Category: Homesteading


Chicken Run Door


Last fall we built a chicken run attached to our chicken coop.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time before the snow got too deep to add our door.  Ryan ended up crawling through our chicken door to get into the run to shovel during the winter months.

 

Chicken Coop Door

Keep in mind that door is 12″x12″.  It’s a good thing he fit, because there was no way my pregnant butt would have!

Now that the weather is nice, we were finally able to add a door.  When we put in our posts, we put two close together to frame in our door.  All we had to do was cut our the fencing that was there and build a door to put in its spot.

 

Adding a Chicken Run Door

After removing the fencing, we added 3 pieces of treated 1×4 to the top, bottom, and middle with fencing staples.  We placed the middle 1×4 in the spot we wanted our gate lock to be.  When measuring for the horizontal pieces, we made it about half an inch smaller than the opening so that the door would swing easily.

Chicken Run Door Part 1

 

These horizontal 1x4s are on the on the inside portion of the door.  We then added the vertical 1x4s.  They were added to sandwich the corners of fencing and are on the front portion of the door.

Chicken Run Door Part 2

 

In order to beef up the door and keep animals from being able to tear at the edge of the fencing, we added 3 smaller pieces to the front of the door.  These pieces sandwich the fencing and make the door look a bit nicer.

Chicken Run Door Part 3

 

After the door was built, we just attached it to the 4×4 posts with 2 large hinges.

Chicken Run Door Hinges

 

Finally, we added a gate lock and were all finished!

Finished Chicken Run Door

 

I think Ryan will be grateful he doesn’t have to squeeze out that tiny door into the run anymore.  It will also be a lot easier to deliver treats to the chickens, so I think they will be happy about it too! Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more chicken updates to come soon!

 

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Chicken Tractor Modification


$40 DIY Chicken Coop

When we initially built the $40 Chicken Coop in May of last year, we thought about putting wheels on it to help with moving it around the yard.  Like most projects we get into, however, we were racing to get the coop built before our meat birds were ready to go outside and just didn’t have the time.

It turned out that the coop was actually pretty light and could be skidded through the yard without too much fussing.  Besides, we only have the meat birds in there for a few weeks before they’re ready to be butchered, so, by the time we figured out the intricacies of adding wheels, the coop would be in storage for the winter.

This year we’ve got another 25 meat birds and a plan that’s going to save my back!

Adding Wheels to the Chicken Tractor:

My Father-in-law gave us a set of wheels from an old air compressor this spring.  He must have grown tired of my complaining… Or, perhaps it was because they were in charge of moving the coop while we were gone on vacation for four days.  Naturally, we waited until after we returned from vacation before installing the wheels.

Our plan was to use the two wheels on the heavy end of the coop and put a handle on the light end.  A 2×4 cut about 24″ long would serve as a swing arm for each wheel.  A single 9/16″ bolt through the middle of the 2×4 and into the coop allows us to adjust the rolling height as well as drop the coop down to the ground while at rest.

Here’s a picture of the wheel in the rolling position:Chicken Tractor Wheels

And a picture after dropping the coop back down:Chicken Tractor Wheels

This setup works extremely well and I love how adjustable it is.  Why didn’t we do this earlier!?

Hope you enjoyed the post!  Let us know how you added wheels to your chicken coop in the comments below!

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Baby Chicken Update


We have been so busy with our new addition that I haven’t been able to update the blog about our new chickens!  We have 25 meat birds and 10 new layers.  We ordered a wide variety of egg layers this time and you can read about their breeds here.  

Our meat birds are now outside in the chicken tractor.  Prior to being put outside, they were in our brooder we used last year.  They all pile into one corner of the tractor when anyone goes outside because they associate us with food and just want to eat all day!

New Meat Birds

We have birds with feathered feet, top hats, and some other rare breeds in our egg layer brooder.  We made a new, smaller brooder for these gals out of a little swimming pool.  It is easy to clean up and worked great as a second brooder.  I would have preferred to build our own, but we were in a time crunch with the baby on the way.

New Chicks

 

The top hat chicks are growing into their feathers nicely.

