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
Assembly.

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

Coexistence

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

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

This is not good

  by jahansell
, a photo by jahansell on Flickr.
This morning, Duchess, our year-old kitty, spent about a half-hour stretched out on top of the brooder, watching the chicks. Occasionally she'd dip her paw down and poke at them, but we've just had her declawed so she was limited in her ability to snag one. Even so, I put a few extra logs on top of the screen for the day, to hold it down. I didn't want to come home from work to find six chicken corpses arrayed around the living room and a fat smug kitty snoozing nearby.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Chickies

chckisforfb by jahansell
chckisforfb, a photo by jahansell on Flickr.
They have really enjoyed their visits outside, like this one yesterday. Today it's cold and rainy, so they are staying in.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

dandelion at 3 weeks old

dandelion at 3 weeks old by jahansell
dandelion at 3 weeks old, a photo by jahansell on Flickr.
She seemed to like sitting on my hand - she stayed quite still while I took her portrait. We named her dandelion because her tail feathers look like dandelion fluffs.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Bonnie

bonnie by jahansell
bonnie, a photo by jahansell on Flickr.
FIrst visit outside: Bonnie is usually the winner in the worm tug of war, and was the first to try out the new roost. I put each chicken up on it - a length of firewood - but nobody would stay, until Bonnie had a turn. She settled down on the wood calmly, and all the other chicks stopped their chirping and cheeping and got really, really quiet, watching her.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The brooder

brooker by jahansell
brooker, a photo by jahansell on Flickr.
Screen created by Ella, who used her duct tape to attach garden stakes to a length of chicken wire. Why not keep them in the living room? Gilligan just happens to like walking by from time to time, but takes no interest in the contents of the big blue box - at least not while anyone's watching.

Monday, May 7, 2012

curious kitty

curious kitty by jahansell
curious kitty, a photo by jahansell on Flickr.
What have we here? Duchess welcomes her new sisters to their home.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

First day home

snow white and mommy by jahansell
Welcome to Sharon CT Daily Chicken, or peepcluck.blogspot.com.

We aren't farmers, but we aren't city folk, exactly. Well, we are city folk, born, raised and lived the first part of our adult lives in Boston/Queens/Detroit/New Haven/Providence/Brooklyn, but we live in the country now. Well, it's the country, with farms all around but we live in town, on Main Street.  Suffice it to say, we have never owned a dog, much less livestock. We couldn't keep a goldfish or a hamster alive for their natural lifespans, though we've had pretty good luck with cats.

Nonetheless, as the craze for backyard chickens has swept the precincts filled with foodies, locavores, trendhounds, homeschoolers, treehuggers, and just about every other categorizable subgroup, I caught the bug and began longing for chickens of my very own. I contemplated various schemes - house them at a neighbor's, for example - but finally one day just went on Craigslist, found a listing, and jumped in the car. Three hours later, I unloaded six 2-week-old chicks into a blue rubbermaid brooder, tricked out with all the gizmos I could snap up at Tractor Supply Co. Stick with me and get to know Snow White, Bonnie, Shayla, Brunhilde, Dandielion and Lilac, their human and feline companions, and help us shepherd them into happy, egg-laying henhood.