Tag Archives: chickens

Glorious Eggs

This weekend, I got to do a big sigh of relief.  Building the brooder, sweeping up feathers, building a coop, chasing chickens out of my garden for 4 months…it’s all been worth it.  Know why? Because this weekend, we found THIS!

Yayy!!

Yayy!!

We’ve gone through approximately 200 lbs of feed, 3 rolls of chicken wire, dozens of lost tomatoes, and countless fights between the hens and the dog, but it was all worth it!  We’re now at about half a dozen, although we keep eating them, so I can’t prove that! It looks like just one hen is laying so far (the one we thought looked like a rooster!), but hopefully the other 5 aren’t far behind.  Look out friends! We’re about to have eggs!

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The Chickens are No Longer Chicks

I swear, now that the chicks I mean chickens, have left the brooder in the house, they are changing at a crazy fast rate.  Who knew chickens grew so fast?! (Okay, well, I guess I did, but still…)

We’ve officially started to let them free range fairly often.  I mean, we kind of had to. Once they had a taste for it, they quickly learned how to fly over the fence for their run and wander the yard on their own anyway.  I swear, it’s like keeping a toddler in their new bed.  It just won’t happen.

Free Range Chicks

Free Range Chicks

Well, hey.  The only reason we really kept them in the run is to keep them away from Scout, our overly playful pup that seems to think they are toys.  But you know what? It turns out these chicks can really handle their own.  Scout is now afraid of getting pecked on the nose again, and all it takes is a cock-eyed look from one of the chicks to send her running in the other direction.  Mission: Accomplished!

They’ve also really gotten to know us! It’s so funny.  Every time they see one of us, the whole flock comes running (and if you’ve ever seen a chicken run, you know what I mean by funny).  In fact, it was incredibly hard to get this picture of them free ranging, because they kept running at me while I was trying to get in the best angle to get a picture!

In addition to running at us every time they see us, they really actually like to be held (well, most of them do, we’ve got 2 shy ones).  And Pistache loves holding them, too.  So it’s a win-win for everyone.

Friendly chicks.

Friendly chicks.

Cage Free Dad enjoys holding them, too.  For some reason, they really like to roost on his arm and listen to him talk.  Or…maybe they just think he’s crazy for talking to a chicken? I sure do!

 

Chicken Talk

Chicken Talk

They also really love roosting on his shoulder, although I don’t think he’s quite as comfortable with that!

Did it poop on me?

Did it poop on me?

The answer, of course, is no it didn’t poop on him.  I wouldn’t have been mean enough to snap a picture of that. But it was funny to see him get so nervous about it!

As far as growth updates, I’d say they are hitting puberty.  They go back and forth between peeping like chicks and clucking like chickens, which really reminds me of boys during that phase of life!

They’ve also finally started eating some table scraps.  These crazy birds really love cabbage! So funny.  I’ve tried a variety of things, and the only decent response has been to strawberry scraps and cabbage scraps.  They turn their noses up at everything else! Who knew chickens were picky?

All in all, our chickens are growing at an impressive rate.  I’m anxiously awaiting our first eggs, but I know it will be awhile before that starts up.  I’m hoping for August, though!

 

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More Coop Work

I don’t know about everyone else, but I feel like we’re constantly doing work to our chicken coop.  Every time I think, “Yay! We’re done with the coop! I can post the final update on the blog,” I find something that needs to be changed.  Sorry, guys.  You may never see a completed coop picture.

However, I can show you an updated picture of the run, because we’ve done some serious work, there!

Door added to the run

Door added to the run

The most noticeable things we’ve changed about the run are that we fenced it higher up, making it more secure. We also added a door, since we can no longer climb over the fence.

New door to the run

New door to the run

The door was really simple to construct.  It’s just chicken wire and some old fence posts.  We don’t have it latched with anything right now, but it’s heavy enough to keep our dog out and chickens in, and we don’t have much of a predator problem right now so we’re not in a big hurry to change that.

In addition to those changes, we also made it more secure at the bottom, because we found where either our chickens or the dog had pulled up a bit of wire, creating a hole at the bottom of the fence.  We did this with some simple metal camping stakes, and it has held up pretty well so far.

Some of the changes I still want to make are:

  1. Make the fence even higher, since the girls are still flying over it very easily.
  2. Cover the top, because we keep forgetting to lock them up at night, and I’d feel better about that if I knew they couldn’t get out of the run.

