I know we have been a little MIA with only the random post lately. We’ve just been so busy trying to get several good size projects done amid all of our normal everyday responsibilities. Neither of us seemed to have enough time, energy, nor inspiration to write much. One of those projects was Jon building a new bigger chicken coop so that we would have enough space for our current flock of 6 as well as 6 more that we got at Tractor Supply almost 7 weeks ago.
The coop Jon built last year has been working lovely and has served us well, but chickens are addictive. Once you start you almost immediately want to expand. The plan this year was to finish the big coop and move the big girls and guy to their new home. Then we would use the smaller original coop for the babies once they got a little size on them.
Initially, our new chicks started out in a cardboard box in our living room. Each week Jon would bring home a fresh cardboard box from work and we would switch it out with the old one. This is because they needed a bigger box and/or the box had gotten damp due to water spills. They are cute and fun, but after a few weeks nobody wants chicks in a box in the living room! They really begin to smell after a couple of weeks and they are flapping their new wings doing their little leap frog/fly maneuver constantly. It’s cute to watch, but it leaves a layer of dust all over everything near their brooder cardboard box.
By week 3 we moved them to a bigger cardboard box into our building. Of course we were still using our heat lamp for them. The living room was quickly back to normal, but then we worried about them in the building. As they continued to grow, Jon was really stressing about getting the new coop done because the baby chicks were needing some more space and fast. He works a lot of long hours at his real job, takes IT classes online, does computer repair on the side, and constantly has many an iron in the fire at one time with various projects and honey-do’s. Add to that we had several later winter weather events that always seemed to interfere.
Finally, yesterday after church Jon was able to finish the new coop. Most of it was finished already but it needed, 2 doors (1 human and 1 chicken), nesting boxes, roosts, ramp, and attaching it to the chicken run. None of it was big work but a lot of small stuff adds up and it did take the rest of the day. I “helped” meaning I held wood as it was coming off the table saw, held the door while attaching hinges, and was his gopher.
I cut out some new nesting box curtains in a sunny yellow. I literally measured and cut. Trust me these are purely functional and not an example of craftsmanship. I simply attached the curtains to the new nesting boxes with a staple gun.
We also needed more wood shavings for the big coop so I was going to run to Tractor Supply and get them while Jon continued to work. They were out of wood shavings! The lady proceeds to tell me all of their stores have been out for awhile because there is a problem with the distributor. All they had was cedar shavings which are not good for chickens because the oils in the shavings are not good for their feet. I ran back home and discussed it with Jon as he continued to work. We could use straw. Where was I going to get straw this quickly on a Sunday evening? I could try heading to Lowe’s or Walmart, but didn’t know for sure if they’d have it. If we didn’t have bedding this whole thing was going to be waylayed again. Then we thought maybe we could use this plethora of pine needles we have. I did a bit of googling and it seemed OK to use dry pine needles. So, I raked up pine needles. I filled the nesting boxes and gave the floor a good coating. I think they’ll like it. They love scratching, digging, and hunkering down in them in the yard. I added a couple of golf balls to each nesting box to show the girls this is a good new place to lay their eggs.
Finally, about an hour before dark Jon was all done and we were ready to get the big girls and guy into their new home. Jon tried leading and coaxing them with treats. They followed him and gobbled up treats all the way up to the ramp of the new coop, but they would never go in. We had the human door open so they could seen inside the coop, but still they just would not venture in. Then we closed the run and left them for awhile hoping they would start to explore, but expecting they probably would not. We had the door to their small original coop shut. They kept going to the old coop wanting in. We finally decided to open the little coop and let them in. Once they were all in we closed the door and Jon would catch them one by one and place them in the new coop. The first one he caught and placed in the new coop was the big guy, “Hoff”. Man, what I raucous. All the girls were going nuts and Hoff was in the new coop hearing his girls going nuts and was crowing up a storm. So, Jon moved each hen one by one to their new home like that. I manned the door. There was even a little chicken chasing around the yard for the last one who escaped before being transported.
After they were all inside they just stood in the back of the coop unsure of what to do, but they did calm down once they were all together again. They eventually found their way to the feed. I watched them for the longest time while Jon was cleaning out the old coop in preparation for the new babies, but they didn’t leave that back area behind the feed. They started looking around some, but all from that little spot.
After sometime I closed the door to see if they would find their roosts before dark. Then we started placing the baby chicks in their new coop. This would be much roomier than the boxes they had been confined too. They were curious right away and didn’t put up the awful fuss that the big ones did.
After we saw the babies were settled and had found their food and water we peaked back in on the older flock. We had heard some jumping while moving the babies and hoped they were finding their roosts. To our pleasure we were correct.
This morning the chickens and chicks in both coops were doing well. The babies had not knocked over their water. In the big coop, there were 2 eggs, one in each lower nesting box.
The plan is to leave all the chickens in their new homes for about a week without letting them out so that they can relearn where home is. It will probably be a long week for the big ones. But now they have more space when they are “cooped” up so it shouldn’t be too bad. Today it is all rainy. They wouldn’t want out in it much anyway. Now, there is a coop attached to opposite ends of the chicken run. Over the next week or so Jon will put a temporary divider in the chicken run. Then when the babies are bigger we’ll let them mingle some in their run so that everyone can see each other, but not get to each other. Once the babies are about full size we will then attempt to merge the two flocks all into the big coop. The original small coop will not go to waste. We will still get use out of it if we ever need to separate any of the birds from the rest of the flock for brooding, sickness, or injury.