Monday, 18 July 2011
The Coop De'Ville
My husband did a spectacular job of building the coop last Spring. It is so solid, you could live in it quite comfortably! We have very cold winters and plenty of predators (coyotes, fox and dogs) so Kelly wanted to ensure our hens' safety and comfort. It is well insulated and sealed up tight, but with flexible ventilation in the form of a ceiling exhaust fan, a wall vent and an opening window. We can choose just how much ventilation the girls need depending on the weather, humidity level, outside temperature and the time of year. There's a variety of perches at different heights for lots of choices to roost at night and 5 cozy nesting boxes.
Because our climate is so harsh, our chickens spend a great deal of time inside the coop in the winter. The hen house needed to be big enough so as not to be overcrowded. Also, to keep boredom at bay (seriously), Kelly hung some cd's from super strong nylon string and the girls peck at those all day long. They also like to play with dangling string. Believe me when I tell you that they play with these things all winter long when they are "cooped up" inside. :) Lest you think we're a little crazy, it's important to keep the chickens happy and busy while they are indoors in winter as chickens can get "pecky" with each other if they are bored or overcrowded.
The entire outside perimeter of the hen run is fenced securely with 6' high galvanized fencing. I have temporary chicken wire fencing secured with removable rebar to divide the hen run and the garden. I can easily move it anytime I need to let them in or out of the planting area for bug control or to clear an area before planting.
We have some strips of leftover Tyvek suspended from strings that are run across the hen run. This VERY effectively deters the hawks by interrupting their flight path. They won't swoop down to grab a chicken if they perceive obstacles in their way of a clean getaway.
Yesterday, we worked hard to thoroughly clean out the coop once again. All of the soiled litter and nesting box straw was removed and the floor was scraped clean. We used the new loader bucket on the tractor to haul all the manured straw away to our compost pile out back where it will decompose nicely for future use in the garden. I chose to sprinkle some diatomaceous earth in the bottom of the nesting boxes and all around the coop before putting fresh straw out. This will hopefully keep our hens free of mites. We have yet to have a problem, but prevention is always better than treatment! I thoroughly scrubbed and bleached the waterer. With the warmer weather, the waterer needs more frequent attention to keep it from going foul.
We also spread out a large fresh bale of straw outside the coop. This keeps the area in front of the coop clean and dry. We have had lots of rain and the ground is very wet and a little bit boggy. The chickens go in and out of the coop many times/day so providing a clean, dry area to walk through keeps their feet cleaner which means that the eggs themselves are clean and not so muddy (and the nesting boxes stay cleaner, too).
See the large basket turned on it's side on the front porch of the coop? I like to fill it with straw and it's so funny to watch the chickens hang out in there. They love it... it's like a little fort for them, lol. Chickens are hilariously funny and full of personality! Bossy, the brown chicken in the basket is nearly always in there when there's straw in the basket. She cackles and prattles on all day long as the "ring leader" of the flock. She incessantly "barks" orders and tells everyone what to do... so funny.
As you can see our hens lay some spectacular eggs :) Many of them are nearly the size of avocados! I'm guessing that the combination of their spacious accommodation, large run, good quality grain and plenty of scraps contribute to their health and happiness. Our chickens are a vital part of our food plan so it makes sense to treat them well. Not only do they give us gorgeous, nutritious eggs, but also, they're excellent bug controllers and fantastic garden fertilizers!