Posts tagged Chantecler

The Amenities of the Coop

It seems that all of our recent improvements to the Queendom have focussed on the hen house. Many of our real projects have been put on hold while we figure out how to make life sweet for our chicks. Here is a photo collection of the latest amenities, documenting our labour of love (for eggs!):

The Nesting Boxes

Many years ago, in our old life, we renovated our kitchen and we kept all the cabinets. The old above-the-stove-hood-fan cupboard turned out to be exactly the right size for two nesting boxes. FM removed the doors, added a lower edge and a roosting bar and mounted it 36 cm above the floor. As I hinted before, I made curtains for each box since chickens require a dark, safe and private place to hide while laying. Apparently, their innards partially come out while pushing out an egg and we want to reduce pecking and cannibalism as much as possible. (These beasts are wild!)

We were told that up to six hens can share one nesting box so we knew that our two boxes were more than enough laying space. But wouldn’t you know it – there is an impatient line-up  some mornings as they all wait their turn!

Tweedle Dum and Croque Madame are settled in the boxes. Peeps is letting them know that she is in a hurry and next in line. Chip is pacing the floor

Tweedle Dum and Croque Madame are settled in the boxes. Peeps is letting them know that she is in a hurry and next in line. Chip is pacing the floor.

In fact, one morning, Tweedle Dum was taking her sweet time in the box and Tweedle Dee could no longer hold her egg in, so she hopped in and made herself comfortable behind and on top of Dum.

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The chicks who lay together, stay together!

During our vacation, the chickens were confined to their coop and run, so all the girls have (mostly) learned to lay in the nesting boxes and our daily easter egg hunt has almost ended. The golf ball trick seemed to work! It is music to my ears when one of the girls comes ‘begawking’ out of the coop to announce proudly that she has laid a good one and earned her keep.

The Chicken Waterer

Having an endless supply of clean water is essential. Filling a bucket  or milk jug with water will do for a day or two, but FM devised a system which will suffice for longer absences.

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A self-filling waterer contraption (apologies for the lack of focus)

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Top view of the toilet tank fill valve

The chickens peck at the red 'poultry nipples' to get all the water they desire.

The chickens peck at the red ‘poultry nipples’ to get all the water they desire.

Since the coop used to be a bathroom, the plumbing is in place and access to water is easy. FM built this contraption out of PVC pipe, a toilet tank fill valve and six poultry nipples and then hooked it up to the old water line. It has taken the chicks a while to get the hang of it but we adjusted the height so that they have to reach up to it and they seem to use it more often. It refills quietly and I put a metal drip tray below in an attempt to keep the coop floor somewhat dry.

The Chicken Run

This was a big project which evolved and improved as we built it. Although the chickens have been running free, our plan is to keep them penned in while we are away or at work. We want them to have access to outside but we want to keep them safe from eagles, raccoons, and other chicken lovers.

Using two fence panels, a bundle of multi-link wire fencing, three plywood sheets and a gate kit, we managed to construct a 6′ x 18′ run that is partially covered and partially open. The fence panels and gate should provide some shelter from the wind and rain that previously howled right in through their coop door. There are still some finishing touches left to do, but as it stands, it has kept them safe and secure during our holidays this summer.

Before the chicken run

The Before Picture

The chicken run

The After Picture

The gate

The gate

View from the back – The wire fencing is buried about 20 cm deep into the ground around the whole run. The roof is only roughly done in plastic deer fencing at this point.

View from inside

View from inside – shelter from direct sunlight, rain and eventually snow

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A Dozen or so …

The laying has begun!

Here is the first week's bounty minus the two that we ate and the two that were pecked or broken. 17 eggs in one week?  We better open a market stand!

Here is the first week’s bounty minus the two that we ate and the two that were pecked or broken. 17 eggs in one week? We better open a market stand!

FM and I went away for a week-long backpack trip (more on that later) and, while we were gone, we took our 6 chickens to a friend’s house (more on that later, too).  When we returned to collect them, we found out that two eggs had been laid during our absence – our first two eggs!

