Posts Tagged ‘chicken coop’


April 1, 2010


ca·coph·o·ny   [kuh-kof-uh-nee]
1. harsh discordance of sound; dissonance: a cacophony of hoots, cackles, and wails.
2. a discordant and meaningless mixture of sounds: the cacophony produced by city traffic at midday.
3. Music. frequent use of discords of a harshness and relationship difficult to understand.

I’d like to add another definition:

4. The sound a flock of chickens make early in the morning when they sense a predator, whether real or perceived.


Spring has arrived

March 30, 2010

Spring has arrived. There are birds and other animals that return or that you start seeing again. There are the sound of frogs. There are lots of baby animals, like calves and piglets and kittens. The grass starts getting green and it’s warm out. Those are pretty obvious. I know it’s spring here when I see someone mowing, though. It seems early for mowing, but I saw someone in town mowing a small side yard (next to a business, I think). Soon the Farmer’s Market will start again.

A New Hampshire rooster and an Orpington hen free ranging

Free range birds

I don’t know if it is because it’s spring time, but we have a few hens who think that roosting outside on our big pile of branches is a good idea. I think these hens are the ones that the roosters gang up on, as evidenced by the lack of feathers on their backs and behind their combs. I can understand why they don’t really want to go into the coop. But the roosters are definitely better than whatever else might come around in the middle of the night. Tim is pretty good at getting them in because he will just pick them up. I’m not willing to do that, so I try to convince them. I touch them, pet them, shake the sticks they are stepping on, and basically annoy them until they decide to go in.

A flock of chickens in my backyard

Happy chickens

Moira is also growing. She seems to be going through a pretty good growth spurt. She is hungry, tired, moody, and clumsy. It’s not really a list that I can make and say for sure she is having a growth spurt. There are days that I feel that way or Aidan does and it doesn’t mean a thing. But I just have this intuition that she is going through something big, some big brain growth and physical growth, most likely. Either that or she’s been eating way too much Easter candy and sugar and that is making her moody. But that wouldn’t necessarily explain the clumsiness, would it?

Moira's bare feet

Moira is a barefoot country girl

I have worked on the garden, but just barely. But when I look at last year’s gardening journal, I see that I hadn’t done much by this time last year, so I guess I’m doing OK. I need to start some seeds soon, maybe order some heirloom seeds. I did weed a gardening bed that has carrots growing, but that’s really all I’ve done. I’ll do more soon and I’ll blog about it, of course.


September 28, 2009

We heard coyotes Sunday morning. When I say we, I mean I heard them, Tim heard them, and so did my mom. They sounded quite close to the house. It was around 4:30 in the morning and that might be why Mo woke up, too. She thought she heard dogs and said she wondered where the owners were. I told her I didn’t think they were dogs. Anyway, the two of us finally went back to sleep, but I kept hearing some kind of scratching going on by the coops. When I looked for tracks today, I didn’t see any by the coop so maybe I was hearing things. I did, however, see something walking around on the sidewalk between the house and garage. I think that was a possum. I also heard something step on a snapper (not the fish, but the tiny bags of gunpowder that you throw on the sidewalk so they pop). I hope the noise scared it away!

The other morning I went out to let the chickens out and there was a raccoon on the ground, dying. It was not dead, it was dying. I say this because I told Tom it was dying, but he didn’t seem to understand. He was in the office telling me what to do and I told him he had to come see it before he started telling me what to do with it. So then he comes down, looks at it, and says, “Oh, it’s not dead.” Yes, I said dying, not dead. So anyway Tim ended up taking care of it. I didn’t hear the whole story, but he used a shovel and moved it somewhere else to let it die, so it wouldn’t die near the house. Apparently he somehow put it out of its misery, which is not something I could easily have done.

About two weeks ago we lost a hen to a coyote. Or most likely to a coyote. Our electrician was working on some outlets in the office (did I ever describe Tom’s super cool office with a view?) and said he saw a wolf by the chickens. However, we don’t have wolves in this part of Illinois, but we have coyotes galore. So most likely it was a coyote, in the middle of the day, coming for a snack. So far they haven’t been back, but the chickens do make a lot of noise if they see something. It almost sounds like the noise they make when laying an egg except much louder and they are all making the noise at once. That was what they were doing when the electrician mentioned the “wolf.” They did it again one morning, but were safely in their coop so i did not go check anything out. And we’ve heard that noise a few other times and gone out and not seen anything. I’m sure they saw something, though. Perhaps their squawking scared off whatever it was.

