For years, decades actually, I wanted a small flock of chickens. I dreamed of them do their chicken thing – foraging, interacting with one another, hanging out in the backyard, producing beautiful eggs for my breakfast. It was another step towards producing my own food. I didn’t come into this unaware of the realities of farming. I had spent my childhood and teenage years surrounded by farm animals – horses, cows, goats, sheep and chickens. I was familiar with the smells and maintenance involved.
What I wasn’t prepared for was this –
Ice, practically having to move on my hands and knees to get to the coop.
Snow – every. single. day.
And chicken poop, the quantity can boggle the mind. Even better when it is frozen into the box and you have to use a putty knife to clean it.
But this is what it’s all about – fresh and delicious. Found in my backyard.
Soon enough things will look like this again and all of us will be much happier.
Yesterday was moving day for the coop and chickens. The vegetable garden is pretty much done although there is a lot of stuff still in there, overgrown and rotting. The fall chill is in the air and it was time to begin the fall to winter preps. The coop had been over by the garage with the fencing including a huge old apple tree surrounded by jewelweed. The chickens loved it there although they had pretty much cleaned the area of vegetation. I figured the garden would be a great spot for them to clean up and fertilize at the same time.
Moving the coop is always stressful. It is so heavy that the tractor will only lift if off of the ground by about a foot. We managed to get it over to the garden. I then moved the fence. I let the chickens roam around thinking they would be easy to move with some sweet little snack. I was wrong. They spent the majority of the day around the apple tree and although I coaxed them over more than once they had no interest in going near the strange spot their coop was in.
They finally left the tree area at the end of the day and wandered over to the garden but had no interest in going into their new area. I got out the big guns – a pumpkin spice english muffin. The rooster and hen happily went into the garden fence but the other 9 hens were nowhere to be seen. It was getting a little late in the day and I was getting a little nervous. I called and called and finally saw their little heads coming up over the bank to the back forty on the other side of the yard. Apparently they had gone on a little adventure. Seven more into the enclosure.
When the head count was done Bill and I had to search for the last two. They were snuggled in among some rocks over the bank and were not going anywhere so I had Bill flush them out. They ran for the coop, one of them tangling herself in the fencing (they still think they are small enough to go through it). Once all enclosed they discovered what a wonderland the garden is. Bugs, seeds, berries, a veritable smorgasbord for chickens. They stayed out until dark which is unusual, they usually go in at dusk.
About nine o’clock Bill went out to lock the shed door and heard a chicken clucking over by the apple tree – an escapee. He held the flashlight and ran interference until I finally caught her and put her in the coop. I did another head count and all were there on their roost. Finally all was right with the world – at least mine.
I finished the coop today. This journey began June 18 so it took a little over a month to complete. I have to say that I am pleased with how it came out and the chickens really love their new home. They aren’t old enough to go outdoors yet but the ladder is ready when they are.
Building this taught me a lot of things, some of them about building. The huge lesson I learned is that I can’t do everything myself. I physically just can’t do it. I was pretty disappointed to find that out. For some reason I thought I could have this pretty much done in a couple of weeks – I’ve built things before. I didn’t take into consideration the weight of a sheet of plywood and how high I was going to have to lift it. I want you to know that I can barely drag one across the floor.
Bill was here to help on weekends and had a 12 day vacation where this was THE project. For the most part it was much more enjoyable having help build it and I admire Bill’s ability to just tackle anything. It wouldn’t have been quite as pressing if I had actually waited to get the chicks until AFTER the coop was build. I didn’t expect them to be escaping their initial enclosure at 2 weeks old, they grow fast! As it was they were moved into it before any trim was done.
Building a shelter is one of those things that has been on my bucket list forever. I always thought it would be a cabin in the back forty (and that could happen at some point). Getting chickens was really just an excuse to build their shelter. I had been looking at coop plans for a really long time and this one popped up into a search just a month or so before coming to Rowe permanently. Yeah, I could have built just some little shack of unpainted plywood that I moved from place to place but I wanted something that looked good, something that spoke to the whole whimsy of having birds in the first place. One would think having chickens is serious business but it really isn’t. At some point their egg production may be important to me but for now I’m just watching my once fuzzy little chicks rapidly grow into adult hens. The coop provides them with as much protection as I can get from a building and it looks good in the landscape.
I took this photo the first night the chicks spent out in the coop – they had been in a room off of the shed up until that point. Their heat lamp is glowing nicely inside and they were all settled into their cozy wood chips with water and food. I worried though, was I sending them out there too soon? Later that night I woke up to the sound of foxes in the back forty, I got up and looked out my bedroom window to see their snug little home with the glowing red lamp. For now they are as safe as they can be.
This has been waiting for me for the past week or maybe a little more. I needed to clean out the rest of the junk in the coop so we can tear it down to make way for a new one. Uhm, yeah. Every morning I take the dogs out for their walk to the back forty and I walk by this. When I went out this morning I decided today was the day. I walked closer to check out what I was really in for, bracing myself for the ugliness that was years and years in the making. This is what I saw.
Stacks of old doors, shutters and broken windows.
Walls with holes to the outdoors, random gaskets hanging on nails.
Rusted, broken sleds and bailing twine.
Baskets without bottoms and plants growing through the floor.
The morning light was beautiful streaming through the gaping holes in the walls and through the non-existent doors and windows. There’s a lot of life that was thrown in here through the years and I just had to take one more moment to record what was left before I filled the trailer. I’m glad I did, there is beauty in everything, you just have to look. Little gifts.