For several years–ever since I left my crooked house in Vermont and my wonderful, chicken-lady neighbor with her 50-some birds–I have wanted to raise backyard chickens. When we moved to this house a few years ago, the side yard seemed to be a perfect spot. But I got distracted with painting inside the house, redoing the kitchen, putting in a new patio, building a raised bed garden, and creating human life. Until now. Now, its chicken time.
Last week, I took the plunge and ordered a coop kit. Three things contributed to the decision to go the kit route: 1) We are not handy people–not handy enough to build a chicken coop from scratch, anyway, no matter how easy Pinterest may make that seem. 2) We like each other and I wanted it to stay that way. 3) We did create human life and now he insists on being picked up (“up, peeze”), played with, and fed (“naakcs? naacks!”). It would have taken us approximately 12 years to build a chicken coop and 12 years of therepy to recover. I was impatient.
Dad came over on Saturday morning to help with coop construction. He’s an egg a day kinda guy and was very motivated to see this whole thing come to pass. He was also a huge help. We sorted parts, labeled parts, and took our time finding the right tools and building site. We ended up constructing most of it on/near the hot tub which was a back saver. I’d bought the “Pawhut 71″ Hen House Chicken Coop” from Frugah.com. It was a bargan and had the features I wanted. Two downsides: Some parts arrived busted and it had no coop door! The first is to be expected, perhaps, but no door to the coop? It has a door that keeps them all shut in tight and out of predatory harm, but without a door, they’d freeze! My neighbor was able to reconstruct one of the broken parts and I wrote the company asking for a replacement for the other (neither were what I’d call “critical” to construction) and I was able to construct a hinged door out of some scrap cabinet material. I’m handy enough for that, apparently! (Honestly, it turned out perfectly–Ted was quite proud of me).
So, Dad and I got the coop mostly built on Saturday. And Ted and I cleared out the rocks in the side yard so that the birds would have a dirt run. There are still a lot of rocks in the area, but I’m sure they will disappear gradually with each cleaning of the pen.
On Saturday night, I got a text from a friend–she also has chickens and I’ve been picking her brain for tips on coops, breeds, etc. “A said his friend has three hens who recently started laying. He wants them to go to a good home. Free.” Jackpot! A laying hen typically runs around $25, so I was psyched! On Sunday, Ben and I went to pick them up. We got the three birds, a waterer, feeder, and some bedding stuff…and try as I might, they wouldn’t take any money. I promised not to eat them, loaded them into the back of the car, and carefully drove us all home. That night, we made final adjustments to the coop/run, and the girls tentatively stepped out of their travel accommodations (a dog crate) and into their new home. I gave them some radish scraps and a banana peel that they pecked eagerly at while exploring their new roost. That night, at dusk, they climbed up the little ladder and settled into bed without any prompting. All I had to do was close the doors and say goodnight.
Next time, I’ll introduce you to the little flock, give you an update on the flock expansion project already underway, and get some help with naming.