Big Plans for the Coop!

Hi there!  It’s been a busy couple of weeks around the DBDT household.  I had to travel around the state last week for my day job and have been playing catch up ever since.  Luckily the weather is finally turning warmer and the snow is melting, so the Hubs and I have been working on cleaning out the greenhouse and getting it set up for it’s first season!  I’ll share an update on that project soon.  The other big project on my radar at the moment is the chicken coop.

The Hubs added the roof to the chicken yard in the fall, which was a great improvement over the thin netting we had originally.  The new metal paneling has held up well over the winter.   Because it’s open panels allow the snow to fall through we had to shovel out their yard a couple of times during the snowy season and now that things are melting it’s getting pretty soggy in there.  Unfortunately there’s not much drainage in this spot so I’m planning to till up the ground and add in some gravel or sand to help with that for future seasons.

Last summer I added the cinder blocks along the edge of the yard as planters.  The canvas curtains I made to keep the cluckers from demolishing the plants didn’t work as well as I hoped, so I’ve tossed them and will be getting some clear acrylic panels that can slide into the space between the blocks and the metal fence panels.

That will keep the sight lines open for both the chickens and the dogs, but they can be easily removed when I want to give the cluckers access to the greens I’ll be growing in the blocks for them.  I gave up on having flowers here and late last season planted grass seed in the blocks along the side of the yard instead.  I’ll plant lavender and mint along the front blocks since those are more protected by the hen house wall.  Hopefully those aromas will help keep things smelling fresh on this side of the yard and provide herbs to freshen their bedding too.

I’d like to make some kind of hanging pocket planters for each of the posts down the side of the yard where I could have some trailing flowers.  The cluckers won’t be able to get to the plants that high up and it would help make things a little prettier.  I’m also thinking about making some kind of hanging planter for the wall at the back of the run since it’s a big open space there.

Of course the big to-do with the chicken yard is installing a gravel walkway from the deck steps to the coop and then over to the gate on the side of the house.  I’ve got lawn edging that we picked up last year that should be enough to do this distance, but I’ll have to wait for the ground to dry out so we can get the wheelbarrows of gravel back here.

Another functional improvement is to level out the area in front of the run’s door and add pavers in that corner to help with the mud that develops there.  Luckily I have pavers I picked up last season to get that project started as soon as the ground allows.

I also plan to do a few simple updates like adding a tire under the hen house with sand for the cluckers to use for dirt baths.  That should keep them from making holes in their yard for that purpose.  I’ll add a few stumps in the yard and some branches across the back corner for them to roost on and have a spot to get up a bit higher and see the surrounding area.  I’d like to dress up the storage cabinet and side of the hen house a bit with some trim to give it a more finished farmhouse style look and am considering adding metal to the cabinet roof so it matches the run and helps the cabinet last a bit longer.  And if I get time to get really fancy this might be the season I get a sign made for the coop!

I considered adding a compost area in the yard so the ladies can help break down the materials, but I can’t seem to find a plan that works in the space we have so I’m currently planning to have a compost tumbler behind the green house instead so it’s convenient to dump kitchen scraps the chickens won’t eat and their coop bedding.

I’m hoping to start some of these tasks this weekend if the weather continues to cooperate so stay tuned for an update post!

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The Cluck Club

Chicks2

Over the holiday weekend we added some new members to our family!  Welcome (from back to front) Biscuit, Nugget, Fil-a and Curry.  And they have some fancy new digs courtesy of the hubs handi-man skills!  Here’s a quick photo tutorial of how it went together.

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He started with two side panels of framed wire, to form the main area which serves as a run for the chickens to move around in.  He added more framing for what would become the hen house floor at the rear of the coop.

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Next he added sides to the hen house, followed by foam insulation.  He also extended the floor of the hen house past the framing to make an area for nesting boxes.

4After insulation was added to the floor, the nesting boxes starting to take shape at the back of the hen house.

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Then he added dividers to make three separate boxes so the ladies have a bit of privacy when laying.

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Next he added a roof to the nesting boxes that can be lifted for collecting eggs.

9This puppy is well insulated so the chickens will stay nice and warm when the weather dips below 0 during the winter.  With insulation foam sandwiched between layers of wood on all of the walls and floor it should be pretty cozy.

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And if you’re wondering if it’s sturdy, Stoli and his 70 some pounds of muscle can guarantee that it is!

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Once the main parts of the walls were in, he added the roof panels.

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13And from the side it was really starting to look like a coop!  If you notice, we moved the coop forward a bit so there’s more room at the back because the clean out access for our septic line is right next to the house and should we ever need to use it we wanted some room to work.

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At my request, he added a covering of linoleum material on the entire hen house floor to make cleaning the coop out easier.

8And here’s the finished project – after several weeks of work!  Unfortunately, it rained here for most of the holiday weekend so I wasn’t able to paint it before we brought the chickens home, but once the weather improves for a few days all of the wood will get a coat of bright white, which should give it a true farm house feel!

FinishedCoop

The nesting box roof got a metal covering to match the rest of the coop and keep the elements at bay.

NestBoxCover

You can see most of the inside of the hen house when the small roof is lifted – a feature I’m sure I’ll appreciate immensely when checking on them during the winter.

NestBoxViewIn addition to the nesting boxes, the hubs installed an inside roost for the hens to use when the weather gets colder.

FinishedNestBoxesThe two side doors open wide to give full access to the inside of the hen house which has a light to provide both warmth and stimulation to continue laying throughout our dark winter.

FinishedHenHouseHe also installed a feeder made of PVC pipe and a water bottle with a nipple at the bottom so both stay as clean as possible with minimal waste.

FeederNWaterI’d never used poultry water nipples before, but they operate on the same mechanics as a rabbit water bottle and the chickens had some at their previous home so they already know how to use them.

FinishedWaterA ramp to access the hen house from the run and a large branch for an outdoor roost made it chicken ready.

RunEveryone was very excited to meet the chickens.  Even Luna came out to welcome them, although she stayed out of the dogs way by perching herself on the nearby ladder.  To give the chickens some breathing room from their four-legged siblings we fenced off the main part of the coop with some large metal grates we got for free on Craigslist a while back.  We’ll leave these up for a while until everyone is used to each other.  Until then they are under almost constant surveillance, but they don’t seem to mind too much.

ChickenWatchers   ChicksWatchFinalEventually I’ll add pea gravel around the coop so it doesn’t get super muddy, but for now we’re just happy to have the coop mostly finished (sans painting) and chickens inside it.

ChicksAlthough they aren’t free range like they were at their last home, I have been giving them yard cuttings and table scraps to dig through which they seem to enjoy.  And we all enjoy watching them settle into their new home. 🙂