You may remember that we dove headfirst into the country life and bought baby chicks this spring. Well, I’m happy to report that those sweet little fluffy chicks have grown into full-size, egg-laying hens.
This is our first go at raising chickens and while we don’t know all there is to know, perhaps you’d like to hear a bit more about how things are going and you’d like to see their coop?
Oh, good. Because that’s what this post is all about :)
For the first 6ish weeks, the chicks lived in our garage under a heat lamp in a big galvanized bin (which is now used as the kids’ lego bin on the third floor). Our plan was to design and build a chicken coop, but while walking through Costco, we spotted a pre-made coop and decided to go the easy route and brought it home. Here’s what it looks like in the product image:
It is a perfectly fine coop, but needed a few alterations to work for our chickens. We painted it white, reinforced the base and sides (it’s not the sturdiest right out of the box) and added an extension of the bottom ‘run’ to accommodate our six chickens. With those simple changes, it works great and was a much easier project than if we built from scratch.
You know what the hardest part of putting it together was?
It’s a good idea to have fencing material around the sides and top to keep predators out, but the underside is equally important. We don’t want rodents, coyotes or raccoons digging under the coop, so Ryan set us up with a Fort Knox worthy barrier.
We started by clearing a spot in our backyard for the chickens to live. Our yard is wooded around the perimeter and so it took a bit of work to clear out a few trees, underbrush and one million roots.
Once we had our spot cleared, we measured out the finished size of the coop and dug a perimeter about 12 inches down to fill with cinderblocks. This will prevent anything from digging down and getting up under the coop.
After the cinderblocks were in and level, we added metal grating and large cement pavers to create a foundation.
And then the coop was set on top.
Ryan added a back section for added space and put in a lift-up top so we can change the food and water and access the lower pen.
I love the idea of growing flowers or vegetables in the top garden box (like shown in the product image), but that didn’t happen this spring. We also plan to put in some shrubs and ground cover around the chicken coop to add back some green. That should help with how sparse it looks now!
The chickens are pretty easy. I like to let them out in the morning to wander around the yard, pecking at the grass, eating bugs and seeds and whatever they can find, and then around dusk they find their way back up into their sleeping quarters.
Usually we go out after they are in their coop to close and lock the door, but one night a few weeks ago we did not. They were fine all night long until they wandered out early in the morning and a coyote ran off with one of the chickens. Poor Nugget made a nice breakfast for that mean coyote. Surprisingly, the kids did okay with the loss of Nugget and it reminded us to make sure we go out each night to close up the coop.
So far, we have two chickens who are laying every day. We’re pretty sure the two black and white spotted ones are the layers, based on the fact that they have the most developed top red floppy things on their heads (apparently, that is an indication that they are developed enough to lay eggs).
Our chickens LOVE when we feed them scraps of food – especially fruit. It’s ridiculously entertaining to watch them devour a watermelon or leftovers from dinner and squawk at each other when one gets in the way.
Lately, they’ve been hanging out by the back door waiting for us …
We’re still learning about raising backyard chickens, but so far things have gone fairly well. Our friends just gifted us this darling book to help us learn more about chickens and gardening:
I sound like such a country girl. And maybe I am :)