Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The room of birds no more!

Once again, our days are cold and bleak. After one day in the 70's (which I was stuck inside being ill), we are back to rain and 45 degrees. Seems like spring needs a push start this year.

We cleaned the chicken room in the house and made the decision to never again raise chicks in the house. The amount of dust generated by these birds was unbelievable and took us a few hours to clean. The room is already back in use for the four kittens we are taking care of until they are well enough to get adopted. The room has also been claimed as the new craft room for my wife because of the constant sun it receives during the day. That means packing everything in both rooms (the spare room and the current craft room) and moving everything again. I put it on hold until I get my moving dolly back from my buddy and we are both over the plague.

In the meantime (and the rain), I nearly finished the chicken tractor. The front door is just a chunk of exterior ply that I cut a window into and stapled some chicken wire. I added a hard drive plate to the coop door to give the magnet something to really hold on it and ran some line to the front of the tractor to allow us to close and open the door. And I cut some extra tin in half to she'd the water from the coop. I also used some left over flashing as a ridge cap and a length of tar foil over the coop hatch to keep the water out of there.

I still need to finish securing the tin sheets to the coop and put the wheels in the back end, but the tractor is ready for business. She wants to put the younger birds in it full time, but we are at odds about how to show them that the coop is their new home. There isn't enough room under the coop for me to grab them, but I'm probably worrying about that too much.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The dog pen

Well the chicken birds are out, not in the tractor, but they are outside anyway.

I was laid out with an unshakable illness last week that kept me inside and unable to work on the tractor. The birds did not get this memo and continued to grow as they have been doing for the last month. I finally was able to get out of the house on Friday, and I took the birds with me.

We took the older Orpingtons out on a day trip to the outside a few days earlier, using the dog pen to keep them all contained for the day.

The pen was there when we bought the house but my dogs really don't use it, so it will be converted to the main chicken coop and run. It's already a 10' x 17' space with an attached dog house which is about 2' x 4'.

I added the heat lamp inside the box and threw a quick sliding door on it to keep them safe at night. Other than the adding an extra strip of 1" stock to the door frame to keep the smaller birds in, it is a ready temporary solution.

We will, in the future; add wire to the top, heighten the coop, and add nesting apartments. Basically, a rebuild of the dog house into a coop.

I had to laugh when I went to close them into the box last night. They were all huddled at the door waiting for me to carry them all back into the house. I had to show them where to sleep last night as I grabbed each one individually and placed them inside the box. They should get it after a few days.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Oh, hinge-ed things

Just a quick update on things being chicken and us.

I've got the roof sheathing installed on the secure side and have added a board and batten door to the opposite side. That side is hinged at the top and will be able to be opened to access the eggs. I've just added a simple brace to hold it open and not bonk us on the head. (The picture was taken before the brace.)

The door at the top of the gang plank has also been installed, but I'm not satisfied with the latch to hold it closed. Currently I have one magnet installed on the stop that was supposed to mate with a washer an screw on the door. Well, it does that, just not very well. So I think I'll epoxy a second magnet on the door and see if that works a little better.

My next job is to add the back wall which will have a feeder attached to it.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Gang way!

The tractor is proceeding slowly. It's hard to get days to work on it, whether from the uncooperative weather or even other engagements like school and weekly geocaching excursions. I did have a couple of hours to spare so I came up with a floor for the nesting area and a gang plank.

The nesting area if the tractor will be located on the rear 4 feet of the tractor and raised up about 20 inches. Research advises to nest them above 18 inches. I had to rearrange the nesting box area to the side to fit all 4 boxes in. Originally, the plan was to nest them on the back wall, but there wasn't enough room for 4 boxes.

The other half of the floor consists of 1/2 inch welded wire mesh to make cleaning a little easier. I am starting to rethink this decision. Initially, I was all for the added ventilation, but I'm thinking it may be too much. I think i may add a sliding drawer under there to catch the waste and to facilitate cleaning. This would solve the issue of having it too breezy in there from the open floor.

The gang plank is 8 1/2 inches wide and about 42 inches long. I added some small battens to it for little chicken feet to grip. The end of the ramp hangs about 5 inches off the ground, which should below enough for the birds to hop onto. I braced it in place using a strip of 1x2 that can also be used as a perch for the chickens.

I'm working on a door for them now.

Monday, March 4, 2013

The chicken tractor

If you plan to keep chickens, you need someplace to keep them. Sure, we currently have ours in two blanket-style chests in the spare room, but they will soon out grow them and need some outside time.

(The bigger pullets are old enough, but the temperatures are still too cold for us to be comfortable with leaving them outside.)

Our permanent chicken structures will include a converted dog pen and a chicken tractor that allows the chickens to be relocated to different areas of the yard. (I didn't even know what a chicken tractor was until a few weeks ago.)

I decided to build the chicken tractor first. So it was off to the Internet to research and get a good dose of paralysis through over analysis. There are so many different options and requirements to be considered while building your tractor.

Each chicken needs at least a 4 square foot grazing area. With 15 birds, that comes out to 60 square feet total. So I decided to start with some 2x4s and shaped a rectangular base of 6f feet by 10 feet.

By the next morning, I took it back apart and ripped the 2x4s into 2x2s and added some corner braces. This would lighten the project a little and retain the strength required.

Next came the rafter system. I ripped some more 2x2s and built 6 trusses, adding them to the plate. I tied these all together using a couple lengths of 1x4 along the top. These will allow ventilation and a place to secure the "ridge cap". (I also secured some chicken wire under the ridge board on the forward section.)

If you haven't noticed, I'm kind of making this up as I go along.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Chickens chickens!

It's been a long week of chickens chickens! We realized we weren't ready when they got here, but I don't think I realized just how much behind the power curve we were at that time.

We lost 6 of the original group, most likely due to the cold they had to deal with while being shipped, bringing us down to 9.

Well, we stopped by the Tractor Supply store to pick up some more feed and they had just gotten in a bunch of chicks (and ducklings). They had two groups of straight run chicks (and ducklings) and two groups of pullets (all female).

After a little convincing, we decided to add a little color to our Buff Orpingtons by bringing home 3 Ameraucana and 3 Rhode Island Red pullets. (We would buy the straight runs but don't want to annoy our neighbors. We personally like the sound of a rooster.)

With the addition of 6 more, much younger birds a new box had to be made. I grabbed three lengths of barn wood and slapped something together using butt joints, screws and rough barn lumber.

The bottom of the box is shiplapped and the sides are staggered so one board secures to the two boards perpendicular to it. (The dimensions are about 2'x3' and the sides are 18".) A light sanding just to knock the splinters down and inside it went to house the new girls.

The funniest thing is that Shae likes this one so much more than the one using milled lumber. She likes the rustic appearance I guess. That's ok, I have lots of barn wood to go through yet.