Thursday, December 22, 2011

Merry Merry and Happy Happy !!!!


Hope everyone has a Joyous and safe holiday season!!

Nic and Matt

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Still learning....

I learned a valuable tidbit this week:

I'm an idiot....

But before I get into that, I FINALLY figured out how to get videos off of my phone so am going to try and share one of my faves:

Nic Chasin' Chickens Chasin' Chickens:

video


I knew that with the coming cold weather that some special attention would need to be paid to the chickens... Nic has been freaking out about the girls getting cold but I keep reminding her that they wear a down coat 24/7, so they are fine - at least for the low temperatures we can expect. If it gets to below 10 degrees, then I'll worry about it...

But we've had something of an early cold spell, and while home sick with a tummy ache on Tuesday I happened to glance out and see the water feeder for the girls was mostly frozen, and the girls were not at all happy...

So I went out there, turned the girls loose, broke up the ice... went inside and brought out some water and filled their garden area water dish and also a pan I have for giving them scraps... they went right for it... Sorry girls...

So my plan had been to use an aquarium heater I happen to have (not for fish - for brewing purposes of course), and just keep the water warm that way.

Brilliant plan! So I rig the thing up (we have electricity to the coop), dropped the heater in there and loosely put the top part of the waterer on there in hopes of keeping the heater in place and hopefully the girls out of the top of the thing...

What Einstein (me) didn't remember is that it's the lid being locked down that allows water to refill the trough around the base... we got home last night from Taco Nite and I went to check on things and gather eggs... thing was bone dry!!!!

I realized my mistake right away, and since the temperature was up around 38 or so I wasn't worried about things freezing last night, I pulled the heater and locked down the lid....

Again, the girls went right for it...

Only two eggs and I doubt I'll see much more tonight as the girls recover from the drought...

I think this weekend I will design an alternate waterer that has a hole in the top to get the heater through.... I'd think I can dig up some plastic buckets for the task... seems a lot easier than trying to drill a hole into the galvanized steel of the current waterer...

Other news....

Thanksgiving was nice and quiet this year... Just me and Nic for dinner so instead of a turkey, I grilled some Cornish Game Hens on the Weber, baked some potato rolls, and we enjoyed the other usual goodies for a Thanksgiving feast...

Ironically, I did smoke a turkey that day as well, but it was for the Civil War party we were hosting the following Saturday... Turned out great (the turkey that is), but alas my BEAVERS went down to the duckies, again, in short order... I'd say something like "maybe next year" but seriously doubt the Beavs can compete anytime in the near future...

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Broody girl...

As it turns out keeping these chickens gets to be pretty routine after everybody gets to laying... we let them out in the backyard all day on weekends and try to do the same here and there during the week... before the daylight savings switch we had time to let them out for a bit after work, now I try and get them out as I'm getting ready for work in the morning...

FACT: you can get a chicken to do just about anything if you have the right treats in your hand...

We WERE up to 5 eggs a day from our 6 chickens, but one of the Goldens decided to go broody almost 3 weeks ago... there are some tricks you can do to try and get them back in business, but they seem a bit harsh and frankly, with the 4 eggs we get now, that's plenty. We've already given away 3-4 dozen so it isn't like we're hurting...

When I'm letting the girls out if I remember I also pick up Broody girl out of the nesting box and set her on the ground.... sometimes I give her a gentle tap on the butt to get up and move around... this should all be over by the end of the week me thinks, otherwise I might consider harsher measures or stew pot.... Thanksgiving Chicken??

With me blathering on about chickens I apparently talked our friends Tom and Teri to take the plunge... they have a neighbor that had a large (accidental) hatch of 18 Japanese Bantams and now they have 4 of them... they are doing more of a hands off approach to raising them (i.e. not endlessly spoiling them like we do) so curious to see how this goes...

Playing around with one of the pics of the girls....

Other stuff... Nic volunteered with the Eugene International Film Festival... the brew club had the AHA Learn To Brew Day thing at Oakshire again this year... I skipped brewing and just went to hang out for a bit...


The Brew Club had our annual Chili Cookoff, which of course means I had my annual failure of winning the chili cookoff... I did make a really good turkey chili that I thought was my best batch I ever entered, but alas, once again I didn't even make the top 3...

