Monday, March 19, 2012

Get chickens. Part Two, part one

There were two garden sheds in the yard when we purchased our home.  One of them houses the lawnmower (I won't tell you which one, so if you're aiming to break in to steal it, there's a 50% chance it will take you twice as long. This will give our lazy hound dog time enough to wake up and start barking, and Abe time enough to hear and come after you with our b.b. gun.).  The other is now our chicken coop.

contemplating chicken coop conversion

The first step was emptying out the shed, which was full of random things, like a brand new Swiffer mop, 15 years of cobwebs, dust, and spiders, a humane animal trap, and a kerosene heater, along with a complete set of dishes we now eat off of every day. (We washed off the spiders.)

The next step was to build nesting boxes (where the chickens lay their eggs) and roosts (where the chickens sleep).  See?

The garden shed turned out to be a lot bigger than we needed for our new flock, so Abe put up a wall dividing the front third of the shed from the back two-thirds. 

Behind the pullet and the shovel in this next picture, you can sort of see the divider.  The top of the wall is the metal fencing you can see behind the chicken; the bottom of the wall is OSB and has a door cut from the center (human size, for egg collection).  This keeps the chickens out of the feed and other junk we store in the front portion.

Being a talentless photographer with an aging point-and-shoot digital camera, I can't seem to get decent photos that show the whole inside. I decided to draw you a diagram instead, never mind that I'm also a talentless artist.

We cut two windows in the back of the coop, because even chickens love natural light.  Abe used old picture frames to "frame" them - that way the glass is already pre-cut just the right size.

Here's a cost breakdown:
Garden shed:  FREE  (came with the house)
Wood for nesting boxes:  $12
Bamboo for roosting:  FREE (harvested from the side of the road)
Having a pet who makes you breakfast:  Priceless

With the hens restricted to the back of the coop, we found that there's just enough space in the front for MORE ANIMALS (exactly what every garden shed needs).  Abe framed in an area on the right side to hold our rabbits and cut a separate door on the exterior wall to they could hop around, dig tremendous tunnels, and ruin the yard outside. Now that the rabbits are in the freezer, that space is perfect for our young spring chickens.  They have warm space inside (with a brooding light that we've unplugged now that it's so warm), but they can also explore the rabbit tunnels on sunny afternoons.

quite possibly a rooster... and soon to be dinner

EDIT:  I forgot you were waiting on my advice re:  naming your chickens.  Here it is:
1.  Don't.  When Abe and I first got chicks, there was Winona. She was the tiniest but made up for it in spunk. She was sociable and darling, also the only one I named. Then a hawk ate her.
2.  Pick a theme.  To get you started, names of flowers (Daisy, Iris, Tansy) and kinds of cars (Buggy! Tacoma!), although now that I'm thinking of these awesome names, I'm going to need more chickens.  I'm also partial to old lady names (ahem, Winona,* Harriet, Gertie, Myrtle**)
*See also: names of celebrities
**See also: names of flowers 
3. Make sure you can tell your chickens apart.  Abe has one chicken he calls Friendly. (#4 - Don't put Abe in charge of naming your chickens; ruins the theme***). To me, she looks exactly like one of our other Rhode Island Reds, so now we have two chickens who both think they might be Friendly.  The real Friendly is bow-legged, so I only know which she is when she's on the run. It's no good to have a name for a chicken you can only remember while laughing at them. (You can call me Unkind.)
***exception: names like Snow White's dwarfs

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