out on the land.

Lastly, how do you house your birds the rest of the year? Do they stay in these pens year round as flocks or do you integrate them back into larger groups? If you leave them in the breeding pens how do you do your set up inside each one (i.e. roosts, food, nest boxes).

Thanks so much for sharing your experience and knowledge!

Court and Marcus
Dr. Courtney Galle

"Biology exalts life's diversity, past and present"

Reece, Campbelle. Biology (Seventh Edition). Boston: Benjamin Cummings, 2005, pg. 707.

Don

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Re: Building the Best Breeding Pens?
« Reply #1 on: May 31, 2015, 03:23:45 PM »
Courtney,  I have experimented with a lot of designs from tractors, dog kennels to hutch designs and they all seem to have pros and cons.  But, those are nice pens for a couple groups of birds.  The 4x8 module is a good start because of the material dimensions.  4x4 is good for a trio of LF or you can do a pair in a 4'x32" so you can get three pens in the 8' length.    I would add more overhang on the sides and maybe the front.  Also I would always have a solid wall along the ground up to approx 24" or so.  Even small dogs can go thru welded wire fabric or chicken wire if they really want it.  And I've had that happen a number of times thru the years.  One other option is to make it 2 levels, second level up about 4' off the ground.  You have to reach a bit to catch a bird once in a while. But you get four pens under the same roof.  Also IMO you might want to plan bigger.  Two pens are a drop in the bucket if you are at this for any length of time.  But you can make in 8' modules in case you have to move it down the road.  You might want to place paving stones, wire or an elec fence around the bottom to deter night diggers too.   

Its great if you can develop some individual pens too.  These are great for pair matings, conditioning, or letting a bird rest or recoup.  My hens need a rest during the breeding season from the males. LF are very rough on the females during the season.  He can have his own little cage for several days and visit a couple times a week if you are still hatching.  Or you can keep the hens in their own individual pens and rotate him from pen to pen.  You know for sure which hen is producing the best youngsters in pair matings.  Max posted a design for a bank of conditioning pens a year of so ago that seem to be working well. 
      http://ameraucanabreedersclub.org/forum/index.php/topic,2156.0.html

Roosts can be 2x4 lumber at about 24-36" and nests can be anything from buckets/landscape pots to a 10x12x12 tall box.  I have a few pens where I have a 12x32" board leaned into the corner for a nest.  Just a dark space where the eggs are protected during the day.  I use 1 gal cans for water and feed fastened to the wall near the door.  I get these from our church kitchen before they go to the trash, and they go to recycling when they begin looking old and rusty.   

I am hoping that Paul with get around to "breeding and grow out pens" with one of his installments later on.  I've been looking for pictures of his setup for a while. 

Our birds pretty much stay in most of their pens full time unless we can group the hens into Large summer/fall pens.  I have heard lots of folks that put all the cocks in the same pen for this period, but have never had the heart to watch them fight the first couple of days.   
« Last Edit: June 16, 2016, 09:34:54 PM by Don »
Don Cash
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Don

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Re: Building the Best Breeding Pens?
« Reply #2 on: June 08, 2015, 11:08:48 PM »
One nice thing about the design in the link you posted, is that you can build it tall enough to walk in.  This would be really helpful if you wanted to build grow out pens  that were deeper than 4', and you can make them up to 8' deep using the plywood module and still be able to move it in the future if needed.

But if you decided to go with double level, you can build these any size to suit your need, LF vs bantam, breeding vs conditioning pens.  The 4x8 plywood is the easiest module.  So you can make the 2 pens 4' x 4' or 3 pens 2'-8" x 4', so on.   If 4' is too deep you can cut the plywood into thirds and make the pen 2'-8" deep.  Two of these sections would make a pen 2'8 x 8' long.  And the module can be duplicated for longer banks of pens, save lumber and roofing but still able to relocate.   

I am going to ask for some help posting the sketch because of size.
« Last Edit: June 09, 2015, 09:52:36 AM by Don »
Don Cash
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Don

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Re: Building the Best Breeding Pens?
« Reply #3 on: June 09, 2015, 07:47:51 PM »
This might help if you want to look at these options.
Don Cash
" No word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause."  Mark Twain

Don

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Re: Building the Best Breeding Pens?
« Reply #4 on: June 09, 2015, 07:54:03 PM »
The plywood sizes can be modular in several configurations and the 2x4 materials will generally follow suit.
You can raise the bottom framing and provide a plywood lower level as well as the second level.  I use the rim board as the floor structure to save material. 
Don Cash
" No word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause."  Mark Twain

Courtney Galle

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Re: Building the Best Breeding Pens?
« Reply #5 on: July 11, 2015, 12:10:52 AM »
thanks! I'll look over your drawing tomorrow with my coop builder husband. He came up with some great designs and ideas to save money but still have them secure as we have coyotes and bobcats all around. I'll see if he has any drawin of what he came up with as well.

