Saturday, March 31, 2012

Chickens


My wife and I have been throwing around the idea of chickens for a long time.  Its something we thought we would enjoy having and taking care of as well as collecting those wonderful eggs.  One Saturday, we researched the whole deal.  We bought books and a magazine, discussed our future chicken coop, and decided this is the year we're going to do it.
Picture

We were waiting till later in March (March is host to "chick days" at many farm stores) before purchasing our chicks so I could build a coop first.  On a whim though, we bought the chicks, all 18 of them, and made them at home here.  They're occupying a small space near our wood stove where the log rack normally is.  A mild winter and a warm spring made this an easy move for us.

A mere week later, our chicks are eating us out of house and home like teenagers.  They're beginning to feather out as well as peck and scratch a lot.  We've backed off the brooding light since they seem to be too hot (they're huddling in a corner far away from it).  They'll be outside at this rate but that brings me to another problem: the coop!

Many folks have kindly suggested, never buy chicks till you a coop ready for them.  I should have listened to that adage.  I'm fortunate to have the next several days off that I ordinarily would not.  With some help, I will be constructing a very fine hen house.  If it isn't finished in these few days, I will be in trouble as I won't have as much time to finish working on it.

My basic plan is for an 8' x 8' elevated coop.  The coop will be elevated approximately 2' including cinder block base.  The outside walls will be 2' with the middle as high as 3.5'.  The roof will be hinged for easy access inside as well as a hinged roof over the attached nesting box for easy egg gathering.  The very top will also include hardware cloth in a vented slat.  The floor inside will be vinyl coated hardware cloth over 2x4s so that the droppings can pass straight through.  Eventually I plan to add trays underneath to catch their manure for composting.


Picture

Once this is constructed, I'll post all the photos I can.  I hope my design works well as I have not seen a coop quite this large that was not walk in.  I had a couple factors involved: money and heat.  With a smaller design, it will be easy for the chickens to keep warm in this with their own body heat.  It is also cheaper to build it this way since I won't need as much material.


One last note for now: my chicks!  I bought black sex links and ISA browns.  The ISA browns are cross between Rhode Island Reds and Rhode Island Whites.  These girls can lay 300 eggs each in their first year.  The black sex link chicks are a cross between Rhode Island Red roosters and Barred Plymouth Rock hens.  These produce about 200 eggs per year.  Both produce brown large to extra large eggs.