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Too soon? RIP Sherm. Anyway, the chickens are in the coop! It’s not 100% done, but it’s done enough for rock & roll, as they say. Here’s Suzy Creamcheese en route.
The chicken inspector approves!
Anyway, this weekend was long, but we got it done. My mother in law came both days and helped. Saturday looked like we were going to make really good progress, and then of course it starts pouring, cutting things short. We did get all but one corner of the “apron” in place. That’s where you put hardware cloth on the ground for two feet out, to keep anything that wants to dig into the run from doing so. Like so:
Anywhere there’s an overlap, we secured with zip ties. You can stitch it with wire, but that might be the only thing more annoying than zip ties. We had little hooks made of wire to help loop them through, and it still was tough. My fingertips are also a delightful array of tiny puncture wounds from the edges of the hardware cloth. I didn’t have gloves that fit snug enough to wear during this. Yay! So anyway, we did a lot of this, then it rained. Boo. Crap. Dog fudge.
Sunday was another day. I got up early and did the last corner of the apron just to smote its ruin on the mountainside. Then we zip tied some more, and set to work tidying up any loose ends that might result in an insecure run.
After my uncle’s chickens getting wiped out, and his subsequent idea that electric fences are the only way to keep out raccoons, I bought a small one for the coop. (I trust him. He’s a scientist. He specializes in volcanos that shoot raccoons.) I have been seeing a lot of roadkill raccoons out there, so they’re around. And maybe coming back to life to eat my chickens. I have now gone one day without zapping myself. Let’s see how long I can keep this up. I bet not very long. It doesn’t kill anything, it just zaps enough for the animal to realize this is not a good idea and to go elsewhere. Hopefully we don’t even need it, but I don’t want to take chances after all the work I’ve put into this.
Electric fences need a ground rod pounded into the ground. You then run a wire from the electrifying thingy to the ground rod. Ground rods are comically oversized. Ours was 8 feet long. Seriously. After about an hour of hammering with a regular hammer and making no progress between two of us, my mother in law ran to the store right before closing, and got a sledgehammer. That helped. We still have about four feet to go, though.
I figure I’ll hammer it a few times every time I go out there, and in like a year it will be all the way down. Because of all the hammering, I can barely use my arms today. I feel like a T Rex.
Once the fence was functional, it was time to move the ladies. This involved also freaking them out. Chickens seem a little high strung.
Here is the coop, clean and unspoiled one last time:
Then filled with bedding and a Mandrell Sister.
Here’s Suzy Creamcheese looking freaked by herself in the run. We decided to just stick them all in the coop for the night, since it may have been too much. Once the flock was broken up, they were all agitated, but they calmed back down once everyone was accounted for.
After the reunion, there was a lot of happy wall-pecking, so that was a good sign.
So, last night I was awoken by an alarm from down the street going off. I thought “man, that electric fence is high-tech!” Then I remembered I had heard this once before, and it’s either the gas station or sports bar. I went back to sleep. Then I heard what sounded like a raccoon gorging on chicken. I awoke to our obese cat with allergies snoring.
In the morning, I went back out, and was greeted by more happy wall-pecking. I said “Hi chickens!” through the vent, and they all starting peeping happily. Their god had returned!
They took a while to warm up to going outside though. Lots of peeking, but not much bravery.
Boss Chicken was the first one out, and almost immediately ate a tick. IT BEGINS. Hopefully by day’s end she will have eaten a bag of ticks. When I left, she was still the only one in the run, but was eating bugs like gangbusters. Collin said the Mandrell Sisters were out there too when she left. Hopefully tonight they will all be there, and will go back into the coop without issue. But I suspect I will be rolling in dirt and chicken crap trying to grab a chicken in the far reaches of the undercoop area.
In a couple of weeks they will be used to their home, and we can start letting them out for free-ranging, under serious supervision, though. At one point Sunday there were three hawks circling overhead. Step off, hawks.
I ordered an egg basket and it came yesterday. You know what? Egg baskets are kind of expensive. Old ones even more so. Apparently there is a weird market for vintage egg baskets I had not ever had any reason to think about until now. A lot of new ones look like the same buckets they give you at the driving range, and I wasn’t so jazzed about that either. I finally managed to find an old French on on Etsy (where else?) for $10, which I think is about as good as I will be able to do.
I am going to put all my eggs in this, I don’t care what anyone says. Egg laying is a ways off still, and I probably don’t need a basket for it, but let me enjoy this.
I also got a remote thermometer so I can keep track of how hot/cold the coop is.
What yes, that is a can of “Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls!” Anyway, it was much cooler out there last night than it was in the house, but I suppose that is because it is missing two walls still. This device was on clearance, so who knows how well it would work. There are ones that measure humidity also, but they cost a lot more and were not on clearance.
These chickens will not stop growing.
Even the Mandrell Sisters have the escape bug now.
Hopefully I can make a lot of progress on the coop this weekend, but don’t hold your breath. I have to put in the floor, roof, and front and back walls.
