The Scoop on the Coop
Posted by Jill:
One of the first changes that we made at Bell Hollow Farm (aside from giving it a name) was adding our chicken coop. We purchased day old chicks from a midwest hatchery and began raising them at our previous home. So by the time we made the move permanent in mid-July, they were ready for more space (and we were ready to get them out of the garage).
I have wanted chickens since I was little. My first grade teacher had a small hobby farm and she was friends with my parents. On more than one occasion, she let me come over and collect eggs from her hens. I was hooked! Thank you Ellie Haney!! You initiated my dream of owning a farm.
So, it's only natural that I was eager to start a flock. Our boys have loved watching them grow and change. And in my opinion, it will be a wonderful experience for their childhood...helping take care of chickens, feeding them, cleaning the coop, and collecting the eggs.
Almost as soon as we had all of our belongings move to Bell Hollow, Kyle got to work on the coop and run. Our plan was to let them free range some of the time, but keep them penned at other times. I also have a dream of adding to our flock next spring, so we agreed to build big for the full size of the flock and not add a second coop next year for the new ones.
Super Hubby hard at work.
I got to design it, but then he came through and added his carpentry know-how. We (and by "we," I mean Kyle because he's the one that built it) lifted it two feet off the ground. This it not only better for the cold winters, but will also serve as shade on hot, sunny days. The outside is planked and the inside walls are plywood. So we've created two barriers between the outside elements.
Everest & Denali hard at work. These fur-babies insisted on keeping their "daddy" company while he built, even on those hot July days. Check on the pup hiding under the coop to stay out of the sun below.
Once the basic structure of the coop was done, Kyle got to work on my plans for a massive run. I wanted our little flockers (as we lovingly refer to them) to have plenty of space even when they were penned. It's about 20' x 75' or so.
Unfortunately, where we live predators are plentiful...black bears, coyotes, foxes, hawks, etc. The pic above is preparation to close in the run from above to keep out any predators that might climb, but to also keep out the hawks (and the occasional bald eagle). You might also be able to see in the picture below (in the bottom left) that we extended our hardware cloth at a right angle from the fence. This portion gets buried, so if a predator tries to dig their way in at the base of the fence, they just hit metal fencing in the ground and can't get under.
Once he wrapped up the run, Kyle set to work building that gorgeous Dutch door for our coop. And we gave it a coat of white paint with black trim. He also built some shutters to be able to open and close the windows. We put hardware cloth over them from the inside too (sorry no pic), so that if they need to stay open on hot, summer nights...they can, without a predator coming in.
Inside, we built a roosting bar and what I lovingly refer to as a "poop hammock." It's a tarp that I've folded in half. The grommets are looped around the top of the roosting bar with wire and the bottom has a 2x4 threaded through the fold and set onto a shelf. It collects all of the poop while the chickens roost (which is a lot). I can go in and just scoop the poop hammock for a quick cleaning and toss the chicken poop into my compost. When the coop needs to be thoroughly cleaned, I can change the bedding and take out the tarp hammock to be hosed down. But it allows me a quick solution for cleaning most of the poop because the majority of chicken poop in the coop happens while they're roosting.
In the next few weeks, we'll be adding nesting boxes on the right as our little flockers become old enough to start laying eggs. Then our boys will be able to access the nesting boxes from outside for egg collecting. I can't wait to get them little baskets!!! And to see their faces for the first few!!! We have six different breeds so they'll see white eggs, light brown eggs, dark brown eggs, speckled eggs, and even blue or green eggs from our Easter Eggers. Yay!!!
One of our final steps was putting in a solar powered electric fence. It's only ever on at night, after we lock up the flock for the night in the coop. And we turn the power supply off AND open the circuit first thing in the morning as an extra precaution since we have dogs and small children (and so the little flockers don't get zapped). The electric fence will eventually go around my garden too, but that's for another post on a another day.
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First time farmers, taking a stab at living our dreams and raising our family in wide open space.