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

It's my birthday and I'll cry if I want to....

.... no crying here - it was a great time!

Well "Old Matt", my official unofficial brew club name, is now bonafide, certified, petrified old... turned the big FIVE OH last weekend....

We had close to 50 folks show up for some beer and eats and other festivities... some great gifts, and the brew club chipped in for me to get my own 3 tap jockey box - woot woot!! Rumor has it that they are desperately trying to dig up on old pink Coleman cooler for the building of this thing... Sweet!

Many thanks to Jeff for the smoked Tri Tip, Tom for the smoked turkey breast, and Janie The Goddess for making me a 13 layer birthday cake... Yes, THIRTEEN layers... that baby was really something!!






















Pam made me a one-of-a-kind, ain't nobody else got one custom CBS apron... it totally ROCKS!!





















I was expecting cases and cases of Geritol and Mylanta and Preparation H - but my friends really came through!!

Remember waaaaaay back in the beginning of this chicken thing when I said my bro Jeff likes to call having chickens like having "Chicken TV". Well it's true - here's the proof:






I managed to get a picture of Jeremiah's son being entertained...










I think I've *finally* learned how to get a decent picture of the chickens - put my camera on 'continous' mode so it takes 9 pictures in about 2 seconds...
















Nic snapped a nice one of two curious girls:

















Fast forward a week - This Saturday morning I decided to declare myself a chef and experimented with creating a new (to us) dish and go for something resembling a 'presentation'... same ingredients I always make breakfast out of, but just assembled in an orderly way:


Friday, September 23, 2011

Chickens on the roof!!

Relax.... I didn't say WHICH roof now did I??

Caught a glimps of one of the Reds on the roof to chicken coop while getting ready for work this morning.... never seen them get up there before...

[chicken on roof]





I've been holding down the fort lately as Nic has been little miss world traveler and away on business... She knocked 'em dead at Interbike in Vegas and is off to Louisville Kentucky for the big Kid's Show... not big kids, but a large show.... Whatever....

We were holding steady at two eggs a day for a long time there.... last weekend we were kinda joking around that if the girls didn't start laying more that chicken and dumplings might be on the dinner menu soon... Well lo and behold we started getting 3 eggs a day, then 4... they must have overheard us...

Things have dropped back down to 3 a day so maybe I need to bring a frying pan outside for the girls to see... just a subtle reminder....

For the first time, we haven't been able to keep up with the eggs the girls are laying!!

[bunches of eggs]









Ran up to visit No-Longer-Big-Gay Jason, Ali and newborn Christopher at 6 days old... Dang they are small when that young...

[matt and christopher]




Jason and Ali gave me an early xmas present/late birthday present (or whatever): the Pitmaster iQue110 charcoal grill temperature controller...

[iQue110]




I hooked it up the other day and it did a fantastic job of holding temp at 250... you more or less just set the temp you want and forget about it...

Here's the results:

[grilling results]




















We've been slowly harvesting some 'maters of various types, then I realized we actually had quite a few sitting on the counter.... decided to take a stab at freezing them up by just removing the skins, quarter them and into the freezer bag.... the boiling water trick worked like a champ!





The setup...














The results...

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Summer In Full Swing

Here we are, 2011 going on 2025.... Sorry - gots the Blues Brothers on my mind right now....

For lack of a better term, I think "bouncy" describes what's been up lately... variety of things keeping us busy...

A few weeks ago Nic hosted a planning meeting for next years National Homebrewers Conference trying to get it all figured out... travel, a booth, club night, beers, who's going.... there's a LOT to it and I'm really proud of her making it all happen... I shudder to think what a mess this could become if it fell into the wrong hands...

Somebody call the Pope, because Hell has indeed frozen over... I actually got together w/ my brother Peter from New York when he and his wife Susan drove down for the night. Grilled some eats, had some beers, told some (sometimes true) stories...

And for the first time in almost a year, I got to take a VACATION !!!

I headed out to Black Canyon (by Oakridge) last Wednesday night and set up camp for 3 days of solo camping.... campfire, beers, books.... Ahhhh.....

My home for 5 days:
[butt in chair]




Nic came up Saturday morning, brought some fresh supplies (i.e. more beer and ice) and we had a nice time for 3 more days hanging out...

