We’re working on building up an outdoor brooding area to hatch and raise chickens and turkeys. The current coop — which seemed so large when we got our first five hens — is too small for raising more birds.
Option #1 is to get a larger coop — we’re looking at a metal shed — that will give us space to frame out two rectangles, cover them with hardware cloth, and have both a nursery with the chicken toaster and a brooder for slightly order birds who are still getting acclimated to the flock. To save floor space, I would make PVC tube feeders and waterers. The brooder could be brought outside into the pasture to serve as a baby bird tractor, too.
Option #2 is to build out a nursery and brooder on the side of the existing coop. This could even be insulated to ensure the baby guys are extra toasty. This probably would have a hinged roof so we could access the baby guys from outside of the coop.
One of our Bresse hens went for a walkabout last night. We were going shopping, so had to get them cooped up earlier than normal. Normally, it’s sunset when we’re taking them to the coop. And we don’t put more food into the tractor in the evening, so the chickens are ready to head in for a meal. When we’re leaving early, I like to carry the chickens and deliver them into the coop. And have someone opening/closing the door to avoid escapees. Anya evidently just opened the tractor and let them run. Some ran into the coop. Some ran to the compost. And one? She ran for the woods.
She was roosting in a tree last night, but Scott and Anya weren’t able to coax her down. Then she was nowhere to be found this morning. Luckily it was a light misty rain all day and not the rain showers I was expecting. We put the dozen remaining chickens into the tractor and left them do chicken things. By late afternoon, our missing girl was hanging out by the tractor. Anya picked her up and gave her some snuggles, then popped her into the tractor for some food and water. Her adventure seems to have tired her out — she was quiet and snuggly.
We also tried putting the poults in with the chickens today. We’d had them in the baby poultry tractor next to the big chicken tractor for a week so they’d get used to seeing each other. Well — that didn’t work out so well. Introducing the Bresse to the egg layers went pretty well — the egg layers were selected for their chill personalities. The Bresse rooster, however, went after the first poult Anya put into the tractor. So they’re back in the baby tractor for some more introduction time. We’ll have to do some supervised interaction on a nice, warm, sunny day.
Our first egg! From the green queen … since that’s the only one who lays green eggs/
The past few days was the first big snow storm out chickens have seen. They didn’t like walking in the snow so much. Anya made a snow maze for the chickens. The funny thing I’ve noticed about chickens — and remember, these are birds that can fly (well, for short distances) — is that they get stymied by two foot walls. The whole flock will be standing on the other side of our courtyard wall, chattering and cocking their heads at the wall trying to figure it out. Well, 18″ of snow works the same way — one chicken “cheated” at the maze and just flew into a different section, but they generally hit a head end and meandered around until someone accidentally worked their way back into the main part of the maze.
And she added a prize at the end of the maze
Autumn is coming to a close. We had an great growing season this year — I covered the lettuce beds with fabric tents three or four nights in November because temps would be near freezing. We had a few nights where our small pond froze on the surface, but tomorrow night will be the first sustained sub-freezing temperature. I got a bit of a late start to outdoor gardening because we rebuilt the garden beds in a sunnier location, but I still managed a 200 day growing season. Adding another six weeks for the seeds started indoors, I had plants growing for 244 days — about 2/3 of the year! Moving the beds to a sunnier location greatly increased productivity, and the compost in the garden area has turned into a large pile of dirt. We’ve been adding new stuff to the north side of the pile, and I’ve been moving everything south as I turn the pile. It is impressive how much the pile of grass and leaves shrinks down as it decomposes. In early autumn, I put about 16 cubic feet of compost into the garden beds to make a lettuce and kale bed. Yesterday, I amended another fifteen cubic feet of the lettuce bed. Anya and I used two cucumber A-frame trellises and a few of the tomato trellises to create a structure and covered the lettuce bed with greenhouse plastic. Hopefully we’ll be able to continue growing lettuce throughout the winter. I also plan on planting the broccoli, brussle sprouts, and cabbage under the cover next April.
I was worried the chicks we got in August would be too small when the temps dropped, but they are fifteen weeks old today. They love being outside and fluff up really big when it gets cold. Both the coop and chicken tractor have a wide roost so they can keep their toes under their warm feathers.
In the next few weeks, we’ll build some nesting boxes and get the coop finalized. I also want to finish making packets for the seeds we harvested this year and file them into my seed storage boxes. In the next week or two, I will be making a lot of candied almonds — vanilla cinnamon candied almonds, maple roasted salted almonds, and some plain candied almonds — for us and to give away to neighbors.
This winter, I want to finish the crochet blanket I am making for our family room. It should be a thick, warm blanket that we can all snuggle under. I want to finish Anya’s new Peppermint Swirl dress. I also want to make her micro-corduroy dress/tunic/shirt to replace the one she outgrew this past year. Both will be worn in the spring/summer, but sewing is a cold/snowy day activity for me.
I wanted to grow a little treat for our chickens to eat as winter sets in and green leafy things become scarce. I took about half a cup of wheat, a quarter cup of barley, and a quarter cup of oats and mixed the seeds together. I covered the seeds with water and soaked them for about 20 hours. I then spread the seeds in a 8″x8″ aluminium tray that has holes poked into the bottom. This sits into its plastic lid to keep from dripping water everywhere. Twice a day, I run water into the tray and let it drip out. No soil used — the roots and seeds form a fairly solid mass as the seeds sprout. One week later, I have lots of bright green shoots. Hopefully they think it’s a tasty treat!
We put together a chicken tractor to give our chicks to keep them where they’re supposed to be. We’ll put a tarp over one half of the tractor so they’ll have somewhere to hide when the eagle come about (and a place to hide from the rain). And it’s got a low-motion swing!
We used a 1×4 for the swing and mounted the rope to both the top and bottom of the tractor. This approach leaves the swing move a few inches each way, but it doesn’t swing when they hop on and off. They seem to like it — I’ve seen each chicken hanging out on the swing today.
Scott started putting together a mobile chicken tractor. The metal tube is repurposed from one of those canvas covered pavilion things that came with the house. Massive wind storm, years ago, took it out. It’s been a hop arbor and now a chicken tractor. Since it articulates a little bit, it fits the contours of the ground. We still need to mount some fencing … well, sand it down a bit and repaint it too! But it’s a large, portable space for the chickens to roam when we’re not hanging out in the yard keeping an eye on them.
We got the floor laid in the coop and added a roost … now we’re ready for the chicks to move in!
But this strange rainbow chicken showed up!
Scott built axles and wheels to move the chicken coop across the yard. We jacked a side up, slid the axle underneath, and lowered the coop. Repeated the process on the other side and, voila, a mobile coop. We pushed it because we needed to adjust the angle of the axles to make a few turns. But it moved surprisingly well.