Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Almost finished

IMG_1519 by jahansell
 This doesn't quite work yet - the upper floor, which is the henhouse, isn't fully enclosed (thought it's completely protected within the run), so when I tried to put the chickens in tonight to sleep, they just hopped right out. I don't want to wall it completely in with plastic because it will be too hot so I'm going to figure out a way to create a wire wall. I'm just not sure yet how to attach it.

The orange buckets are the nesting boxes, and there's a window in the back wall to collect the (hypothetical) eggs.
IMG_1522 by jahansell

Usually when I let them out to range around the yard, they run from me. But at bedtime they run towards me, since until now I've always collected them and put them back inside their box to sleep. Last night when we had a huge rainstorm they practically begged me to take them inside. But tonight was their first time sleeping outside. Since I couldn't lock them 'upstairs' I put the cardboard box in the run and they settled down to sleep pretty quickly.  

Monday, May 21, 2012

Rainy day

The chickies didn't get to go outside today - it was rainy and I was worried they'd catch a chill. They don't seem too unhappy, but I know they'd love to be outside. Tomorrow I"m taking them out, rain or shine, and I'll set up the tarp so they can find shelter if they want it.

Wednesday I'm getting a load of corrugated plastic from my friend Sean McElroy which, I hope, will work well for their roof. If they come in 4x8 sheets, that will be pretty easy, except that it takes 10 feet to go over the hoop. I can visualize how two sheets can be the two ends, and part of one can be the floor.... I think I need to do some sketches.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Nobody here but us chickens

Today was building day (part 1). Yesterday, as you can see from the photos below, we went to Home Depot for pvc pipe, various connectors, poultry netting and hardware cloth, zip ties, buckets (which will be the nesting boxes) and some tools. I LOVE Home Depot. In every aisle there a friendly man came up to me and offered to help, sometimes several. All of them led me to just what I needed. When we were mulling over what to use as the floor of the house, a guy in the plywood aisle named Keith first suggested ceramic tile and carpet, then led us to a leftover piece of some sort of composite wood. He cut it to the size we asked for (4x5 feet) and charged us all of $1.01 for it.

By the end of today, I had the basic shape framed out, but the lengths of chicken wire and hardware cloth I have don't quite work. I guess I'll just put another length in the middle, overlapping the two sides. Even when I put the plastic walls on I want to have it all wired too, I think, for extra safety.

I'm also unsure about the floor - if it's only wire, it feels like it will sag when I move the tractor, especially with 35 pounds of chickens on it. Maybe we let the chickens out, then move the tractor?

  by jahansell
Keith cutting our wood

  by jahansell
Navigating our cart with 10-foot poles sticking out was a challenge.
  by jahansell
The three-way connectors made attaching the poles a breeze.  I did the gluing since the stuff we got was HIGHLY TOXIC.  We got the idea for this plan from Mother Earth News, but are still a bit fuzzy on how the whole thing will be enclosed.  The MEN plans call for 2 ply corrugated plastic walls, which Home Depot doesn't carry. I can buy it online, but I also ran into a friend when we were there who has a huge carpentry shop - he builds sets for movies and commercials. He said he has a bunch of the exact stuff we want so I'm going to try to meet up with him this week to get some and see if it works. 
  by jahansell
The basic structure. It's 8 feet long x 5 feet wide. Half of it will be the henhouse, elevated off the ground by about 2 feet so the chickens will have the whole 40 square feet to roam in. (The books say 6 chickens need a minimum of 2 feet each for the house, which is 212, and 4 feet for the run, which is 24. So this should be plenty of room for them, but still manageable and light enough to move easily (depending on how the house comes together.)
  by jahansell

Personalities or...chickenalities?

We seem to have a great need to identify unique characteristics in each animal in our life. It's easy enough with children, or cats. But are chickens really that different from one another?

It seems they are. Perhaps it's the breed, perhaps it's just the unique individual, but it's clear that Bonnie, our Auracana, is "the brave one" - the first to grab a worm and run with it, the first to try sitting on a little piece of firewood in the coop (a mini-roost), the first to try to fly the coop, literally.  This evening we put a new roosting ladder in the brooder, and she's happily roosting, with Shaela sitting next to her. Shaela, a golden laced Wyandotte, is the follower - whatever Bonnie does, Shaela does right after.  She seems to idolize Bonnie!

Snow White, the Austra White, is much bigger than the others (I hope she isn't going to turn out to be a he.) She's skittish, and loves to fly. She can be a bit aggressive, but not dangerously so - she's just rambunctious.

Brunhilde, a Columbian Wyandotte, is fairly quiet - when I catch her she'll sit calmly on my hand for a while, not afraid of me.

The last two to be named, Lilac and Dandelion (golden-laced and columbian wyandottes, respectively), also have the least distinct personalities. Could there be a connection  - i.e we were drawn to the liveliest and named them first? Or could it be the other way around - we naturally paid more attention to the ones we'd named, so they became more responsive to us?

I hope our interactions with them- holding them, playing with them, talking to them, moving them inside and out - are socializing them rather than traumatizing them.  And I hope we take good care of them as they get ready to move outside- I just spent 20 minutes reading horror stories of raccoons and possums ripping chickens to pieces. We would be heartbroken if our new babies died due to our own poor building skills.

Saturday, May 19, 2012


The chicks are growing fast, but I don't think they're quite ready to defend themselves against the cats. This morning before I took them outside for their playdate, I opened their box to change their water. Immediately, Bonnie and Shaela flew up to the edge of the box to look around. Duchess (our other cat, not the one pictured here) appeared and watched with interest, but didn't seem quite prepared to strike.

Then Snow White fluttered up to the edge, spooking Duchess for a moment. But she quickly returned to sniff a bit closer, which in turn spooked Snow White, who flew down onto the floor of the living room and lit out for the kitchen. With the situation about to spiral out of control - if I chased Snow White Duchess could hop right into the box - I quickly ended the little experiment and locked everyone up again.

But they love being outside so much I'm eager to finish their coop so they can take up residence. It's still a bit chilly at night, and at four weeks old, they're not fully feathered. But we're getting there - if I can solve my design challenges for the coop, I can move them out next weekend, perhaps.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Friends and chicks

friends and chicks by jahansell
friends and chicks, a photo by jahansell on Flickr.

Ella and Madison, along with Daisy, Brunhilde, and Shaela.

Thursday, May 17, 2012