Monday, April 11, 2011

la coopérative: raising backyard chickens, Part 2

The first coop I purchased was small. About the size of a rabbit hutch. A wooden box about four feet wide and three feet high. I figured bantys don't need much space and that's all I was planning to keep on our city lot.

I purchased our first chicks (four bantys) and raised them in a plastic brooder made out of a rubbermaid container kept in the bathtub, warmed with a 60 watt light bulb. After about five months, I realized two of those chicks made different noises than the others.

Kind of a bummer 'cause this guy was really hard to part with...

mumble

It's impossible to sex banty chicks, so you take a chance. There are advantages to purchasing chicks though. First of all, who doesn't love to hold and care for adorable, fluffy little chicks? Second, hand raised chickens are usually friendlier and easier to handle than those raised without regular human touch. This is essential when you need to clean a pasty butt or use them as models.

baby chick

Our banty hens are great layers, but when you bake as much as I do, standard size chicken eggs are essential. Larger chickens = larger coop.

I searched Craig's List. I searched chicken sites on the internet. I knew what I wanted, but I also knew I didn't have the ability to build it myself. Here's where local carpenter Jeff Dunn comes in. He builds aesthetically pleasing, functional coops.

Jeff built this offsite, delivered it, and placed it in our backyard. Voilà!

chicken coop

coop in the snow

This houses our five hens quite well. The coop is not insulated, but chickens have a natural ability to keep warm as long as they're fully feathered. I use this light only when temperatures drop below about 15 degrees for several days.

hens

During the day, the girls wander freely around the yard, scratching the soil, eating weeds and bugs, generally wreaking havoc on the garden. There are benefits to this. I used to till the raised beds, but now I just let the girls have at it between plantings. This creates healthy soil and happy chickens!

Any predators are pretty much kept at bay while Bailey's in charge.

Bailey

Bailey and the chicks arrived about the same time, so she was trained to protect them beginning at an early age.

If you're planning to get chickens, and don't have a chicken tender like Bailey, you'll want to build a run with a cover to keep them safe and let them get some exercise.

Happy hens will supply these gifts on a regular basis (for at least two years). The most delicious, expensive eggs ever to pass your lips.

eggs

breakfast

Yum!

9 comments:

Jemm said...

Your photos just blow me over! Your coop is amazing. I can't wait for hubby to finish ours.

Cindy said...

Thanks Jemm. Make sure you post pictures of your coop when it's finished, or better yet in progress. I love looking at coops.

jazgal said...

I saw some great coops at last year's Yard and Garden Show. Made me seriously consider setting up shop, but no budget kept me from the follow through. Still sorely tempted, though. So - how expensive ARE those eggs?

Then there's bees ...

jazgal said...

Part 2
Very sweet custom coop, really! And how happy those girls must be, getting free range! Win, win, all around. There is some kind of hardwired gratification at seeing all of those beautiful, pastel eggs in the basket, something so peaceful.

Susan said...

That is some fancy-schmancy chicken cooping! Mine is in a corner of the old barn. Yours looks much easier to clean than mine. Fifteen birds make a lot of manure. Of course, I'm down to 11 now, so not quite as much. But, all that composted poopy sure does make my garden grow!

Cindy said...

jazgal, I vote you keep bees. I'll share eggs with you if you'll share honey with me. I'm pretty sure chickens are easier... just sayin'. We've been getting four eggs on a daily basis now. It's really perfect for eating, baking, and having a bowl of beautiful eggs around momentarily.

Cindy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cindy said...

Susan, When I first got chickens I would just throw out the chicken poop. Now I throw it into my veggie gardens for dynamite soil (if planting season ever arrives around here.) The girls then scratch around in them, and voila! perfectly tilled soil.

jazgal said...

I will keep that proposal in mind! I have actually seen entrepreneur beekeepers who will come 'round and tend to them for you - that is probably what I would have in mind. :)