A Tour of Our Chicken Coop

Have you ever looked at some of the chicken coops on Pinterest? I know people whose houses are not as nice as some of these coops:

By way of contrast, here is my own coop:

Taken in the late summer, before tarping the run for winter

OK, don’t let the fact that it’s not Pinterest-worthy fool you. It is actually a very good and sturdy coop!

For winter, we placed a tarp over the run roof to keep out snow and made windbreaks by placing straw bales around the edges of the run.

I thought I might take you on a little tour of it in case you’re interested.🐓

First of all, the basic structure of the coop was repurposed from the builder’s shed from when our house was built. We had no idea this shed was even here when we bought the house a few years ago. The house is now 12 years old and the builder shed had become completely overgrown with brush such that we didn’t even know it was here until the autumn after we bought the house.

image

The view from standing next to the chicken run and looking up toward the path to the driveway

image

The back of the shed had no vinyl siding, so we painted it with deck and dock paint.  Phil cut several windows into the board and installed latches that lock closed with carabiners.

image

The coop has a second floor which the birds do not have access to. We store bales of clean pine bedding up there.

 

image

We used hardware cloth to make an attached predator-proof run.

image

A hardware cloth skirt extends out about two feet to keep out digging predators.

image

An old tire full of sand and food-grade diatomaceous earth serves as the run dust bath, which chickens use to keep their feathers free of parasites like lice and mites.

image

A store bought set of nesting boxes with roosts is attached to one wall. We have far more nesting boxes than nine hens need; three to four hens per nest is all that is necessary.

If you look carefully, you can see a nest full of nice fresh brown eggs

image

Screen cloth was affixed over the inside of the windows to keep mosquitoes out; hardware cloth covers keep out predators.

image

We keep a little rake in the coop for stirring droppings into the pine litter on the floor.

image

Tree stumps and straw bales in the run give the hens something to climb on to alleviate boredom when they are confined.

Phil made the door and added a little kick plate to make it easier to close while carrying things.

Under their sleeping roost, Phil made a droppings table. It is filled with a mixture of sand and zeolite; we keep a kitty litter scoop in the coop and scoop out the droppings table daily. Droppings are disposed of in a black compost can outside the run. After the droppings compost, they will be added to our gardens.

Feed hangs from a carabiner clip. For the winter months, a heated waterer on a cinder block placed inside a plastic bin provides a constant source of water while keeping the floor and litter dry.  The coop is not wired for electricity, so Phil ran a very long outdoor extension cord from the garage all the way out to the coop.

Phil made a pop door out of a plastic cutting board so as to avoid the problem of a wooden board warping and not sliding up and down the frame runners properly. He made the pop door runners out of kitchen drawer runners.  We close the pop door at night during cold weather but leave it open during warm weather since the run is predator-proof.

image

Happy pullets eating kitchen scraps in the summer.  We have created a deep litter floor over the dirt run by raking out soiled coop pine bedding into the run and tossing in shredded leaves, old straw, shredded paper junk mail, garden scraps, and any other kind of organic matter we have.  The chickens scratch around in it looking for tasty bugs to eat, which helps turn the bedding to cover their droppings, which prevents the run from getting smelly.

image

All around the coop I planted herbs that have traditionally been used to repel poultry pests and parasites, including mint, lavender, oregano, pennyroyal, and wormwood.  In the summer months, I toss sprigs of herbs into the nesting boxes.  I also planted Borage flowers and Russian comfrey  to provide yummy forage for the hens.

A few pictures of our flock, with breed listed, out to free range on this cold, windy March day:

Black Australorp

Plymouth Barred Rock

Light Brahma

Starting from the bottom: Rhode Island Red, Buff Orpington, Silver-Laced Wyandotte, Golden-Laced Wyandotte

Hope you enjoyed this little coop tour!🐥

Preparing for Spring: sowing seeds, planning for poultry, and dissuading the dogs.