Over all, some pretty simple changes are coming this weekend.  I *think* we’ll be done after that.  At least for a little while.

So far, the ladies seem to like it a lot in there.  They are constantly grazing, and come running up every time I walk by.  They love to hide out under the coop and enjoy the shade.  Now, if only I could find a way to make this entire run mobile, I’d be one happy chicken owner!

Enjoying their yard

Enjoying their yard

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The Chickens Have Left the Building!

No worries.  I didn’t get rid of the girls.  I just finally got them out of my house and into their new home! Technically, this happened more than a week ago, but you know how life gets, especially with out of town guests and an impromptu beach vacation!

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First day in the run, checking out their first offering of scraps

They seem to really enjoy roaming around in their chicken yard, and we’re trying to get them interested in kitchen scraps.  They still seem to enjoy the food, more, so I don’t know if we just haven’t found a food they like or what.  We’ll keep trying, though!

Enjoying some shade under the coop

Enjoying some shade under the coop

They really seem to enjoy the area under their coop, and run under there whenever they hear a loud noise. However, as of yesterday, they have started going back into their coop on their own at night, which has made our bed time routine much easier! Before, they went under there at night and we had to crawl in and move them into the coop.  Not fun.

We’d eventually love to give them a chance to free range in our yard, but our puppy, Scout, has got to learn first that they are not toys.  As you can see, she’s very, very interested!

First day in the run, Scout wants in, too!

First day in the run, Scout wants in, too!

Scout still wants in, today! But she's happy just watching.

Scout still wants in, today! But she’s happy just watching.

Until then, they can enjoy the grass in their separate yards. We also hope to make a second, mobile run soon, so that we can put all of their pecking and scratching to use for us in our future (and current) garden beds.

And…one more picture of the ladies doing their typical activities in the run, just for your enjoyment!

They still don't care for the scraps.  Hmm...

They still don’t care for the scraps. Hmm…

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Our DIY Chicken Coop From Recycled Materials

This weekend, Cage Free Dad made some big progress on our chicken coop.  I’m very excited as I watch this project unfold, because I originally thought I’d have to make it myself while he was out of town for 2 months.  The whole idea was so overwhelming. I just couldn’t even figure out the first step on my own! Keep in mind that my only actual building experience is the one time I built a shelf with my dad.  So I was extremely grateful when Cage Free Dad came home with a plan and began working on it himself.

While he was gone, I found the plans for the free Purina Mills design, which he is using as a rough outline for his design.  He’s made it twice as big, moved the nesting boxes, and made a few extra doors and openings to make life a little easier for us.

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Framing and roof done

The frame is made from mostly new materials, because we wanted to be sure it would be sturdy, especially since it’s up off the ground (hindsight is telling me we could have made a coop directly on the ground for nearly free, but too late). CFD also purchased roofing panels, but then realized he didn’t buy as much as he needed.  Me being Mrs. Frugal, told him to find another way, so he filled in the gaps with plywood.  It’s not pretty, but it will work until new material costs are in the budget!

3 walls up!

3 walls up!

As you can see, the long walls are built using old fencing material.  My cousin just tore down her fence and was going to toss all of the wood in her roll-off box! The hinges for the 2 doors are also from her fence, and some of the plywood is left over from other projects.

A look inside

A look inside

Here is a look inside the coop before we put on the final wall.  The wall on the left (with a window) has a small door on the bottom half that lifts up to make cleaning easier.  The right hand wall is a large door that opens all the way for easy cleaning.

Future nesting boxes

Future nesting boxes

Here is where the nesting boxes will sit once they are complete.  We chose this spot so that we could have 2 doors on the sides, and if it’s raining, we can collect eggs without having water pour down our backs while we stand there (the roof slops the other way).

It’s not completely done, but some big progress has been made in the last 2 weekends.  While building this coop design from new materials has cost chicken owners up to $700 it seems, our version made from recycled and refurbished materials has cost closer to $180 for 4×4’s, some roofing, and a bit of plywood.  It might not be as pretty right now, but once we trim up the uneven ends and paint it all one color, I think it will look pretty great!

