We Won! A Locking Door Kit from Chicken Guardian

Chicken Guardian personally delivered our prize and set down to visit with us on camera.

We won this newly designed locking door from Chicken Guardian. The Chicken Guard locking door kit makes your coop very secure. The folks from Chicken Guardian were driving thru our area and stopped by for a short visit.  We sat down with them and discussed the new door and other new products that they are now carrying.  We will be installing the new door when it cools down a bit here in East Texas.  Stay tuned for that.  In the meantime, you can join our conversation

 

The Chicken Coop

Chicken Coop Up-Sized!

The coop is inside the barn/stable.  We do not plan on ever having horses, so we use the barn for storage.  It also seemed like the perfect place for the girls to be safe and warm.  So the run is built right outside of the barn with an automatic door leading out.

Chicken Coop in stable being secured against predators

Nesting Boxes

Nesting boxes in New Chicken Coop

We are planning on about a dozen chickens, so I built 6 nesting boxes (in case we get more).  Probably way too many, but its easier to build them all at once then to add more later.  It is a simple wood build using materials that I had on hand.

Roosting Bar

I built the roosting bars out of 2 x 4  wood.  The girls will sit on  4 inch wood so their feet will be flat and covered from below. This keeps their feet warm.  I built the roosting bar on a hinge so I can lift it up to clean.  Under the roost I built a poop hammock that I can remove and take out to clean.

Roosting Bar with hinge to lift and clean. Poop hammock attached for easy cleaning.

The Floor

The floor was covered in wood shavings, but that is so dusty, I will remove that and cover it with sand.  This removes that dust and makes it easy to clean up with a kitty scoop.

New Chicken Coop in the Barn

New Chicken Coop in the Barn

Hope you enjoy the tour

The Chicken Run

The Chicken Coop

We had a very unusual sale of our old house.  The chickens had to stay!  We hated to leave them behind, they really were more pets than anything, but in the end, it was for the best.  We did not have a coop at the new place, so this kept them safe and gave us time to build a new coop in due time.  We decided that we upsized our property from a zero lot line to 20 acres, we needed to up-sized our home for the “new girls”.

Exercise is Important

At our old house, the girls had free range of our backyard during the day.  We had a hill that they loved to climb, so even though it was small, they got lots of exercise.  I built a small run so they had shelter in bad weather and they had a coop made from an old playhouse.  You can see the old coop here.  Our four girls were safe in suburbia.

Free Range?

Now out here in the country (we are nine miles from town) we have a few more predators to worry about.  We have also decided to have a few more girls than before, probably around a dozen or so.  We want them to be as free range as possible but still be safe.  So we compromised on a 700 square foot run.  We will probably let them out of the run to play when we are out and about, just not all the time.

Predator Safe

We built the run out 1/2″ hardware cloth all around, top and down the sides buried two feet out.  This prevents any animals from being able to dig their way into the run.  The cloth is 4 feet wide, so we worked with 16 foot long boards.  We used cedar posts that had been cut and left on the property from the previous owner.

As you can see from the photos.  The roof was our hardest element in the build.  The run is on a slope.  We just put us a board with a stop for the roll on top and a stop on the bottom to keep it lined up away we went.  It goes really smooth with two people.  We also found that using a scaffold is helpful.

Chicken Run with Cedar posts and roof frame

Hardware cloth buried

Closeup of stops for roof setup for Chicken Run Build

Our Roofing Setup to build Chicken Run

Adding roof to Chicken Run

 

Automatic Door

Chicken Guard Automatic Chicken Coop Door Opener

We cut a hole in the metal barn. This was the hardest thing I had to do.  It wasn’t hard to do physically, it was just hard to cut a hole in a good building.  But I knew this was the best solution for run/coop setup.  We covered the hole with wood, so the girls will not be cut.  We decided to go with an automatic door since the barn is a fair distance from the house and we wanted to make sure the girls could get in and out when they wanted.  This door is programmable by either time or light sensor.  We have it set by sensor.  We will write a review of this product once we have the girls set up and we see how it works out.

 

Chicken Feeder

We left our old feeder with the girls at our old house (condition of our sale was to leave our chickens and coop behind).  Since we plan on more than 4 chickens, we also wanted to up- size the size of the feeder.  We went with the Grandpa feeder that holds 40 pounds of feed and is supposed to be rat proof.  Again, we will review this product as soon as we have some experience with it.