Well, except for the whole trip into town to catch the UO/LSU game at a local pizza joint... Nic not a happy camper after that, and I saw the Beavers had gone down in total shame, so we weren't exactly in great spirits when we got back to camp... that was a real early night for us...

Obligatory chicken pics:


Buffy is a big girl now!!













And so are the other girls!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Dog days...

Well looky there... it's been something like three weeks since my last blog post... Bad Matt!!

Let's see - what's been going on?

Nic has been making good use of the new fire pit as a feeding station for the girls....

(nic on fire pit.jpg)



A few weeks ago we went to No Longer Big Gay Jason's baby shower up at his in-laws place in Halsey... Somehow we got the bright idea to brew 10 gallons of something big in hopes of giving it to his son Christopher on his 21st birthday... He and I had the Impy Stout we made last October (wow - that is TASTY stuff) but wanted to do something specific for the baby shower...

So I took a friend's Sno Cap clone and imperialized it and we ended up brewing it up there out in a field... and just to make it more fun there was a request for me to do some grilling, so I did two pork tampenade roasts on my Weber... I will NEVER NEVER NEVER again take beer and dispensing gear, everything needed for a grill session, plus everything needed for a 10 gal brew session on the road again... Just WAY TOO MUCH logistics and packing of the piddly little stuff... And after all that, no pictures... Oops!

We also survived the annual Brew Club campout up at Clark Creek... Wow - that place is just so perfect for us... lots of great food, great beers, a new record in our fund raiser, Nic made blueberry pancakes, I made wings Fri night and Belgian Braised Beef Saturday night... lots of raffle schwag for all and a good time!

Oh, but wait!! Here's the Big News!!

WE GOTS EGGS!!!

Not a lot of eggs, but we got 'em!!

The morning we were getting ready to leave for the club campout, Nic was in back doing chores while I supervised, and lo and behold she stumbles across a green egg sitting out by the garden shed... Woot! Woot! She let out a yell for sure... It's official - We be chicken ranchers now!!

Proud Wanna-Be Mother (eggs1)




We were soooooooo excited to have eggs that we actually briefly toyed with the idea of staying home from the club campout!! But sanity set in and after some mutual prodding, we loaded up our stuff and off to the great outdoors we went...

We went looking around for other eggs - who knew how long they had actually been laying - and Nic found three more in the corner of the chicken run...

Egg Cluster (eggs3)




They say chickens start laying around 18-24 weeks and I had been meaning to put either fake eggs or at least golf balls in the nesting boxes, but just hadn't got around to it... we put a golf ball in each box, along with the already laid eggs (didn't know how long they'd been there and weren't about to eat them)...

Sure enough, as of the next morning (and as far as we know, ever since) the nesting box on the far right seems to be The Place for doing their business (eggs that is)...

We were doing about two eggs a day since getting back from our campout, and once had 4, but the last couple days just one... I think it's the sustained hot weather...

Pretty darn sure it's the two Buffs doing the laying so far...

So incredibly thrilled with our first egg that Nic decided to blow it out for saving for posterity...

Mmmmm - is this an attractive picture or what??

(nic blech.jpg)



Nic made a run to Boise for the better part of a week to spend time w/ Mandy...

While she was gone, we had accumulated enough eggs that I took a shot at making my so-called world famous frittata... I broke all the eggs in to a bowl and of course they looked perfect, just smaller... It didn't look like I'd have enough so I added two more 'regular' eggs, and took a picture for comparison....

Can you tell the difference? It's there, just not as dramatic as I would have thought...

(eggs in bowl.jpg)




Last weekend I brewed up 10 gallons of my Brown Ale for some early fall enjoyment (got that big party coming up) and whilst doing so, smoked up a rack of ribs...

(mmmm ribs.jpg)

So, now everybody is pretty much caught up!!

Until next time...


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Herding Chickens...

Oh... My... Gosh...

Talk about a cluster grope wrapped in an enigma with a side order of chaos... that pretty much sums up our chicken interaction last night...

On the advice of a friend, we were going to leave Those Damn Chickens (formerly known as "The Girls") in the run for a few days, in hopes that the One Damn Chicken will reacquaint herself with her home roost and not be such a PITA to deal with come bed time...