We’ve had some strange weather here the last few days – it warmed up from below-zero temperatures midweek to the 50s on Friday and Saturday, resulting in a fierce wind that sent dried leaves swirling and dancing through the forest, driving our Shiba Inu Ruby mad with delight as she chased them hither and yon.  Earlier in the week it had snowed and even the snowflakes were worth chasing and snapping out of midair:

image

Spring is coming, and we’ll make a second attempt at raising poultry; we shall not be deterred by last year’s failure!   Continue reading

Pretty chicks.

Hooray, the chicks are here!

image

image

My family raised laying hens when I was in high school, but I haven’t had any since then.  We’ve been wanting to get some to raise for the fresh eggs, so when I was in the farm store Sunday and saw that they had gotten their spring chicks, ducklings, and poults in, I asked my husband if we could get a few, and he agreed.  We might go back on Wednesday and get a couple of ducks as well, since we have a pond and their eggs are also edible, not to mention their droppings can be composted and used in the garden.

Chickens are easy to raise, help control bugs on your property, don’t require much room, and supply you with fresh (and organic if you raise them on organic feed and kitchen scraps) eggs.  Many cities allow you to have up to four hens, so even if you don’t live out in the country, you can still raise them if you have even a little backyard.

We got four different breeds, and the children immediately set to naming them:

  • Elphaba – a Black Jersey, named after the witch in Wicked
  • Toast – an Isa Brown, so named because she’s the color of buttered toast
  • Henrietta – a Light Brahma, named after their great-great Aunt Henrietta
  • Elsa – a Buff Orpington, named after J.T. Cluck’s wife in the Hank the Cowdog series

image

When you get baby chicks, they’ll often be about a week old or so.  You need to make some kind of brooder for them; we’re just using a big plastic tote here, but you can put them in most anything:

image

They also need warmth; we’re using a 125 watt incandescent bulb with a brooder reflector, which my husband attached to the base of an old metal bar stool:

image

Every week or so, you raise the lamp a bit more in order to lower the temperature by 5 degrees; here is what the sheet from the farm store recommended:

  • Age of chick – temperature in °F
  • 1 week – 90°
  • 2 weeks – 85°
  • 3 weeks – 80°
  • 4 weeks – 75°
  • 5 weeks – 70°

I put a thermometer in the brooder, but the chicks will huddle under the lamp together if they’re too cold and if they’re too hot, they’ll move as far away from the lamp as possible and even pant.

In the bottom of your brooder, put in a layer about 4-6 inches thick of pine shavings:

image

Change the bedding every few days so that you don’t have damp bedding which harbors bacteria that can make chicks sick.

Give them clean water and food; the feeder I bought was about $8 and keeps them from getting in their food pan and soiling it:

image

When we got them home, I noticed one of the chicks had pasty butt:

Chicks are prone to a condition called “pasty butt” where dropings stick to their vents and clog it up, making it impossible for them to relieve themselves. If left untreated this can kill them. Check your chicks’ bottoms every few hours, especially during the first 2 weeks. If you find a pasty bottom carefully soak and remove the plug, pat the area and dry and apply a little vaseline or vegetable oil to the area. Organic ACV (apple cider vinegar) in their drink water is found to really help prevent this condition. A ratio of 3-4 tablespoons to a gallon water is recommended.

I found a helpful video that shows how to clean pasty butt:

I also found some good reading material on taking care of pasty butt here:

Treating pasty butt in baby chicks

While we wait for their feathers to grow in, my husband will be working on building them a coop and fencing in a chicken yard for them.  They should be able to be moved outside by early to mid May.  By mid to late July (16-20 weeks), we should start seeing our first eggs from these gals!

For some reason, I feel like ending this post by listening to Pick a Little, Talk a Little (Goodnight Ladies) from the Music Man. 🙂

Pick a little, talk a little, pick a little, talk a little,
Cheep cheep cheep, talk a lot, pick a little more
Pick a little, talk a little, pick a little, talk a little,
Cheep cheep cheep, talk a lot, pick a little more