Since we last posted we ran water out to the coops which is great once we got the city to patch the break we made in THEIR water pipe... It's was such a mess! Lol! Slowly we are expanding. :)
Dr. Courtney Galle

"Biology exalts life's diversity, past and present"

Reece, Campbelle. Biology (Seventh Edition). Boston: Benjamin Cummings, 2005, pg. 707.

Don

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Re: Building the Best Breeding Pens?
« Reply #6 on: January 17, 2016, 06:02:11 AM »
How are your building projects coming along Courtney?  What did your husband contractor and you decide to build?
Don Cash
" No word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause."  Mark Twain

Michelle Ogden

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Re: Building the Best Breeding Pens?
« Reply #7 on: February 15, 2016, 09:15:19 PM »
Here is my "Quad Coop". It holds a "quad" of "quads". ;)
Took FOREVER to build, but that's because I built most of it by myself. With a few hours of help from my 9 year old, a few hours of help from sis in law, and a few days of help from my dad. The coop itself is 5'x8', divided into four 2'x5' sections. The run is 12'x12', divided into four 3'x12' sections. Each coop has two next boxes and two roosting bars, as well as its own window. Each coop also has its own access door, so that I can clean it out.

Don

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Re: Building the Best Breeding Pens?
« Reply #8 on: February 16, 2016, 07:38:21 AM »
Nice coop Michele.  It looks like a great unit for the Ameraucanas you are currently keeping.  And a great use of the space for this size coop.  It looks bigger than the dimensions that you listed, but the birds appear to have plenty of room and I am sure are doing well.  Are you able to keep grass in the outside runs now or what works best for you here?  I have seen gravel and just bare ground. One of the breeders thinks that small gravel works well for an uncovered outside run too. 
Don Cash
" No word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause."  Mark Twain

Michelle Ogden

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Re: Building the Best Breeding Pens?
« Reply #9 on: February 16, 2016, 06:07:00 PM »
They seem to be happy in them. I had hoped to give them turns free-ranging, but with FIVE different Hawks living on our property, I'm thinking they'll be just fine in the coop!
I did end up getting metal roofing over the run (after these pics were taken). Keeps it a lot drier, and I'm hoping will keep them cooler in the summer too.
I was using straw in the run, but will be switching to pine shavings. Apparently one of my pullets thought straw was edible and ended up with a terminal case of impacted crop. :(
Oh, also, here are my isolation/juvenile/broody pens. There's three of them in a 3'x8' floor space, and two feet tall.


Don

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Re: Building the Best Breeding Pens?
« Reply #10 on: February 23, 2016, 09:41:39 AM »
Michele,  I think the roof over the runs will help a lot for moisture and shade.  I have a few similar outside runs and the rain still gets blown in and makes a mess of the run space.  I can't find shavings in bulk and buying in bales is an expense I don't really want to afford especially for the quantity required for runs.  I have used some wood chips.  The kind that you can get delivered free from tree trimming companies.  They are rough and the birds do seem to enjoy scratching thru them.  Does anyone else have any experience with these or other run bedding?   

Has anyone heard anything from Courtney?
Don Cash
" No word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause."  Mark Twain

Max

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Re: Building the Best Breeding Pens?
« Reply #11 on: February 24, 2016, 07:39:28 AM »
In my area, the soil is called black clay. As long as it is dry it's ok. If it rains, it makes the sloppiest mess you ever seen. The water will not absorb like it does in sandy areas. With all the flooding we have had in the last year, I finally had enough and put floors in all my breeder pens. I am using pine shavings about 3 inches deep. It is a much cleaner setup and I don't have to move the pens anymore. So far, the shavings are holding up well. They have been in the pens for two months and are still pretty clean with very little smell other than pine.  :)
Max Strawn

DeWayne Edgin

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Re: Building the Best Breeding Pens?
« Reply #12 on: April 30, 2016, 10:52:25 PM »
Courtney did you ever get your breeding pens built? If so do you have any pictures of them that you could share ? It would be helpful if people could see what we use for ideas for their pens. I should post a few pictures of mine also i guess.  :)

Don

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Re: Building the Best Breeding Pens?
« Reply #13 on: May 02, 2016, 08:05:50 AM »
DeWayne, It would be great to see pics of your handiwork.  I am sure they are as nice as the the goat building you built for your children's goats. 
Don Cash
" No word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause."  Mark Twain

Susan Mouw

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Re: Building the Best Breeding Pens?
« Reply #14 on: May 02, 2016, 09:56:08 AM »
We decided, last year, to completely rebuild all of our breeding pen coops.  We're not done yet, but I have 2 up and 2 more to go.  This is the concept hubby and I came up with and, I have to say, it is working beautifully in the two pens that are finished.

In the process of re-building the coops, we are also remodeling some of the exterior of the pens themselves, with a bit of paint, new pen doors, and replacing all chicken wire with 1"x2" hardware cloth.

Here are a few pics.
The Back


The Front


The Inside


In place


Susan Mouw
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http://www.sandcastlesfarm.com