Saturday, August 16, 2008

The chickens are back in town! Or so we hope. We have been busy bees, building a coop where the chickens will be secure at night from all possible predators. The coop could be prettier, but we used almost all recycled lumber we found on our property. Right now the coop is set up for summer. As we move into autumn the coop will have a top and back added to keep out the rain and wind. For now they need to open ventilation the hardware cloth provides.

Inside we have provided all the amenities that a busy chicken could desire. Egg laying boxes provide dark, quiet places to lay eggs. Notice the front and sloped roof to keep the chickens from messing up the egg boxes.

The spacious roost can accommodate at least ten c
hickens, fifteen at maximum. It also hinges out of the way for easy cleaning under the roost. A chicken door with ramp allows easy access, and the latch is raccoon proof, while a human door allows for egg collecting and cleaning of the cage. I'll get a bin to place under the coop for collecting their litter, which will then be composted and used the garden. Chicken poop is very hot (high in nitrogen) and can burn plants when applied right away. It must be allowed to compost and cool, and then it makes wonderful fertilizer, which will reduce the amount of fertilizer I'll have to purchase in the future.

Our two chickens have names now - Kazoo and Nina. Our little rooster is not so little anymore, and has begun to crow. At first this sounded like a strangled croak, but has now progressed to a respectable sound, but sounds reminiscent of a child with a kazoo... And I kept calling the remaining hen "my little girl", so Nina it is.

After the attack, we br
ought Nina and Kazoo inside our house every night for security, except for the last couple of nights when they have been in the new coop. However, we got some new chickens last night and everyone is not getting along. A friend's daughter has been raising chickens for 4-H, and had too many chickens, so I was able to purchase a few 2-year old laying hens from her. They aren't any particular breed, but they are full grown. We thought that they would defer to our chickens as the new birds are the proverbial new kids in town. However, our birds are about 2/3 the size of the others, and even roosting last night, they were being pecked by the new birds. I had planned to have them separated during the day for several days, but had to separate them immediately last night, bringing our two birds back inside.

Today the new girls are in the chicken tractor, where they can begin to gain a sense of their new home and not run off. Nina and Kazoo have free range and can see the new girls through the wire. I may set up the chicken tractor to be secure and just keep the new girls in there rather than trying to take them in and out of the coop, which is very stressful for the birds.

It's also worth mentioning that these new chickens are not only strangers to us, they have not been handled as much as our birds, and so being moved from their home last night, and again today out of the roost into the tractor were all very stressful situations. Hopefully we will have eggs in a day or two, if we can keep the stress levels low enough. They are being fed the same layer pellets, which includes calcium from oyster shells to support egg production, as they had previously.

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