Chicken Waterer

We are also trying out a new system of water for the girls, so stayed tuned for more info on that.  We also like to have a place for them to play in the water.  We just had a tub of water at our old house, but have upgraded to a kiddie pool.  We will let you know if they like it or not.

Perches

We have a variety of perches for the girls, including an area, where the dominate girl can reign over everyone else.  Can’t wait to meet her!

Please watch our YouTube video to see a tour of the door, feeder, watering system and the perches.  Thank you and see you soon!

We’ve Moved!

We Moved

While I can’t say that we have not planned for this, it still happened in a very quick and sudden way: all good, mind you- but still still very quick.

A Dream

We have dreamed of owning property all of our married life, well, at least 20 of the 36 years.  I mean, who really has 4 chickens in a zero lot line yard unless they are dreaming of more?

So we had been updating our house slowing over the last five years.  We just always found one more thing that needed to be done.

Collections

Then, there was the STUFF!  20 years of collecting stuff.  I am talking more than a Dr Pepper collection or a vintage cane collection (guilty of both plus many more).   I am talking “lets pick that up, we might need that on the property someday” collection.  So we had stacks of wood, cinderblocks, tons of nails from garage sales, etc, etc, etc!  It was just so overwhelming.  I mean seriously, who does this?  Collect so much stuff for a future dream, that you have so much stuff that the thought of moving it is almost paralyzing?  how stupid, right?  Welcome to my life!

Again, we lived in a zero lot line 1800 sq ft home on a hill.  The garage had been converted into a bedroom so my dad could live with us.  We ran a business from home, so we had rented storerooms for work and tools.  I am not even going to admit to how many and how much money we were wasting!

Kick in the Pants

So my wife finally reached a point last April 20th.  She said we are putting the house on the market by August 20th or we are just going to admit that we will never move and we will start getting rid of all the stuff.

She is really smart, it was the kick in the pants that we needed.  We have always worked best with a deadline.  We finished all the house projects, called a real estate agent and got the house on the market 3 days before her deadline.

Sold

Then we sold the house in 3 days.  OH $#!!

We had not even started looking for our dream home.  Now we had exactly one month to find the dream and move the STUFF!  EVERYTHING!

So we drew a 2 hour circle around the DFW area (we still needed to be close to work) on Zillow and set out our priorities on what we really wanted.  While we thought we would be willing to go any direction, when push came to shove, we only “found” houses to look at in East Texas.  We found a total of 5 properties to look at.  We spent one week, found the dream, made an offer and here we are…

The DREAM

20 acres, pond, workshop, barn, nice house with view of pond, and the bonus was a barndomium so our son could come live out here with us and run his youtube business as well.

Our first major projects will be a garden and chicken coop…..so stay tuned.

Precision Pet Wood Treadle Chicken Feeder Review

Precision Pet Wood Treadle Chicken Feeder Review

About 5 months ago I purchased the Precision Pet Wood Treadle Chicken Feeder because of a rodent problem. I was seeing small rats getting into my hanging feeder. I also saw droppings all around the feeder. I was very concerned about diseases in and around the girls.

Precision Chicken Feeder Review

Stop Feeding the Rats

I read that treadle feeders should eliminate or reduce problems from rodents. At the time I only had 3 chickens and I didn’t want to spend a lot on a feeder. I was using a Precision Pet Cape Cod Coop without any issues. The Coop seemed to be built reasonably well; therefore I felt that another one of their products should also be reasonably well built.

Read the Instructions: All the Instructions

The first thing I noticed when I received the feeder was that the instructions were simple to understand pictures. Unfortunately in my exuberance to get it built, I missed the slant board that feeds the food to the front of the feeder. Taking apart one side to install it not a problem. Reinstalling it became challenging because it does help to have extra hands to hold parts in place. This is where the problems started to show up.

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There are small tabs that fit into holes on their opposite piece that if not seated properly will pull the star nuts out of the boards so that it can’t be tightened. Also don’t use a cordless screwdriver because even with good control it is very easy to over-tighten and remove the star nuts (reinserting does not fix it).

Nutty Solutions

The next issue I encountered was the flange nuts used on the moving parts of the feeder work themselves off. I have had to reinstall them at least once a week. The easiest solution would be to change out the flange nuts to nylon lock nuts because you need to be able to adjust the tightness to make the parts move correctly.

