Suddenly, I feel like I am immersed in everything chicken. Chicken housing, chicken poop, chicken feathers, chicken wire and of course yummy chicken eggs!
I never really intended raise chickens in my backyard. One late August afternoon several years ago, I received a call asking if I could provide refuge for a lone hen. Predators had decimated the small flock my son had raised from day-olds and Helen was the only girl tough enough to have survived. I quickly constructed a makeshift home using a large wire dog crate in a concrete dog run. Hardly ideal but it did the job.
Helen has proven to be a most amazing and giving hen, easily producing a lovely large brown egg virtually every single day for over two years. We don’t provide anything special like extra light or heat but she does have shelter from rain and wind, a constant supply of good organic layer pellets, various garden and kitchen scraps and free choice oyster shell and grit. Another sweetly surprising trait (at least, I think so) is that you never have to catch her. As you approach to pick her up, she kindly crouches down and waits. Maybe this is not as unusual as I think? (I think its pretty nifty!)
So, when a relative mentioned a few weeks ago that she wanted to re-home her lone hen…well, you got it. Chick Chick (Chick for short) entered the mix. Chick was a rumored egg-eater and had been also been found guilty of pooping on the porch. My last story, Chicken Changes, details the arrival of Chick and if you follow our adventures on Facebook, you may have seen some posts updating you and promising some photos.
I really intended to post this much sooner, but between all the chicken activity and being away from my little internet-connected homestead several days each week (helping 88-year-old Grandma), it just didn’t happen. Now, there is just more to say and show.
As I mentioned in my last post, we had to remove (enter Sawzall) the bottom run portion of her chicken tractor in order to fit it into the bed of the borrowed pick up truck leaving us with a coop in need of maintenance and retrofitting. I will say here that I advise you fellow chicken people to snatch up any useable poultry wire you may find free or cheap. That stuff is way pricey! Also, if you intend to apply poultry wire, invest in at least one stapler and plenty of staples. We used both a hand-powered and a newly purchased electric stapler, plus a few nail in staples to secure this project. The hand model has more power to drive longer staples into harder wood but the electric is much easier and a whole lot faster. Since we were using both wood we had on hand and new plywood, we were dealing with various hardnesses, grains, etc. A few trips to the local building store and “some” dollars later (I stopped keeping track), we were ready to build a new and improved chicken condo…
Arriving home. A good solid structure but in need of a run and some fixing. Chick is standing on the drop down ramp which at this point is the only entrance/exit other than the long side doors, shown here open on the near side and closed on the far side. The wire under shows how we had to cut away the bottom portion.
This is a piece of the plywood that was covering the ends. Not only was it so deteriorated that I was able to easily remove it with my hands, but it had no doors and no vents.
Here is the frame for the run. It is made entirely of on-hand reclaimed materials. It will sit directly under the original coop.
And here is in the nearly finished form. We were short a hook to secure the back left corner so we used a piece of bailing twine for now. It is a full panel door, hinged at the top, for access to the entire run area. The small door at the front is great for quick access to the girls. Measurements are footprint 4x7 feet, run height 2 feet. Front run door 2x2 feet. The lower 18 inches or so of the coop sides are now secured with poultry wire under the tarp and still open up for access but now I also have multiple access doors for ventilating, looking, collecting eggs, feeding and watering etc. When weather permits, we will be painting and roofing.
Here is the other end with the main access door to the upstairs. The nest boxes are to the left when you open the door. Food and water hang straight ahead from center beam. The ramp is at the far end sloping to the center of the run.
Helen enjoying the new digs after one last night in her old home. When we finished the new condo, we installed Chick and picked up an 11 week old Rhode Island Red. We wanted to let them get a little comfy before bringing in the Queen Bee.
And (drumroll...) the old digs. Helen in the converted dog run and Chick in the temp housing up front, under the lovely Castrol sign tarp. The shelter for her is actually hard to see back behind the tree trunk. The little house you see is filled with dirt for her to scratch and dust. I guess the new home is a bit of an improvement.
Recap of lessons learned:
- Buy any cheap or snatch up any free poultry wire you can find!
- 1/4 inch plywood is nice and light but if you want to attach hardware, you will need to deal with the screws being too long.
- A stapler is a must. Better yet, both a hand and electric stapler. An air nailer would be awesome!
- When lifting or lowering the ramp, be sure no chickens are hiding where they can get pinched. (SQUAWK!)
- You can’t make too many accesses to your hen house.
Lately, I’ve been pretty busy with chickens but I really am a dabbler at heart. I feel some gardening posts brewing.