chickens, farming, Uncategorized

1 Chick, 2 Chick

When chicks are no longer chicks, but they are not yet hens, they are pullets. Adorable, awkward, patchy feathered, long legged teenagers that are still trying to learn to navigate the world. I got my first four pullets last Saturday¬†and I couldn’t be more in love with them.

Considering the fact that we have not had any new chickens since August, it was more than time to get some new girls for the coop. After losing a clutch of eggs one of my hens had been setting on, I decided that would be the last time we tried raising babies. We need some girls who haven’t quite started laying yet, but are more than a few weeks old to hold their own.

I could raise chicks, it’s doable, but it would require some major renovations. The chickens live in a converted horse barn, so you can imagine there are several gaps in the boards where little babies can slip through.

Plus, if for whatever reason, Mama doesn’t want to raise them, you’re looking at a minimum of one heat lamp – which requires power to the barn, which we don’t currently have – a secure but well ventilated cage for them to grow up in, and food and water that can hang from the ceiling so they can’t knock it over then poop in it. Like I said, major renovations.

Well once I picked up the first batch of 12 week old ‘babies’, that was it. I think I’m hooked. I got two more ducks, then met a lady at Lowe’s on Sunday evening to get five more pullets. I just got back from meeting a girl at Dollar General to get a Buff Bantam Hen and Rooster. Bantam’s are known for being adorably teeny tiny: think pony-to-horse-ratio, except with feathers. Too cute. I named them Leonidas and Queenie, a big name for a little pair.

Last week I met a family at Weigels in the pouring rain to trade homemade strawberry jam for a Barred Rock Rooster and 3 hens. I might have a problem. I AM planning on stopping soon. Honestly, we need some new blood in the coop but we’re not set up for a big-time egg production. At least, not yet.

We do have a smaller chicken coop that Sadie used years ago, it’s near the barn where all the chickens are now, and it’s very old. We found a picture of Uncle Jack in front of it that was taken in 1966, and it didn’t look new even then. It’s a rectangular building, smaller than a one car garage, with a sloped roof and wire windows above the doors. There is a wall down the middle so you can separate different flocks.

With young pullets on the way, I decided to give the smaller coop some much needed TLC. Older, established laying hens aren’t a big fan of teenagers running around, so it’s a good idea to let them do a little growing up before putting everyone together. The smaller coop has a shelf for laying on one side and a perch on the other. The roof had holes and the siding near the ground was soft with rot.

I went to work. We have extra tin from when Sadie re-did the roof years ago, I put that up first. Then I dug around the outside of the coop and replaced several boards that were beyond repair. I nailed baseboards along the outside, then put the dirt back to hopefully deter the lazy predators.

Once I started on the inside, I realized it was a two-day-project. The coop faces east and sits with it’s back on the upper part of the hill. Most of the ground eroded around the front, leaving huge gaps between the front doors and the dirt. I pulled old board, bricks, and blocks out, making a burn pile nearby away from the surrounding trees.

After making such a substantial mess, I dug out and laid more baseboards on the inside. Fresh shavings went down, and that made all the difference. I cleaned the laying buckets out and put new shavings in there too. Then I went to work on the perches.

Chickens go to roost every night. They have poor eyesight in the dark, so they find somewhere way high off the ground to spend the night. Little pullets still sleep on the ground, but they would grow and soon want somewhere safe to roost. Instead of using cut lumber, like we have in the big barn, I found some fallen tree limbs and nailed them to posts on the right side of the coop.

I’m not a carpenter, but when I was finished, it looked fantastic. It looked like a tree house! I went from floor to roof, as the pullets grow, they will begin roosting higher off the ground. Like a feathery graduation.

After hanging the self feeder and water-er, I just needed a yard for the Pullets to spend the day in. As you can imagine, exercise is very important for chickens. Although they won’t lay for a few more weeks, hens need about 8 hours of sunlight to produce an egg. Plus, it’s good for them to scratch around for grass and bugs.

I used some of the chain-link fence panels from when Sadie and I dismantled the dog lot, there were 5 left with one big gate. I prefer wooden posts and chicken wire, but the panels worked just fine! The last thing it needed was a rusty piece of farm equipment. A small hand plow did the trick, and I stopped to survey my work. It was about 6pm, everything looked great, except for the big mess pile. Casey was sleeping on the lumber I didn’t use, and there were bricks, old cool-whip cartons and buckets everywhere.

Scraps of wood went in the burn pile, I stacked the bricks behind the coop (if you live on a farm, you should never throw away extra bricks. Ever. For any reason.) and piled the trash in the trailer that was hooked up to the 4-wheeler. Before I knew it, it was 7:00, and I put a wire dog kennel in the back of Sadie’s van to go pick up my new pullets. I was filthy, sweaty, covered in dirt, and grinning. The best days on the farm end with sore muscles and brand new chickens.

 

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