We got the chicken coop 99% finished a while ago, but I’ve been terribly behind in sharing photos of it on here! We still need to build the nest boxes (they’re free-floating for easy cleanup) but those won’t really be needed until late next month or early September at the soonest anyway. I’ve been teased about the coop being deluxe, but I won’t have to worry about needing any upgrades for a quite a while… and my chickens have a decently sized safe area to roam around when I’m not home to let them free-range in the yard. The plan is actually semi-local – from Oregon – called The Garden Coop. Some parts of the plans we changed a little – an extra support here or there, and using 3″ screws to frame it instead of 3″ framing nails (no thank you!), and I’m really happy with how it turned out. Nearly all of the lumber is cedar (discount from a local mill outlet) that has also been sealed with the “Timber Pro UV Internal Wood Stabilizer,” which is advertised as safe for animals, and I’d love to add a few more painted accents.
I got three ceramic chickens from my mom, that a friend of hers had made years ago when we lived in California. They used to be on display in the kitchen, but they’ve been sitting in a box since their move about five years ago, so I asked if I could adopt them for coop decor. They have hanging loops on the back, so I used plastic zip-ties to attach them to the hardware cloth so they can’t get knocked over and broken. I still want to get the “Farm Fresh Butt Nuggets” sign that I’ve seen on Amazon!
I think the hardware cloth was the hardest part of the coop to work on. Using 1/2″ hardware cloth will keep the chickens much safer than using chicken wire (which is designed to keep chickens in, but fails terribly at keeping other things out), and I’m glad for peace of mind that we’ve used it, but goodness… It’s expensive (roughly $50 a roll, and you need three), heavy, and it was hard to get it situated smoothly around the coop. I do like the finished look, though, and I really like that I won’t have to worry about rodents or predators getting into the coop – or worry about locking my chickens into their hen house at night to keep them safe from anything that may try to get into the run. The presence of chickens and their feed may still attract rodents even though they can’t get in, but Monkey’s convinced she was born to be a barn cat, and loves keeping the rodent (and bird) population under control. Instead of digging the hardware cloth down a foot around the coop (this area is great for farming rocks the size of softballs) or running it two feet out on the ground around the coop (and needing extra hardware cloth), we ran the hardware cloth out about a foot – and 2 foot square patio blocks are put down on top of the hardware cloth. Predators and rodents will have a hard time breaking into that coop!
For the most part, my chickens have been roosting in the run, rather than the hen house, at night, but I can’t say I blame them. If it weren’t for the bugs, some of the nights lately I’d be sleeping outside, too!
I started out using a 3 gallon bucket nipple waterer, but decided shortly that it was entirely too much bother as the nipples I had for it had to mount on the bottom – which made filling it difficult. I’ve moved to a standard 3 gallon poultry waterer, which is much easier to fill. I’ll be interested to see how badly things freeze this winter, since it sounds like we may get a proper winter this year.
Another change to the plans that I made was to have the interior hen house wall be one big door, hinged at the top, inspired by Erica at Northwest Edible Life (okay, honestly, the entire coop was inspired by hers). I like that this will make it easier to clean out (made extra easy by the vinyl flooring remnant lining the hen house floor!) although I haven’t gone as far as to install Cadillac gas struts to hold it open… yet. The nest boxes will go on the left, backed up against the door cutout you can see for egg-gathering. (If you enlarge this photo, you can also see that the chicken wire encloses the top of the coop as well, so nothing can climb up-and-over into the coop either)
If you follow me on Facebook, you may have already seen that I’m down to 3 chickens. In late June, Cleo (the Ameraucana) started CROWING. So much for blue/green eggs this year! We tried to see how annoying he was before making any decisions, but after getting woken up at 3:30am, without a hint of sun in the sky, by a rooster going cock-a-doodle-do, we’d had it. I managed to find him a new home by that night, which saved a lot of mess and bother over putting him into a crock pot instead. His coloring had sure changed from the ball of brown fluff that I brought home in April!
After a day or so, the three girls remaining didn’t seem to notice Cleo’s absence, and Penelope has stepped up as ringleader of the trio… and one of these days, she’s going to get them all killed. It’s like watching the three stooges run around. Friday last week, Penelope kept approaching Monkey, who we could tell was struggling between self-preservation (the chickens look nearly as big as she is) versus landing the biggest kill of her life. The next evening, we ended up with a doe in our yard… and watch the three piece welcoming committee run up to meet it, led by Penelope. I wish my camera had been handy, but I was afraid to run off and grab it and miss something. I saw my chicken nose-to-nose with a full grown doe, completely unfazed by the size difference. There were very nearly tears, we were laughing so hard from behind a window.
A couple of nights later, she tried to rush Monkey when I let them out for their evening free-ranging – wings flapping and all. At this point, if Monkey kills her, she’s jolly well got it coming.
I do need to work on creating some shade in the run for the chickens, for afternoons when I can’t let them free-range in the yard, since the coop gets full afternoon sun. I’ve been trying to be good about letting them out when I get home from work in the evening, and letting them stay out until about 8pm when we start getting ready for bed, as it’s still light out at that time so far. They’ve been loving the time in the grass, eating bugs and leafy weeds, and dust-bathing in the dirt of the vacant flower bed. Thankfully, they’re good about staying close to the house or their coop, so I don’t even bother to pen them in the back yard any more – not being locked in the fenced portion of our yard lets them wander back to their food and water in their coop if they need to.
They also enjoy hanging out on the back porch when we’re in the dining room, much to the dismay of Mia, who remains afraid of the birds… and to the detriment of our back patio, which is thankfully cement and should hose off easily. (Athena and Penelope)
I can’t believe how much some of them changed since I brought them home as day(ish) old chicks… especially Athena’s coloring, the Silver Laced Wyandotte. She’s more skittish than the other two, who like flocking by me when I’m in the yard, but freak out if I try to touch them. Her “lace” pattern has come in beautifully!
Henrietta, the Buff Orpington, is a sweetie… and unlike Penelope, doesn’t consistently check to see if my footwear (or lack thereof) is edible. She’ll panic if I manage to catch her and pick her up, but calms down pretty quickly.
Penelope, my Barred Rock, is definitely the ringleader at this point. I would call her “alpha”, but that seems to imply that she tries to protect the flock instead of unintentionally leading them to their potential demise through curiosity. This photo seems to show the difference in their personalities fairly well! So far I’m still very glad that I finally got to get a little flock of chickens, and I’m looking forward to getting fresh eggs daily. I also love the clucking noise they make – which is also nice and quiet!