We brought our brood home and waited for the next eggs to show up. Sure enough, throughout this past week, the girls have produced more than a dozen eggs. The first few were small, perfectly-shaped and laid in one of the two nesting boxes. I actually watched as little Croque Madame laid hers, with watchful and attentive Roo at hand. Tweedle Dum was also one of the obedient layers who knew exactly where to place her treasure.

Little Croque Madame laid this one.

Little Croque Madame admiring her work.

But now, the egg hunt has become a daily activity. One egg was found on the gravel by the woodpile; three were laid underneath our front porch; one was laid from the height of the night roost; one was found in their dirt bath and another was found crushed in the watering tray.

Almost all the eggs are a pinky-tan colour, with the exception of two. The crushed egg and another one had paper-thin shells which crumpled with even the gentlest touch. It takes a while before newly laying hens master their egg formation so the size, shape and colour may vary.

The egg on the left is a store bought white egg for siz and colour comparison. The top right egg has a paper-thin shell that was pecked. The middle egg is the long, slim white egg (mystery layer) and the bottom egg is super teeny and freckled (I suspect Chip laid this one).

The egg on the left is a store-bought white egg for size and colour comparison. The top right egg has a paper-thin shell that was pecked. The middle egg is the long, slim white egg (mystery layer) and the bottom egg is super teeny and freckled (I suspect Chip laid this one).

We are a bit confused about who is laying and where. Chanteclers lay light brown eggs and Welsummers lay terracotta-coloured eggs with freckles. So who laid the white egg? My bet is that we actually collected an egg laid by one of our migrating Cedar Waxwings!

After reading up on it, I have placed a golf ball in each of the nesting boxes. This is supposed to show the hens that this is where eggs belong. I have also read that hens need a dark, safe place to lay eggs. Unfortunately, one of our nesting boxes gets the full brightness of the coop light so I am working on a way to darken it some more.

This was the first egg laid in our nesting boxes. The two nesting boxes are a recycled kitchen cabinet from above the stove hood fan.

This was the first egg laid in our nesting boxes. The two nesting boxes are a recycled kitchen cabinet from above the stove hood fan.

Do you think I’ll get the title of “Crazy Chicken Lady” if I sew curtains for the nesting box?  Tune in to find out!

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The Party Horn

With the arrival of summer, we have been treated to Roo’s first attempts at crowing. It started one day at about three in the afternoon. He was hanging out on the porch, keeping all his chicks in line, when suddenly he made a most unusual sound. It sounded as if someone stepped on him. He himself was a bit shocked and embarrassed by it and seemed to look around, trying to figure out where the sound had come from.

Every day, usually in the late afternoon, he crows. You can see it coming. He stands with his feet wide apart and stretches his neck out towards the ground with his beak open. It looks like he is about to up-chuck his breakfast. Then a force beyond his control starts in his toes and works its way up through his body until it finally comes out. He often needs to flap his wings in order to release the pressure. It sounds just like a New Year’s Eve party horn. Over the past two weeks, his crowing has improved but it still makes me laugh right out loud.

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Melted Chicken

I hope you weren’t expecting a recipe here!

We have discovered that our little brood has a pretty low tolerance for heat and direct sun light. It isn’t uncommon for the chickens to exit the coop and instantly flop into a pile and fall asleep. One after another, they walk into a sunny spot, fluff out their feathers, get weak in the knees and sprawl to the ground in slow-motion with their wings opened.

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Our cold-hardy Chantecler chickens will thrive when the temperatures drop below freezing but who knew that they would melt on a sunny 25C day?

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They’re not dead. They’re resting.

Their narcolepsy episodes never last long. They managed to pull themselves together and run for the shade after a minute or two. But it is very amusing to see them run across a sunny patch, slow down and have their knees turn to jelly before they make it to the other side.

I think I might enjoy a catnap myself here in this sunbeammmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm….

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Hen House – Take 2

Oops!  We made a big mistake and learned an important lesson this week.

Chickens + linoleum = injury

But don’t worry – no chickens were actually injured during the learning of this lesson!

In my last post, I outlined the steps we took to transform our workshop bathroom into a chicken coop. As soon as we let the chickens free in their new digs, they began to chase and fly and race and spin, as chickens do. But, with the smooth flooring beneath the shavings, they were skidding, sliding and bumping into each other and the various furnishings. It was obvious that someone would get hurt if we didn’t remedy this.

