Posts Tagged ‘Coops’

Chickens Are Mean

It’s been nearly a week since our new chicks came home and were lovingly adopted by our broody Silkie. It poured rain for most of the week and she and the trio spent their time in the coop. As the weather improved, they spent more of their time outside. That’s when the problems began. This Silkie has always been at the very bottom of the pecking order. I’ve red stories of new mommy hens going to heroic and insane lengths to protect their brood, but unfortunately she couldn’t stand against the venom of fellow bantam. If this little Brahma wasn’t my child’s favorite, she’d be soup by now. But even if we had BokBok stew (yes, my child named her), that’s not to say another bully wouldn’t do the same thing to the new family.

What to do? I supervised some flock together time, but it was tragic to see the feathers flying and panicked quartet running about. I scolded BokBok and tossed her out of the run and coop area, but she was relentless. This was chick endangerment and could easily result in the death of a little one so I separated the family in a makeshift brooder currently residing in the garage. At least they are still happily getting along.

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I really should have a predator-proof isolation coop. It would have been useful during the bloody chicken scare and for future cases when chickens need to be separated. I’m also trying to keep my expenses down, so the DIY weekend project is to construct a chicken tractor made from recycled pallets. I guess I better start taking them apart…

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Welcome to Our Chicken Coop & Run

With more chickens arriving this spring, I’ve been reassessing our current housing. Prior to blogging about our mini farming adventures, we purchased a chicken coop advertised to hold 16 birds and built a run accordingly with 20 square feet per chicken (8’x40′) so they would have plenty of room to be happy chickens when they aren’t free ranging. We are quite proud of the run. It is a sturdy construction, fully enclosed in hardware cloth, which is also partially buried underground. Needless to say, we’ve never had a predator problem inside the run. It’s a Fort Knox. My husband even installed a corrugated roof over the coop and food so the ladies and I would have a dry spot while doing our daily chores.

And then there is the coop itself. It was purchased online cheap, site unseen, in kit form. All I can say is that we got what we paid for and I regret not making a better investment or building it ourselves. On the positive side, the chickens love the nesting boxes and will even come back from free ranging to lay eggs inside them. On the negative side, the chickens hate the coop. “Really,” you say, “How can nice chickens hate a nice coop.” “Well,” I reply, “They refuse to use it.” What??? Since introducing them to the coop and allowing them to come home to roost, they have chosen instead not to roost on the roosts. Instead, they sleep on top of the roof. The roof???  Yup, they clumsily fly up to the A-frame roof and sleep like ducks in a row. Fortunately, we had an extremely mild winter, but I am concerned for what next year brings. So below are some photos of what works and what needs improvement.

Here’s our chicken run and coop.  It’s situated to be sunny in the winter and shaded in the summer and so we can watch the chicken antics from the house.  The run measures 8′ wide because that was the width of the hardware cloth.  There’s plenty of room and plenty of room makes for chickens that are nicer to each to other.

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This is a closer look at the corrugated roof that my husband added after our birdbrains decided to sleep under the stars.  As an added bonus, it is a real plus for making chores easier when it’s raining or snowing.  We sometimes in poor taste jokingly refer to it as the “favelas” in reference to the poor shantytowns of Brazil.  My Portuguese-American husband tells me that the word “favela” is actually derived from the Portuguese word for fable or fairytale so I’d like to think our set-up is closer to the latter meaning.

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Underneath the corrugated roof we have the food, water, free-choice calcium, and a galvanized metal can with lid for storing extra food and supplies.

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Ahh, here’s the most convenient part of our arrangement:  Running water from a frost-proof hydrant. This is also doubles as the water source for my mini farm plot.

Why my chickens hate the coop:  I think the roosts are too close to the ground and they prefer to be higher up.

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Yet perhaps I should be grateful the chickens prefer to sleep outdoors?  One evening after sweeping, the roof is again covered in chicken poop.  Backyard Poultry magazine had an interesting article about how fresh air is so much healthier and this arrangement certainly fits that description.

Why I hate the coop:  It started falling apart shortly after assembly.  The nesting boxes are precariously drooping and the walls are coming undone.  Because it is constructed of such poor quality materials, it is resisting our preservation efforts.

I thought the removable floor trays were a grand idea, but in practice they get jammed with litter.  So I must remove all the litter through the little pop hole prior to removing the trays for washing.  Doesn’t that defeat the purpose?  Once this coop does finally fall apart, I think I want to build a coop that employs the deep liter method.

Fortunately, the ladies do love their nesting boxes!

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Roughly in order of the pecking order, our mixed flock has a treat inside the run.

Pallet Chicken Coop Seeking Inspiration

Reduce, reuse, recycle… Waste not want not… Besides, have you seen the prices of chicken coops lately?!

My Faverolles eggs arrive soon and I’ve been mulling over how to best integrate them into our existing flock whilst simultaneously improving the housing quality for all of our birds.  So I’m setting myself a personal challenge:  Build a new coop from reclaimed materials… primarily from abandoned pallets.  I’m going to start with a stepping stone project:  A small mobile chicken tractor with the dual purpose of  brooder and isolation space in case of injury or illness.  I figure I have about 42 days (Another week until the eggs arrive, 21 days in the incubator, plus two weeks that the chicks will fit comfortably in their brooding quarters).

Now for the biggest part of the personal challenge:  I need to overcome my healthy respect (i.e. fear) of sharp power tools.

And even more importantly:  I need to keep my toddler safe from said tools.

Does anyone have any ideas about pallet coops?  I’d really appreciate any feedback, links, and/or pics!

“Art of the Chicken Coop” Book Review

Whimsical and fun!  Chris Gleason offers practical advice such as detailed materials lists for each project and step by step photographs.  The photography enhances the work and makes for a visually pleasing layout.  It is a great inspiration with a lot of fun designs.

If the author did a little more research about coop design, I think it would have benefitted the overall book and designs offered. For example, all the designs were very chicken-sized, which is great for the birds, but I find difficult to thoroughly clean since it’s hard for an adult to get in there and maneuver.  I also wish it had talked more about using the deep litter method and bioactivity.  On the easy to clean side, it did offer a design using a removable tray.  However, I have this on my current coop, but I find the litter gets stuck and jams the tray, making removal quite the task.  The only tall coop design offered was a chicken condo, but the roosts were on multiple levels and my research and experience finds that they all want to get up on the highest level and they will fight to do so.

Finally, the author talked about using reclaimed materials, which is great!  I think the icing on the cake would have been to include a chicken coop design based on pallets.  This would offer a free and standardized source of recycled materials to would-be coop builders everywhere.  How great would it be to have a step-by-step guide to building a pallet coop?!

Art of the Chicken Coop
by Chris Gleason
Fox Chapel Publishing
2011
Cover Image from Barnes and Noble

What Birdbrains!

The flock has decided to sleep on top of the coop in the snow tonight. They’ve never taken to sleeping inside. My guess is that the roosts are too low. However, with the snow coming down, I thought they might at least try. Fortunately, that wonderful husband of mine built a corrugated roof this past summer and “Backyard Poultry” magazine had a reassuring article about the benefits of open air this past issue, so I know they’ll be fine.

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