Coop and Chick Update

IMG_2815The temperatures have finally come back to double digits so it was time to get back after the coop and run. The chicks arrived two weeks ago and they are growing fast. As adorable as they are I want my bathroom back.. so will be working to get them out of the master tub and into their coop and run in a few weeks. We have some time scheduled off in September and I want to be around to make sure every one transitions to the outside ok.  That means the coop  needs finished!
IMG_2797 (1)The pup Spencer is also growing like a weed but he is still needing to go outside about every four hours every night. Though I hate having to get up multiple times every night, it has allowed me to see what is creeping and crawling around outside at that hour. So far I have seen a banded snake and there is a skunk that digs around the neighbors back yard almost every night of the week. They have a light pole and there is a constant swarm of insects buzzing it all night long. At dusk we have swallows and other birds getting quite a feast .. but at 2 am I am sure it is bats that are making the rounds for dinner. I think the skunk is out there getting the bugs that hit the ground. The other night I got home a bit late and saw a fox run up my driveway and across the back of the property and was gone. With confirmed snakes, a skunk and a fox we are really making sure that nothing can get into the run and for darn sure nothing gets into the coop.

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The coop is made out of pallets so I needed to add a floor covering so nothing could come up into the coop from the bottom. I am confident the run will keep out the four-legged predators like skunks, coons and the fox. However.. I am sure a determined snake can and probably will get into the run and make a try at the coop. The entire end to the left is covered in 1/2″ hardware cloth and doors that I can close or prop open to allow air flow. That should keep snakes out of that end. I got some old fence boards from Craigslist and got them laid today. I had to take down that side you can see as the floor board ended up needing to go underneath those side wall boards. The fence boards made a nice tight floor that nothing should be able to get through. I am also going to be getting some Blackjack 57 to seal the floor with to make cleaning a bit easier and also to preserve the wood. I will also use this in the nest boxes to seal them and give no place for mites to hang out. I will have to head to Amazon to see if I can get a smaller size.. I am sure I do not need 5 gallons of the stuff.

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I have a compost pile made with a cattle panel cut into four pieces and zip tied together that all paper, plant trimmings and veggie food scraps go into. But I wanted to have the compost where the chickens could scratch through it and also add their waste. So I am going to add a two bin compost pile off to one end of the coop. I need to get some 4″ x 4″ x 6′ posts to do the back right corner and the front center and both corners. Then I think I will use T posts in the center spaced so I can drop boards between them to build up the center divider. We will also need to make front doors I can open as well as hinged tops that I can lock up to keep the predators out. I will have a door in the chicken run I can open and close that will give them access to the compost pile. I will need to cover the compost bin sides with wire and make is so nothing can dig under it and get into the compost piles like I am doing for the run. When it gets up and running it will be an extension of the run where the chickens will be allowed in to scratch around till I get a good-sized pile. I can flip if from one side to the other if needed and when I am ready to use it I will have the center boarded up and the finished compost on the right hand side. That way the chickens can work on the left side as I am using the other. And at any time I can close the door between the run and compost to keep the chickens out of the piles. But this project is a bit further down on my list.

IMG_2811Back to the coop. You can also see we are going to have the gutter garden in the front. It will be on both sides and was just a bit too hot to get that setup today. Hopefully one night after work we can get that setup so we can move some of the herbs over here.The door, however, got finished today. I had a 2 x 6 leftover from the first load of scrap wood I got and cut a piece to go over the top of the gate. The fence wire across the top is bent at a 90 degree angle and attached to the back of this board with U-shaped nails. I have used them around the entire top to anchor the side walls to the boards running along the top of the run. The top and front/back sides are joined by twisting the wire from the top wire around the top edge of the front and back sides. The mesh is a 2″ x 4″ and when you cut it one square will be complete and the next one will only have three sides leaving 4″ wire ends. I cut the top wires so there would be these loose wires to twist around the top edge of the sides on the front and back of the run. This is giving me a very secure way to join the top to the bottom and since there is a twist every 2″ it will not be possible for anything to wiggle in between the wires.

