Tuesday, February 28, 2012

How To Spend Two Weeks...

...on behalf of a bunch of chickens.

So we're in the new house, but the chickens aren't here yet, and we're feeling bad that they are still living in the barn miles away and it just doesn't feel like home yet without them.

So as soon as we get ourselves settled in enough for our day to day needs, we go hammer and tongs at building the new coop & run. We are fortunate enough to have two sheds in the back yard, one of which will become the new coop--on the left of the picture, the one without the roof on the right:

Only problem is, it's in the wrong place. It needs to be moved over towards the middle of the yard and back about 20 yards. This is soon accomplished by pulling it loose from it's moorings and dragging it with lots of nylon rope, some improvised rollers and the Jeep. We also rent a trencher and dig the trench for the run posts and the buried wire--vital in areas where predators know to dig under the coop wire to get at your birds.

In this pic the coop has been moved, it used to be on the left where the chunk of old plywood is lying on the ground. The framework on the ground is the carport pipe structure that was the old run, moved from the old house.
The trenching shows where the edges of the run will be, it is so we can bury the run hardware cloth underground about 6-12 inches to foil digging predators.

One thing we have here in SPADES is rocks. This area is an old glacier field and when it left, it left all kinds of damned rocks. Dig down two inches and your shovel will hit a rock. Or 12.

The run roof going up. This was quite harrowing to raise, by the way. It swayed and did the hula in such a way as to have you fearing for your life.

But go up it did, yay!

A better look at the trench where the wire will be buried at least 6 inches below ground, bent outwards to foil digging predators.

The run posts were seated in cement, which got a field test with 65 mph winds the very next night. None of it ended up in the next county the next morning, so we must have done good.

The run roof goes on, just in time for a light snow.

The first course of wire goes up on the right side! We use 1/4 inch welded-wire, also known as hardware cloth--NEVER chicken wire!

More wire on the other side, and the doorway is framed in...

Because we now live in an area that sees much colder temps and higher winds than where we used to live, we're adding insulation to the walls & ceiling of the new coop. It will also have a heat lamp or a barn heater for REALLY cold nights.

The courses of wire are overlapped by about 4-6 inches and secured with UV resistant zip ties, which will seal out rodents that may try to slip between the wire edges. Chickens and their food attracts such things.

Unfortunately for me, while I was cranking down on a zip tie with a huge pair of channel-lock pliers, it broke and I smacked myself in the face with the damned pliers. Cut the Hell out of my upper lip and judging by the way my upper arch is flexing, I'm fairly sure I've got two fractures in my maxilla and may lose my two upper front teeth. Time will tell.

The doorway framing is done and the roof goes on the coop.

The plywood coop roof is overlaid with tar paper, which will in turn be sealed with Henry's and given a final covering of shingles.

Remember all those damned rocks? They go into the trenches as a digging predator deterrant. JUST TRY AND GET AT MY CHICKENS.

It's getting there...the trenches are topped off with dirt.

The door is on!

Time to go inside--this is the coop before it gets insulated.

The insulation goes up...

...and the walls are then sheathed with plywood. Except for finishing touches, the coop and run are finished, yay!

But I still feel like something is missing...hmm...

I know!

Pissy, carsick chickens!
I swear when they saw me coming at them with those carriers again they nearly wept. But at least this time it was a shorter drive. Plus they got a small amount of revenge in me getting my arms all scratched up from hardware cloth edges.

Aaaaanndddd...they're IN!

Temporary roosts in the form of some moving boxes, our garden bench and a ladder.

Also temporary are the nest boxes, repurposed moving boxes with new, smart-ass labels such as 'Fresh Chicken' and 'Fluffy Butt, This End Up'.

Pompadour inspects them...

...as do Fran and Pong.

The next day sees the flock cruising their new digs. Sadly they are confined to the coop & run for now as we still have some fence repairs to do on the rest of the 1/2 acre before we can let them roam it.

Weedcat the splash Giant Cochin roo in the middle.

But they're here at last, and waking up to roosters crowing and hens clucking finally makes it feel like home. Sadly neither Phoenix our Head Roo nor Millie our MilleFleur Belgian d'Uccle hen made it, both passing away at Christmastime. But they are here in spirit, as one of the first things we did after buying the house was to bury them in a special corner of the yard.

Today it's snowing, and the chickens are getting to enjoy their first experience with that. After the weather clears in a few days we'll be able to finish the roofing, add real nest boxes, roosts ladders and roosts, and get them settled for good.

Then I can go back to unpacking and painting!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

It's Still Chickam After All!

On the subject of chickens, we're planning on having our annual event--Chickam--on Easter weekend in April--the 7th & 8th. We'll set the eggs in the incubator on March 17th and 21 days later should have chicks hatching!

At the end of Chickam last year, due to the move we truthfully weren't sure if we'd ever be able to do it again--a lot hinged on how soon we found a new home, if the Internet providers in the area could handle a webcast, how much chicken coop/run construction we'd have to do, how much time and work would have to be devoted to the new house, etc.  So when we said goodbye to everyone last year, we thought that might have been it.

But we know how important it is to the people who love it, and fortune has smiled on Chickam and we're gonna make it happen!

We haven't chosen the breeds we'll hatch yet, but I'd like some MilleFleur Belgian d'Uccles, plus some chicks from our own hens. Several folks around our neighborhood have chickens and sell eggs, so I may get some eggs from them to add to the mix. We'll be web broadcasting the hatch live, with sound, then we place the cam in the brooder box 24/7 for the following 8 weeks so you can watch the chicks grow up.

It's been VERY popular in the past and is fascinating and educational for adults and kids alike! See my website for details, here, scroll down to 'Chickam':


Tuesday, February 7, 2012


I don't have my copy yet so I haven't read it, but the 'Chickens' magazine article I contributed material for, 'The Basics of Behavior' by Cherie Langlois, has been published! If you wanna read it, it's in the Jan/Feb 2012 issue:


It was fun to participate and the lady who wrote the article was very nice, fun and knowledgable. Also, the little booties & hat on the hen standing in the snow on the cover are freakin' adorable.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

I Swear I Didn't Plan It This Way...

But it's kinda amusing just the same. My new kitchen paint matches some of my hen's eggs.

The view from my back yard looking towards the nearby mountains...

We had a lovely sunset last night.