Saturday, April 9, 2011

Backyard Chicken Update

The baby chicks (scarcely a week old) are in a small box set down inside a styrofoam cooler. Keeping them warm under the heat lamp, and free from drafts is the main agenda, along with food and water. Each day, I am inching the heat lamp further away from them, gradually acclimating them to normal temperatures. Right now, their thermometer reads 85 degrees F. Next week they will 'graduate' to the bigger box the juveniles are presently in, and the juveniles will graduate to the outdoor coop.

The two week old birds may be considered juveniles. I keep a portion of their box warmed with a heating pad placed under one corner, on low heat. I refer (fondly) to this bunch as 'the juvenile delinquents'. They are very active and noisy. They have hopped all around on the water feeder spilling it into the straw and making a mess. They jump on their food and scratch at it, sending it flying. If I hear them making a racket, and go to check on them, they suddenly stop, and look at me as though they weren't the ones raising a ruckus.

A few notes about coop and yard.

I partitioned the camper such that the coop is to the left upon entering the camper. To the right, a small area is dedicated to supplies, like straw, feed, grit, and so on. The coop currently features seven nests. It is not necessary to have as many nests as birds, since they are communal about their laying of eggs, and don't mind laying eggs on top of someone else's eggs. One nest per four or five is generally sufficient. All nests can be accessed without actually entering the coop. This creates less excitement/disturbance for the birds than invading their space.

A doorway on the back of the coop allows chickens to come and go between coop and yard. It has a hinge-down door so I can close them in during the winter, and keep out cold drafts. I also may want to confine them indoors occasionally, in order to rake out their yard. ( Straw inside the coop, and accumulating poop inside and out will need weekly clean-up/replacement. Those materials will go to the compost pile elsewhere in the back yard. Chicken manure is an excellent fertilizer but needs to be composted before using.)

Chickens like to roost. They like to perch on tree branches above the ground to sleep. It is 'safer' for them. The roost below in the coop yard, is mostly made of branches I pruned out of my over-grown privet hedge, plus some round dowels thrown in. It sits in the southwestern corner where they can 'luxuriate in the sun. Chickens preferring shade can go to the other side of the yard.

More roosting areas are provided inside the coop. A ladder-like roost leads up to a point where chickens can traverse over to more tree-like limbs.

This feeder is destined to evolve. A five gallon lard can sits upon tuna cans that sit on a trash can lid. Holes in the bottom of the lard can allow feed to fall onto the tray (trash can lid). I have two problems to work with here. One, the tray is too big. It allows room for chickens to get into it and make a mess scratching and pooping. Secondly, the flat lid on the top is too convenient a perch, and chickens going there will inevitably poop into the tray below. So, I'll have to modify this over the next few days.

Stay tuned for more chicken news in the near future!


  1. They all look so adorable! What an exciting adveture! Thanks for taking us on this exciting adventure:)

  2. wow so much to consider but it really seems like a fun thing to do! I wish I was able to raise my own chickens!! I don't know how the city people would love the noise in the morning, but technically I could keep 2 chickens in the city...according to the law! LOL

  3. aha! I knew there had to be some chickens in NYC. Well, two young laying hens would give you almost an egg a day per hen for their first couple of years...and you don't need a noisy rooster to keep them company. There is no taste or nutritional difference between a fertilized and an unfertilized egg.

  4. Your camper turned chicken coop revamp is actually quite ingenious. Outside and in. You've really considered their comfort, leisure, coming and going. This may actually be the wave of the future!

  5. Thanks, Stickup. I'm sure once I put the chickens in the coop and yard, I will learn from watching them, and will probably need to modify one thing or another.

  6. wow, you seem to be a pro chicken farmer!
    Can't wait to see how they grow up and how many eggs you'll get etc.
    Well done!

  7. They really do poop a lot, don't they? When I was house-hunting, I met the agent who showed me over a place that had a flock of free-range hens in the grounds. Very friendly free-range hens. They followed us in over the doorstep and through into every single room..

  8. Hi Shrinky. As it turns out, I was just over on your site reading your wonderful stories, while you were here contemplating chickens! I am not sure I would allow my chickens to 'freely range' about in my house. Before you know it, they'd be borrowing the car!

  9. The babies are more darling than seems possible! And your description of the "who me?" juvenile delinquents is priceless. I love your natural roosting sticks. We had a wild/loose chicken come to the condo where we lived in the 90s. It hung out in the trees all day long and totally enchanted me. Then one day it was gone. I missed it.

  10. adorable Papa Myth...
    I love these tales and how it is all functioning. I would love some eggs one day from your chicks, though I think they may not allow them in Monaco when we have our small flat!


  11. Not to worry, BG....I will bring you a whole bunch of fresh eggs when I come to take care of your flat in Monaco for you!

  12. So happy that today I got to meet Annabelle, the cute little chicken that I was able to name! It is obvious that she not only has style but is also very intelligent. I have a feeling that miss annabelle will be a champion egg layer!