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Posts Tagged ‘chicken coop’

Let me tell you some things about chickens that I didn’t really know before we got them.

Now, so that you don’t think I just willy nilly jumped into this whole “urban farmer” thing, I did do research on owning chickens.  I read a few books, looked at a few internet resources, visited some chickens at a local farm.  Still there were some dots, that I apparently, didn’t connect:

They poo alot.  When I say a lot, what I really mean is an obscene amount.  Like they poo so big you wonder if maybe one of them might actually be a German Shepherd in disguise.

I don’t know why I didn’t know this one:  Chickens are birds.  They poo on the go.  They have no compunction about letting it go anytime, anywhere.   I envisioned our ladies pooing in the grass which would then fertilizing the grass. I thought the whole chicken tractor was ingenious, they pood on the grass, we didn’t have to deal with the poo.  It just worked its magic, I would have an amazing lawn.  I didn’t imagine their home being full of chicken poo, not to mention the grass.   Turns out they mostly poo where they sleep.  They are disgusting like that.

Chickens, really, really, really love their homes.

We decided to adopt a baby bunny while dave was away at camp, because that’s what I do when he’s gone.  I adopt animals.  It’s the whole absence of the voice of reason which compels me to do it.

I decided that the bunny shall live outside, mostly so that Frank the killer cat won’t eat her.  In the winter time I’m sure that she’ll spend a fair amount of time inside, and Frank and her will become best friends and love each other, and you will see thousands of adorable cat/bunny snuggling pictures.  For now, survival.

The coop my dad built said that it was good for 6-9 hens, but my ladies seemed a little bit cramped.  I don’t think they minded it, but I did.  I had a brilliant idea to house the bunny in the chicken coop and house the chickens in the dog run temporarily until Dave came home and we could decide on more suitable living arrangements.

I didn’t actually go out and look at the dog run, but I envisioned it, and in my head it had a concrete floor.  It also already had a dog house in it and we moved a doghouse here, so that’s two dog houses.  Plenty of shelter for my ladies.  I knew it wasn’t ideal for my gals, but I figured that they would be safe from predators because it’s a well constructed chain link space and there were two shelters for them to hang out in if they were cold.

The kids and I went to the feed store and bought a bail of hay to lay over the concrete floor to keep their little feet comfortable.

Feed guy:  Do you want a full bail or a half bail?

Me:  Definitely a full bail.  I have a really big space to cover and I read that it should be about 3 inches thick.

He loaded it into dave’s toyota camry trunk.  He had these awesome bailing hooks that he plopped it into the car and then pushed and shoved until the trunk closed.

Feed guy:  Good luck getting that out!

We drove home and Mike and I pulled and tugged and pushed and finagled the hay out of the trunk.  We loaded it onto the twins Radio Flyer wagon and pulled it to the dog run.

Me:  Huh.  The floor isn’t concrete.  Wow!  That dog house is HUGE!  It probably used to house a bull mastiff or something!  Oh, well let’s do this!

Turns out we had about 3/4 a bail of hay left over.

The ladies were having an amazing time being free range while Mike and I scrubbed and cleaned the chicken coop rabbit hutch.  In a perfect world, I would let them free range all day long.  But they like to hang out near the house, which brings us back to the poo.  The first time they decided to hang out on the porch was the last time they got to hang out unsupervised.  Sometime around 5pm we decided it was time to introduce the ladies to their new home.

Normally if they are out foraging we call them, bring their feeder out and they come running to their home.  Mike filled their feed tray with food and we slowly led them to their new home.

They refused to go inside. 

5:15  Still trying to get the chickens in by tricking them with food.

Mike:  Okay, how about I will slowly back into the dog run with their food and you get behind them and scare them in.

Me:  Okay.

Chickens can fly.  Screaming (by mom).

Mike:  Okay, how about I slowly back into the dog run with their food and you scare them with this blue frisbee.  They hate this blue frisbee.

Me:  Okay

Chickens can fly.  Screaming (by mom).

5:30 

Me:  Maybe we should try a new tactic.  How about catching them?

6:00 Still trying to catch them

6:15

Me:  YES!!!  I GOT ONE!!!

6:20

Me:  YES!!! I GOT ANOTHER ONE!   HURRY MIKE OPEN THE DOOR BUT BLOCK THE CHICKEN INSIDE!!!

7:00  They are all finally in their new home.  They are NOT happy!

Normally around 8, the ladies turn in.  They are tired after a long day of hunting for bugs and preening their feathers.

8:15 We hear the biggest chicken racket we’ve ever heard.  We all run outside fully expecting to find some sort of predator with one of our poor ladies in his mouth.

We find them all huddled by the chicken run door crying.  They all have their little necks stretched out longingly looking at their coop across the yard.   If they could talk they’d say, “We want to go home! Please let us out of this jail.”

