Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Day Two - Chicken Coop Adventures

Today was a work day for me - the schedule is getting thin, not so much to do, next week will be the end of the season. And then craft fair season is on.  And working in a mall studio. Why did I think working in a mall would be a good idea during the holiday season? Clearly I've lost my mind, but that is the topic for another day.

So while I was at work today, husband decided that he did not like the braces as they were, so he took them down, took them apart and redesigned them. I came home in time to help put them back together after a quick lunch.

Once again, we had supervisors. At least, until the air compressor was started up. Then they ran off into the yard to pick and scratch and do normal chicken things.

I forgot to mention that during construction yesterday, our dogs were all out in the yard as well. All Black Lab mixes, Cuddles is the youngest at four years old, and pretty much thinks it's his job to guard the chickens. That is, when they are near him. Cuddles has a propensity, when off the chain, to take a run in the mountains. And since we have newish neighbors who have even newer horses, we don't need him over there getting us and himself in trouble.

So Cuddles guards the chickens from the front yard; the chickens loves to play and lay in the side yard.  He is also the mighty protector who keeps us safe from the small grey squirrel who is enamoured of eating pinecones and does so on the deck rail regularly. This squirrel loves the pinecones so much, she's even stuffed the engine compartment on the not working so good van with them. The squirrel, the dog, the chickens and the bluejays all have a standing battle - but that is a story for another day.

The middle dog, Squeak,who is 10 years old, is partly herd dog. She believes that it is her job to also protect the property, and well as on occasion run around and herd all the chickens together. They are NOT fond of this. "Mine!" has become the word used most often when she gets too enthusiastic about the chickens - no need to let her figure out how to kill one!

The oldest dog is Pip. Pip is a rescue dog who'd been abused. However, her life with us has been good for her, and she now believes she is queen of everything.  She is about 12 years old, is a diabetic, has lipomas, some arthritis, and is mostly blind. And she LOVES the chickens. When they were still little, she caught one in her mouth as it attempted to escape the pen. Now, she has a very soft mouth, and did it no harm, but we did get her to drop it right away. And after that, the battle was on. The pen is a wooden frame with chicken wire around it, and she loves to stick her nose int he wire and sniff at them. Well, one of the hens took exception to this, and would come peck her nose. (This is NOT the first time a smaller family animal has bit Miss Pip.) So she would dart at the cage, like she was going to eat them, or at least chew them up a little.

This aggression toward the chickens was a great concern for a while, but one day, husband decided she should have a chance to sniff them.  So he held onto Pip, and I held onto a chicken. Pip was shaking in excitement, and managed to lick the chicken several times. Amazingly, the chicken took no offense. Since then, she has not been aggressive about them, but we were still concerned, so she had to stay in while the other dogs went out when the chickens were loose in the yard. And one day, she stood at the door and cried like she hasn't cried in years.  Pity was taken, and she was taken out in the yard.

And so far, she's been very good about it. There were a few times yesterday, when she decided to rush a chicken, and was reined in quickly with just words - good dog! But most of the time, she decided she had to supervise us as well. Being blindish, that meant be right in the way 85% of the time - the rest of the time, she was trying to lick a chicken again.

So between being supervised, watching to make sure the chickens did not roam too far, keeping track of the two dogs that were off leash, and listening to the third bark loudly to protect us from the evil squirrel, it was a circus. Amazing we got done as much as we did.

And back to today. Last time dad came up, he brought more wood. Some will end up in the woodstove, some will go on the storage pile til spring build time, but some of it was rather long lengths of unfinished tongue and groove wood flooring of some sort.

When we moved back from Iowa, somehow an old, rather large window also got packed along from the garage. It's survived, intact, at the back of the garage, and through some sort of magic around all the other stuff, daughter got it out for this larger coop project.

So between the flooring and this window, we have most of the angled roof finished. If we had just four more boards of that length, we'd have been able to roof the whole thing with it!  Of course, come spring when this goes outside, a different roof will need to be made - this one would leak horribly. But it works for in the garage where the main goal is to keep most of their body heat in, and the window will work to make sure the chickens get sunlight from the garage windows.  With some other pieces of chipboard that dad brought in the same load, the roof will be finished, and the sides and back of the rise will be covered.

I also, earlier in the summer, managed to scavenge a household door, with a screen insert and storm window insert, all in good condition.  For the back side of the roof, we're going to play with this second window and see if we can put that in place to get them extra light, as well as give us a peek window to see what they girls are up to without letting them loose all over the garage.

So far, with the exception of nails and screws, the building of this has cost us nothing except a bit of physical effort to get the materials. At the beginning of summer, we got a large number of fence panels for free - the panels look like an old style fort.  During one of my work trips across the state to photograph at several schools, husband and daughter put up the panels in the side yard, everything but the gate is ready to go for the chicken's yard. We even made use of the old steel pipes that were in the yard from the well pump replacement a couple of winters ago - they were used to brace the posts of the fence. So with the exception of two square posts for the gate area, some strapping, the nails, the screws, and rental of a post pounder, we've come out around $100 for a coop and yard for the chickens.  We even have some lovely heavy duty, extra thick tongue and groove flooring waiting to make the floor of the coop in the spring.

Reusing viable materials makes a world of savings, and makes a wonderful coop for the chickens!

We would have likely finished the new coop today, except we started to get crowded out. As the sun set, the chickens came into the garage and got into the new coop, and some into the old pen; putting them in for the night today was a piece of cake.  But they showed no tolerance for our continued presence, so we called it a night, cleaned up the tools and came in. Everything else will be finished tomorrow.

The girls as back to their old tricks; eight eggs again today, the last laid by Baby, who insisted on sitting in the nesting box while we were putting the start of the roof on.

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