Clever Rats, Better Solutions

As I said earlier, I purchased this feeder because of rodents. The first day I had completely closed the feed lid, a rat chewed his way into the feed. The rat jumped out when I checked it that night. There is a small gap behind the treadle cover that with very little chewing, the rat was able to crawl in. I solved this by screwing a piece of plywood into this area of the gap.

bar added to keep rodents out

Help Wanted: Fatter Chickens

As I said, the star nuts are easy to pull out. Thankfully I had plenty of drywall screws to hold it together. If you have the drywall screws, I would add them at the initial build. I recently found out that the cover door was not opening with my lightest girl. The feed had caused the provided screws and nuts to partially dislodge causing the cover to stick.

Chicken Training

Before I purchased this feeder, I read about how to train the girls to use this type of feeder. Many people commented that their type of treadle feeder (multiple manufacturers) had holes to prop up the cover so that the girls would learn where the food was. Many said theirs came with at least two holes so that they could begin partially closing the cover to teach them to step on the treadle platform to open the cover.

chickens having some dinner

6 Week Learning Curve

There are no feeder training instructions nor are there any holes in the side to insert a screw to hold up the cover in this model. I had to drill my own. From what I read, most people were able to completely close the cover in two weeks. It only took my girls six weeks (I think my girls maybe very special), so don’t give up hope, they will figure it out.

Specs

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Cost between $55 and $75

Final Impression

This is one of the items that I believe is very beneficial to have if you have any kind of wild bird and/or rodent problem. However, the old saying “you get what you pay for” holds very true to this product.

Fab or Flub?

Flub. In my opinion, if you have any carpentry skills this would be a good time to break out the table saw and build your own. I am already seeing some plywood delamination on my feeder. If time or skills are not your forte, I would invest the money and look into metal feeders.

From Playhouse to Chicken Coop

From Playhouse to Chicken Coop

From Playhouse to Chicken Coop

Around three years ago we decided we wanted to raise chickens. If you have read any of my previous articles you will see what a relatively quick coop and run I put together. We bought the coop online and it was cute. I built the run and truth be told: it was ugly. I just didn’t want to spend a lot of time and money on something that may not be a long term desire.

After losing three of the original five girls to possums (they are just plain mean suckers) our enjoyment hasn’t waned; it has just grown. We recently decided that instead of fixing the defects in design it was time to just start over.

Run=Ugly

My wife finally shared with me that she thought the run was really ugly and that she wanted something a heck of a lot more attractive than what she had to look at. Plus, I think she could see I was getting very antsy not doing anything after a very busy spring redesigning the front yard (another story sometime).

I was going to build from scratch and create my own unique design (and probably spend way too much money). I had the basic essentials (waterer, feeder, etc) so all I had to do was build around these things and I would have a new coop.

Ugly Runthe after photo of the new coop

The wall next to the house:  Before and After

As you can see, the tarps and buckets were taking over the small space.  But even my wife will admit, the run did keep the girls happy during wet or bad weather.

Pinterest for Ideas

I spent a good deal of time and scoured through various articles in Backyard Chickens and Pinterest trying to come up the perfect idea for our backyard. I guess I should mention that my wife loves to watch the girls out of her office window. Of course, the girls also love to tell her when it is time for a snack whenever the backdoor is open.

the girls at the back door

A Friend Helps

I have always believed the good Lord will provide when the time is right. About a month ago I told my best friend my plans to build a new coop. He told me that his adult daughter had a playhouse that she was ready to get rid of because her daughter had a new play/gym house. He sent me a picture and I immediately saw possibilities. It was definitely smaller than I envisioned but I thought I could make it work. I picked it up and brought it home.

the playhouse brand new

The Build Begins

The first thing I did was temporarily put it together (without the roof) so that my wife and I could figure out what to do with it. It is important to understand that the dimensions were approximately 43”x 43” x 62” tall. It was way too small and I wasn’t going to fit in it to be able to do the chores needed. One of the biggest problems with the old run was it was too short to get into and stand up. I was tired of doing the crab walk!

The Floor for the Chicken Coop

I am a collector of building materials. I had been given a 4’x8’ pallet l with OSB board on it. At the time I didn’t know what I was going to do with it. When I got the playhouse, it fit on the pallet with room to spare. We tore down the old run, moved their coop and I started the project.

Pallet Floor with vinyl and hardware cloth

I first leveled the ground for the pallet. I took ½” hardware cloth and wrapped the pallet below grade to minimize digging from unwanted critters under the pallet. I had some reinforced vinyl that covered the pallet to make it weather resistant and prevent splinters into the girls’ feet. I left playhouse put together off to the side so that the girls would get use to going into it and on it.

