AboutI write and illustrate children's books, among other things.
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I swear there will be eggs any day now, but so far, nothing. I suppose that’s just as well, because with six chickens, that’s going to be a lot of eggs once they start. At least in the darker months they won’t be quite as productive, but still. Everyone keeps asking, but no, there are no eggs yet.
I finally got around to fixing the door to the run. It was this tiny little thing, because I had a frame that was big enough to get through, and was in a rush to get the chickens moved out. With it getting colder and the threat of snow imminent, I decided I didn’t want to be squatting down to get in there anymore, and made a human-sized door.
And added a nice white wooden latch thingy.
I also got out the leaf blower and cleared the coop moat. I don’t care about the leaves on the lawn so much, but I will not tolerate a leafy moat.
The chickens are getting bolder, and headed out for the wilderness while I worked. I chased them back, since they were headed out of sight, and down what I suppose would be called a “holler” in some parts, and while I am much more relaxed about them running around, this seemed like trouble. Yesterday my mother in law went for a walk and saw a fox not too far from our house, so maybe I wasn’t being so paranoid.
The weird yellow blob is a chicken. Or perhaps Chickensquatch.
I finally got the waterproof roof affixed this weekend. It, like everything in the experiment, took way longer than I thought it would. The screws I got to hold the roofing to the frame were screws in one sense, but not in the sense that you could put them in with a screwdriver, and my ratchet it broken, so I had to do it with a wrench, which kind of sucked. Then, once fixed it to the frame, and propped it up for run-off, it appears I underestimated the rigidity of the materials.
So, you can see the edges drooping, which makes the whole thing look like a sad tugboat to me. I made little wings that now hold it up.
Whether or not any of this holds up under snow remains to be seen. Maybe it won’t snow at all, like last year. Or maybe it will snow as much as the year before that, and the whole thing will collapse, and the chickens will have to live in an igloo.
As you can also see, I finished the brick and pebble moat around the whole thing. This is to hold down the hardware cloth, and keep things from burrowing under. It also looks much nicer.
I had been feeding them using a cat feeder (one of the ones you fill up and more food falls down as they eat), but they kept knocking it over, so I ended up buying one that would hang. I could have made one out of a bucket, but I think that would be much bigger than I need, and might not have fit under the coop. That’s where it needs to go to keep out of the rain.
As you can see, they are freaked out by it. This is highly unusual. They are usually so easy going. They got used to it very quickly, since they like food.
So far, my favorite part of the day is opening the coop door in the morning. They all fight to be the first one out, and it’s all flapping and clucking and falling off the stairs. If you’re familiar with the story The Poky Little Puppy, you’ll know the terms, roly-poly, pell-mell, and tumble bumble. It’s not just puppies who do this.
Now that the chickens are in their new home, they need to learn that in the daytime you can go out in the run and do whatever, but at night you need to go back into the coop. The problem is, they don’t listen. So I had to go out and show them how it worked last night. The good news is that I got them in. The better news is that no one saw this undertaking, because I’m sure I looked like an idiot.
Step 1. Grab chicken
Step 2. When chicken jumps out of your hand, grab another chicken
Step 3. Hopefully now you have been able to hang onto one chicken for more than a couple of seconds. Put it in the coop.
Step 4. When you are grabbing another chicken, try not to notice the one that you just put in the coop is coming back out of the coop.
It was like some awful videogame. Coop Stuf-n or something.
Of course, this morning I let them back out into the run, and when I left for work, they had all gone back in the coop. Sure, when you don’t have to be in there, go nuts.
(Ok, fine, we’ll come out.)
I put some brussels sprouts in there to give them something else to peck at. They are not impressed.
Now that I only have one more thing to do on the coop (attach the plastic roof at a slant to run the rain off) I have to think about renovations. Some things we did to get done faster, since the chickens were getting too big to be in the house.
First up: the door to the run.
That door is nice and chicken-sized, but when I have to go in there, which is daily, it is a big pain. I thought I was way more nimble than I really am. But we had that frame that was perfect for a door, so we got it on there. Now I need some better wood than the warped 2x4s, and then I can try to not have to put my hands in poopy dirt every time I go in. Don’t get me wrong, I love poopy dirt as much as the next guy, but I’d like to have a choice about sticking my hands in it.
Tonight I will once again crawl through the tiny door to play Coop Stuf-n, and hopefully they’ll get it soon. I’ve read it just takes a couple of days for them to figure out, and then they go in on their own when it gets dark. If I have to do this for much longer, someone is going to see me. Someone besides these people:
No one reads their blog, so I’m cool.
And yet so far. I swear next weekend this coop will be done. It has to be! I expanded the indoor porta-coop, and they seem much happier, but they need to be outside, pronto.
Here they are exploring their new addition.
So, I took Friday off and got to work, starting with the front door/window thing.
Got the window in place, got the hinges working, everything is good.
The back is hinged, secured, and ready to go.
The bottom is screwed in, but that panel comes off for big cleanings.
Then the front door went on.
If you really want to look for it, there are red 2x4s holding down the edges of the linoleum.