We all sat around talking to them soothingly.

9:00 They quieted down so we went out to check on them.  As soon as they saw us they started crying again at the door.

It was incredibly sad.

The next day when I went out to check on them they were all sleeping at the door.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen them all sleeping at the same time in the middle of the day.  They must have had a hard night.

After we got our bunny and put her in her new home, we let the ladies out to roam around to cheer their little hearts.
They all immediately ran to their coop.  They all jumped back aghast when they saw the sweet little bunny. They all had an astonished look on their little chicken faces.

They’d walk away and eat some bugs and come back to see if things had changed.

They’d walk away and roll around in the dirt and come back to see if things had changed.

We left them out all afternoon and evening hoping that they would go into the dog run.  They never did.  They all huddled around their coop pathetically.  Poor things.

We tried the food trick.  It worked until we got near the dog run and then they all ran away.

Fortunately, the catching was much easier this time around but they weren’t much happier.  I’m hoping that they don’t all decide to revolt and escape like in that movie Chicken Run.

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I am an alarmist.  I’m in the camp of people that thinks our government might collapse in the near future, bringing the dollar down with it.  It’ll be greater than the Great Depression.  Okay, I might not really believe that.  But the mere mention of food shortages, downward economies, lay offs, and etc, I start collecting nuts, dusting off the old sewing machine and looking up how to make my own water barrels on Bing.  (yes, I am trying to conform to the culture here and instead of “googling” something, we “Bing!” it here).

Dave is very lucky that we didn’t buy a house on the other side of the street.  That side of the street is all meadow, unlike this little patch of forest we own.  If we lived across the street, we’d already own two pigs, two goats, two mini cows, and two sheep.  It would be like a mini Noah’s ark at our house (it rains enough here).  Alas, we live in the forest and I’m pretty sure livestock likes open spaces not second growth forest.

Thinking about becoming a tad more self sufficient (aka: prepared for the zombie apocalypse), I bought the most amazing book ever at Home Depot.  What?  You don’t buy all your books at Home Depot?

Abandoning the farm concept (for now) I have plans for a large garden and a tilapia pond (okay, a gold fish pond) and a berry patch and some fruit trees and chicken coop.

I’ve been talking to Dave for months about the garden.  We’ve picked a spot but I’m not completely sure it gets enough sunshine and with this Seattle weather, it’s impossible to tell because we so very rarely have a full day of sun.  I went to a gardening class, read the master gardener website, and checked out copious amounts of books on gardening in this sunless damp place we call home.  (I know, I’m a walking travel brochure).

I think Dave has finally given in to the fish pond.  I’ve picked the location.  Just before I decided to break ground Dave took me to the pond store (yes, we actually have a store here that only sells ponds).  After pricing the whole shebang, I could feed our family and the neighbors for a year and still have enough left over for a large television.  For now, the pond will be an imaginary one rather than a real one.

This really only leaves the chicken coop.  I think Dave thought that he could put me off long enough on building it to steer my interests elsewhere.

After scourging the whole internet for chicken coops, I decided on a chicken tractor rather than a traditional coop.  I figure it’s not permanent.  If chickens aren’t are thing, I can sell it on craigslist, given the chickens to my neighbor and pretend the whole ugly mess never happened.

I found some plans online and we went to Home Depot.  (It turns out that the return on this investment may never happen.)

The plans I bought were made by an engineer, it was full of hypotenuses and geometry.  It was written more like a novel and less like plans.  It was accompanied with a google sketch file.

After lots and lots of cutting, it was finally time to start putting it together.  With every helper under the age of 20, you can add an extra four hours for each hour of “help”.

Dave had told McKayla that she could decorate my coop.  I imagined a neon splattered paint job which channeled 1987.  I would be forced to look outside my window and see this “hip” monstrosity for the next 10 years.  I vetoed her painting, splattering, or muraling my coop.  I am a great mom like that. This of course meant that I had to choose paint colors for the coop.  It also meant that my dad did most of the painting too.

We went through all of the left over paint in the garage.  Fire engine red, army green, mustard brown, creamy sand, white, forest green, royal purple, and daisy yellow.  Then we went to Home Depot for the coordinating color.

The kids helped.

You may think that many hands make light work.  Really though, many hands make stressful work.  Many hands also make messy work.  And many hands make noisy work.

Take note of the kids “paintin clothes”.  One child chose clothes too big for him.  One kid clothes too small.  After vetoing about 20 different outfits, I finally gave up.  Please don’t take note of all the junk in my garage.

After hours and hours of painting and assembling it finally started to look like a chicken tractor.  I think at this point we had to go back to home depot for different hardware, more paint and more wood.  So much for the shopping list.

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