We also seem to have wild turkeys nearby. We hear them around dusk and I can only assume they are making noises and roosting at that time of night. I wonder if that is what the chickens saw one morning? I can imagine they’d be scared of a wild turkey. Shoot, they are scared of my mother-in-law’s Yorkshire terrier. Speaking of critters I had best go see what the kids are up to. Plus, it is almost time to get the chickens in to keep them safe from critters.


August 13, 2009

Finally, some pictures of the chickens. The Buff Orpingtons are now 14 weeks old. I took these pictures more than a week ago, so they were probably closer to 12.5 weeks old at the time. They are big, but not quite as big as the New Hampshires. I’m waiting until they are about the same size before I let them all out. Or that is my plan at the moment, anyway. I really, really want to let the Orpingtons out to free range but I am worried the big chickens will pick on them. I suppose that with all that room maybe they will be ok?

Buff Orpington pullet

Buff Orpington pullet

I’m not sure how many roosters we will end up with, but there are at least 4 and I suspect that some others will be, too. You’d think I could tell by now! I suppose some of the others that look like they are getting combs and wattles could be pullets. And I suppose they could be laying eggs next month. Wow! They totally need to be out eating grass.

Buff Orpington cockerel

Buff Orpington cockerel

Buff Orpington chicks

Buff Orpington chicks

I had planned to name the New Hampshire pullets after my grandpa’s sisters, but that was when we thought we had 5 pullets. It turned out we had 4 pullets and that still worked since my grandpa had 5 sisters and only one is still alive. I figured we would not use her name since she was still alive. Well, now we are down to two pullets, so one is named Lula Mae, after my grandpa’s oldest sister. The other is named Holly. This is not one of my grandpa’s sisters’s names. It is a name the kids picked out when we were on our way home with the chicks. I didn’t want to use it because it wasn’t a name of my grandpa’s sisters…. but now that we only have two pullets I figured Holly works just fine as a name. So, here is Holly Hen. She is much bigger than Lula Mae, by the way.

Holly, a New Hampshire pullet

Holly, a New Hampshire pullet

I often say to Chicken Joe, “Who’s a handsome rooster?”

Who's a handsome rooster?

Who's a handsome rooster?

Here is a picture of Chicken Joe and Captain Gray, who is one of Little Gray’s kittens. We called him Tiny Gray for a while, but then I figured since he is a boy that name won’t fit for long. So Captain Gray it is. UPDATED: Sorry, but this is actually Little Gray, not Captain Gray, as Captain Gray is gray and white, but has very little white on his face.

Chicken Joe and Little Gray

Chicken Joe and Little Gray

Summer update

July 22, 2009

OK, I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth. Really I haven’t. We’ve just had such had such a busy summer that I almost wish I would fall off the face of the earth just so I could get some rest. Things are still busy, but in a couple of weeks we should be back to normal; that is, no one travelling and no one visiting. That is part of why I haven’t posted much. The other reason is that we have lost some animals and that is upsetting and not fun to post about.

We lost two of the New Hampshire hens one evening at dusk. The kids and I were out of town, so things were quieter, I’m sure. Perhaps that is what gave the predator the nerve to get them so close to the house. We also lost two of Mama Cat’s kittens and one of Little Gray’s. We found a dead kitten on our lane and buried it and we assume it was Muck. The other, Muggy, just disappeared. Her other two kittens, Stinky and Vicious, are still around and Vicious has even gotten to be pretty friendly with the other cats and with us. Of course, it could just be that she is in heat! I am quite sure Mama Cat is pregnant again, too.

Little Gray’s kittens are cute and playful and friendly. In fact, I have Swirly Junior on my lap right now. He sleeps inside with us at night and we all love him. We did lost Scotchy Junior, about a month ago. He was under the couch and got stuck in the mechanism for the recliner. We didn’t realize this until the next morning as we were getting ready to go away for the weekend and I was making sure all the kittens were outside. It was horribly, horribly sad and I feel guilty that a kitten died because of our own carelessness.