It’s in our (eventual) plans to add wheels to the legs of the coop so that we can move this coop around on the yard.  I also plan to make our run out of PVC pipe and chicken wire, which I already have on hand.  That way, the run is sturdy but can also be moved around.  We’ll be able to confine the birds in our garden area after the harvest and we can move them so the grass doesn’t get destroyed in the meantime.

Next weekend we hope to finish the nesting boxes, roosts, run, and ramp.  Then, we’ll be ready for the girls to move in! Just have to wait until they’re a little older and the weather is more consistent before I feel comfortable moving them.  I’m so ready to see the ladies in their new home (and out of mine)!

 

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Baby Chick Update 4-19

I thought it might be fun to post some occasional photo updates of the girls.  Having baby chicks is a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun, too! They change so fast, it’s fun to take constant photos and see the changes day by day (it seems).  We’ve now had them about a week and a half, and the clerk at the Tractor Supply store said they were 3 days old when we got them, so they are right about 2 weeks old today!  They are much more comfortable in their home, now, and they are really showing some personality.

Last week, we found a spare piece of dowel that just happened to be a perfect size to fit in the box  brooder, so we put that in for them to begin practicing their roosting skills.  I think they have it down!

Roosting

 

Another fun update in the last few days has been their flying practice.  Now that they have developed some wing feathers, they’ve started using them! The first experience was when Pistache tried to pick one up, but I didn’t snap a photo of that one (we were more concerned with keeping her from taking off or falling and getting hurt).  Since then, they’ve been flapping around the brooder constantly, and have even taken to trying to escape when we take the chicken wire off the top of the brooder! I snapped a few photos of an escape attempt.

Escape Artist

No worries.  I think once she got to the top she decided she was happier in the brooder (it’s much warmer in there).

Perched

 

It sure is fun to watch them learning and exploring! I can’t wait to see what they do outside.  And, just for fun, here is a photo of the latest development.  They’ve been looking “scruffy” around the neck for a few days, and last night I realized that not only do they have feathers at the ends of their wings, but they are developing feathers at the top, too!

Wing Feathers

Their little tail feathers are cute, too!

Another update I’m pleased to announce is that we still have all 6 chicks which appear to be in great health!  I read so much about babies that get sick when they are young and end up dying (& after getting an aquarium I realized it’s not always a simple thing to keep pets alive) so I really am impressed that I’ve managed this!

 

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DIY Chicken Brooder

Before we got our chickens, one of the biggest disagreements Cage Free Dad and I had about them was whether we should get chicks or try to find some grown laying hens to start out with.  While I was excited at the idea of fresh yard eggs, I was leery about spending more money than necessary right off the bat. What can I say? I’m extremely frugal after years of doing so out of necessity.  I knew that raising baby chicks required more equipment, such as heat lamps and a brooder, and I was already stressed about the money we were spending on wood for a coop.  However, I guess I underestimated Cage Free Dad’s frugalness, though, because when he came home with the chicks (don’t worry, he had convinced me before he purchased them), I found the brooder he constructed while I was out.  Pure genius.

DIY Chicken Brooder

 

Here I was thinking we needed a fancy, wood brooder for our chicks, and I come home to find that he has constructed a brooder out of some of our left-over produce boxes we’d saved from our move.  So, as it turns out, you don’t need fancy chicken equipment to raise baby chicks.  The size of this brooder is perfect for our 6 baby chicks.  I imagine for a larger flock we’d need something bigger, but then, I don’t plan to have a larger flock until we are much more prepared!

If you’re considering baby chicks for the first time but don’t have the money for a nice wooden chicken brooder, creating one out of cardboard was almost free.

DIY Chicken Brooder (2)What you need:

  • 2 cardboard produces boxes (or similar strong boxes)
  • pine shavings
  • chicken wire
  • chicken feeder
  • waterer
  • heat lamp
  • puppy “pee pads” to absorb some of the mess under the shavings.

The whole thing cost us maybe $20, and most of that cost was for things we’ll need as they grow anyway, such as pine shavings for the coop, the feeder and waterer.  The pee pads were an after-thought, and we already had them due to house-training our new puppy, so we just put those under the pine shavings to keep the floor clean. So, all-in-all, we hardly spent any money on a brooder! I’ve seen some other great ideas since then on BYC, but I’d never considered anything so simple until I saw it.

Have you raised baby chicks? What type of brooder do you use?

 

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