IMG_2801The sides are a bit different as I have the top wire edge butting up along the top of the wire running down the sides. I went shopping at my local Tractor Supply and was looking for some sort of clamp I could use to pinch to two edges together. I used some zip ties in some places just to hold it.. but they will not hold up over time to the elements and the sun so I went looking for something more secure.

After talking with a nice young man we found it would be cheaper to just get some decent gauge wire and cut them into pieces a few inches long then just twist them around the two wires I want joined together. The wire would hold up to the elements and it would not be that difficult to twist the wires together. We have all the edges wired together except for that far front corner. It was still upper 90’s today and the front of the coop faces south.. and that corner is the southwest corner and it just got too darn hot to work on that today.

IMG_2802You can also see in that I got some stumps for the chickens to roost and hang out on. The neighbor next to me has not been in the house the year I have been here. Then one day there is a yard crew cutting the grass, taking out the dead bushes and cutting dead trees. Wanting to know what was going on I asked what was up and they told me the owner had been living with the boyfriend all this time and now they are wanting to sell the house. So the crew was out there to get it looking a bit more presentable. It would be nice to have a neighbor so glad they are working on getting it cleaned up. I asked if when they were cutting down the trees of they could throw some of the more interesting branches and stumps over the fence into my yard. They said no problem and they gave me some really nice ones. I have a feeling they are going to be popular with the chickens to spend time on. I also have some dead branches that have come down from the trees that will also go in there as well. They have all kinds of nooks and crannies so think the chicks will have a good time exploring them for bugs to snack on.

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Speaking of the chicks.. they are getting some feathers and starting to look more like chickens instead of fluff balls. They all are trying out their wings and trying to fly from one end of their area to the other. This pair are Easter Eggers that will give me eggs in the blue to green range. They have feathers around their cheeks and the most adorable markings. No matter what they are doing.. they just cant take a bad photo.

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This little black one I think is my Black Star. Black Stars are supposed to be a production cross that will produce a lot of brown eggs. They are sex-linked so when born the females are black and the males I think are lighter. She has been dubbed Esmeralda.

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Another sex link is my Red Star. It is supposed to be a cross from a red Rhode Island Red and a lighter/white Rhode Island Red. The females end up a yellow color and the males are lighter. Again, this cross is to be more of a production bird and she is to provide a lot of brown eggs. This little girl is LuLu and she is very sweet.

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I am really not quite sure what this one is. I have a lot of black birds with shadings of white and yellow on them and for the life of me.. can’t figure out what is what. I was given 2 extra birds and they are also black with the shades of white and yellow. My guess on this one is maybe one of the Black Astralorps.

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So far the chicks have been pretty easy to take care of. I come home at night and they get fresh water and fed. I have started to mix some of their water with vitamins in it into their crumbles to make a mash and they seem to prefer it that way. At first I just adding water to one end of their feeder but noticed that was the first to be eaten. So we decided to just add water to all of it.

Their bedding is corn cob pieces in the main area and wood shavings in their letter hut. It really doesn’t make a difference as they end up kicking out the wood shavings into the cob stuff and I have a bit of a mix. I scoop most of it out once a week and add fresh. During the week we take a stick and just turn it over a bit to freshen up. With their growth I may need to refresh twice a week. The spent and dirty bedding ends up out in the compost pile. I did notice a large bag of the cob stuff is about $9 at Tractor Supply.. compared to the $4 I spent at Wal-Mart for a small bag for gerbils. i will be getting my next bag from Tractor Supply.

We have come a long way with the coop and we are almost done. The idea of doing the coop on my own was a bit intimidating, but we have managed to get it built and it will be very functional. I wish I was more of a carpenter and somethings were done a bit different .. but I have learned some things and now feel comfortable taking on other projects I seem to be dreaming up these days.

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