Top Hat Chicks

 

Somewhere around 10 weeks old, we will start introducing these chicks to our older chickens.  By 12 weeks, we hope to have them integrated into the coop.  (That would be around September 1st).  These chicks are really fun, so I hope to update with more pictures again soon.  Thanks for reading!

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Transporting Chickens


Since we live in a small town and have a baby on the way, we thought it would be best if we didn’t have a rooster.  When we ordered our 15 egg layers from McMurray Hatchery, they threw in a free rare breed chick.  They don’t guarantee male or female with that free chick.  We ended up with a beautiful rooster, a blue laced red wyandotte.

Stella Fall 2013

 

Of course, we didn’t know that he was a rooster for many months, so we had named him Stella (assuming he was a she and would lay eggs).  Stella soon became “Stella the Fella“.

We were lucky enough to find relatives (Ryan’s parents) that would take Stella to live on their farm.  We didn’t want him to be lonely, so we included a few hens as well.

This past weekend, the chickens took their 3 hour journey to their new home.  After a bit of research, we found that they would do best in a kennel in the back of our truck.  We have a topper, so they were completely contained.  Ryan loaded the birds up for their trip, but I think he was sad to see his rooster go.  He is greatly outnumbered around here with 2 female dogs and 12 hens.

Stella

 

The hens were put in a separate kennel from Stella in hopes that they wouldn’t be too stressed out or begin to fight during the drive.

Traveling with Chickens

 

We included a Rhode Island Red, a Welsummer, and an Andalusian.  We put straw in their kennels and they settled right in.  They actually seemed to travel very well and didn’t make a peep until we arrived at their new home.

The chickens seem to have adjusted well and the hens are laying, so they must not have minded the trip too much.  If we were traveling a greater distance, we definitely would have included food and water in the kennels, but they did just fine for the 3 hours they were in there.  We were very surprised there wasn’t much of a mess at all.  We had lined the truck bed with a tarp, but that was completely unnecessary.  If we were to travel with chickens again, we would definitely do it the same way.

As sad as it is to see some of our chickens go, we have a new batch of chickens coming at the end of May.  If you missed it, read all about that here.  We will update when we have more chicken news.  Thanks for reading!

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Spring Chicks


Bringing Chicks Home

When we built our coop, we built it to fit 20-24 birds.  The run is built for a few more than that.  We also have the opportunity to free range the chickens in the evening.  They do a great job staying in the yard, with a little help from our blue heelers.

Ryan probably never should have let me build such a big coop, because that means more chickens!  I wanted to order a Rarest of the Rare assortment, but you have to get a minimum of 15 birds.  That just isn’t doable for us, so we picked out 10 birds we wanted individually.  We ordered the birds from Murray McMurray Hatchery and they will be coming at the end of May.

We have ordered both meat chickens and some new laying hens.  Sadly, we have to send Stella to a new home, because he is just too loud to have living in town.  We are also giving away a few hens that will go with Stella.  Hopefully he will be a happy guy on his new farm with his hens.  We will have just over 20 laying hens with this new order.

We ordered one of each of the following, except 2 of the barred rocks and buff orpingtons:

Barred Rocks

Buff Orpingtons

Dark Brahmas

Golden Polish

Light Brahmas

Partridge Cochins

Silver Polish

Our meat birds are the same as last year, and we ordered 25 of them again:

Jumbo Cornish X Rocks

I can’t wait to get our new feathered friends!  I will definitely update as soon as they are here (sometime around May 26th).

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Easy DIY Nest Box


Easy DIY Nest Box

 

Our little chickies have been laying eggs like crazy!  I was told not to expect much this winter because the days are short, and hens typically don’t lay as much in the winter.  Well, our hens didn’t get the message.  Today 11 of our 15 hens laid eggs.  That’s nearly 7 dozen a week if it keeps up!  Eggs

We have just been using 5 gallon buckets laid on their side as nest boxes.  We didn’t have the materials to make the nice ones we wanted right away and the buckets were working great when we only had 4-5 hens laying.  I think since they are being awfully kind in their egg production, we could probably make them some nice boxes.

I will start by listing my cutting list for each pair of boxes for anyone interested in making their own.  It should only take one sheet of plywood (although I’m not entirely sure, because we used scraps of other projects for this).

