Monday, May 4, 2009

All My Chickens

I have dreams of being a homesteader. I would love to be able to move out into the country and have acres of pasture and woods and water. To have a big barn full of goats, chickens and pigs; to have a big garden, a small orchard and whatever else I felt my family needed as time wore on. But that is a dream I'm going to have to hang on to for awhile longer, circumstances will not allow that big of a dream just yet. So for now, I am shrinking my dream to scale, to fit where I am now. I have fairly small plot of land but, I'm determined to do as much with it as I am able.

About 7 weeks ago I went to the local ag shop and purchased 10 chicks; 3 buff orpington, 3 barred rocks and 4 production reds. My husband set them up in a kiddie pool with a heat lamp and what he called a heat can. The heat can is just a 60w light bulb inside two coffee cans bolted together, the chicks could then huddle under it if the area where the heat lamp was shining wasn't quite warm enough; essentially it was a momma in a can.

While the chickens were growing we had to build a coop. I wanted a chicken tractor so that I could move them around the yard and let them eat the weeds, bugs and maybe even fertilize my lawn. They can clip down the grass pretty quick, so I may get lucky and not have to mow this year. I also wanted to put them to work in my garden plot giving that old worn out dirt the once over before I started digging in and planting. So, on my husbands days off (which are not many) he built a chicken tractor..... ark.... big giant A-frame thingy.
These are all the progression shots I got... then a couple of people around here had some birthdays and lost interest in photographing every step. What you see is mostly the upper part of the tractor or the coop portion. Down below got fenced in and that is their run area.

The nest boxes; pic. on the left is the nest boxes framed in and the almost finished on the right. We haven't cut the hole for the chickens to get in and nest yet. They won't need that until they are a bit older, right now they are still young and dumb and would think that it was a great place to party, and I don't want to encourage that.

We got the idea for this coop here (scroll down a ways, you'll see the pictures). We made a few changes to the design. The handles for lifting and pushing are mounted underneath for strength. t
The rope for opening and closing the ramp doesn't go through the coop, it goes from the end of the ramp and up through the frame just above the door; we then use a pin to lock it in place at night. We put in 3 nest boxes in a row at the bottom, and then above that, put in an area for storage. Above the storage area is one of the vents, the screen is set back just as deep as the storage space, so we will be able to put in a small fan if need in super hot weather (which we get for about a week, if we are lucky). We also mounted the wheels inside the run, because it seemed stronger, and just take them off once we've placed it where we want it. We don't always take the wheels off, if we can get away with just propping boards around any gaps then we just do that. We also added a window and hung a thermometer in it so we could keep track of the temp inside the coop.

Things we would change about it now that it is built: put a flap over the hinged area of the ramp (when it is open it gets full of chicken poo and litter and makes it difficult to close), put an access door at both ends of the run (having the door at the same end as the ramp and tires is kind of a pain), put the handles on the big coop door closer together and a bit more centered (we have since added a long one that spans the length of the door, it helps some but I'd still rather have the handles done differently).

We placed every thing at one end so that when we lifted the coop to move it, all the weight at the other end would work for us.

The handle that is not painted was a late addition. It is still awkward in its own way but is better than it was without it. There is one long 2x2 that we slide through the two main handles (there are two more on the stationary part of the coop) and that acts as a lock to keep the big door in place and hopefully bear proof. You can see the window on the right, that's where the chickens like to sleep, right in front of it. Like a delicatessen for wild animals.... We put fencing over the window too. If we come across the right size window I'd like to put one at the none nest end so that I could see down the length of the coop without having to open the whole thing up.

We took the piece of wood that was left from cutting the window hole and positioned it over the ramp hinge to keep it clean. It has helped a lot!

This is the extension cord entering into the coop through the storage cubby. We can open the big door and plug in a heat lamp or just a daylight lamp (for our super short winter days) to keep them laying all winter. There are also hooks inside the coop for hanging those lamps and food in the cold months.

Sorry I didn't get pictures of the inside with the roosts. There are 2 roosts, they run the length of the coop and are removable. Right now we only put one in because we had the heat can in there since it still has not been very warm here yet.

If you have any questions or would like additional pictures, let me know, and I'll do my best to answer them or post more pictures.


Muckboot said...

Amazing craftsmanship! Looks like someone almost knew what they were doing.

Pricilla said...

Wow! looks cool. The male person will enjoy looking this over when he gets home from work tonight. He is going to start making the tractors for our chickens. He bought the wood the other day. He put it by our barn. It scared us....

Thank you for posting this!

Heather said...

muckboot - wiseacre.

Pricilla - hope the post is helpful. if you need more specifics let me know and I'll do my best to help you out.

Julia said...

Arent chickens wonderful fun!! Just wait until they are grown. You will love them. Their chicken shack is beautiful too. Ours is much more...functional rather than aesthetic.