Wednesday, December 1, 2010

And So It Begins...

Finally, we have chickens!  This may not seem like a big deal to all those experienced chicken wranglers (or whatever they call you, er, us) out there, but we're excited that we're going to be cutting our teeth a bit on one of the most basic farm animals.  Typically, people don't get chickens on the brink of winter, but when we were at Walnut Hill last Friday helping process meat birds and stewing hens, Byron spontaneously asked Jeff if we could buy a few of the (live) older Barred Rock hens.  He was happy to oblige, for $1 each!  He told us we might get a couple eggs out of them per week, though when moved, chickens need several days to assimilate to their new environment (not to mention sunlight...which is why fewer eggs are available from local farms in the winter).  But our main motive in getting them is to get some experience caring for chickens, and these Barred Rock hens are older and hardy, which is a good place for us to start.

We thought six would be a good number, but after much leaping, net-throwing, and other chicken-catching tactics, most of them managed to escape the tall man in the blood-splattered orange fleece (AKA Byron) and we ended up taking home five, plus a bag of feed which offered no protestations to being tossed into our minivan.  When we got home, we set them up in the woodshed and sketched out a design for a small, portable coop using our lawn mower trailer as a base and scraps of wood we had on hand (some from a defunct loft bed our friend Jason gave us - thanks, Jason)!  We like it when people unload their wood scraps here.

The "chicken house" will be removable, in case we need to use the trailer.  If it proves to be problematic, we'll try to find another used trailer or some sort of bed with wheels.

Byron spent most of his weekend on this project!

Roof and some sheathing.

A peek inside...we found a broken rake and used the handle for the roosts (that's how chickens like to sleep).  We're using five-gallon buckets as easily removable nesting boxes.

The area with chicken wire will let some light through.

The back door, which covers the removable back of the trailer.  This will give us access to the nesting boxes and to cleaning out the coop.

Another peek inside...Byron put a ramp up to the roosts and one down to the nesting boxes.

Byron and Charlie working on the front door.

A couple of the chickens exploring their new digs...

The upright board to the left is a windbreak, but Byron ended up making a bigger one.

They're not the sharpest knives in the drawer, but I think they're getting the idea that this is where they're going to live!
So far this week, the chickens are assimilating pretty well.  For the moment, we are not fencing them in, but letting them roam freely during the day and shutting them in at night.  They've loved the rain we've had today and yesterday, and seem to be getting a bit more comfortable.  We realize they're a bit more susceptible to predators this way (we already had one little incident that left a chicken injured, and she has yet to emerge from the coop today, which has me concerned), but we're hesitant to jump the gun and spend money on fencing that may or may not work.  We're researching electric feather netting, which is easy to move and has been effective for the folks at Walnut Hill.  Being able to move the chickens to fresh grass is important to keeping them healthy, since they tend to congregate around the coop much of the time and will quickly wear out available greens, as well as the bugs that reside there.

And when we get our first egg, you'll be the first to know!

1 comment:

  1. Congrats on the chickens! Hope the predators will stay away so your ladies can enjoy free ranging it :-)