After the pallet was ready I moved the playhouse onto the pallet. Time for the real work to begin. The first idea was to raise the roof about two feet so that I could stand up in it. We decided to use transparent corrugated roofing panels for the wall extension. We used panel closures on each end to minimize any drafts.

The Roof of the Chicken Coop

Next I stripped the “shingles” off the roof, rebuilt it with plywood and tar paper to make sure it was dry inside. I reinstalled the “shingles” and the roof was ready. I used 2×4’s as the support legs. I used bar clamps to set the roof.

I put the clamps at the desired height, my son and I lifted the roof over the supports and set them on the clamps which made adjustments very easy. The actual opening was 21.5 inches to account for overlap of the panels on top and bottom.

Plywood added to the roof for strenght and warmth

roof remodeled

We closed all the openings and added some decorations.

Chicken Nesting Boxes

The first item was to replace two of the four small windows and build two nesting boxes for them. Because of the small size of the original coop there wasn’t any room for a nesting box on the inside. The girls would either lay under the old coop or hide the eggs. As soon as I built the box they took to it, even with all the noise from construction.Nesting Box Open  Hinge on nesting box

A hinge makes it easy to collect the eggs from outside the coop.

Bike innertube to keep out water

A silicone bead along the hinge and along where the box is attached help keep the water out.  But the innertube on the hinge should really make the difference.  Our first rain is this week and we will know for sure.

nesting boxes seen from inside the coop

Here is a view of the nesting box from inside the coop.  We have wooden eggs as recommended.  The girls took to the new boxes without any problems.

Chicken Poop Hammocks

The girls were still not sleeping in the new coop because I didn’t have a perch for them. I wanted to make an easy to clean system. I knew I would be using sand on the floor but I still didn’t want to get on my hands and knees so I added small poop hammocks behind each roost bar. Occasionally they sleep the opposite direction but for the most part they have performed as expected. They and the roost bars are removable for easy cleaning.

Poop Hammock Explained

The Chicken Coop Doors

I needed to build doors before I let the girls sleep in their new digs. The playhouse came with two openings for the kids. One was just a 43”x 17”opening and the other was a43”x17” opening with a little door and window in it. The opening became my door, so that I could installed a full length door albeit only 17” wide.

On the girls door I took the play door out turned it upside down and made the window the new chicken entrance. To close the door I used single shelf tracks and cut them to size. Much cheaper than using “C” channel. I had an old rigid chair mat that I cut up for the door so that it slides up and down. I am in the process of building an automatic door opener out of a car antenna (still have a few bugs to work out).

Chicken Door from inside coop

Chickens Door from the Run

Human Door

You can see the transparent corrugated roofing panels that enclosed the Coop extension here.  This makes it bright for the chickens while they are in their coop during inclement weather.

extension panels

Here is a good view of the transparent corrugated roofing panels before the chicken run is attached.

The Chicken Coop Windows

There were three more windows that I kept intact. I put ½”hardware cloth over them and then attached two tracks to each one so that I could install clear Plexiglas when the weather turns colder and wetter. I am leaving them open now while the weather is nice.

window with removable plexiglass

The Run

I purchased 48” wide hardware cloth so that I could build the chicken run without any overlaps. The run is 4’x8’ which is small for 4-6 chickens but girls are only in there when the weather is bad. I covered the chicken run with polycarbonate roofing panels to keep them out of the rain and hail. I used plywood for the back as a wind and rain screen. I built a two and half ft. wide door so that this winter I can put a hay bale inside to help keep them out of the mud.

perches and dusting box

We added a bench from the old playhouse front porch for a perch along with a branch.  We also have a dusting box with sand and ash.  They use that every day.

Water and Feed

I attached the waterer from the old run to the back wall and kept the bucket outside. I decided to keep the feeder in the run because of room as well as keep rodents away from the girls at night.

chicken waterer with chicken nipples

Another thing that I built was a feed catcher. My girls are very sloppy and throw food out of the feeder. This was adding to the rodent problem. Now I can recycle the feed back into the feeder.  I already see savings!

feed catcher

Weather Protection

With the reinforced vinyl, my wife came up with the idea to make a removable wind/rain screen on the screened sides. We hang them on the outside of the chicken run during inclement weather. They tie off at the bottom with bungee cords and eye hooks.

