The “Hilton”

The Kiddo, for her 14th birthday, asked if we could keep chickens. Since moving last fall, we have discovered that chicken keeping in our city is allowed. We can keep up to 20 hens and 0 roosters. Tell that to the 2 nearby neighbors who have very vocal roosters. Oh and FYI, Roos don’t crow only at dawn, they pretty much crow from sun up to sun down. So hens it is, and just as we are making plans to build a coop/run, a FB friend posts her need to rehome her 6 laying hens do to an impending move.

I start doing my research and studying and gathering as much info as I can find. Just devouring all thinks chicken keeping. I draw up a simple design for a coop and run. We need to keep the hens completely enclosed during the day when we are gone to work and school and overnight due to the threat of feral cats, hawks and potentially even our own dogs and cats, as they have never co-habited with chickens and we are not certain they would leave them be. Off the Hubs goes to buy all the material, since the Kiddo wants this for her birthday gift we have her pitch in some of her birthday money for the materials.  This is a family effort.  The Hubs measures and cuts the lumber, the Kiddo and I pre-drill, and counter sink, the Hubs screws things together (we found out the hard way that he should be in charge of the screwing things together bit).  Here is an end panel and the door

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Then there is the paint, the Hubs brought us the swatch sheet from the home improvement center, the Kiddo selects a plain, tan/beige color – BORING, I select a bright daffodil yellow, the Kiddo says – YUCK.  She and I came to a happy compromise and selected a soft, buttery yellow – PERFECT!  So she and I paint, and paint and paint some more.

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The Hubs then assembles the walls with some help from the Kiddo and I, we just held things up while he screwed them together. the Friday after the 4th, the Hubs had to work, so the Kiddo and I did what we could to help get things finished.  We worked on attaching the hardware cloth (wire mesh screening) on the run walls and door.  We took turns holding, cutting and using the air stapler to attach it.  We only had one mishap in trimming the wire too short. When the Hubs returned home later in the day, he helped us figure out the best way to correct that little boo boo.

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Once we got the framing of the run and base of the coop all attached to the pressure treated lumber base it was time to move it from the driveway where we had been working on it, you know, close to the tools and a nice flat work area, to the far back corner of the yard where it is to live.  I should mention this run has a floor space of 11′ x 6′.  The run has a slanted roof that is 6′ tall on the front side and slopes to 5.5′ on the back side.  Not small.  So the 3 of us have to pick this beast up and walk it a good distance.  We were a bit skeptical as to whether or not we were going to be able to accomplish this, but in our family, where there is a will, there is a way, and we managed to walk it right into place. Perfect fit!

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I should note that we had been working tirelessly on this for an entire week, after work, over the 4th of July and late into every evening.  Over eager me had set a date to meet up with the friend to make the chicken swap for the coming Saturday.  This was no run over to a friends house, they live 3 hours away, so we had agreed to meet half way.  So we had really banged this out in a short while, but only managed to get the floor of the coop on by the time we had to leave to collect our new flock.  So then we make the 1.5 hour drive, wait an a bit while their navigation takes them the wrong way, collect our flock, chat a bit, and then make the return trip home.  The birds were in apple boxes, 2 birds per box. one of the box lids had slid down during transport, making it possible for those hens to pop their heads out.  Image the game  Whack-a-Mole, yeah, it looked a lot like that.  When we finally get them home we set up a couple of dog exercise pens, placed a piece of plywood on top, added a dish of water and then freed our beautiful new girls from their boxes.  Oh my, these girls were large and absolutely BEAUTIFUL.

