Coop Renovation

My body is broken and I’m ready for bed. But this weekend was wholly productive and I’m thrilled about it. Yesterday I got the cool season veg all planted and today we got the chicken coop addition installed.

It really sucked trying to do anything in the coop. I couldn’t stand up and had to work hunched over. I bumped my head frequently and had to crawl in shitty coop dirt to get at anything under the box part. I bitched quite a bit about it so Gordon decided to build something for the coop to sit on. I was skeptical that our starter coop that we bought used on craigslist could handle being lifted like that after rotting in our muddy soil for the last year and a half. But he planned and built it anyway.

The timely addition acted as a halfway house for Marigold after her injury and then a time-out pen for Rosie the bully.

It was quite a pain to dig out all of the chicken flooring in order to rip off the hardware cloth that was stapled to the inside of the bottom 2x4s. But now there’s a load of fantastic compost on a tarp in the garden.

With much effort we were able to put that big heavy decrepit thing on top of the new. Gordon ended up having to cover one board with a new one because it was split, but other than that it went OK. The chickens were annoyingly interested and Clementine kept flying up into the coop while we worked.

Ta-da! It’s pretty great.

Chickens a Year Later

I’ve learned that:

  • They really do stop laying in the winter
  • They really molt and look like they’re dying also in the winter (which is weird because you’d think they need their feathers to stay warm)
  • It all resolves itself and they become beautiful layers once again (Nutrena Feather Fixer is a nice help)
  • Laying hens squat and have red combs; this all stops when they stop
  • Hawks really kill and partially eat beautiful huge free ranging birds
  • Established flocks really are jerks to new additions, especially Rhode Island Reds….(Rosie I’m looking at you)
Rosie The Bitch

Juniper got taken out by a hawk one day in the early fall. Actually it’s only a best guess that it was Juniper because the molting that had begun was causing me to confuse my two Delawares. So my sweet remaining Clementine may not actually be Clementine, but she is now.

Early one evening I went to close the coop and one of the three was missing. A small sense of dread came over me as I tried to rationalize that Juniper had gotten sleepy and roosted in some underbrush. The light was fading so I quickly roamed the edges of the yard singing out for her with the “chick chick chick” call. Then my gaze landed on a still mass of white. The dread grew into heavy truth and it became difficult to approach what I knew to be her. White feathers were everywhere and a large, beautiful bird lay destroyed from the shoulders up. How much suffering did she know? Did the hawk snap her spine before he plucked her and ripped her flesh away from her bones? Did shock slip in quickly with its mercy?

I went into the house and quietly delivered the sad news to my husband because I didn’t want Silas to follow us outside and see. We grabbed a light and buried her in the garden. We could hear the bells of the neighbor’s goats as they looked on at the ghouls weilding shovels in the dark.

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A couple of weeks later I contacted a local breeder on craigslist and brought home a three month old Welsummer. Her name is Marigold.

She came here very sweet and timid. Rosie established her dominance in the very real pecking order by being a big fat bully. I added a piece of hardware cloth in the run so Marigold could have a seperate space during the day. At night she snuggled up in the coop with Clementine who was missing her snuggle buddy sister (the one who slept on top of her and shit down her back all night). They’ve since settled in together as a flock of three.

The girls are getting an addition to give them a little more space to roam and their lady a little more head room to work.

We Got a ┬áChicken Coop! (& The Poopy Reality of a Used Coop)

So after a while of fall setting in, and not having much outside to do besides worry about the new grass seed and our poor well surviving a drought, my husband resigned himself to the undertaking of getting me a home for some chickens. He brought home a chicken coop book from the library, listened to me detailing the size and function I wanted, only groaned once when I told him of the insulation needed, and looked at my sketches and budget estimates with only a modicum of dread. He was on board. It was finally time to spend a season and a small fortune on creating the perfect habitat for a very respectable backyard flock to be raised from chicks in the spring.

Then last week happened. I had been popping prednisone to fight some mysterious bullshit that was plaguing my sanity. And of course that shocking thing occurred in the wee hours of 11/9 that left me feeling like a woman without a country. And finally, I had a sad little birthday party for my mother who passed away a year and a half ago. The week was pretty much crap and so this weekened I was going to just sit on the couch with a blanket and itch cream and read books. 

So yesterday as I began studying “Reinventing the Chicken Coop” with my coffee, my husband suddenly piped up, “Here’s one! It’s smaller than you want but it would fit in my trailer and it’s not too far away.” He sent me the craigslist link. It was pretty cute. 8×4 and totally contained. Looked sturdy. It could comfortably house three large girls, even if free-ranging doesn’t work out. So we took a drive, met a nice lady, pet a chicken, paid $130 and got coop! (…That was full of poop; lady seemed pretty proud that she only cleaned the coop once in a year.)

This cold and rainy morning was spent placing and cleaning the coop. After sweeping out piles of turd-filled shavings, I was greeted by an impossibly thick layer of caked-on ass mud. After a couple of hours of scraping and spraying and scrubbing, the place looked pretty clean. Not disgusting at all actually.  Afterwards I was sore and covered with infinity chicken poop germs, but I felt pretty good. Cold and wet, but good. It let me know that I need to be outside working, doing something I can understand and affect. Not sitting and fretting and coming up with no answer or relief anyway.

This afternoon we went to Tractor Supply and got some bedding and feed. Amazon is shipping me a waterer and a couple of feeders and some hardware cloth to protect the edges from predators who want to dig. We should be all ready for girls by next weekend. I’m happy. The boys are excited. This is a good birthday present. I’ll be 40 this month and I am glad to be seeing a dream come to fruition.  I know it’s just a small coop with a few birds, but it’s meaningful to me. It’s a huge piece of the picture I’ve been painting in my mind for a long time.