Ready for Rain

rain tarps are stored in the chicken runDuring good weather we roll the weather protection screens up and store them inside the run out of the way.

How Much Did This Puppy Cost????

And for the final question you might have…how much did it cost?  Well, remember that I got a $600 playhouse for free.  I also mentioned that I am a collector of building materials, so all the wood you see in the photo above, free.  I did sell the old coop on craigslist for $125.00 so that offset a lot of the cost.  I paid for the hardware cloth, the roof panels you see above in the run and the transparent corrugated roofing panels.  Also had to buy the panel closures for those panels on the coop.  I bought some odd and end pieces of hardware like the brackets you see above.  I did reuse hinges and door latches from the old run.  I had to buy the shelf tracks for the doors and windows, but I had the Plexiglass and I had the plywood for the coop roof.  Lets see, what else…oh, the door lifting system that doesn’t work yet.  That is a whole other article.  As soon as it is up and working, I will let you know all the details.  But at this point, I think I am out about $75 bucks.

Best of all, my wife is very happy with it.

The Chicken or the Egg?

The Chicken or the Egg?

I have mentioned in the past that I have a small yard with a limit of six chickens to my property. That being said, I am finding it very disconcerting at the number of people who are giving up their chickens. When I have nothing better to do, I enjoy going through Craigslist and to see what others are giving away. I have been noticing the last couple of months an increase in the number of people giving away or selling off their flocks.

The good news is, that in many cases, someone wants them. In other cases, it’s bad news and animal shelters are turning into their short lived home. I have spoken to a few of the craigslist donators as well a number of animal shelters. There seems to be reoccurring theme about wannabe chicken owners,  “lets get chicks or chickens because we will have fresh eggs everyday”.

The Chicken or the Egg

Chicks for Sell

They trot off to the feed store, see some chicks for sell, “hey they are only a few dollars, lets get a bunch of them”. Some of the time someone in the store will instruct them on what they need to help the chicks survive.  These wannabes will figure out real quick that the initial investment is not cheap in both time and money.

What generally happens at this point is one of two things

  1. They don’t have the money to maintain the chicks’ or chickens’ needs or they don’t have the desire to provide for a healthy environment. Do they have shelter for them to protect them from the elements and/or predators. Do the birds have a place to free range or are they going to be locked up in a small run. If that is the case it would be much cheaper to just buy organic eggs. They may not realize that because they did not clean up after the dogs in the yard on a daily basis the chickens are eating around all the poo. Side note how are the existing pets going to take to the birds. Do they have the funds and space to provide a separate area to protect the birds.
  2. They don’t have the time to give to the birds.  Daily coop maintenance is essential. Chickens leave a lot of poop at night that must be cleaned up regularly to minimize diseases from infecting the chickens. Most urban chicken owners don’t have large acreage to provide all of their nutritional needs, so who is going to maintain the food and water needs.

Why do you really want chickens? If it is only for the eggs, remember that if you get chicks, it will be 4 to 6 months before you see your first egg.

Is it because you want to teach your children to be responsible? Remember the “ fun factor” will wear off sooner than you may expect.  These are living, breathing, thinking social animals and they require regular attention.

Please Research Before You Buy

These points may seem insignificant at first, but if it isn’t thought through, the birds will be neglected and then dumped. As a new owner if I may impart a bit of advice, that if this something that you and your family really want and desire, please do your research. The internet is a huge source of information on everything that you could possibly need to know about the birds. If you haven’t read as much as possible, you could be the next person dumping chickens.

I am not trying to talk you out of raising chickens because the benefits far out weight any inconvenience there may be. My wife is out of town and to help break up some of her daily activities I will text her pictures of the girls doing something silly.

“Chickens are very fun, loving animals to be around, as long as their needs are being taken care of.”

Trudy’s Favorite Flock Block Recipe

Trudy’s Favorite Flock Block Recipe

Another one of my passions is cooking.  One day this last fall I had a very long conversation with the girls about life in general.  The conversation for some reason got steered towards menu selections. While current epicurean delights were good, yes they really like the green horned worms, washed down with a nice 2 day old aged, imported ACV and water (ACV-apple cider vinegar imported from California and water from chez tap) they were requesting a larger variety of choices.  Trudy told me while she was on the computer she came across a recipe for Baked Flock Block served with a side of dirt with a sprinkling of compost. How can anyone resist such a cute face as this?

