The ChickensDoc


A bit of history

In March 2006, we started building a backyard chicken coop.  The budget for the project was essentially zero (well, slightly more, but not much to start), so the materials had to be free.  The first stage was a platform built out of a 7'x4' pallet raised up on a 4x4 post frame to a height of just about two feet. The platform was completed with some old fencing 1x8s that were thrown out by a guy down the street.  For those wondering why it needed to be so high off the ground, I submit this shot of the yard, post deluge.

After the Flood--bummer
flooding--a depth of two feet. Bummer.

While we don't typically see this much rain (and truth be told, the culvert was blocked up this time), the flooding indicated a need to keep the chickens up in the air abit.  So, the platform was up and then it sat for a while.  

In May or so, I finally got around to putting up some framing.  The dimensions of the coop were established based on the size of the door and windows I had lying around.  The door was an old six panel antique with a glass handle--very classy.  The windows were all from the renovation.  The siding would be more of the fencing (I had alot of this lying around, much to my neighbor's chagrin--my side yard looked pretty much like Sanford & Son).  Sadly, all the photos of this period are, well, photos, which means I have no idea where any of them were.  The frames were all built on their sides and set up, and while they were square on the ground, they lost their sharpness in the rising, unfortuately. The 2x4s were mostly salvaged from fencing as well, although I did encounter my first major expenditure here, in that I had to buy some lumber for the framing.  The framing wasn't exactly up to code, but the poultry aren't the most demanding customers.  

The rafters and roof all went up in stolen moments over the next month.  The birdsmouth's and rafter tails were all new concepts to me, so they show a bit of the learning curve there.  The roof was galvanized steel--a mabati roof as a Ugandan would observe.  It was remarkably easy to cut and work with.  I had visions of losing control of a piece and slicing off a hand.  No such injury ocurred.  The siding went up pretty quickly, with a friend helping out one afternoon to throw it up.  Things were chugging along, although we are now in the fall or winter of 2006.  

The Coop in Progress
The Coop in progress.  Probably Fall 2006.

The goal was to have chickens by Easter 2007, so over the winter of 2006-2007 I tried my best to get the structure finished.  Some things happened:  The porch went on, and the windows and doors, but then came soccer (Amina) and lacrosse (Noah).  As I was coaching both and had Wednesday night fellowship to leadnot much got done in the spring.  Even still, I had hopes of finishing up over spring break, but right before Easter (and our wicked Easter freeze) our first occupant moved into the coop. In a bag of electrical junction boxes and switches, a wren made her nest.  I first discovered her when I went to pull the bag down from it's hook and she flew out at me.  Scared the bejeesus out of me.  

Not wanting to disturb her, I was forced into a holding pattern until she and her clutch moved out and the seasons passed. Remarkably, even though the weather got bitterly cold for so late in the year, she hatched out four of her five eggs and in about 9 or 10 days (I think) they fledged and were gone.  

Interior of the coop
Interior of the coop, with wren's nest in the bag.  The walls are wrapped in plastic and the paneling extends halfway up the sides.

Wrens at rest
Wren hatchlings at rest.  Several times I thought theri mom had abandoned them, but they she kept coming back.  Wren chicks are almost inconceivably small.

Once Lacrosse ended (Mother's Day Weeked), I was able to get back to the project at hand, which meant running electricity, paneling the interior, building the run, etc. The problem here is that no one stocks chicks in the summer (they are a spring and fall thing), so we were stuck with a finished coop, kids out of school, and no chickens.  
The Finished Coop!

Our First Coop-dwellers.  

The backside of the coop

The folks at Standard Feed and Seed got one last order in the second week of July, and we were able to get our chicks.  Someone had called ahead of us and claime every single Barred Rock (if you're out there--curses on you), so we got three Buff Orpingtons and two Rhode Island Reds.  Rebecca and the kids drove down to Standard to pick them up one day after camp as a surprise.  They were very excited to have a peeping box of fluff.
Day olds
Our chicks--day one.
Noah and the Sun Amina and Happy
Noah gets close to Sun.    Amina and Happy get close.

Because very young chicks can get leg straddle (when their legs spread out) we put a screen underneath them.  This may seem like more detail than you need, but it proved to be a pretty handy thing to have.  We kept them under a heat lamp in the house for a few weeks.  By about three weeks old, the were gawky and adolescent, no longer fuzzy, but not feathery either.  They began to explore the run and take on the weeds that had grown up in the past two years.  
Three week old chickens
Adolescence is never pretty.

They made short work of the weeds and filled out quickly.  By the end of the summer, they were full-sized birds even if they were still weeks away from delivering their first egg to us.  They require some daily attention, feed in the two feeders and cleaning out the waterers, but would just as soon be left alone.  

The now well weeded yard practically regal
The chickens enjoying the run, now fully weeded.