One of the best and most fundamental elements to our little homestead is our chickens. We are in the process of starting a new flock because, unfortunately, the last flock we already had met a not-so-nice ending. We raised 12 chicks last summer and were able to integrate them with the 4 that were already in the coop. Our original coop was back behind the house, and while that was convenient, the chickens were not doing much to help us in the garden. We decided to move the coop down to the hill and integrate the flock with the gardening process. The idea was to have the coop in the middle of a two-sided garden; the chickens would ready one patch by scratching, fertilizing, and eating bugs, and then we would switch the plots the next year. Then the chickens would get a new area while having helped us to prepare the new garden area. Gideon moved the chicken coop down the hill and began the process of modifying it to fit the hill.
Things were beginning to shape up well, but we had a vacation planned back to our hometown in California and we were gone for 2 whole weeks. Gideon’s stepdad was gracious enough to come watch the chickens for us while we were gone, but none of us knew how much that was asking! Unfortunately, there had not been enough time to move the coop and secure it as much as it needed to be down on the open hill. While we were away, a red fox (we think) decided that our flock would make a great meal project. Every night, the fox would attack, leaving a very unsightly scene in his wake. Gideon’s stepdad tried to make patches as best he could to fortify the dwelling, but it was not enough. He even stayed up until 4 am to try and catch the darn thing! Despite the attempts, the sly fox had his way and feasted on all but ONE of our 16 chickens.
Needless to say, we were pretty bummed about the loss. Our egg production had just started in full swing and we went from almost a dozen a day to nothing. We knew right away that we wanted chickens, so the first order of business was to rework the chicken coop and the fencing. Gideon did an amazing job rebuilding the coop (and even adding some square footage!).
The chicken coop “before”:
The new and improved “Chicken Chalet”:
Gideon took all of the chicken wire off the bottom area of the coop and replaced it with fence boards. He then decked out the bottom of the coop completely so no critters can get in from underneath He also made a pop-out nesting area!
The ramp is now on hinges so it will go all the way up to make room for cleaning. There is a largennnew door on the front also to make cleaning easier, and we will have doors on each side to let the girls out to whichever side of the garden they are working on. Right now the door is cut on one side, but the locking contraption is pretty complicated. We have been discussing different ways to make the daily chore of letting the chickens in and out a bit easier since they are down on the hill now. Gideon has been researching automatic doors (I know, fancy, right?!) and we finally settled on an option. It works on a photocell, so it will open and close with the sun. It just came in today, so it will be ready in time for the new chicks to move into their digs!
Speaking of chicks, we got our new flock on Friday! We bought 16 chicks of 4 different varieties. We have 4 Black Sexlinks, one Barred Rock, 5 White Rock and 6 Brown Leghorns. We have only had the Leghorns in the past, so this will be a good experiment. The chicks have all settled into the brooding box and seem very content. Here is to another try and a hopefully successful year of chicken raising!