Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Remodeled Chicken Run

You can read all the books and websites you want before you get chickens.  But you just can't figure out exactly what and/or need until you actually HAVE chickens.  Do you want an automatic pop door for the hens?  Will rodents become an issue?  How far is your run from a water source?  Just to name a few.

So now that I've had hens for four and a half years, it was time to make some improvements.

First off, was to fully roof over their entire run.  I had a roof over half their run.  But when we got a big storm, the other half just turned into a mosh pit.  And it flooded out their dust bathing spots.  And wet chicken poop is just nasty.

I know it's difficult to see in this photo but the whole run is covered with a high quality corrugate panels that are supposed to hold up to the sun for many, many years.

This is the view into my run from my backyard.  The black thing in the middle is the compost bin where I dump the droppings.  And I need a few more years before the Lilac grow up big enough to provide afternoon shade.  But it will.

This is the gate into my run.  It's nice and large.  And you can see that it's got super heavy welded wire embedded into the gate and the contractors simply attached 1/2" welded wire to the top to keep mice and rats out.

The contractors covered up any hole larger than a half inch to keep the night time rodents out of the run.  This way I don't have to go out at night to lock up their feed.  And more important, I don't have to get up at the crack of dawn to put their food back out.

I had the contractor remove the original roosts and install two parallel roosts that can easily be removed for cleaning.  He also cut a piece of heavy vinyl flooring to put under the roosts so I can quickly and easily scrap up the nightly droppings.

And everyone always says to add more ventilation to your coop so I had him cut several holes at the top of the coop and cover them w/ welded wire.  My coop stay in the shade 100% of the time so it doesn't get super hot in there but the extra ventilation does help it cool off at night.
I built a proper dust bathing area for the hens.  I used cinder blocks to make a large ring and filled it with sand, dirt and peat.  I dump the left over water in their fountains when I clean them into the pit so they have nice cool soil to role in and as you can see, they really love it.

This is the view the hens have from inside their run looking out into the garden.
The area under the panels is secured with 2" by 4" welded wire.  Just in case a panel should fail.  That will keep bigger predators out such as raccoons and hawks.  But rats and mice were able to get through.  But they won't be able to get past the roof panels now.

Here's the view from the opposite side  of the run.  They replaced the security lattice with regular lattice so that we get better air flow through the run.  And it's also covered with 1/2 inch welded wire.

And a closer view of the lattice with welded wire behind it.
The pictures really don't do the whole project justice.  It's very nice!  It will keep the hens safe and dry and will keep EVERYTHING out of their run.  Most specifically, wild birds, mice and rats.  I no longer have to go out and night to lock up their feeder and again at the crack of dawn to open it back up.  I have sure missed sleeping in on the weekends.

I also ordered a new waterer for the run.  I'm frustrated with my current fountains as the O-ring that creates a vacuum seal, well, they fail monthly.  And I can't find them locally, so I've got to order them which takes time.  I can usually mess with them to get them to work.  But I hate leaving them for someone else to deal with as it's not intuitive.  I also hated all the nooks and ridges that had to be scrubbed out twice a week.

This new water has an internal vacuum seal at the base of the unit.  Meaning, I can simply pop off the big green lid and add more water.  It only arrived in the mail today and I'm testing it on the patio first before I put it in the hen's run.  I love that the reservoir is smooth which should make cleaning a snap.

I'll blog again in a few months and let you know how it's working out.  But from what I can see thus far, I'm going to love the thing.  I may even order a second one.  I do like having a back up fountain just in case.

And a sweet photo of Pickles I took a few weeks ago when I was cutting flowers to bring into the house.  Pickles had to peek inside each flower.  I don't know if she was looking for bugs or literally smelling the roses.  But it was quite sweet.

And the best group shot of my current flock.  I planted a few pots of forage blend and the hens LOVE it.  So much so that they've kind of destroyed them already.  Guess I'd better get out there and plant more.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Winner Winner Chicken... oh, that's just wrong

I know, that title is wrong.  But this whole post is wrong.  I'm a big fan of Backyard Chickens.  And they had a contest this fall of who's hen had the ugliest molt this year.  And Coco had one UGLY molt.   It was like she exploded from the inside out.  It took 5 days for her to jettison out nearly every feather on her body.

Fortunately, I'm in California where the weather is mild and she did this in October before our weather turns really chilly.  But still, she looked miserable.  And I'd catch her shivering in the mornings.  I felt awful for her.  I so desperately wanted to scoop her up and wrap her in a blanket.  But chickens have molted like this for thousands of years.  And really, the best thing you can do for her is to just leave her be.  And offer up some high protein treats to help her grow out new feathers.

So out of over a hundred entries, Coco took the top prize.  My reward is that I've been made a Golden Feather member of BYC.  YEA.

And here's a current photo of my sweet Coco Bean taken this week.  She's hiding in the bushes because I had just picked her up which she does not like.  But I do like to pick up my hens once a month or so and give them a good once over to make sure they are healthy.

I don't dare tell anyone that I shared that awful photo of her molting.  She'd be horrified.