Chicken uses the copier

Trudy and I Research Together

So we started researching through all of my vast resources for the perfect recipe for them. I came across a number of recipes, but they just weren’t quite flavorful enough in Trudy’s opinion, and we all know how discriminating their palates can be. So we conspired and came up with the perfect one.

I have decided to share this very exacting, flavorful recipe because as the girls said

“one needs to share a masterpiece so that all may enjoy this delight. “

The Recipe

This recipe must be followed exactly or it will taste different than our creation (remember discriminating tastes).

You start out with about two cups of layer feed

approximately two cups of scratch

add in maybe two cups of black oil sunflower seeds

One cupish of millet

a large handful of kamut

Kamut in Flock Block

two half cups of corn meal

two slightly heaping cups of steel cut oats

one and halfish handfuls of wheat berries

and whatever you have leftover of crimson clover (sounds like a song to me),

Flock Block with Crimson Clover

about a half a cups worth of flaxseed,

a couple of very beaten eggs with crushed shells (no they will not become egg eaters),

about two cups of molasses,

two tablespoons of cinnamon

half cup of lard (from the east Himalayan yak, not the west side, they bite or from the grocery store whichever is easier to find) or any other food oil.

Flock block adding lard

Put all this into a large fine crystal bowl or a plastic bucket or something in between, whatever works for you.

Mix thoroughly.  If it doesn’t hold together when squeezed, add a couple of chopped up slices of bread moisten with water.

Mixing up Flock Block

You can add about a cup of marigold petals if want a darker yellow yolk.

Now, something to remember that is very very important, if you don’t let your girls read these articles you can very easily get away with changing this recipe to whatever you have in stock.  You can kick it up 2.5 notches (“kick it up a notch” was already taken) and add fruit like pomegranate seeds or chopped apple or even chopped pear.

After you have prepared this, it is time to make the blocks.  With the help of my lovely assistant I scoop up the mix and firmly squash it (like that squash bug that in three hours destroyed your very last zucchini plant before you could get a single vegetable off of it, but I digress) into cupcake tins.

Flock Block Mold in Cupcake Tins

I just use the cupcake tins as a mold.  Once they are squashed in there tightly, I upside down them onto a cookie sheet.

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Place in the oven for about 1 hour at 375 degrees. Remove from the oven and let the blocks cool down.  Yes, you can make them in 8” x 8” blocks and put them into suet holders.  After they cool down they should be very firm.

If they are not and break up you can rename them”Baked Seed Crumbles” and serve it on a pie tin and they will never know the truth.

I have to leave now, my wife says it is time to take my meds or I can’t play with the girls anymore. It is amazing how much clearer my thoughts are when I am off my medication.

Oops, the girls are trying to get into the house.

Chickens want Flock Blocks

Simplify Your Chicken Feeding System

Simplify Your Chicken Feeding System

I talked a while back about different build outs for my chicken run.  I talked about using chicken nipples to provide clean water at all times without having to babysit their waterer.  The third item that I built for them was a very inexpensive feeder.

Simplify your feeding system

The feeder consists of a 5 gallon bucket, a 1.25 gallon painters bucket and a piece of cheap hanging lamp chain. Any chain will work; this is what I had lying around the garage.  I used a 2.5″ hole saw to drill 4 holes equally around the lower section of each of the two buckets.  The bottoms of the holes are about 1.5″ from the bottom of the buckets.  I bolted the center of the bottom of the smaller bucket through the center of the 5 gallon bucket and offset the holes by 45 degrees.  I attached the chain to the handle so that it would hang from the top of the coop.

4 Days of Food

I can pour 4 days worth of food into the  small bucket put the lid back on the big bucket and hang it up inside the coop about 15″ off the floor.  The girls have easy access to the food all day long.  There are a couple of benefits to this system.

1.  No wasted food.

2.  The girls eat when they wan,t without me worrying about whether they spilt their food and it got trampled into the dirt, mud or poop.  So before you write to me commenting on the fact the chickens eat bugs, dirt, sand and anything else they may find, I just prefer to keep their water and food clean.

3.  The way it hangs by the handle the girls cannot climb on top and make a mess of the bucket.

4.  Very easy to refill and hang back up.

Omega-3 Eggs

Since one of the reasons I got chickens was because I wanted better quality eggs, I will mix in flaxseed into the bucket of feed.  This increases the omega-3 in the eggs.  By the way, this is how egg producers can advertise that their eggs are enriched with omega-3 and charge a premium price.  If you decide to add flaxseed to their food, make sure it does not exceed 10% of their total feed.  If you overfeed them flaxseed it can cause a reduction in eggs, thin egg shells and small egg size.

