Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Chicks Have Moved Out!

It's official, the chicks are all grown up and have moved into their own house (does this make me and Matt empty nesters?)! After several days of working full-out, the coop was finished at last light yesterday evening, and we moved it into place after dark and transplanted Cluck, Penny, Goldie, Esther and Lady M into the hen house for their first night in their own quarters, at the age of eight weeks! And yes, they all survived the night just fine and came out into the run this morning with very little coaxing.

Matt designed the coop and did the majority of the construction work, with help from John and Eliot, and then Matt and I spent most of yesterday doing all the finishing touches. Matt finished building the doors, we slapped on a few coats of stain to moisture-proof all the wood, attached the doors and latches, put on the roof, and finally tacked on the last piece of wire. I cut and split pieces of a lilac branch and nailed the pieces onto the ramp for a cool rustic-looking chicken stairway, and Matt took some extra time to jigsaw a beautiful cut-though in the hen house door. Once again, Matt has astounded me with not only his construction and carpentry skills, but his ability for practical design and also beautiful artistic touches- I think we have a lovely, practical, classic yet unique coop for our ladies.
(Click on Photos to Enlarge)
 I spent part of the morning raking back the gravel where the coop was to be placed on the west side of the house. This also involved picking over the ground and removing as many bits of glass and plastic as I could find (at some point the entire backyard was used as a garbage dump, we think) and leveling the ground where the "foundation' of the coop would go. I feel a great sense of achievement at the fact that when we set the coop down here, it was perfect level, just from me eyeballing it!

The almost-finished coop in the backyard. 

Matt putting together the side door for the coop.

 This morning: happy in their new space!

 This end is entirely door, hinged at the top and with barrel bolts on the inside. We'll add a latch that will hold it wide open, and have plans for a chicken tractor that can attach to this end. The coop is big enough that one of us can crawl in through this door if we need to.

 The beautiful sliding door that Matt built for the hen house, with a jigsawed koru (Maori/New Zealand symbol for new beginnings, derived from a fern fiddlehead). Right now it slides up and is held in place with a wooden pin, but we have to reach through the wire to get to it, which is kind of a pain. John suggested we make a little rope-pull for it with a cleat on the accessible side of the hen house, for easier opening and tying off, and we think it's a great idea!

 The nestbox still needs a couple dividers in it and a latch to hold it closed, but since the chickens won't be laying for a few more months we're in no rush, and for now a big old rock holds it closed!

 Penny has been celebrating the luxury of so much space by doing half-running/half-flying laps of the coop.

This side door on the hen house has barrel bolts at both sides and hinges at the bottom, so it opens outward. It still needs a handle for easy opening. This door allows us to scrape out bedding and droppings and clean the inside of the hen house. Inside are two nice roosts/perches made from camellia branches.

The only materials we paid for in the making of the coop were the screws, latches, hinges, fencing staples and one sheet of plywood. The rest of the lumber was scrounged (the side door above is made from a wooden futon frame we got for free off the curb a few blocks away) or gifted to us. My cousin Carol and her husband Greg passed on extra 2x4s and an extra roll of the welded wire from the making of their chicken run, and Matt's dad had the extra 1x1s and other scrap wood. We already had the stain, nails and of course all the tools. The only other chicken-related investments we've had to make were for a bale of straw, and a new bag of feed; our flock are now graduating from chick feed to developer feed, and have also been eating veggies, bread and other exotic treats for a few weeks now. We need to find a better water container (something they won't tip over and walk through constantly) and build a bigger feeder, but the biggest job was getting the coop finished so they could get out of their cramped box. Now we can reclaim that corner of the living room, and our flock have plenty of space to roam around, safe from the elements (the entire coop is under the wide overhang on the end of the garage) and from predators (the only ones we really have to worry about here are raccoons, and the welded wire is about as raccoon-proof as you can get).

Time for me to go empty and discard the brooder box and remove all the chicken detritus from the living room! Happy roaming, mini-hens!

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