Working with what we have

I’m still thinking and reading and trying to figure out which breed to get and where to get them from, as well as when to get the chicks. When to get them is tricky, mostly because I am impatient to get the chicks! It would be better to wait until it is warmer so that they can be outside sooner and learn to forage on their own sooner. But, that also means waiting longer to have fresh eggs and to get the chicks. I keep going back and forth about this issue in my head. I think I will probably end up getting them fairly soon just because I am so eager to get them, even if it means more work for us at first.

In the  meantime I have finally decided to use the coop that is already here. I’d like to let the hens range freely during the day and then have them in the coop at night. I’ve read a couple of different ways to do this, including letting them out for only a couple of hours a day and then tempting them back in with milk or bread. Others say to keep them in the coop for a couple of weeks and then let them out and they will just know where the coop is. Either way, they will be spending some time in the coop since there are too many predators out here for them to be out at night. There may be too many for them to range long during the day.

Of the common predators for chickens, we have almost all of them. Common predators include, coyotes, raccoons, opossums, skunks, hawks and other birds of prey, foxes, wolves, bobcats, cougars, fishers, minks, weasels, and rats, along with domestic and feral cats and dogs. I know for sure that we have skunks as the kids have had the pleasure of smelling skunks hit by cars. Tim has seen a ‘possum and we’ve all seen raccoons on the back porch. Tim and Moira saw a bald eagle the other day and our neighbor told us there are lots of hawks around. We’ve heard the coyotes close by at night and my mother-in-law has seen a fox on her way here, too. Apparently there are wolves in Illinois (I’m not sure I agree completely with the tone of that article, so just consider it informative.) It’s possible that the other predators are around, as well, as many of them seem to be native (though we are not near Cook County since that is Chicago!).

Anyway, I seem to have gotten a bit sidetracked on researching the predators in Illinois. It’s pretty interesting and I might post more later. I have to say there are way more dangerous animals here than I remember or knew about. I never would have thought there might be wolves or bobcats!

So back to the point of this post: working with the chicken coop we already have. Here are some more pictures of what we have to work with:

It needs to be cleaned thoroughly. I started that last week, with some help from the kids. We swept off the concrete slab, so that is done for now. There is a covered area that has some pine shavings in it. For now I just swept some of that back inside the nest box, but we probably need to clear that out, clean it, and put in new. The upstairs is pretty dirty, from what I hear. I had Tim add another step to the ladder so that Aidan can climb up and down (and maybe me, too??). I’m not sure if the chickens would go up there or not. They’d have to fly up there to roost and I honestly don’t know if they will fly that high.

Other than cleaning, it also needs some chicken wire or fine hardware mesh. The fencing around it has holes about 2 inches wide and I think that is too wide because rats could get through and steal the eggs, assuming the hens lay eggs in the coop. Two sides of the coop have wooden boards at the bottom. I think we need to add another board on the back, as well as adding some chicken wire to the outside. The chicken wire might be good if it’s just a few feet up and not up the whole way.

Those are some minor fixes, so hopefully it will be easy and will do the trick to keep the hens safe. I would also like to paint it. Right now it is painted a brownish color. I think a fresh coat of red paint would really spruce it up. I’m not sure why red, except that red seems to be the color for a hen house.

If the free ranging doesn’t work, there are lots of options for movable coops and hen huts and permanent hen houses. It might be fun to build one of those, but for now I think it is best (and cheapest) to work with what we have.

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4 Responses to “Working with what we have”

  1. Deborah Says:

    Chickens fly, depending on which breed you get. The smaller Mediterranean breeds (like leghorns) fly higher and farther. I’ve seen them fly over my pond! The heavier breeds can easily get up three feet or so.

    As for that concrete slab, put straw or pine shavings on it. Chicken poop on concrete is deadly!

    Now is as good a time as any to get them. In Illinois, they have to spend a couple months inside whenever you get them. About the only time they can go out sooner is July, since it gets so cold here most nights that they’d still need a heat lamp at night. If you put a heat lamp in your chicken house, you could put them out in a month. Without the heat lamp, they’ll pile on top of each other to stay warm and crush/suffocate the ones on the bottom.

  2. hippygirl Says:

    The top part of the coop is a good six feet up. I am guessing that it worked for the pheasants the previous owner kept because pheasants probably fly higher.

    I’m sure we can put something lower down for roosting. That’s not a problem at all. We will definitely be putting a thick layer of shavings down, as well as cleaning out the nest box and putting in fresh shavings.

  3. Rethinking the coop « A Hippy Girl in the Country Says:

    […] so we will have to figure out a way to do that while also protecting them from predators, which as I mentioned before we have almost all possible predators for […]

  4. Moon Over Martinborough Says:

    We built a chicken run not too long ago, and got some ‘chooks’ as they’re called here in New Zealand.

    I wanted blue eggs so the breed I got are Lavendar Araucana. You can read about my quest for blue eggs at ‘Moon Over Martinborough’.

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