That was the plan anyway...

After our usual Taco Nite feast at Shooter's, T'wife couldn't resist letting them out for a while (and deep down I wanted to as well), so we turned them loose for an hour or so...

Let the fun begin!!!

Now in order to get Those Damn Chickens BACK into the run, the usual "chick chick chick" call with some treats had absolutely no effect on them... just stood there and looked at me...

Normally if I pick up my Official Chicken Whackin' Stick (also known as the Rod of Obedience), and thump it on the ground, Those Damn Chickens will make a bee line for the chicken run...

Well this time the exact opposite happened - they scattered in every direction... when you have 6 chickens, that's a LOT of directions...

I tried corralling them and they would group together, only to scatter again in, yep, 6 different directions...

As I stood there and contemplated how many shotgun rounds it would actually take me to deal with this, t'wife entered the fray... instead of me using The Stick, she wanted to try The Carrot...

She actually managed to get them grouped together and heading toward the entrance of the chicken run, but the closer they got, the more they scattered...

Tried that again, same thing... and again... and again...

I'm thinking that no more than about 8 rounds ought to do it.... but I was overruled...

At this point we have 6 terrified scatterbrained chickens everywhere, but t'wife managed to get them into a corner with two miraculously still in the run with the door closed...

One by one, she managed to grab each and toss it into the run...

Hmmmm - Ten or twelve rounds, maximum...

I wonder what adventures await us tonight???

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Bad Girls...

I remember saying something to t'wife one night as we sat out back admiring our six cute little fluffy hens-in-waiting... "Wife.." I said, "one day we won't be calling them 'The Girls', instead it will be 'Those Damn Chickens'...

That day has come...

What was, we thought, a one time thing where one of the Reds decided to roost one night up in the big Rhoddie, has now become a way of life for Elvira, one of the buffs...

Or in her case, a way of Death...

I'll be darned if I'm gonna spend 30 minutes every damn night trying to coax her into the damn chicken run along with the damn 5 other girls... and of course, the more she does this the more likely the others will think it's like way totally cool and start doing it as well...

Not gonna happen, damn it....

And if it does, we are having a LOT of chicken BBQ in the near future... hmmm - just in time for my upcoming 50th birthday party... mmmm young and tasty...

Careful girls - daddy's getting ideas...

Damn obligatory picture of damn chickens... it's a damn rake girls, calm down... (not pictured: Damn Chicken)...



Another damn picture of those damn chickens... think they notice the axe and chopping block in the background????



So at the advise of a damn friend... oh wait - he's a human...

So at the advice of a good friend who has damn chickens, he suggested just keeping all the damn chickens locked up in the coop/run has a reminder of where their damn home is... if this doesn't work.... mmmm chicken and dumplings...

Those Damn Chickens.....

Friday, July 15, 2011

My wife has been peeing in my briefcase....

.... okay, she's been putting a container of fresh picked snow peas in my bag before I leave for work... what a sweetheart! And they are a big hit around the office when I feel like sharing...
















This is a flower of some sort that t'wife seems to like a lot...




















Built the main part of a fire pit... next comes the hard part of tearing up the sod to form a path and ferrying in all the pea gravel for it.... joy...















I bought a bug zapper last summer and was eager to see it in action... put it up again about a week ago.... bugs zapped so far, including last summer: 1. Uno... great $44 investment there....
















Neighbor cut down a couple massive pine trees and we managed to score a bunch of the (heavy) wood... three truck loads of this stuff and all but the smallest chunks weigh about 90 or more pounds...
















Obligitory chicken picture...

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Don't... Make... Any... Sudden... Movements...



She'll take yer head off man!!!

i kan haz beer?


See everybody - I CAN brew good beer...

Well, at least good enough for the dog...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Chicken That Ate Sheboygan

Run for your lives!! It's on the loose!!!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Is you is or is you ain't my baby??

Some much needed R&R for t'wife and I this weekend - CAMPING!! Oh how we both love camping...

We decided to try a new place t'wife had heard about called Sutton Lake (Forest Service) just north of Florence... we found the campground no problem, just in two days (and even went driving around looking) never saw no lake... Oh well, still a nice place I thought...