I have almost no recollection of what went on Saturday, but this is what I came out to Sunday morning, so I must have done something.
Oh right, the frame of the run. Apparently I am not that great at judging the straightness of 2x4s, or they warp after you buy them, because some of these are real wavy. I guess it adds to the general grooviness.
Saturday night we heard something out waling around in the trees, so I went out to see what it was. Of course, as soon as I step outside I realize it could be a bear or something, but too late. I saw a reflective collar briefly, so I assume it was a dog from the campground behind our house. But it got me worried about how often campers let their dogs loose and we don’t hear it. Then Sunday morning my mother called to let me know all my uncle’s chickens got killed by a raccoon and he says electric fences are the way to go. I appreciate the advice, but at the same time my mother really knows how to set my day off into an anxiety spin.
Anyway, after that, my mother in law came by and helped out. We got a lot done.
The run is almost entirely enclosed. I added the top of a solar walkway light into the window to see how it would work.
It lights things up. I keep seeing it at night, and bask in the soft glow of my workmanship. Though, since it only shuts off when the battery drains, it may be too much light. The dark months are too dark for productive egg laying, but this may be swinging in the opposite direction. Chickens need sleep too. Unless they are in college pulling all-nighters, but the papers they write will not be as good as if they had just planned ahead and done it sooner and revised.
I added the chicken door. And when I say “chicken door,” Collin will say “Two points to Chickendoor!” and we laugh like goobers.
Anyway, it’s good that we got a lot done, because Lord Vader stopped by to make sure we were making progress.
I’m glad it was him, and not that dink Grand Moff Tarkin. He’s always telling me I overestimate the chances of predators getting in the coop, and then a minute later he gets eaten by rats.
And then finally I made a roost while waiting for lunch.
Next weekend we finish getting the hardware cloth up, and then tacking it down to discourage diggers. And I hope then move the chickens outside. Otherwise we will have to litter train them. And somehow make them not look delicious to cats.
Well, the stupid remote thermometer thing seems to have broken already. Or the remote sensor has. I’ve done all the troubleshooting stuff they suggest, and as you can see, dashes where the temperature should be.
A refreshing 74 in the kitchen, though. I guess I know why this was on clearance, but I also am beginning to think anything to do with wireless and chickens is a bad idea, if my recurring chickencam drop-outs are any indication.
This weekend I worked on the coop floor. Before:
Next: add plywood taken from a weird box built around a sink in the “day care” room.
Then, rip ugly linoleum out of one of the bathrooms, release incredible mildew smell, clean the linoleum, clean the bathroom floor, then put the linoleum in the coop.
I’m going to put wood trim along the edges to hold it down. The thinking here is that it will be easier to clean, and will keep the floor from rotting out longer.
The most important thing that was done this weekend was the purple steps.
Every trip in and out of the coop is going to be fabulous, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Graham is really happy about these. I am really happy that he likes purple, as every time he tells me it is his favorite color, I know Rick Santorum’s butthole puckers a little, but he doesn’t know why. OMG PURPLE IS A GIRL COLOR.
Part of the front is going to be the other bathroom stall door, with a window cut into it, and this will open for more ventilation. Then, if we really need to, I can also open the whole front to air it out. This will probably be really handy when it’s time to clean.
I put an acrylic sheet in that window frame after this was taken. They will get lots of nice light in here. I should probably raise the rent because of that.
I was having anxiety dreams about securing the run last night. This morning, as I held Boss Chicken, I thought about how everything is going to be fine. Then Boss Chicken crapped in my hand. Obsess about their safety, and this is how they repay you.
It’s been a tough week for coop progress. I need to buy some stuff before I can move ahead, and I don’t have the time to do that right now. However, I found a pretty sweet idea for a nesting box.
It would be a lot of work to get it home, and modify it to fit the coop, and there are some probable legal aspects to think about, but it would be cool. Right now I am thinking I will go the bucket route for nesting. A popular thing to do is to use a 5 gallon bucket on its side, and put bedding in there. Plastic is going to be much easier to clean than anything else (let me repeat once more that chickens crap with reckless abandon) and the ice cream place down the road tends to sell their buckets for really cheap at a certain point in the summer. I need one to make a larger feeder for the coop also, so I can probably get a bunch, and then even though I’m spending money, it’s not a lot, and it’s recycling, so that’s good. And at least 85% of the coop was made using stuff I already had or got for free, so that’s still a good amount.
My son keeps asking why the chickens aren’t in their house, even though it is obviously not finished. I suppose he has watched too much Star Wars, and thinks that since the second Death Star was operational while only being partially constructed, everything is like that. I don’t have those sorts of minions. But this may also mean that he views me as a Darth Vader/Emperor type, when I am obviously Lando, the administrator of this facility.
Or on the internet, anyway. There was a lot of action while I was out, so strap yourselves in. I took Thursday and Friday off last week to work on the coop. I now have a neck that’s about the same color as a football.
Here’s where we were about July 3rd. I had cut the pallets forming the base of the coop down, because I realized it would make everything too tall. The rule seems to be that if you make it hard to clean, you will not clean it. I don’t even like cleaning easy things, so I knew it had to be shorter.
