After the summer from hell, the chicken coop finally went up. The nightmare began in the Spring, right about the time we bought the baby chicks. We’re among fourteen properties that all share a water well. It’s technically a public water utility, but it only serves the fourteen of us. My husband, Jerry, has been our system operator for the last thirty years and spent three months keeping the water flowing from a well that was essentially dry. We have a cistern that the well water pumps into, and for the final two months of it, Jerry spent every half hour out there, shutting the water off and then going back out there thirty minutes later to turn it back on in an effort to stimulate the flow of water into the cistern. This went on all day and most of the night until he finally went to sleep, assuming his stress level could let him, sometimes as late as 2 am.
Anyway, I wrote about the well fiasco in an earlier post but it didn’t end when the well was drilled. Jerry had to pour a concrete pad around the new well pipe and build the new cover as well as other repairs. That took time because for others to help, he had to coordinate around their work schedules so one was only available for a few hours on Sunday and another was having chemo treatments and has three stints in his heart so he was only available on a limited basis. For the most part, Jerry did as much as he could on his own and then the two guys helped with some specific tasks.
Then there were the fires everywhere from Canada down to California. Oregon was burning and we had air that was too dangerous to breathe for most of the summer. Jerry had to work around all of that so there was no time to build the chicken coop until now. At least we were able to extend their outside area which they really loved.
When my husband builds anything, he does it piecemeal, mostly because we scrounge around the property for most of the stuff we need. So he ends up making things work that might otherwise not be suitable. That was the case with the new chicken coop. We have a bunch of old wood that he’s collected (because he can’t throw anything away) and other building materials such as windows and doors and we sorted through it all piece by piece to find what we could use. The rest we bought up at the local home improvement store. I didn’t keep track of how much we spent but it was far less than we would have if Jerry wasn’t a packrat.
We bought some 4×4 posts, some concrete blocks to support them on, and some 2×6’s and built the foundation. Jerry wanted it up off the ground because of the predators around here. The compost pile behind the coop was actually where the coop is now and Jerry had to move the entire thing over as well as locate our septic tank so that we didn’t build over the top of it.
We decided to make the roof simple and slanted and we found some windows that we could use along with a door that would be suitable but that Jerry would have to repair. He likes to stand and look at things when he builds. It’s his process. But when he’s building something without any plans and using old wrecked lumber to do it, he basically has to sculpt it. He did that with our dojo when the guy we had building it turned out to be a douchebag and we had to finish it ourselves.
Seriously, every single section of wall had to be custom built. The guy felt using the eagle eye method was superior to using a plumb bob and snapping a line and one wall actually flowed like a roller coaster. It was a dojo. For students. Taught by Black Belts. We finished laying the carpet at 4:30 am on the day the students would be coming. So Jerry’s accustomed to flying without a net.
Anyway, he persevered and the walls went up, followed by the roof which he covered in both rolled roofing and metal, and then the windows went in. The door was last with a plastic net barrier serving as a temporary door while he repaired the wood one. He built the brood boxes and the chickens loved them! They’re laying in all four but seem to focus on just two.
Jerry also embedded hardware cloth in the ground underneath their ramp to deter rodents and skunks who like to dig under the fence and eat their food. We used to have chickens when the boys were young and a large chocolate brown weasel got in the chicken area and killed several, so we’re doing as much as possible to keep them safe. A neighbor heard a mountain lion recently, so they’re doing the same with their chickens.
Jerry built some stairs so I don’t have to use a step stool to go inside and a ramp for the chickens to walk up into the coop and put in some roosts for them to perch on at night. They bicker and push each other around, but eventually, they settle in for the night. They love mealworms and watermelon and carrot tops from the garden. And they can devour a large zucchini in minutes.
They may have eaten as much fresh corn as we processed. Our corn patch was prolific this year. They had endless red clover from our pasture to enjoy and they seem to like cannabis leaf. They don’t seem overly fond of it like mealworms, but they do eat it. The rest dries out and it’s useful for bedding. Very little goes to waste around here.
Next Spring we’ll paint the coop but before winter sets in, Jerry will probably spray some foam insulation in the cracks to give the girls more protection from the inevitable cold air we’ll get. I’m hoping not to see the same winter that visited us last year. Three months of never-ending snow was just too much although we did finally buy a snow blower.
Our driveway is almost 800 feet long but it’s gravel and we had to buy a two-stage snow blower so we could raise the tines up and away from the gravel. We’ve lived here for almost thirty-seven years and last winter my sixty-three-year-old husband shoveled the driveway three times. He’s not doing that again. But if it happens, we’re ready! Actually, he’s just excited that the thing has headlights so you know he’ll be out there in the dark. Guys have their priorities, after all.
So that’s it, I guess. We have fifteen chickens, five Barred-Rock, five Silver Wyandotte, and five Golden Wyandotte. We’re averaging eight eggs per day right now so we’re not sure if some aren’t laying yet or if some are laying sporadically at this point. They’ve been laying for about six weeks now and Jerry wired in a light in the coop so they may continue to lay throughout the winter. Without the light, they stop laying until light time increases again in the Spring.
I’m not sure what we’ll do when all fifteen begin laying. There’s only the two of us now and our boys both live several hours away from us so sharing eggs with them won’t happen much. Oh well, at least we like deviled egg.