We knew heading over there that there was a good chance for a bit of rain, but it was terrific weather Friday night... set up camp, ceremonial Busch Light (inside joke), set up camp and enjoying a campfire.... ahhhhh...

One thing we like to do is try and tune in less than mainstream radio stations, typically AM dial, that we don't think to listen to otherwise... found one this weekend that came in pretty well who's theme was "Music of Your Life" and played some really old stuff and from time to time something as modern as (older) Billy Joel... fun stuff hence the lyrics in the blog title...

BUT, we woke up to some pitter-patter on the tent and despite a heavy tree canopy, the ground started to get a bit wet... and even though the radio gal was saying the forecast was something like 20% chance of rain with a few showers, the rain never stopped until right when we started packing up Sunday morning to head home....

Bloodies before 8am are goooooooooood....

Oh well - that's what the popup canopy is for...

Still a great time!

Tried to do stuffed peppers in the dutch oven using charcoal rather than coals from the fire... I was winging it and screwed up bad - instead of them gently roasting for an hour or so in there, they were burnt to pieces and a mushy mess in about 15 minutes... luckily Nic had headed into town for some more beverages and grabbed some good viddles as a replacement... split a steak, some bacon wrapped scallops, and yes the stuffed peppers... not bad, all things considered...

Looking around the campsite, I bet we coulda gotten away with bringing the chickens.... ;)

Friday, June 17, 2011

We need a vacation....

Without going into the gory details, last weekend we hosted a multi family high school grad party at our place... I can't even begin to count the hours and effort we put in to making that happen... Really glad it's over...

One highlight was we had 4 beers on tap - adults only!! - (Honey Orange Wheat, Red, Golden) that I made, and a keg swap of Golden w/ Brandt W for one of his Cowboy Alt brews... also Clo's request for pulled pork sandwiches resulted in my smoking/cooking nearly 20 pounds of pork shoulder - yowsa!! Them's a couple big hunks o' meat!! Came right down to the wire getting it done, but WE DID IT!!

Buffy mugging for the camera:
















Polka Dot about ready to break wind or something...














Pile o' chickens w/ Mae West posing:

Monday, June 6, 2011

Killing Chickens - almost....

Sorry, no pictures this time...

Since Nic and I are learning all this as we go, as time goes by I am seeing the error of my ways.... yes, hindsight is always 20-20...

Need to cool it with the affection and the chickens - almost got one of them killed last Friday night. They are so used to flocking to my feet that as I was on the porch moving toward a box, one (Stella) got under my foot... I managed to shoo her away before I stepped on her, but she jumped right back under just as my foot came down... I landed right on her foot and you've never heard such a blood curdling scream from something that small... of course as I'm panicking trying to get off her (was in a tight space) I damn near stepped on her HEAD in the process...

She kinda hung out by herself the rest of the night and for most of the next day... never saw her limping and as far as I can tell she's fine... but man, that horrible scream haunts me...

Some good chicken TV fun this weekend w/ the girls roaming around... they sure love to hang out underneath a Japanese Maple we have at one end of the planter boxes. I *think* that's a good thing, in hopes that this is where the slug/snail life cycle starts - and hopefully thanks to the chickens - ENDS...

Funny how the girls will walk by something dozens of times, peck at it then continue to ignore it - then all of a sudden can't get enough of it... take my wife's pepper and tomato plants for example... she's not exactly thrilled with the girls sudden interest in gardening... ;) I had to put up some more temp fencing - the peppers are now safe but we still gotta keep an eye on the tomatoes...

Planted a couple purple potato rhizomes that our friend Sandy gave me... no real clue, just turned up some soil, amended it w/ some potting soil, put in the plant, buried it under something of a mound... since I was by then out of potting soil one of them got a shovel full of chicken compost... probably too hot for the plant but we shall see...

Weekend included (yes, more) touch ups to the chicken run... spread out some more of the gravel, stained the backstop for the door, and hung a small bungy cord to use to hold the door closed w/o (hopefully!!) latching the door lock...

Friday, June 3, 2011

Free Range Follies!!

Now that the girls are free ranging, this is where the fun really begins...

