Three-Hour Coop

Dad and I were talking about the chicken coop that we really needed to build yesterday while we were out running around. Suddenly it dawned on me. We had all the materials we needed to build the coop and the run, and it wouldn’t take much work, either. I had run across a portable structure while researching something else that would work well for what we are doing. And it wouldn’t take the work a full-scaled wood chicken coop would, which neither Dad nor I wanted to get into right now. We started work on this coop when we got home at 5pm. We were done by 8pm. That was pretty fast!

Planned area for chicken run - the dead zone between greenhouse and planned greenhouse.

 

We knew where we wanted to put the run at least for the time being, the 12 foot zone next to the greenhouse that is overgrown at the moment with raspberries (wild ones, very unproductive) and bindweed. We also knew that as many chickens as we have, we will want to move them periodically or they will turn their runs into a desert. It’s a compromise between ease of building, ease of moving, and some protection from predators.

We grabbed the abandoned pig tractor, which was made up of four 3 foot by 16 foot pig panels, and took the panels up to the greenhouse. The pigs are in temporary quarters awaiting butchering next week. We bowed each panel by bracing the ends against hardwood stakes driven at least a foot into the ground. Overlapping the edges by a couple of inches and wiring the panels in place gained us an 11 foot by 6 foot coop.

We used fence wire to fasten the panels together. The coop is just over 6 feet tall.

Once the panels were in place we grabbed a big piece of white plastic sheeting Dad had bought for some purpose. It was about 10 foot by 20 feet, and didn’t quite cover the whole length of the coop. In time we will trim the excess off the one side and use it to cover the end. We will be adding wooden end walls to the coop before winter.

Our greenhouse now has a mini-me.

 

The chickens had been poorly contained by a run of 2 foot high fencing, so we took part of that down and used it to cover the ends of the coop. On the far end, where we built the run today, we put a length of it across the bottom, and then another length above that, almost completely covering the end. Across the front we opted for one length to allow us easy access for putting chickens, feed, and water into the coop. Finally, we closed any gaps with pieces of bird netting. That stuff is all but invisible at dusk, I’ll have you know!

We used boards on the side to fasten the plastic to the coop.

The inside of the coop, ready for birds.

Once we had it as tight as we could make it, since it was now all but dark, we went and started grabbing chickens. Half of them were roosting in the large shrub in their run, and they kept hopping from branch to branch above our heads. We wound up getting most of them, taking an ice-cream break, and coming back for the rest. But, by bedtime, all the birds were secure. Did I mention it was 88 yesterday, and very humid? We were as tired as the chickens!

Strange fruit in that tree.

 

 

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New Arrivals

The chicks arrived safely this morning about 7 am. There are 35 of them. Everyone looks lively and there were none DIB. Beaks dipped in sugar water, feed, parked under the heat lamp. As you can see, some stayed there and basked, while others scooted around the brooder scratching and pecking. There are cobwebs in there since it hasn’t been used for a while and the chicks thought those were the best toys of their lives (since it has been so very short so far!). Mica and I watched them for a while. The kids don’t even know they are here yet since everyone is sleeping in, and we didn’t tell them the chicks were coming. That will be a fun surprise for later.

Day old chicks - so cute 'n fluffy!

For those of you wondering about chick-raising, we are using a brooder box for this first part of their lives. Made of plywood and hardware cloth, it gives us a way to keep the little guys warm (chicks need to be 95 degrees for the first week of their life, and the temp can be lowered by 5 degrees a week after that.) but to be honest, we have brooded chicks in cardboard boxes, rabbit cages, and kiddie pools. Whatever works.

Our brooder, hinged top open. You can see the chicks are warm as they aren't huddling under the lamp.

Other than the container they are in, you will need a heat lamp, which is a special light bulb in an aluminum cone to further direct the heat onto the chicks. This can be hung or clamped onto the brooder. As the chicks grow, it can be moved further away or turned off at times to allow the chicks to become more cold-hardy. Watch the chicks. If they cluster really tightly underneath it and trample on each other they are cold and you will need to consider protecting them from drafts (a blanket draped over the brooder can work, just keep it away from the lamp) or adding a second lamp. If they scatter to the far walls of the brooder and avoid the lamp, it is too hot, raise it further away from the chicks.

We use a plastic chick feeder, which looks like a long rectangle with a triangular top that has holes in it. Using this kind of feeder prevents the little guys from hopping into it and scratching all their feed out into their bedding and wasting it. Chickens scratch instinctively. The day-old chicks I put into the brooder this morning started to scratch and peck their bedding immediately. It’s fun to give them a little feed to watch them do this, but their feeder will be better off if they can’t scratch and poop in it.

Chicks are already chowing down!

For a waterer, again, we use a chick or quail waterer. Both the feeder and the waterer are les than $5 each, and well worth that little investment to have safe, thrifty uses. We use the quail waterers to feed the bees, as well, so they are multi-use. A chick waterer is a shallow circular well atop which screws on a container that gravity-feeds water into the circle. It is too shallow to allow the chicks to fall in and drown, and as we use a gallon reservoir, we don’t worry about them running out of water.

That is really all you need to brood chicks. We feed chicks special chick feed, as they can’t manage layer pellets, and need a higher protein. We tend to feed unmedicated, partly because we often brood both ducks and chicks together. Ducklings will die if fed medicated feed. For the first watering this morning I put some sugar in with their water, but I have never done this before, so I’m not sure it’s necessary.

Fuzzy little bumble-bee baby.

Hand-reared chickens are friendly.

The ultimate reward for raising your own chickens… eggs! Yum!

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