  • 1  –  15″x30″    (Base)
  • 1  –  17″x30″    (Back)
  • 1  –  16″x30″    (Top)
  • 3  –  15″x17″    (Sides)

I wanted the top to be on an angle, so I cut the 15″x17″ rectangles to only reach 13″ in the front and 17″ in the back.  The top can still be hinged at that angle.

Nest Box Plywood

 

You can pocket-hole drill these pieces together, but we just used some nice self-tapping screws.  The pocket-hole would be stronger, but our birds don’t weigh enough for it to matter.  We attached the back to the base and added the dividers.   Pretty simple.Nest Box In Progress

 

We want the bedding to stay in the boxes, so we cut a scrap piece (about 2″ tall) to fit into each box.Nest Box Building

Lastly, we just needed to put the top on.  We attached the top with 1.5″ hinges.Nest Box Hinges

 

Now the box is ready for installation.DIY Nest Box

In order for the hinges to work properly, we needed to add spacers to our studs in the coop.Nest Box Spacer

Then we just attached the boxes to the wall under the window.  We have a total of 4 boxes, so each unit fits under each of the two windows.  You should have one box for every 4 chickens. Nest Box Installed

 

It took us about 45 minutes to build each unit.  I plan on putting laminate flooring on the top to discourage roosting on the boxes.  I also plan on adding curtains to the front of the boxes.  There are a lot of benefits to adding curtains (outlined well at http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/03/nest-box-curtains-more-than-fashion.html)

I will give the hens a little time to adjust to the boxes before I hide them away behind curtains.  Now maybe we can get the other 4 hens to lay (not that we need more eggs)!  Thanks for reading!

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Building a Chicken Coop: Part 3


**This is part 3 of a 4 part series.  Click here to read part 1 and here for part 2**

Chicken Coop Started

 

The chicken coop was missing one major element after we completed part 2: a chicken run!  Our girls (and boy) need a place to run around.  Coop without Run

We were temporarily using the dog kennel as a run, but the chickens were getting much to big for that.  We started by digging a trench for our fencing and post holes for the treated 4×4 posts.

Chicken Run Posts

 

We spaced the posts 6 feet apart and made a 12’x18′ run.  That gives us about 220 sq.ft. which can house about 22 chickens (10 sq.ft. a piece).  We wanted the fencing to be buried a bit so that critters couldn’t dig under and snatch our hens.

We first installed a 6 foot  2″x4″ welded wire fence.  We attached it using fencing staples.Chicken Run Fence

 

We still had concerns about critters getting in, so we also put in 3 foot hardware cloth, which was also buried about a foot under ground.

Chicken Run Hardware Cloth

 

We left the run like this for a couple of days, but it didn’t take long for the hens to figure out they could fly out.  OK, forget our roofing project! We have to build a roof for the chickens.

 

Chicken Run in Progress

 

We laid 1x4s on top of the 4x4s horizontally.  This gave us something to attach the wire to.  We also put in support where we needed to so that the top would be level.

Chicken Run Support

 

With all of the 1x4s in place (they run down the center of the coop as well) we were able to roll the wire on top.

Chicken Run Wire Roof

 

The wire really had to be pulled tight, but we haven’t had any sagging issues yet.  Eventually, we will add some sort of roof panels, but we needed a quick fix to keep the birds inside for now.

Chicken Run Corner

 

My dad had an old tonneau cover that he didn’t have a use for anymore, so we have set that on top near the door to help keep snow out.  We will need to shovel the snow soon, but the chickens have actually been doing really well in it.  They run all around the run and the snow doesn’t seem to bother them much.  They dig up the dirt near the door and seem content.

Chicken Run

 

We will be adding a door in the center of the run (between the smaller posts) but haven’t quite gotten that far.  In part 4 we will address roofing and siding, but I don’t expect the siding to be done until sometime in the spring.

The hens are laying eggs, and we are getting about 6 eggs a day at this point.  The fun continues! Thanks for reading!

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Stella Needs a New Name


Stella August 2013

For two months now, I have been worried we have a rooster in our bunch.  We are only allowed to have our chickens in town if no one complains, and I am worried that a rooster would ruin that for us.  The hatchery we ordered our chicks from guarantees hens, except with the rare breed they gave us for free.

