I have been excited to get chickens since before we bought the property. I grew up with chickens. I love chickens. There is nothing like knowing exactly where your food came from, and what it ate while growing up. Plus, they are low maintenance, good at eating table scraps and make really good, nitrogen rich fertilizer. Win-win all the way around. Right before we got the property we almost got some chickens to live in the tiny backyard of our current house. Once we dove into the realm of being land barons, however, we decided it was best to wait until we were living out there so we didn’t have to set up shop and then move it a few years later. So wait we did and now the time has finally come to build a chicken coop and get it filled with chickens! Once we were done building the barn last November, the saw mill was started up again and more trees from our future house site were turned into lumber (I promise someday I will get a post about milling lumber). All winter these boards have been slowly drying waiting for the day that they could be out to use. And that day is today! In the end, my husband and I decided on building a chicken coop/storage shed. It’s a 12’ X 8’ building with half dedicated to storage and half to our future clucking friends. You would think that being located 20 feet away from our barn, we wouldn’t need more storage, but if the wood is essentially free, then why not make it a little bigger? There are always things in need of storage!
The chicken side of the coop is 6’X8’ with 2 windows, 4 nest boxes and a handful of perches for them. There is 48 ft2 of room for all of them and with 16 chickens they are a little under the recommended 4 ft2/chicken that most people say you need. The truth is, we never planned on having this many chickens. We had a gift certificate for an online order place so we used that, but the minimum number they would send was 15; so we ordered 15. A few days after they arrived one died, which is sad but inevitable. A few days later we realized that we somehow still had 16 chickens left in the box (it’s really hard to count those little buggers when they are running all over the place). So now we have more chickens that we anticipated, which is not necessarily a bad thing. While they may be a little cramped in the future when they get bigger, we may get rid of some before that’s the case; a few friends said they are interested in some, plus since they are still young we think that they are all females, but if 1 or more turns out to be a rooster, it will be the roasting pan for him.
When we first got the chicks in early May they lived in a box in the spare bedroom of our house with a heat lamp to keep them warm. They quickly outgrew that box and we had to move them to the back hallway of the house into 2 boxes taped together and window screens on top to keep them in. We learned the screens were necessary after one flew out and spent the night under a shelf…our dog quickly helped us find her in the morning during a quick and frantic 30 seconds of scrambling, pouncing and scolding. After that we also added a piece of plywood in front of the doorway to keep the dog and cat out of the chicken-room.
When the chicks got a few weeks old and they started to look like awkward teenagers with some feathers growing in all over the place and chick fuzz still poking out here and there, we moved them to the chicken coop. With the exception of the 10 minute car ride and the initial complete confusion of this huge new place, they settled in pretty happily and quickly. No more chick box! After another week, we had finished fencing in the outside chicken run and decided it was time to let them out into the great outdoors. Word to the wise, even if your chick looks like it won’t fit through the 2” wide wire fencing, it very likely still can. With 4 of the Compound dogs sitting on the outside of the fence staring intently in at all the new chew toys they thought we had brought for them, 1 chick decided to stray from the chicken pack, suddenly getting scared of being away, it darted to the fence and popped out. Luckily the dogs were all too stunned to do anything too quick before we yelled, frantically opened the gate and chased the little bugger back in the pen. The next day we added some chicken wire along the bottom of the fence.
In a few more months they will start laying eggs and we won’t know what to do with them all; hopefully by then the dogs will have calmed down about these new toys and we can let them free range a little more to help keep the bug populations down. Slowly but surely our little homestead is coming together. Next all we need is a house out here and we will be all set!