Anyway, the garden is going OK. Things are growing despite my almost total neglect. I’ve used some lemon basil from the garden twice and made a yummy chicken dish. We have green tomatoes, lots of herbs, cauliflower and carrots. I need to plant more for fall, so maybe next week I will find some time to do some more planting. I did lose all the corn, probably to some deer that ate it while the kids and I were out of town. I think that the kids are a great deterrent to animals that think of coming too close to the house.

The chickens are doing well. The Buff Orpington chicks are growing and are now in the coop/dog kennel thing. It is working well enough for now, though it won’t work well for winter. We are still planning on building a coop, but it it turning into a fall project rather than a summer project. We have at least two Buff Orpington roosters, possibly a couple of more. I think that Lula Mae is getting ready to lay very soon. She has been making lots of noise and clucking when she goes into the coop at night. Her comb and wattles have grown and gotten quite red, which is also another sign. The other hen, who we have named Holly, doesn’t seem quite as ready, but I think she is getting there, too. Chicken Joe wasn’t crowing much when we still had the other rooster around, but now he is crowing very nicely.

That’s all I have for now! I will post more pictures someday soon. I have to take some first! I think next week things will be calmer, despite the fact that Tom will be out of town. I will be home with the kids and Tim and will try to play catch up with the garden, the mowing, and the blog.

Cleaning day

June 16, 2009

Today was the day to clean out the brooder and the movable coop. I haven’t cleaned out the movable coop at all yet, so it wasn’t pretty. However, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been since the Big Chickens have been free-ranging and pooping elsewhere (though my back porch has seen better, less smelly days!). The part of the movable coop where the Big Chickens roost at night is covered in hardware cloth. So this helps a bit with the mess as some of it falls through. The brooder has the same kind of bottom, with bedding on top. I don’t bother with bedding for the movable coop because the Big Chickens are really only in there at night to roost and for a while in the morning while they wait for us to wake up and let them out.

So anyway, the cleaning involves these steps:

  • Move stuff out of the garage so that I can then move the brooder out of the garage,
  • Enlist Tom’s help (usually Tim, but he is out of town) to move the brooder out of the garage, near the movable coop,
  • Have the kids help get the chicks out of the brooder and into the movable coop,
  • Call Aidan over to fend off the Big Chickens, who are wondering what those little punk ass chicks are doing in THEIR coop,
  • Keep putting chicks into movable coop, while telling Mo to be careful with the chicks and yelling for Aidan to come guard the chicks,
  • Let the Big Roosters go in to check things out, while holding a kid’s sized ho in my hand to shoo them out if necessary,
  • Shoo out Chicken Joe because he pecked at a chick,
  • Hurry up and finish moving chicks so I can clean out the brooder,
  • Used big metal dust pan to clean out brooder and put droppings and bedding into a bucket to take to compost pile,
  • Turn brooder completely over to dump it all out,
  • Start cleaning the movable coop out, while Mo plays with the chicks in the run part of the movable coop,
  • Take a break because the sun finally came out and now it is humid AND hot instead of humid and pleasant,
  • Go back out and move the chicks from the movable coop back to their brooder (minus bedding so they can eat some grass),
  • Clean out the movable coop a little more and then put down fresh bedding (forget what I said earlier, bedding will be good),
  • Put water and feed back in brooder
  • Fill up water dish and feed in movable coop
  • Put brooder back in the garage
  • Fill feed troughs and water for chicks

OK, so that is done for a while. It is by far the worst part of having chickens, but on the whole I’d say it isn’t much worse than cleaning a cat box. The coop cleaning is once or twice a year and nasty, but the cat box is ongoing and easy.

Pullets, all of ’em

June 4, 2009

The Buff Orpington chicks are now 4 weeks old. Just as I was thinking that some were getting combs faster than others and I would soon be able to tell which were cockerels and which were pullets, I read this post on Ang.’s blog. When I got them, Ang. said that the store told her they were straight run. However, she had also noticed that one had a mark on its head. I told Ang. that it would be nice if they were all pullets, but I didn’t really think they would be. It turns out that they are all pullets, as Ang. learned last week. This is good because it means lots of eggs and possibly selling some of them next spring. It also means we need a bigger coop than we were planning on. Since we haven’t really started the coop, that’s fine. Tim is going out of town next week so we will have to get busy building the coop after he gets back.