I gotta admit that I'm getting a bit cocky with the free range thing... last Saturday morning I just said the heck with it and opened the door, without having the temp fencing actually fully blocking off the back yard... it took them a couple hours to wander over to that side and by then I had my mickey mouse fencing in place... No problems so far (crossing fingers)...





One of my fears in all this was that the chickens would scatter whenever I approached them... at this point - I almost wish they would!! ;)

I've been spoiling them w/ treats (grain and whole wheat bread, etc.)... At first I scattered it near them on the ground, then tossed it in places I wanted them to go... I used it to lure them back into the coop, or to come near me when I wanted to get a closer look at them and/or take some pictures...

Then I got bolder and tried hand feeding them and it took a day or two for them to get the hang of things... then it was hand feeding them on my foot, then getting them walking on my leg, then into my lap...




Now I can't go outside without being swarmed and if I sit down I instantly have three chickens in my lap... the other night Stella (Chicken Butt) roosted on my arm for 45 minutes while I was reading a book...

Any time I walk around I gots 6 damn chickens under foot...

A couple nights ago Nic left the back door open and one of them (Buffy) followed me into the house... of course she then immediately crapped on the kitchen floor which was a big hit... ;)

And sometimes, the girls just want to be fickle and can't decide WHAT they want to do... what's it gonna be girls - in or out??





Personality traits... the lap-dancers are Buffy, Mae West and Stella... from time to time Elvira gets in on the act...

Also noticed that Buffy is the most playful, in the sense of being the most aggressive about making contact with me... Polka Dot (formerly Pocahontas) is often times a loner and wanders around by herself, though when in the group everyone seems to be getting along fine...

Feed Observations: Last weekend the girls spent most of the daylight hours out and about so assuming they were munching on goodies in the yard, I'm not surprised to see that they aren't hitting their feed mash so much... but during the week we've only let them roam a couple hours each night, and once didn't let them out at all... when I check their big feeder it almost seems like they aren't even touching it, yet they all seem healthy, energetic, alert... Maybe since that big feeder is new I'm just not used to how much bigger it is than the original chick feeder (which they consumed a full load twice a day)... I'll be keeping a close eye on that...

Construction changes: reworked the 'emergency door release' thingy - turns out w/ the door latch fitting so tightly that it was nearly impossible to actually open the door with it... turns out the leverage angle was all wrong and the cable was digging into the top of the post it was mounted on... I snagged one of Nic's cold frame clamps and screwed it onto the top of the post and routed the cable over it - works like a champ now...

Also the original ramp failed in two ways: the Elmers glue idea for the steps was just a bad idea, and one of the "hinges" we put on there broke... found a rather stout piece of wood and this time screwed in some molding strips and the thing seems to be holding up rather well...

Checking the coop/run a couple times a week for signs of predators - so far nothing...

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Design ideas and building process

In case someone stumbles in here thinking about starting their own chicken operation I thought I'd put together some thoughts/notes on our experience. There's a Right Way, a Wrong Way, but we're gonna do things Our Way... (and so far, so good).

First Observation: In hindsight - this is all pretty straightforward and easy. GO FOR IT!

Books:

When we were getting into this whole chicken thing I read several books and one nice thing was none of them really contradicted another. The info is pretty much the same across all of them. I think I read and/or reread about 6 books and several How-To magazines, not to mention all the websites I could find...

The Storey book is considered by many to be the defacto standard, and I got to admit that it has lots of info in there, but I found it to be a bit dry...

Also liked "Raising Backyard Chickens" (or similar) and it was good, but in this case kind of lacking.

The one I like best and turn to most often is from the Dummies series "Raising Chickens for Dummies". Often times these books are written not just for dummies but for complete blithering idiots as well, but this book seems to cover all the bases quite nicely.

One gripe I DO have with this book is, despite having two chapters devoted to the subject, is a lack of any building plans whatsoever for either a coop or a run. One of the authors is owner of backyardchickens.com who sells coops and plans and book with that sort of thing... hmmm... I would think they could at least give owners of the book access to at least SOME plans don't you think??

The funny thing was that when we went and actually picked up our six chicks, that the feed store handed us a one page "instruction manual"... feed them, water them, protect them, keep them warm, watch out for them pasting up... that was IT!