Of the 6 chickens we have 3 breeds.  2 Barred Rock, 2 Silver Laced Wyandotte and 2 Easter Egger/Ameraucana

This is one of the Barred Rocks, Fred, the other is named Ricky:

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This one is an Easter Egger named Cluck:

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This is the other Easter Egger (Though she looks exactly like a Silver Ameraucana) Swainson, named for the Swainson Hawk:

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This is the largest of the flock, a Silver Laced Wyandotte named Isabelle:

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The other Sliver Laced Wyandotte named Raven:

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So now we are home,  with 6 chickens in a temporary run while ours is yet to be completed.  First order of business, get the run portion 100% secured so the girls can atleast have that space while we turn our attentions to the coop portion.  The clocks ticking, the girls need to be in the coop at sundown.  No pressure. Ha!  So the kiddo and I complete the attaching of the hardware cloth while the Hubs measured, cut and attached the plywood roof and the interior wall of the coop. As soon as we had it all buttoned up, the Kiddo, with help from her friend, Dad and myself, moved the girls in to their new space.  It was such fun watching her catch , carry and release the hens, she is such a natural.

Now we could turn our attention to completing the coop, the Kiddo bailed on us to go back to her friends for the night, leaving her Pops and I to scramble to get the coop secured and opened to the hens asap.  Time was running out, so was patience between the Hubs and I.  We measured and cut and attached as fast as we could.  As the sun was setting the hens were starting to look for the door to get in and get to bed.  Sun set, moon coming out, still no door, the girls are all lined up on the roosting bar in the run, too cute.  Finally, it is nearing 9 pm and it is time to cut a door so the girls can go inside the coop from the run.  I go in to mark out where I want the opening.  As I am drawing the line I hear flapping and look as Swainson is flying off the roost toward me, much to my relief, she narrowly misses me.  So I set back to my job at hand.  Moments later I hear the distinct sound of flapping wings again, as I duck and turn to see where she is headed she makes contact and lands on my BACK! Great, now I am locked in the coop, bent over with a chicken laying on my back. I can’t reach around to get her off of me, I definitely don’t want to stand up and have her slide down my back with her talons digging into my skin.  So I holler for the Hubs, he’s all “What?  I’m busy here” “Um, honey, would you mind coming here and removing this chicken from my back?”  So I have to walk, hunched over, to the run door to unlatch it so he can come in and remove what seems to be a quite content hen from my back.  Then it’s his turn to come in and cut the opening, and who decides he looks like a fine perch, Swainson again!  So up she flies and perches on his shoulder like a parrot, too funny! I remove her, he goes back to stooping over as he cuts the opening, and back she comes.  Good grief.  And all the while, the other hens were crowded around under the coop supervising his work.  The moment it is open and he attempts to attach the ramp, they are hopping in one right after another and standing at the top of the ramp looking at him as if to say “What are you still doing here?”

By 9:30 that night we got the coop temporarily secured so the girls could go to bed. The next day we went out and added the hardware to the coop doors so we can open them (which greatly facilitates the collecting of eggs), as we made the choice to just screw them in place the night before as we were running so late.  We have also gone in and added some windows.  We have plans to build the nesting boxes onto the sides so they jut out, this will free up more space in the coop for the girls to sleep.  We’ll add a second roosting bar in there as well.  We have learned a lot in the few weeks we have had the flock, like, they don’t sleep in the nesting boxes, they only go in them to lay an egg, so we can move them out of the way and give them two roosting bars so they can spread out a bit.

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The girls enjoying some free time in their “Chicken Yard” a portion of the yard secured from the dogs and cats that we let them out in when we are home.

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Sampling my zucchini, I have since added a chicken wire fence around this planter as I would prefer to have a chance to pick my zucchini before they eat them all.

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Learning more and more every day.  We love to sit on the back patio and watch them in their yard.  Every day we are blessed with beautiful, fresh and delicious eggs

our first dozen

I should mention that we also purchased 2 Ameraucana/Easter Egger chicks to have the experience of raising chicks with the hopes that they will both be hens and will add to the colored egg collection in a few months from now.

The darker one is Ginger and the “Chipmunk” colored one is Chiquita, unless one or both turn out to be Roosters.  Check back in another month or 2.

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