Anyway, I spent the night at my mom’s on Sunday and when I got back on Monday I thought the chicks looked really big. They are getting lots of feathers. When it’s warm enough, we take them outside in the brooder. The bottom of the brooder is hardware cloth, covered with bedding. On Wednesday it was warm and it was time to clean out the brooder, so we put the chicks in the movable coop, cleaned out the brooder, and put them back in it without the bedding so they could eat some grass. When it was time to put them in the garage, we added some bedding. I’m ready to have them outside more, but I don’t think they have quite enough feathers to be out at night, even with a heat lamp.

Now I am contemplating another order for some meat birds, but I’m not sure I’m ready for that. Maybe this fall will be a better time. If I did get meat birds, I would probably wait until the coop is done and the little chicks and big chickens are all together so that we could use the brooder again. But by then it will be getting hot and I’m not sure I want to deal with chicks in the middle of the summer. I have to think about it and what kind of chicks to get. I don’t really like the idea of the Cornish Cross birds. My reasons for that are probably enough for another post!

Too long without blogging

April 15, 2009

I have so many things to blog about. It’s funny that’s it’s just been a few days and I am dying to blog! I just have not had the time to do it lately. So, here’s what is up.

The chickens are in movable coop all the time now. They spend nights in the garage, warm days in the garden area. Usually we take a blanket out there and lay around watching them for a while. It’s quite relaxing, almost meditative. We have a good time digging up worms for them, but I think they are spoiled and need to figure out how to dig up their own worms. Am I silly for being worried that they won’t figure it out if we keep doing it for them? They are getting bigger and bigger every day, but now they almost look like miniature chickens. They don’t quite have all their feathers, but they have most of them. The wattles and combs are growing, and a few of them have reddened as well. They are making noises that sound more like clucking than cheeping, which is really cool to hear. I do owe you all pictures of the coop and the 4 week old chickens. I suppose I will wait until tomorrow or Friday and post the 4 and 5 week updates at the same time.

We still haven’t heard from the people who are supposed to till the garden. I have put a 4′ by 4′ box out in the garden area, with newspapers spread on the bottom to try to kill the grass. It’s an experiment. I think it will work, but probably not in time to do a garden this year, so we might go with the tilling after all. I just can’t decide. It seems like a lot of people used raised beds and make their own potting soil because their soil is crappy – too sandy or too much clay or something like that. In this part of Illinois, we are lucky to have really good soil. So, I’m not sure what to do. I was partly thinking of no tilling because I am just tired of waiting. I suppose I could give them a call or stop by and say, “Hey, come till my garden already! I’m dying to get started!” 🙂 Whatever we end up doing, it will still be some form of square foot gardening for sure. It’s just a matter of whether to till or not, and if we don’t, then I think high raised beds (12″ or more, I think) with lots of mulch would work well. If we till, I will still be using the boxes/frames to do the square foot gardening, it just won’t be as deep.

One thing I am trying to figure out is how much lettuce and carrots to plant for a 5 person family. The square foot gardening book I have says you can plant something like 9 spinach plants per square foot. So if I have one 4′ X 4′ square for lettuce and radishes, and I decide to plant 5 squares of spinach, that’s 45 spinach plants. Obviously I will not plant them all at the same time, but even so, isn’t that a lot for a family of 5? I suppose spinach can be cooked and then canned or frozen, so that might not be so bad, but what about the bibb and romaine lettuce. I think it was (Edited to finish the thought!) 7 lettuce per square foot, so if I plant 5 squares, then that’s a lot of lettuce, don’t you think? Anyway, I’m just not sure how much of some things to plant. I guess extra is better than not enough, since we can give extra vegetables away to friends and family.

The seedlings are doing OK. Things that sprouted: broccoli, spinach, honeydew, watermelon, zucchini, gold rush zucchini, and butternut squash. The broccoli and spinach seem really skinny and leggy to me. I transplanted the broccoli today and we’ll see if it does better. If I have to, I will buy transplants. The peppers I planted have not sprouted at all. I am thinking perhaps the soil just was not warm enough when I planted them? My house is not warm, especially downstairs, so maybe it wasn’t warm enough for them to sprout. The only other thing I can think of is that the seeds were just not good. Any other ideas? It has been two weeks and it seems that they should have sprouted by now. None of the herbs have sprouted, but I have read that it is hard to start oregano and rosemary from seed, so I might have to buy them as transplants as well.