When I went out to put the thermometer in the coop, I ran across a “forest cockroach.” Apparently, there are roaches that live in leaf litter, and boy do we have that. They are tiny, and only rarely get in the house. Not like the gigantic horror movie ones we got from time to time in New York. Here is a poem I wrote about one of those.
Harm no other living creature
except when the cat proudly enters the room
with the biggest roach you’ve ever seen in her mouth
a roach so large that when it turned its head and looked at your wife
she decided it was an animal rather than an insect
and it was now up to you to dispatch with the beast
Three hits with a rolled up magazine later and you’re still chasing it
having switched to a shoe for more firepower
It was easier to give up a lifetime of hamburgers
than it was to kill that goddamn bug
YOUR TOILETS ARE READY!
I asked Collin if she wanted to pose on these toilets holding hands to show how they work. She said no. So try to imagine the magic. Anyway, the stalls are down, and ready to be used in the coop. I realized as I was figuring out how to take them down that the whole shebang was basically a box around the toilets, and what I needed was a box around the chickens. So I kind of abandoned my original idea of using all pallets (which could have required me to cut up the stall plywood) and will now use the stall walls whole, with no cutting. I still have to figure out how to make it all fit together, but hey, let’s wing it! Pun sadly intended.
Both weekend days had stuff to do that took way longer than expected that delayed a lot of coop work. Saturday we had to go get the 2x4s for framing the run, and everything took a long time. Sunday brought many visitors, and so building didn’t begin in earnest until around 2. Which is good, because it wasn’t really oppressively hot until then. My dad and I sank some cinder blocks into the ground to hold everything down. That took forever, because we needed it all to be reasonably level, and we are n00bs. But that got done. Then I laid the base 2x4 down on the blocks, and attached the first pallet, which will be part of the mechanism by which the coop is kept off the ground.
I will probably have to cut the pallets in half, because otherwise everything is going to be way too high for me to reach. If it’s hard to reach, it will be hard to clean. If it’s hard to clean, it will be filthy all the time.
I also started a nesting box.
The linoleum is to protect the wood from the horrible things that come out of chickens. I asked Graham if he wanted to sit on this and pretend he was laying an egg. He said no. I am reconsidering this project now, because I originally had thought this would be on the outside of the coop, but I think I will have room inside with this new plan. Something removable and easy to clean might be good, since chickens crap on everything. Some people use big buckets on their side for nesting. Others have fancy set ups, and that’s nice and romantic and all, but at the end of the day, your romance will be covered in chicken crap and hard to clean. We’re a ways off from needing nesting boxes anyway, so I have time to come up with something.
My mom pulled a bunch of radishes out on Sunday, and they all were kind of weird and malformed, like that other one I posted last week. The theory is that the seeds might not have been planted deep enough. I took some of the greens and threw them in with the chickens, and they finally get the whole greens thing. They went NUTS. I told Collin to come watch the chickens go insane, and I think she thought I was using that as a figure of speech. Then she saw them act like it was Black Friday and this was a store with lots of cheap crap they didn’t need, and was duly impressed.
They’re roosting wherever they can now.
That’s the support for the peckin’ post, but whatever works, Mandrell sister.
Boss Chicken tried to fly this morning. She was on my hand and just went for it. It was remarkably not majestic. It’s hard to soar with the eagles when you’re surrounded by turkeys, but it’s even harder when you’re a chicken.
Boss Chicken is sort of at it again. Now when I take the screen off the top to fill their food, or pick one of them up, she jumps right on the edge.
Snooping. At least she can’t get up there when the screen is in place. I think this is extreme roosting. Maybe they’d like bungee jumping too.
I decided the Barred Rock who was up until now nameless will henceforth be Suzy Creamcheese. No real reason, just seemed like a good idea at the time. Then I felt bad because the Buff Orpingtons don’t have names. The problem is that I can’t really tell them apart because I am a chicken racist. So I decided to call them the Mandrell Sisters.
This one could be Louise! Or Irlene. I had to look her name up. I think she was my dad’s favorite. There are two things people always forget: 1. There were 2 talking pig movies in the summer of 1995, and 2. The third Mandrell sister.
Anyway, I think I am putting myself into danger by naming them all, but too late.
Yesterday my son asked “Did you put a webcam on the chickens?” No parenting book (or chickening book) had prepared me for this question. “Yes, son,” I said. “That is something that I did.” Openness is important.
This weekend I hope to start the coop in earnest. I have had good luck with the “scrap wood” bin at work for bits and pieces, but I think I may have to buy some long 2x4s to frame the run. We’ll see. I am trying to do this as cheaply as possible, but some stuff I don’t think I can skimp on.
I pulled another radish yesterday.
A little bigger than that other one. It tasted o.k., except for the part closest to the leaves, which was tough. I assume that was the butt.
There are enormous milkweed plants down the road.
I would take a picture of it next to me for height reference, but that’s all poison ivy down there.
Here’s everyone roosting like champs.
So excited to do something I am bad at in 90 degree weather this weekend! (Build the coop.)