I have had suspicions about Stella from the very beginning, but Ryan swore we only had hens.  This morning, our rooster started crowing.  While we worry whether the neighbors will be upset, having a rooster really is a good thing.  We can have fertilized eggs now.  Fertilized eggs are healthier to eat and can be hatched out for new chicks.

We believe Stella is a Blue Laced Red Wyandotte.  He is a beautiful and large bird.  Stella has become my favorite chicken, so I will be very sad if we have to see him go.  Now that she is a he, Stella needs a new name (and hopefully not a new home).

This morning I got the camera out, and the chickens all came running!  Stella is the beautiful gray and brown bird in the middle.  Stella

 

I’m loving the two chickens in the background of this picture.  Looks like someone is the talk of the coop today.  Maybe we weren’t the only ones fooled:Stella Comb

Look at that wattle and comb!  That was my first clue a couple of weeks ago, but Ryan assured me it would lay eggs.  I guess we don’t know much about chickens, but we will keep learning.

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Building a Chicken Coop: Part 2


**This is part 2 of a 4 part series.  Click here to read part 1**

Building a Chicken Coop

 

Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was our chicken coop…it took 2 days.  That’s right! It only took us 2 days to get our coop into a functional state.  It may not be pretty on the outside (yet) but the chickens are all moved in.

After building all of the framing we got to work by putting OSB on the exterior walls.Coop Walls

With the new support of the walls, we were able to put our homemade trusses up.Putting Up Trusses

Add some OSB to the roof and you’ve got yourself a coop!  Coop Roof Support

We also added our door and windows.  Menards was having a door sale, so we got one really cheap.  We just bought utility windows, which are also relatively cheap.  We used 1×6 lumber to cap off the ends of the trusses.Coop Windows

We put the roofing felt on and will put shingles up, but I will talk about that in part 3.  We will also be boxing in the eves.Coop Roof Felt

 

We didn’t want the chickens to roost on the window sills, so we made a frame with hardware cloth for the inside of the windows.Chicken Coop Windows

Next, we had to build a door that the chickens could use to get into the run.  We built a guillotine style door that works with a pulley.  It only took about an hour to build and works smoothly.Chicken Coop Door Coop Door

 

After that, the chickens just needed a roost to move in.  With only a few 2x4s, we had a nice roost built in a matter of minutes.Chicken Coop Roosts

 

Sadie approves, and she is sad she doesn’t have a cool house like the chickens do!Sadie Approves

 

It will probably be a while before we get the roofing and siding on.  We are planning on using left over siding from the house, so we will have to wait until that is done.  As soon as we have more to update, I will write Part 3 of our chicken coop adventure.

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Building a Chicken Coop: Part 1


We worked very hard this weekend building our chicken coop!  I spent a lot of time designing this coop and wanted it to be perfect.  I did a lot of research and drew up my plans for a coop that could be used as a garden shed if we/future owners didn’t have chickens.

We did a lot of work and have a bit more to do, so I am going to break this into 4 blog posts.  We have not put siding or roofing on or built the run, so those posts will come later.  This is how it stands today:Chicken Coop Started

In the last post about our chicken coop, I wrote a little bit about our major considerations.  With that in mind, let’s get started!

Before we could start building the structure, we had to remove a tree.  Tree Removal

With that out of the way, we built our foundation on top of our gravel.  We built it 16″ on center with treated 2x6s.  Coop Foundation

 

We laid down 3/4″ OSB for the sub-floor.  We would have used 1/2″ but Menards was all out, and we had to take what we could get.  Luckily, the price was good and the structure will be even more sturdy.  Coop Subfloor

After a lot of research online, I discovered that the vinyl should be put on before the walls are put up.  We got a glueless vinyl so all we had to do was lay it down!  Then we were able to start building the framing.Coop VinylCoop Framing

I also did a bit of research to see how to make trusses (because I had no idea where to start).  I found this YouTube video that I used in my design: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mfs4rxBeyK0

After some intense geometry, we got 10 identical trusses.

Coop Trusses

 

Now that the framing is all done, we can start putting up the OSB walls.  Check back for Part 2!

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