Scott the Farmer was here today and he and Tim are working on the fence for the cattle. They are only fencing in a few acres and we are only getting two heifers for now. That’s enough to get into the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, or EQIP for short. We’ll be sowing oats on the rest of the acres. He says that will improve the soil fertility, as well as providing some forage for the two heifers. The rest will be harvested and we’ll sell it, hopefully at a small profit. As for the heifers, I think we will be keeping one for ourselves for meat, and selling the other. I’m not sure of all the details at the moment. We have to sit down and talk to Scott about it soon. He says if we get too attached to the cows, we can always sell them as dairy cows. I would love a dairy cow, but I am not quite ready for that responsibility and would have to figure out how to make cheese and yogurt and butter before committing to our own dairy cow.  Scott doesn’t want to keep the heifers here over the winter, so we will have to decide before fall, which seems like a long time away at the moment. Scott went to some effort to find heifers that are already gentle and trained on a one wire fence. I did not even know cattle would stay behind one wire, but apparently they can be trained to do so. The one wire is, of course, electrified.

Mama Cat has been around lately. She is most definitely pregnant and is hungry and mean to her first litter (or at least her first litter we know about). I think Little Gray is also pregnant. Now, I love cats but am not all that happy about this. I wanted to get them all fixed, and still do, but it is very expensive as we wouldn’t qualify to do it through the Humane Society. However, one day I had a Great Idea. I finally figured out that we can pretend the cats are Tim’s so that we can do it through the Humane Society. So, after these two litters, we we will definitely be getting them fixed, even the males. I know the males aren’t a problem for us because they don’t have the kittens, but it just seems like a good idea to get them all fixed. Then at least when the neighbor’s cats get pregnant, I will know it isn’t my fault or my problem in any way. I think we will have to give some of the kittens away once they are weaned. It depends on how big the litters are, I guess. I was not planning on feeding 10 or more outdoor cats! Three outdoor cats is a good number, I thought. I admit I am quite attached to those three little kittens. We still call them baby cats even though they are obviously not babies anymore. They are so cute and it took several months for them to get used to us and let us pet them, so they are staying, for sure.

Is it Spring yet?

March 16, 2009

That’s what Aidan keeps asking me. Is it spring yet? The poor kid is so confused because it’s really that between time, between winter and spring. I keep telling him it’s like they are dueling it out. Of course, he is also asking because we have said all winter about all the things we will do in spring: get chicks, start a garden, build a train building/green house/play house, etc. So he is anxious to start all those things and so am I!

It’s easy to think spring is finally here. The weather is nice and the forecast is for 50 degrees or higher for the next 10 days. We’ve also been doing spring-like activities. I have pulled up some weeds already and am clearing out one of the planter areas to put in flowers, and I have flower seeds started indoors already. I also bought a bunch of vegetable seeds. I considered not buying them and trying to stick to heirloom seeds, but I have to admit I’m just not ready for that. I’ve never really gardened, so it’s all new to me. I figure we’ll start with regular seeds, grow them as organically as we can and then see what comes next spring (or even this fall if we manage to build a greenhouse this summer).

We also bought some hardware cloth to secure the coop and to build a compost area. I made a call to a nursery up the road that our neighbor told us about. Apparently they have some kind of reverse tiller that will be good to get the sod up and start a garden. Our neighbor used Roundup and waited a year, but we don’t want to wait or use Roundup! Tomorrow I think we will put up some marks for the garden, both to figure out for sure where it will be and how big it will be.

Right now I have some unexpected time to myself at home and if I just close my eyes and listen, I hear the following: insects, woodpeckers, all kinds of birds, the hum of my laptop, the occasional frog, and Cleo’s bell on her collar jingling, as well as some kind of howling. There are some other animals noises that I do not recognize. I have a lot to learn about that, too. One thing I know is that the country is quieter than the city, but that it is not quiet by any means, especially in spring.

Working with what we have

March 4, 2009

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.