Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Our old chicken coop

When we bought our house & property back in 2009, it came complete with several outbuildings, including a dilapidated chicken coop. This coop had obviously been used in the past as a bird coop, but had also obviously been used as a kids fort. We decided that although it was old and rough looking, it would be just great for raising birds in. I wished for a mix of laying hens for eggs year round and meat chickens for delicious winter suppers, and spent time talking to co-workers who had chickens, planning for the day that I would have time to order and raise some hardy heirloom breeds.

pheasant chicks & our mystery bird
My husband apparently had other plans. That first summer, my husband bought 10 or so ring-necked pheasant chicks from the local feed store, which was alright with me, as being pregnant, I really had no interest in doing anything with the dusty coop that year. The chicks did quite well, apart from their propensity for escaping... The last remaining 2 nearly full grown pheasants escaped when we had an early and very wet and heavy snowfall in October that fall. The snow that knocked down the mesh deer fencing that was enclosing their outdoor enclosure. We never saw any of those birds again.

This past summer we were very busy with the baby, and decided that we would focus our outdoor energies on the garden and fixing up the place - a seemingly never ending list of mowing the grass (weeds really), removing some trees, cleaning up downed brush, and general tidying up the property. However in the fall, my husband used some birthday money to purchase a group of adult pheasants which he slowly released on the property (at least one of which is still hanging around and can be seen eating at my bird feeders under the fruit trees quite regularly). These pheasants were housed temporarily in the coop, which made me realize that several modifications would be need before I attempted to keep chickens in there.

At the moment, the coop has 3 methods of entry/exit. There is a poorly hung door, a difficult-to-securely-close glass window, and a low side opening that can be closed from the inside only. Each of these openings needs to be dealt before we can securely keep birds in there. The door will likely be an easy fix, however as that will be the main way that we get in to feed and water the birds, we need a secondary area inside the door, an inside foyer if you will, that will let us get in without the birds getting out. I envision having a small area immediately inside the door that is caged off from the rest of the coop.

I hope to be able to make 2 areas beyond that foyer, one to keep the chickens in, and one to house pheasants (or other random birds) for my husband. Over the next several months I'm hoping to use reclaimed wood from the renovations we are currently doing on our sunporch to beef up the interior of the coop and create the frame of these 2 new areas. Then I'll be able to cage these areas off with chicken wire. After that, I'll plan out where the outside chicken scratch area will be and start figuring out where I will get the fence posts and fencing for that area from. This area will be adjacent to the new closer-to-the-house garden area I am hoping to till and fence in the spring - their closeness will be great for giving the chickens garden extras, and including chicken compost into the garden in the fall.

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