One of the first posts I put to this blog was our building of a chicken coop/run in our backyard. For the most part this was 90% complete, but needed just a touch more. The other items include a chicken coop door, adding some 1 inch decorative rock around the base of the run, both for aesthetics and also to discourage predators. The last was to get some perches installed for the hens.
For us, its more than just a building for chickens, it’s also a serious part of our backyard landscape.. so we treated it not only as a home for our chickens but also as a decorative element to accentuate our yard proper.
The chickens get something akin to a Taj Mahal and we get some bragging rights in our neighborhood. So far this has been about 5 full days work on my part split over 4 weekends. It seemed like a pretty heady task at first.. but taking it step by step and breaking it down into smaller tasks really made this more manageable.
So this weekend we got the chicken coop door installed.. whooopteedoooo, you may say.. but in this case what we added was an automated chicken coop door so we would not need to wake at the crack of dawn every morning to let our little monsters out! Its a pretty slick piece of kit that I purchased from www.AutomaticChickenCoopDoor.com. Followed their online installation video. It took me a few hours only because I made the last minute decision to add 2×4 supports to either side of the door (not required, but really makes it sturdy).
Altogether though this was a nice addition. It works off a timer that goes off twice a day, about an hour after sunrise and about a 1/2 hour after dusk. Right now I’ve got an extension cord that goes out to the breeder lamp and so I just added an additional outlet splitter and added in the door as well. Eventually though the plan will be to make this run completely via battery/solar. Thankfully the kit also includes directions on how to do just that.
The other item of note is that I decided to add a 1 inch rock around the periphery of the coop/run to add an aesthetic element, but also one that should help discourage potential digging predators. I’m still needing to finish that up with some landscape trim, but ran out of time due to the fact that the previous day we added about 10 tons of the same 1 inch rock to our Aquaponics Greenhouse build (more on that in an upcoming post). 😉 Simply put, I’m a bit beat 😦
All in all, a very productive weekend that got our 2 week chicks out of their little Rubbermade container and into the coop proper. As mentioned, final details like roosts and a ramp are yet to come, but the chicks are still young so I’ve got a few more weekends to get those knocked out.
Well, we haven’t killed them yet! 🙂
As mentioned earlier, this is our first foray with raising chickens and we were a bit worried.. recently we had a pretty good cold snap kick through here, so I was concerned about maintaining the temperature where it needed to be. But the chicken coop held up well (no leaks) and our breeder light kept the temps well into the 90’s even with potential drafts (wind gusts were hitting 40-50mph). They all came through with flying colors!
We also finally nailed down names for each of our brood. Names? Wow! You guys seriously are city slickers! 😉
Of the Rhode Island Reds, there is now Blondie (the lighter of the two) and Paprika. Our Ameraucana chick has been named Bluebell. Finally the two Cuckoo Morans, one has an very prominent white spot on its head, so I named her Eightball and the last was a toughee.. since we had such difficulty coming up with one, ‘She Who Could Not Be Named’ is now called Voldemort :))
I’d say a job well done so far! They are now just over a week old. The wing feathers are coming in nicely! Appetites are strong and they like to engage with us now (especially if we’re providing Mealworms for a tasty treat).
The next steps will be to ween off the breeder light and reduce the temp about 5 degrees each week. I’m also going to need to add a cover on the breeder bin eventually, to negate accidental ‘jumpers’ from leaving the area too soon.
Some observations thus far.. of all the birds, Bluebell is by far the most docile and accepting of being handled. She also has a serious chicken sweet-tooth for meal worms and likes to do a happy dance as soon as she’s got her beak on one.
Next up, Blondie and Paprika are more lovers than fighters, though they take a bit more time to warm up to being held. Already you can see that their gobblers are starting to form on their heads. Lastly there is Eightball and Voldemort.. who would prefer not to be picked up and are typically vocal about it, they are also the biggest of all the chicks. These little guys need more one on one time 😉
All chicks are starting to form feathers on their wings as well as testing the use of said wings. Each one DEFINITELY has a unique personality! I’ve never had a bird for a pet and found it kinda strange those people who do, but now I’m starting to understand it more and more.
The only other item of I’d like to mention has been that they do need stimulation. Chickens I’ve found like to have items to keep them occupied. We’re planning on adding in a straw tower in one corner for them to peck at and later I’m thinking of installing a sandbox in the run for them to scratch around in once they’ve existed from the breeder box.
In the next week or two I plan on adding an automatic door to the coop and some perches for them to roost on once they’re older. I’ll post those updates as soon as I have them.
This was our first foray into raising chickens. We’re bound and determined to make our urban farm work.
We were worried originally about the legal issues with raising the chickens. Our yard is slightly under the minimum square foot requirement, but the workaround is getting permission from your neighbors (which we got) and keeping the coop/run at least 80 linear feet from the nearest neighbor.. check! Figured the chatty Chihuahua’s in the neighborhood make more of a ruckus then the chickens will, specially since there’s not going to be a rooster. Local regulations differ, so check your area about local code regulations regarding raising fowl.
We decided to go to a local seminar on raising chickens and that really helped open our eyes! The eggs you see in stores are surprisingly so far removed from the farm to your dinner plate, its pretty incredible. I highly recommend finding such a seminar or possibly visiting a local farm (organic/free range) to better understand the dynamics of it all. The numerous breeds, the variations of eggs, etc. will leave you flabbergasted.
When planning on the coop, there were plenty of pre-built offerings available at the local feed stores. I made the decision to design our own by scouting ideas online via visual reference and taking cues from designs I liked. I then sketched up an idea and proceeded to build the coop/run. The color scheme comes from the wife, who has a good eye for color!
You can view the progression of the build in the following video we put together..
Ultimately we came down to getting ourselves 5 chickens in all (originally planned on 3). We got two Rhode Island Reds, two Cuckoo Morans, and 1 Ameraucana chick. Giving us brown, chocolate and blue/green eggs respectively. It was a fun learning experience!
You can see the new brood here..
We plan on growing some vines over the run to help shade and protect the chickens from flying predators as well as lay some stone around the periphery to discourage burrowing animals.