Websites:

There is a LOT of information out there on the web about raising chickens... the aforementioned backyardchickens.com has some good stuff but there is a lot out there... read all you can but I think you'll find most of it is pretty consistent...

The bottom line: The words of advice from the feed store were true: Keep It Simple !!


The Coop:

I wouldn't recommend doing what we did, as you'll see....

I had originally planned on a budget of about $150 for building the entire coop and run. We had an old bookshelf in the garage w/ deep shelves and I thought I would slap some 4x8 sheets of plywood against it, put in some fencing and call it good... sort of a eight or twelve foot long "chicken tractor" which I'm sure you've heard of by now...

BUT our good friends Jeff and Joan hooked us up with their old coop that Jeff had built years ago... they liked it so much I believe they actually brought it with them when they moved out here from Montana...

Anyhoo, it's from a book and the design is called the "Ten Hen House" which I take to mean you could fit 10 hens in there... THAT I'm not so sure about but this thing is pretty decent size - 5 feet by 4 feet by 4 feet. The roof opens up (at least a third of it anyway) and I can get down in there with a broom for cleaning... if I drop something in there that's a problem, and reaching out and lifting a heavy feeder or water dispenser can be tough, but doable.

The coop has a large nest box section that we made sure we put on the exterior of the fencing for easy egg access when the time comes. It of course locks shut with a hasp and a caribiner for a lock. Good luck with THAT Mr. Racoon...





We decided to widen the entry way to the nest boxes and using that scrap I put in taller walls for more privacy.


The Run:

Using an existing fence as one side, we built the run by putting in four 4x4 treated posts (thanks a bunch for your help Les!!). We went something like a span of 8 feet, 5 feet, one for the door at 3 feet and finally the other corner post. The doorway is 3 feet wide.

Using 1/2 inch "hardware cloth" - think of it as a heavy duty mesh with 1/2 inch squares - we used it to go on the outside of the entire run. Depending on your predator threat you could get away with regular (and cheaper!!) good ol' chicken wire, but I wasn't willing to take that chance. Plus I think chicken wire in general looks like hell...

I really hate using a staple gun and (correctly) assuming that we'd change our minds a time or two on how to put this stuff together, we used screws and washers to drill into the posts and 2x4 supports to attach all the fencing. Works REALLY well and if you screw up or decide to try something else, just back out the screw and try again. Easy.

These were 1/4 by 1" washers. Sorry for the crappy pitcure but you get the idea:

Washer:



Not that we would, but in theory this whole thing can be disassembled into all its' pieces and taken with us if/when we move. No nails, staples (or duct tape!) were used in the construction...

For the roof I ran two 4 ft wide lengths and just over 16 ft long across the top. I happened to have from years ago a spool of 1/16" stainless steel aircraft grade cabling that I then used to thread the two halves together. I also used the cable to thread the roof onto the fencing along the edges and really tighten that thing down. That roof is rock solid.

Roof Attachment:



Rather than digging trenches and burying wire for digger protection, we used our friend Brandt's advice and just attached about 15" of chicken wire along the bottom and running outward from the run. The idea is that a predator will at first try and dig at the edge, run into the wire, start backing up to try again, hit more wire, and eventually give up. Or at least slow them down enough that it might take quite a while to get in and give us a chance to deal with the problem. That's the theory anyway...

"The book" has different ideas on what is considered the proper amount of space for each of your hens inside the coop and for outside - I've seen as low as 2 square feet up to 4 square feet. Personally I'd say the more the better but that might not be doable in everyone's situation. Outside areas are from 2.5 to 6 square feet.

So, looking at our coop and run - do we have enough room? (Too late now, but let's do the math).

If the coop floor is 5x4 that's 20 square feet. For 6 hens that just over 3 sq. ft. each. Not bad. They also have the nesting boxes and roost rails all the way across.

The outside run is 8 feet by 16 feet for a total of 128 square feet. Even if you subtract the footprint of the coop (not actually true since it is raised off the ground) it still maths out to 18 sq ft per girl... Plenty of room to run around!

The cost (so far) ?? Not including gas for trips to Jerry's (hardware center) - just over $500...

Free Range:

Although I think we have more than enough room in the 8x16 foot run, I really like the idea of allowing the girls to free range as much as possible. Originally we had thought we could let the girls run amok in the garden area but they weren't big enough, soon enough for that to happen.

