Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Chicken Coop Part II

When I was photographing for this post yesterday, this Wyadotte hen was wondered around me the whole time talking up a storm. I was sorely wishing I was Doctor Doolittle and could understand what all she was telling me because she never did stop until I left the coop.

She was particularly happy when I put new hay on the communal nest. Here she is checking it out.

I laugh because every morning I put a new layer of hay on the nesting area and

by night, it's gone.

The girls get the munchies when they're setting on the nest. Oh I've tried placing the hay elsewhere but it never gets eaten up like it does when I set it on the nest. I wonder if it is like the magazine rack we have in the bathroom.

Yes, our nesting boxes are old four-wheeler tires. They hold the warmth and the girls love them. I like the fact that there is a hole in the center all the way through and when I clean the coop I just dump the hay and have both sides to work from to remove it. The tires are durable and washable too. Best of all they were free and can be moved around in the coop. Your hens will decide where they want to lay their eggs and it won't always be where you want them to. Ours lay 99.9% of their eggs in one corner. Had I hammered nesting boxes elsewhere they wouldn't of used them and I did try the traditional ones once. The girls ignored them even though they were in their favorite corner. They layed on them and in front of them but not in them. My nieghbor had hens that used hers, so go figure. Normally the girls will pick the darkest corner and in the summer when the sun is bright I lean a piece of plywood against the slanted walls to darken the area.

Our girl's corner is the one on the right hand side next to the Plexiglas door cover for the run.

I use to have a hanging feeder like this new one of my neighbors. Note the open area around the base for feed.

I've since switched to this one. Notice the white plastic slats that extend outward. These keep your hens from climbing in the feeder and flicking the feed out with their feet scattering it all over the floor. You'll have a batch of chickens that won't cause any problems and then you'll get some that empty the container throwing the feed far and wide. That makes feeding them real expensive when the feed becomes your bedding. Hence, the purchase of this feeder. Elevating it off the ground keeps the hens out of the top where they will sometimes roost and poop all over the feed or scatter the feed out from the top. It also makes access a little more challenging for the mice. The mice have to go single file down the rope it's suspended from. This feeder is higher than it looks and is actually just below the chickens neck. I've had mice so bad in the coop that they went through a gallon of feed a night. Now I empty my feeder in the evenings during the winter months when they seek the warmth of the coop. Cleaning the coop monthly seems to help also as they haven't as much litter to bury down in to. My favorite thing we scrounged for my coop is the flooring. It is old disgarded rubber belting from the coal mine and is much better than the broken wood floor below. It cleans up easily and aids in keeping the coop warmer.
They recommend if you wish to hose your coop floor down that you slant it. A good idea but I never hose my down. Down south where you have lots, lots, lots, more bugs it might be a really good idea.

My watering pan is just an old rubber feed pan. It's great to knock the ice out of on a cold morning. It sits near the wall and therefore freezes. You just pick it up and slam it to the ground. When I had it in the center of the coop it only had a skimming of ice most cold mornings. It's near the edge to give the hens more room and they don't seem to poop in like they did when it was in the center. Raising it off the ground helps with that but I use the cinder blocks in the winter to hold the plexiglass door shut. In the summer I change the water a couple times a day so it's fresh, not hot from sitting there. Eggs are 3/4 water and clean fresh water is extremely important to your egg productions. Hens will drink 2 pounds of water per 1 pound of feed. In the hot weather that increases to 4 pounds of water per 1 pound of feed.

There is a waterer in the corner of my neighbor's chicken coop and I've used this kind before. They are great because you don't have to fill them very often. I froze mine and cracked it and after flooding the coop putting it together incorrectly a few times I figured grace here shouldn't be handling such a complicated device. lol I don't use an open pan for my small chicks but I'll show you that feeder another time. My hens seem to drink more with fresh water morning and night but it is a preference thing which kind of waterer you choose. As for the blue bowl it is a dogs watering bowl and since it is electric it is a wonderful idea for the winter months to supply water for your hens. I don't have electricity so it isn't an option.

This is my neighbors coop. The building was free and they added a door and window that were old cast offs along with a new tin roof. It made for an inexpensive coop. The best kind when you're on a tight budget. We might build something similar this summer out of the shipping crates we've been saving but not quite so tall and I'd like to slope the roof a little more to keep the heat down toward the hens. When building your coop always keep in mind the cleaning of it. Years ago I've unwisely allowed my husband to build sheep sheds without my supervision. He doesn't clean them and they ended up a huge pain in my back for me. I've since been on hand for every building project.
Keep in mind that when you construct your chicken coops run that you have access to it. Either a door from the coop into the run or one from the outside to the run. A hen might inconveniently die out there or you may need to catch a hen to treat her. I'd also recommend chicken wire running all the way around encasing the run. We've had wild animals try and dig their way in and I always cover the top too so raccoons can't climb over or hawks descend into the run. My run is due for a new one as our chicken wire is rusting through. We will encase the run in cow panels for a stiff frame and wrap chicken wire around that. I've had my share of run ins with raccoons and skunks when our chicken wire became rusty. I'll tell about that sometime.
What have you done in regard to your chicken coop that you have thanked yourselve repeatedly for thinking of? I'm always looking for better and especially less expensive ways to do things. Next week I'll talk more on crops I'm growing for the chickens.

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