It's mid-March, and our first batch of chickens (yes, we have another 40 coming April 4) are ready to move outside. So we desperately need to finish their coop (aka the Chicken Palace, because it is 28' x 12' and a monster!) this week. We have friends coming to help this weekend, and we hope to move them outside next week. So far, we have acquired all our tools and lumber, and have built part of the foundation for this behemoth (which we are doing INSIDE the old livestock barn- giving our ladies a double wind and weather break, as it gets cold and windy here). Being reformed city slickers, we have zero experience raising livestock. We also have zero experience building things (and disabilities keeping us from doing all the work ourselves). I will go on record saying that you can read all the books, watch all the YouTubes, and still have no clue what you are doing. Grateful for people stepping up and helping us to plan and build this thing right the first time!
Two rented Uhauls and $1500 later, we have everything (I hope!) we need to build a predator proof, safe, and exciting chicken coop this weekend. In addition to giving them plenty of space (technically, this coop could house 112 chickens comfortably, we are doing 80 this year), we also want to give them some happiness. We'll be building chicken swings (yes, there are such things) as well as roosts and nesting boxes inside. After all, there are three months of the year where they will likely want to stay in the barn (and we'll be building an indoor pen in front of the coop in the fall for that that time comes).
For the warm months, we'll be pasturing the hens around the farm, using solar powered, electrified "poultry netting" (to keep predators away) and letting them forage and eat all those ticks that plagued us last year. We have also thought about the plentiful hawks- and will probably suspend deer netting on PVC pipes above the poultry netting as a deterrent.
The girls are acquiring names. Rowan and I have taken turns naming most, although O'bee has joined in for a couple. Many are named for distinguishing features or personality traits. So far, we have Owl (who had markings on her face like a barn owl), Whitey Brown, Cinnamon, Megalodon, Baby Penguin, Freckles, Speckles, Cinder, Side Eye, Dervish, Qapla (Klingon for "success" for those not in the know), Trunchbull (high in the pecking order and she abuses it), Snow Queen, Lady Greyfeather, Scout, Fiery, Jet, Ninja, Monet, Degas, Nutmeg, Sheena (she's a punk rocker with a mohawk!), Cookies and Cream, Scissy (our sole remaining scissorbeak), Cayenne, Sunset, and Schezwan Pepper. That's only 27 of the 43, but we'll get to know their personalities and they will all get names eventually. We lost Max Volume and Runty, and two others who were unnamed when they passed (so early!)
The girls are learning we are the creatures from whom all blessings flow. When we lift the lid to their brooders, many will fly to us and land on us to get food or stroking. Qapla, in particular (who is our smallest bird and lowest on the pecking order) will come to us and we often give her food off to the side while the others fight over what's being put in the brooders. We noticed she waits until everyone else has their fill when we fed her with the others and we wanted to ensure she got enough after losing Runty. She loved the beets and sweet potatoes last night! He crop was heavy and pendulous! (We call full crops "uniboobs" around here and have for a long time before the chickens- we have 4 birds that live in the house: 3 parrots and a Starling). But even Trunchbull, the girl who is large and in charge, loves to be on my shoulder.
Stay tuned for pictures of the finished coop, the girls first days outdoors, and more!