I haven’t dropped a note here for a while! I was able to see a stretch of sunny and mild days heading our way. I wrote a LONG list of building jobs I wished … and wished… to get done before the rain and/or the bugs rolled in. The minute those sunny days showed up I was out sunup to sundown!
Job number one: turning the ‘little hay barn’ that turned into the ‘storage barn’ into another ‘coop’. That is the barn on the right with the painting of the rooster on the wall. Funny how quickly it filled up over the winter with fencing, and old hay bales, and ‘have to keep ’em’ pieces of wood, tools and old chicken coop nesting boxes … Need I say more?
Our ‘head carpenter’ is a bit under the weather these days … so my apprentice days had to come to an end. These jobs would be my first solo flights.
I decided to build a screen wall with a ‘people sized door’ just inside the barn. That way I could open the big double doors during the daytime and the chickens would have a covered area – isolated from the other flock – and fresh air. This week I will be picking up six new Red Sex Link layers to add to our flock. I had sworn off these birds two years ago after picking up Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Deb. Their poor clipped beaks … But – here I am – between laying flocks – needing some more hens. I will treat them with special attention. I know now that they cannot easily fend for themselves. They will need my help to keep their feathers clear of mites and lice. Their blunted beaks don’t allow them to clean down to the base of their feather coats. They will also need some TLC to get their fair share of treats. I think a mealy worm meal every week or so will be in the offing. Just for them. The Orpingtons are quite capable of finding tons of bugs up in the woods. So … the Newbie quarters are ready for their arrival.
They will have a run beside that barn and the goat’s shelter. That is where the Orpington pullets grew up last summer. It is a nice shady spot with access to the hillside – and even the field out back if I open their gate. It isn’t a covered run … but they will be big enough that I’ll feel safe with them out there. I also won’t feel bad about them being inside – as this new coop has lots of space. I have to pick up two shed windows this week to add natural light to the interior.
That was the first item on my list – that barn area. I ALSO needed to have another go at the Chicken Palace (last summer’s new coop). Now that the Orpingtons are a year old they are BIG and HEAVY. When they jump down from their roosts above the poop bar – you know it. I had put hay bales there this winter. They provided soft landing spots halfway down. But now that it is milder … chicken poop is no longer left in handy frozen balls. Those hay bales were going to be one stinky mess if I kept them there… Back to the drawing board. After wandering around in Home Depot for an hour or so … I came up with this solution.
Lightweight shelving platforms! They normally have holes at each level. So I bought boot trays and cinch tied them in place. The wood chips help dry up any poop left there – making it easier to clean. The shelves have a little flexibility to them – so they have some spring to absorb heavy landings. The open areas under each platform give the flock more room to move around. And I can reach through and over them to gather eggs or clean off the poop bar. For a crazy day or two my plan had been to lower the entire poop bar and roosts … Not only would that be a gargantuam job it would make the nesting boxes sit on the ground. (Can I do this when I’m 80? Probably not if it involved gathering eggs while on my hands and knees. Ha!) The chickens loved them.
So CHECK and CHECK – first two jobs on my list – success!
While all this drilling, and cutting and hammering and dragging of wire fencing was going on the flerd looked on in consternation. I was totally neglecting my cuddling duties.
There were some advantages. When I had to take the hay bales out of the coop the flerd LOVED the grass infused with chicken scratch, corn and peanuts.
Some of the spectators were a little more blasé about it all … 😉
The sun held out – and the days got warmer – and I kept going. I know I will also be getting six Brahma chicks this spring. I’m thinking I would enjoy them as chicks rather than waiting for them to mature to month old pullets. This means the newbie hens group and the chicks will each need isolated space at the same time. When new chickens arrive you should keep them apart from your flock for at least a month to make sure they don’t bring any illnesses or lice to the coop. Also they need even more time than that to learn to ‘make nice’ with the original hens. It took the Tweedles two months before they were able to safely roost with my older group.
The more I thought about it – the more sense it made to extend the ‘Nursery/Infirmary Ward’ (aka the ‘Little Grey Coop’) to hold one of those groups. I keep waffling on which will go where. But as I mentioned earlier – I’m thinking this area will be for the chicks. It now has two covered runs. That will keep hawks and even hungry crows from trying to scoop them up. I’m not so sure I will be able to keep it chipmunk proof … (I take that into account now as a few summers ago I was at a friend’s farm when she jumped up to run into her meat chicken barn because she could see a chipmunk wrestling with one of the chicks. Seemed they were fond of chicken meat.)
This is a shot from a year ago. The little grey coop (a converted tiny garden shed) has a small covered run to the right. It was also attached to a tarp covered larger run on the left. That was the daytime haunt of the flock in the winter and on rainy days. That run blew away in a windstorm last fall … and turned into the Chicken Clubhouse.
The Clubhouse was extended from the jenny’s barns – making a solid roof – and a roofline that could drain off the southern exposure. It meant the little Grey Coop was left ‘disconnected’ this winter.
It made a beautiful spot – a great place for the Orpington flock to enjoy winter sunshine out of the winter snow.
With the continuing sunshine I was off to the races for a fourth and fifth day. I could see the weather would change soon. And I knew the newbies would be arriving perhaps even sooner.
I decided to join the Clubhouse to the Little Grey Coop with a covered run. At first I was considering a metal roof … but then I remembered the great shade that is there from the huge oak tree overhead. So wire fencing fit the bill. Then I decided to install a people door into the side of that little coop. I would then be able to move from the paddock – through the Clubhouse – through the covered shade run – and through the Little Coop back into the paddock. No more going the ‘long way around’. By this time I was feeling quite ‘creative’ about my doors. I managed to incorporate the wire screen into the three layer design. I have one inch thick wire on the outside. It gives the door strength and could easily take a larger animal (like a wayward goat perhaps …) standing against it. On the inside I added a second layer of wire mesh – this time hardware cloth with half inch holes. The wire mesh on both sides is secured with the braces that frame the doorway. Time will tell whether it will hold up. Hopefully it is only chickens that test it.
I have to finish off one short wall for this covered run. Today delivered rain and chilly weather. A rest! And time to send out a ‘hellooooo’ into blog space. (And a little time for INSIDE the house work!)
Early spring sure was fun while it lasted! I think we are set now even if the weather gets a little feisty over this next stretch.
Hugs from the Meadow to you!