Sunday, May 20, 2012

the COOP scoop

 Rome wasn't built in a day.  Nor was our chicken coop.'s now done! And a project like this one deserves a chapter in the family history book. Or blog. So. Here goes it!

Coop Chronicles

If you read my last entry, you know that we had some disappointed ladies in the house after our mishap with assuming the farm supply store would have chicks the day before Easter.  That darn 'assume' addage--when will I learn?

A week or so after Easter, we did indeed, bring home our first batch o' chicks!  The were fuzzy.  They peep-peeped all the way home.  I seat-belted them in (in a box, silly) in the passenger seat and turned the seat warmer on for them.  The girls and I so enjoyed their musical chorus we turned off the radio and listened to our acapella lady quartet.

Chad and I are fortunate to have backyard chicken farmers in our circle of friends, and their input in addition to a lot of reading on the internet and a few books, made us feel ready to take the plunge into egg-laying plumage. We found the book City Chicks written by Patricia Foreman to be a very good resource.  We formatted a lot of our coop/chicken run/ and brooding box design with the recommendations from this book.  We also researched our city's chicken keeping codes and applied for a license.  Here's the proof:

Here is a link to the page where you can find the permit application: 

Here's a picture of the brooding box and our day-old Aruacana/Americana Chicks.

We included a sand-box for grit and sand bathing.  A chick feeder and a rock lined water feeder.  We had a red heat lamp keeping the temperature for our fragile little ladies a toasty 95-98degrees.  We also built a training roost for them.  Here are a few pictures of the girls and our other little girls:

Zoe with Spot, Charlotte with Chickie, and Mauren with Cutie

A week later we added a couple Buff-Orpingtons to our micro flock. This is Buffy, The Buff Orpington Vampire Slayer meeting week-old Cutie.

Buffy's sidekick, Willow, stretching her lil' neck!

Two week old Americana chicks and One week old Buffs--feathering out nicely!

And while the chicks ate, drank and pooped merrily, they grew.  And grew.  And their permanent home grew as well! 

It all started with one of the first purchases Chad and I made.  We bought a house.  Then a couch.  Then an armoire.  Hey, it was 2001 and everyone had one.  Plus we had a mammoth TV set with a smallish screen, a record player, a stereo and a cd burner.  And a Play-Station.  Face it, we were kids.  What did we know?  Anyway, it worked well for us at the time.  Eventually, as technology got smaller and smaller and there wasn't time for after-bar dance parties and video games, we transitioned our entertainment armoire to be our 'craft cupboard'.  It worked well for that, too, but it dominated our smallish dining room.  So.  Chad's big idea to raise backyard chicks in addition to the indoor variety inspired my taking a second look at the armoire--and seeing a barn in it.   We determined it would work for our plans if we insulated it, ran electricity into it to provide lighting and a heat lamp, found a space for laying boxes, and roosts--and the rest is history! Here's the make-over process:

1.  We started with our Pine entertainment cupboard. 

2. Chad added insulation, and then sheathed it with plywood he rescued from a pallet in a construction dumpster (with permission) so that the chickens won't peck the insulation.

3.  Helpers helped. Kinda.

4. Chad took out the drawers, sawed the fronts off and made a false front to keep the appearance of drawers.  He cut a pop hole near the bottom right, and a ramp.  He cut a hole in the 'floor' of the top portion and built a ramp and a ladder to get the hens from the bottom to the top.  He had a piece of plexiglass cut to size and framed up a small window to give the hens natural lighting and fitted that. He also installed vents.  He added weather stripping along all the doors, and secure latches.

5.  Then Chad primed the whole structure.  Very evenly.  And then someone let me near the paint bucket.  We found 'barn red' paint at Menards.  Nice color, but this girl should NOT be permitted within 50 feet of a paint pail.  Someone may have to apply for a restraining order.  The result was very, very, VERY bad.  Good thing this is a chicken coop and chickens don't seem to mind runs in their paint jobs! Not to worry, from a distance, it looks okay.  And later, when the gobbed on paint dries appropriately enough, we can sand it down and Chad can fix my mistakes!

6.  Chad, with help from our brother-in-law Phil and his dad Mike, set in posts for fencing in the chicken run.  Chad built a gate using a 'gate kit' from Menards.  We used green rectangular garden fencing lined with traditional chicken wire to fence in the structure.  Chad dug the fencing in to prevent resident foxes and raccoons too easy of a 'dig' job to enter the run.  I added the white picket 'fencing' as whimsy.  Chad built a hinged cover over most of the run so we can lift it up to muck out the run.  He used corrugated rubber/asphalt sheet roofing to give the roof of the coop more rain protection and used the same material to make a portion of the run covered to provide protection from sun and rain.   We also put eye hooks in the underside of the garage roof to attach roping that will go through the coop to enable the hops we have growing in that location a place to climb.  We added some drift wood and an old 'garden table' to provide some places to roost in the run, as well.

7.  After mounting the coop to the garage to ensure stability in windy conditions, Chad's next challenge was fencing around the pop-hole.  He built a guillotine style door on a pulley to open/close the pop-hole door.  Addy is very intrigued by the chicks.  They are in the run keeping Chad company in this picture!

8.  Here's the view of the ramp, and pop-hole door from inside the run. 

9.  Inside of the roosting area.

10.  Ladder from lower level ramp to the roosts.

11.  The lower level pop-hole, ramp to 'upstairs' and the two laying boxes, lined with faux-grass liners.  We've also included some wooden eggs that we have been told will tell our girls where to lay and if they peck at them out of curiosity they will find it isn't tasty and potentially prevent egg-eating. 

12.  Their feathers only look ruffled.  This is their awkward teenage stage!  They like their new digs!

13. Ta-Da!  Farmer Chad and part of his brood.  He was so worried about the girls on their first night outside (5/18/2012)!  He had to usher the girls into their new home.  The next night, they
went in on their own, though! 

We're looking forward to egg hunts in our near future! Bock-buck!

And here's a little monster-themed chicken performance to round things out: