Our most recent investment in the chickens has been a new coop! A few weeks back a couple of our hens disappeared and we immediately launched a bit of an investigation into it, suspecting coyotes or maybe even a dog, but while out checking on some Christmas lights I heard the very distinct sound of an owl hooting in the big pine tree at the west end of the house. That settled the idea of what to do with some scraps of wood Jordan has been getting from some of the neighbors here while working for them. So Jordan and I set ourselves right to work against a frame that we had started for a larger coop that we don’t yet have supplies enough to finish. What we ended up with is a lean-to against that frame which is intended to eventually serve as the yard to a much larger chicken coop.
The only part I did not use scrap for was the door, since I really don’t want to be replacing the door very soon.
Inside I have our newest feeder that I bought through Amazon.com which is designed to hold some 30 pounds of feed for the hens! This feeder really helps with the other sky bound predators that taunt our chickens, which are the local doves!
As you can see in this picture, the new feeder is pretty large. It is also inside the netting of the coop, which prevents the doves from getting to it, making our feed supplies last a great deal longer than they were when the feed was outside! Given a 50 pound bag of feed costs $20 at out local feed supply store, this is proving a tremendous saving for us! The feed had one problem that I was worried about though, which is to do with the metering adjustment pictured below.
The wire bit just pushed through the hole at the desired level, and nothing was there to stop it popping back out. Given the kids we have bringing large feed bags out to feed the chickens, I was not about to leave that design as is, and have the bottom literally fall out on 30#’s of food and let it fall to the floor. So I put it in, and got a pair of pliers and put some welly behind it until the hook was bent enough that it was difficult to push through the hole, making it impossible to accidentally get knocked loose. With some effort I can still adjust the metering, however I just don’t see the need to!
The old watering fount has been put into the shed as well, and elevated out of the hay so the water doesn’t get easily contaminated with so much hay that it is impossible for the birds to get to it!
The coop is built in an area in the yard between the old horse washing station, and the old swimming pool that the goats now inhabit. This provides the coop with easy access to water for the fount, and electricity for the lighting.
The lamp hanging from the ceiling provides enough light to keep the chickens active for the advised 17 hours a day right through winter, although we have to work it manually until there is enough money to get a timer with a photosensitive eye built into it.
When it comes to the latches on the door, I think two on the outside will prevent any unwanted intrusions by a fortunate animal who accidentally happens to get one undone. Only one latch is inside since one of us will be in the coop any time that latch is being used. They are cheap, easy to maintain, and look the part on such a homemade coop.
The diagonal piece is to hold the hanging side of the door level with the hinged side, especially as the door ages. Yes, there should be two of them on this door, however I have been building on a tight budget, and as of yet I do not have more than handsaws (no power saws at all!) to do my cutting with. Hand saws are just not as accurate in my hand as a good miter saw could be, so I will save the construction on that second diagonal until I have the ability to really cut it accurately! The door won’t hold a bull in, but then, it doesn’t have to. If you think about it, it won’t even have to hold the wind in as it is covered in chicken wire so we can see who we are going to run into when we open it. I have again opted for the step in door as it makes it that much more difficult for the chickens to escape while the door is open for one of us to pass through.
The Old Coop
The older coop is now serving as a home for a couple of Pheasants, and our flock of Rhode Island Reds. We are hoping to get some breeding done in there before the hens get put back in with the other hens. So far, all of the chicks we have hatched have been Production Reds that were brooded on by one of our white Ameraucana hens.
We did try to put some Production Reds into the new coop with the main flock the other day, and I do not recommend doing this! I think that in order to successfully accomplish integration, we need to put a cage for them close to the netting on the chicken coop so the birds can all see each other for a couple of days or even weeks first, and then integrate them at night so maybe the birds won’t notice the absence of the netting dividing them. Putting them straight in resulted in one of the Production Reds being pecked so badly that her left leg no longer works! She is now being cleaned and nursed to see what happens with the leg, but quite frankly, I think her head is going to have to come off as we had a Turkey with a leg injury not too long ago, and that bird just up and died one night. It is not like they have three more legs to compensate for the gimp leg. Once one leg is badly injured, they are pretty well doomed, and the other chickens will peck them to death. If you are seriously considering a flock of chickens, beware that you will come to the point when you will have to differentiate between pets and food, and the chickens are food. If you can manage a way of keeping such a injured bird, then well done on you for keeping your conscious clear. I would like to keep mine pretty clear too, but I have got a pragmatic situation to consider, which is the flock over the individual birds.
Our goal is to keep a large enough flock to provide eggs for ourselves, for us to sell, and to eventually provide meat for our family. In the long run we want to be able to say we truly eat almost everything off our own land. We want to have our own chickens, beef, milk, and vegetables and some fruit from off our own land. We aim to achieve self sufficiency as soon as the end of 2013. I think that will be possible so long as we can get 2012 past us with all goals accomplished! Fingers crossed and I will keep you up to date as these goals are achieved! The biggest step is getting grass under hoof to provide for most of the animals!
“The Prospering Peasant”
Mr. Kelsey J Bacon