FM and I had decided on a linoleum floor, thinking that it would be easy to sweep up the pine shavings for weekly cleanings and even mop and disinfect if ever sickness took hold of our flock.

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We hardly wanted to undo our flooring work and start again. So we found an old, weathered, used piece of press-board and placed it on top of the lino. We cut a few more scrap pieces to fill the smaller spaces. We didn’t screw it down or anything.  It will be easy to lift off for cleanings.

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We suspended the heat lamp and the food trough, screwed the two roosts into the walls, spread pine shavings around and brought the girls(?) back in.

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And they lived happily ever after, spinning and chasing to their heart’s content.

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Recipe for a Hen House

Recipe For A Hen House

1 unused bathroom in the workshop outbuilding

6 x 9 ft of cheap linoleum

25 ft of adhesive vinyl baseboard

1 infra-red heat lamp

1 pile of scrap lumber to construct various chickeny accoutrements

1 handy FM to remove all plumbing from said bathroom

As I have said before, FM and I took on the role of chicken farmers without truly being prepared. Anyone can drive out to the poultry swap and pick up a few day-old chicks. But it takes real genius to stay one step ahead of their constant growth and need for space.

Here we are, 6 weeks into this chicken adventure, and a true sense of urgency is upon us. While still ramping up our run training and managing the spring growth around the acreage, we are also trying to get these chickies housed in their permanent home. Needless to say, our weekends and evenings are jam-packed.

A few months ago, our friend Simon suggested that we turn the rarely used workshop bathroom into the chicken coop. I believe that this one idea was the catalyst for the whole adventure.

“You have a full bathroom in your workshop?” I hear you asking. Yes, it is true. The previous owners/builders of our home lived in the workshop for the two years it took to build the main house. So, of course, it has a toilet, sink and shower. (I still have trouble coming to terms with this mad living arrangement whenever I look carefully at the workbench/kitchen counter.) On the up-side, it is well-insulated, has water and electricity, is near the main house and will hopefully be raccoon, rat and mink-proof.

So, now that we had decided on the design and structure, all we had to do was build it.

Before:

With its patchy, plywood walls and bare concrete floor, ‘rough’ would be a compliment.

View from the shower door out into the workshop.

View from the shower door out into the workshop.

During:

Once the plumbing fixtures were removed, we covered and capped the various orifices and patched the walls that we damaged during demolition.

A 6' x 9' piece of linoleum trimmed with brown vinyl baseboard.

A 6′ x 9′ piece of linoleum trimmed with brown vinyl baseboard.

Chicken Door

The chicken door is still under construction. That pinhole of light is large enough for a mouse and a mink might be enticed to enlarge it. The latch is outside at the top and the door flips down to become the entrance/exit ramp.

The door will flip down and work as the ramp. We won't be opening that door until we have proper fencing in place. They will have to tolerate a few more weeks of confinement before we allow them to range freely!

The wooden door will flip down and work as the ramp. We won’t be opening that door until we have proper fencing in place. They will have to tolerate a few more weeks of confinement before we allow them to range freely!

It is fabulous to have electricity so easily available for the heat lamp, since it is still frosty on these late April mornings. FM built a 2x6 door sill to prevent the shavings, etc. from entering the shop when we open the door.

It is fabulous to have electricity so easily available for the heat lamp, since it is still frosty on these late April mornings. FM built a 2×6 door sill to prevent the shavings, etc. from entering the shop when we open the door.

This roost should easily hold eight chickens. Hopefully the laundry basin will making cleaning underneath a bit easier. The nasty blue wall is concrete board covered in gorilla glue which was behind the shower enclosure.

This roost should easily hold eight chickens. Hopefully the laundry basin will making cleaning underneath a bit easier. The nasty blue wall is concrete board covered in gorilla glue which was behind the shower enclosure.

After:

To transition the chicks to their new space, we brought out their familiar motorola box and kept both their food and water inside. We have removed the screen lid and you can see that they are checking out their new digs, although hesitantly. We have added a second roost structure that they use to hop in and out of the box.

Here they are in order around the box – Chip, Peeps, Croque, TweedleDee, Roo (standing), TweedleDum

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