Rodent Control

Rodent control is something that everyone should be aware of.  I have been blessed with only one small rat that I caught in the run one day.  I trapped it the next day and got rid of the problem.  I continued setting the trap for two weeks with no further visitors.  I set out the trap with peanut butter on top of the run so that the girls would not get hurt.  A couple of years ago we caught a opossum in the dog food but have not seen any since.

Calcium Needs

We crush up the egg shells and give it back to them to help replenish the calcium in their diet.  Some will ask if this will encourage them to become egg eaters and the answer at this point is no.  Now since my girls are very smart (hey they told me so) whenever I refill their free choice feeder I ask them if they want some crushed calcium chips instead of the e-g-g word.  They say N-O.  They also have crushed oyster shells but obviously prefer the eggshells.

On last sidebar, I have not done this yet but I am going to take another 1.25 gallon painters bucket, invert it, cut off the bottom and tape it to the top of the small bucket to increase the quantity of feed.

Why does a chicken coop have only two doors?
If it had four, it would be a chicken sedan.

Chicken Coop Climate

Chicken Coop Climate

Inside the Coop

Today I would like to talk about building your chicken’s home specifically the inside climate (from now on they will be called my “girls”).  I am not going to go into specific designs because there are unlimited choices to pick from. You may want to purchase a prefab, renovate an old storage shed, or build from the ground up.

Photo of Coop and Run before the girls moved in

Chicken Coop climate

Prices can range from next to nothing if you have materials on hand, to tens of thousands of dollars, depending on what you want.  Bottom line, one is not necessarily better than the other as long you provide certain basic needs. The following ideas are based on chickens, and not chicks. They are my opinions based on research I have done.

Q.  Do my girls need extra heat during the cold winters?

A. Unless your temperatures are extremely cold (below 0 degrees for an extended period of time) you shouldn’t provide supplemental heat because the girls huddle together and provide their own body heat.  That being said there some things you will need to provide them to maximize their own comfort.

1.  The coop should be ventilated.

The girls will exhale a great deal on moisture and if there isn’t a good air exchange they can develop respiratory infections.

2. The coop should be draft free.

In many ways the girls are similar to us.  We can lower the temperature on our homes walk around in a sweater and be reasonably comfortable. If we allow a door to be left open and a cold draft blows through the home we are miserable.  The girls are no different, they can be in a cold environment and huddled together and be fine, but allow a draft to blow on them and they will have a difficult time maintaining their own warmth.

I purchased my small coop because I ran out time to build one, plus I got a very good deal on it so it didn’t make sense at the time to build from scratch.  Side Story: I lost Red, one of my original girls, to some eye infection.  I ended up getting two more girls named Havoc and Chaos aptly named by my son (also another story) last fall.  I noticed that Chaos and Havoc were sleeping outside in the run while the other three were in the coop.  Since the coop was really designed for 4 animals,  I decided that it was probably too crowded for them and it was time to build an addition for them. I knocked out the back wall and built a two foot by two foot addition for them with a top lid to make it easier to clean it out.  To insure that they were getting adequate ventilation I put an inexpensive vent on the back side.  I have not permanently solved all of my draft situations like the crack between the lid and box so I draped a towel over the lid and down the sides to keep the wind form blowing on them.

I have noticed that when the temperature is down in the 20’s and below they huddle in the old section to keep warm but when it gets to be in the 50’s or higher (crazy weather isn’t it) they will sleep throughout the whole coop.  I know this because their compost pile contributions tend to be much more concentrated in the old section during very cold spells.

3.  The coop should be insulated in extreme temperature.

In areas of extreme temperatures you may want to consider insulating the coop just make sure that the girls can’t peck at it.

I believe for my first winter with them that they are happy with their living conditions.  They still wake up at 7:30 and let me know it is time to get out of their coop and begin their morning activities.  If it very cold and windy they dig craters in their run where it is protected and lay in there but if there isn’t any wind and the temperatures are in the 40’s and above they will lay out in the sun.

The one thing I do is allow, is for them to freely roam the yard all day.  They seem to know what the environment needs to be to be comfortable for themselves.  Yes, I have seen them run around outside in light rain but high tail it back to the run when it started to rain heavily. Just like kids. Go figure.