Next year.... besides, ducks are probably better suited to that anyway.... (shhhh - don't tell the wife that ducks are next on the list!!).

Our backyard has some odd angles and curves, but it's big and for the most part is useless for anything but cultivating grass that in turn needs to be mowed... (Personally I'd plow the whole damn thing up and plant corn, but....).

Last weekend we picked up a 25' chunk of plastic poultry netting and I built them a 6x6 foot area to play in for their first foray into the outdoors - they REALLY seemed to love it. Don't forget to give them access to food and water when you do this! Warning - chickens can tear up ground in a hurry and that 6x6 plot is still obvious where they were...

Last night, my first night home from work, beer in hand, girls outside, I rigged up the fencing forming a big triangle running off the edge of the run. I could step in and out of it easily enough and at one point put my chair in there and sat down to put some of the girls in my lap to feed them some scratch... I almost started to cry - I've been looking forward to doing that for a LONG time and it was a special moment for me...

Matt in coop:


As time goes on we hope to use longer fencing and just set something up for where we want the girls to roam. My comfort level with having the girls outside free ranging isn't quite there yet and I've read that generally you want to be keeping an eye on them. So this is a practice best done when you are outside doing chores already.

Girls at Play:
Some things I would change or point out about the design and building of our coop and run...

Our coop is VERY solidly built - if you get locked into this thing by accident, you're gonna be there for a while unless you can yell and get someone to come unlock the door for you. But we realized that shortly after putting the door/latch on there and rigged up an emergency cable running inside that allows us to unlock the door.

Door latch:


That being said, another thing I'll add is a way to latch the door close behind me but without using the main latch i.e. so I can go in there and check on things w/o risking the girls getting out. I'm thinking just some sort of hook thingy attached to the door...

So next up is getting the door squared away a bit better... when Nic put the chicken wire on the ground in front of the door some dirt/rocks and such kinda got piled up and so now the door is a PITA to open and close - way too tight...

As I mentioned in a prior entry having quick access to the inside would be nice for giving the girls treats, so some sort of small door is in order...

When I move the water can out of the coop and into the run, I'll position it close to the side so I can fill it w/o having to go inside... or maybe not.. that might not work out based on the design of our waterer... hmmm... ;)

Also left to do is a 'cap' for the coop roof... the two pieces that form the roof have a seam down the middle and will allow water in... the cedar tree this thing is under does a pretty good job of protecting the coop but....

Will this never end?? :)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

We are official Chicken Farmers!



Well we did it... put the girls outside last night for the first time, let them out first thing this morning... We put the heat lamp in there for comfort, but don't think it was necessary... Unlike last weekend when we had them running around in the back yard, this time they had a sort of "I'm not so sure about this" look about them as they first walked around their new run...

At this point it's all about the waiting - not planning on them to start laying until around late August, early September...

We did name them though (hope I get this right)...

Roll call:

Buff Orpingtons - Buffy (the vampire slayer) and Elvira
Rhode Island Reds - Margaret Thatcher and Pocahontas
Golden Sex-Linked - Mae West and Stella (the original chicken butt)..

Margaret seems to be the Uber-Girl...

I can think of some modifications or further coop challenges we still have... that coop/run is locked down central... we could house convicted felons in that thing... it would be nice to have a quick access method for tossing in food scraps and such... Also, a small covered area for the feed/water dishes would be nice... for now I'm just going to leave them inside the coop but would like to move them out of there...

Monday, May 23, 2011

Tonight's the night!!

Having been sickly for a while there we kind of got behind on our chicken building project... We've been making a big push to finish up the coop and run, and yesterday we did it... we even have an emergency latch release in case the door swings close and locks one of us in...

We let them run around in a 6x6 foot area we set up next to where we were working, and they seemed to just love it!





After work tonight we have two pieces of 2x4 to install in the door frame to use as a backstop, I'll fasten the chicken-wire roof to it, and we.... be.... done!!!





The girls are going out there tonight... plan is to go ahead and run a cord out there and bring along the heat lamp... the girls have been going without for over a week now but there first night our there it might be a comfort to them... or they couldn't care less - who knows...