Thursday I painted the pallets. Let me tell you something about that. It sucks. But it got done because I get things done. As I was out there, I kept seeing ticks walking all over the ground and anything that touched it. “You,” I told them, “You are why the chickens have come.” They think I’m joking, but soon I will unleash my chicken fury on them.
Then I got to work on the sides, which used to be the bathroom stalls. I did the insides some random color that I think was left behind by the previous owners.
Then I read an article about how much ventilation chickens need. It basically said, “think about how much you think you need, and then double it.” Chickens can deal with the cold pretty well (depending on breed) but moisture is a big problem. They can get respiratory infections if it’s too moist, and their poops are “mad moist” as the kids say. The chicken kids. So I added some vents.
The back of the vents is covered with hardware cloth, and the vents are put in with wing nuts so if it’s too drafty I can put a filter of some sort in there to lessen that, but keep the air flowing. (I still need to run that idea past the chicken messageboard community.) And don’t worry, there will be more vents than that in the end.
Saturday we got more red. I used all the paint we had on the base, but it wasn’t quite the right red. Now it is.
It would be hilarious to make the swingset into a chicken coop, but both my son and mother in law (who gave it to my son for his birthday) would have something to say about this. Anyway, the red looks nice.
Sunday my parents came. If they hadn’t, I think I would be in bad shape, since the next few steps really needed a bunch of hands. It probably could also have used anyone who knew what they were doing, but we made it work.
This will be the front, where they come in and out of the run. That is my finger in the upper left. I will have more vents here, and might even rig up a solar fan to move more air. This faces South, so it will get good light, but that can also mean more heat.
Here our model demonstrates the back door.
He is only doing so because I didn’t tell him there was a big snake right there earlier.
Not as big as this one hanging out by the materials pile, though.
This illustrates about how tall it is. Perfect for me to keep hitting my head.
So then where he is standing will also be covered in hardware cloth for the run. That will be the most expensive part, since that’s hard to recycle. The hardware and paint have been the most expensive stuff, as most of the wood was recycled, except for some 2x4s.
How are the chickens themselves? They’re chickens, alright. Boss chicken continues to try to fly across the room with mixed results. Graham has accepted that those are in fact the names I have given the chickens, and asked me if Suzy Creamcheese was in there the other day. She was!
While all this was happening, the garden went insane.
These are supposed to be tiny pickling cukes, but this is huge! I pickled it regardless.
Lacto-bacillus in the house! Er, jar. I threw some farmer’s market garlic in there too. Lacto fermentation is also what happens in the bowels when certain people drink coolatas. This one will be more delicious, one would hope.
Now I’m back at work touching technology indoors and it is not as much fun as this chicken stuff, even though I so have no idea what I’m doing with tools. I am o.k. with drills and screws, and maybe even saws. Give me a hammer, and it’s like Whac-a-mole for fingers. I’m hoping to have the chickens outside by the end of the month at the latest. They are getting big, and can go outside now. So get out there, you chickens, you.
I will be using pallets for most of the framing, but it is going to have to be a little more secure than this, given how many predators live in our area. We were just trying to get an idea of what sort of size we were dealing with here.
Let’s see the healing power of chickens, as demonstrated by my father.
Before: I feel kind of bummed. Why are you putting this chicken on my hand?
AFTER: OMG CHICKENS!
This morning when I reached in to grab the feeder, a chicken jumped right onto my hand. I guess my plan to pick them up a lot so they would be friendly might have worked too well. “Can’t come into work today, chickens want to hang out.” That’s a legit excuse, right?
I was so busy this weekend that I didn’t get a chance to go to Agway to get the chickens another “peckin’ post.” However, the grocery store had tiny pie plates, and I had read that they liked pecking at shiny things. So I hung one up for them.
Note that they cannot get far enough away from it. I imagine they will come around. It makes a really satisfying sound when struck. I threw some dandelion greens in there this weekend too, but they haven’t figured out that bit yet either. However, remember when I discussed crossing the line from “that poop is cute” to “run to the hills to escape the poop?” I think we may have crossed that line recently. As the chickens grow, so does the size of their “leavings.” You may find this hard to believe, but I have anecdotal evidence to back it up.
In order to build the coop, I also have to clear all this out.
I’m not sure what this weed is, but it’s everywhere. It’s very easy to pull out, and surprisingly light. (“Is that that tube stuff?” my father asked as I was pulling some out. It’s very tubey.) There’s just a ton of it.
If you know what it is, I’m all ears. As far as I’m concerned, it’s compost.
The radishes seemed ready to pick, as the greens are HUGE. However, the radishes themselves left me unimpressed.
That is my real hand, by the way. Not a comically oversized fake hand to fool you into thinking it’s a tiny radish.
Chickencam is going to be my Waterloo. Our house is made of cinder blocks, which don’t help wifi reception on other parts of the house. The house is laid out weird, also. I have a few more tricks up my sleeve, but we’ll see. I am going to try to set up a repeater, but like everything else I’ve tried, it may not work. The camera part works fine, but what good is it if the images don’t get onto the internet? I’ll tell you. Not very good.