Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Good, The Bad, and The Eggly

It has been awhile since posting, so I guess I should try to catch up a little. I built a porta-coop as a mobile backyard unit to carry chickens here and there to fresh grazing ground in the yard. Below you see it parked off behind the main coop. (You can click on any photo to enlarge, if you like.)

The porta-coop can house six chickens comfortably. It is built as an a-frame with an elevated coop at one end. With a couple of old wagon wheels on the front end, and a pair of 'wheel barrow styled handles at the other, I can move the flock here and there in the yard. The coop is constructed from recycled plywood, and some metal flashing and used chicken wire I was able to come by. Just for fun, I splashed it with some spray paint.

Chickens have an 8'x 5' area of grass and soil to explore. By moving the coop every other day or so, the grass gets mowed slowly, but surely. The ground also gets fertilized by the nitrogen rich poop they leave behind. A ramp gives the hens access to sheltered roosting, and several nesting boxes are built in, in case they get a sudden idea to lay an egg! The ramp is on hinges so that I can lift it while moving the coop about.

A small door on one side allows me to check for eggs, and to clean out the coop and replenish with fresh straw.

My last two chicks to leave the brooder box in the house, were the first to try out the porta-coop. Lolly was a black-barred hen, and Gumdrop was a white leghorn. (They, and several other hens were given names by my grand-daughters.) Below are the last pictures of Gumdrop and Lolly enjoying the lush grass and yummy bugs in the porta-coop.


I decided to let Gumdrop and Lolly have their own quarters for awhile since, in the main coop, I have several roosters who have proven to be real bullies. (If a smaller chicken tries to get some feed, they will peck at them and chase them away. )
So, I thought I was doing Gumdrop and Lolly a favor. But, I had no idea that instead, I had left them vulnerable to a feral cat. While I did not see the gruesome act, it is the only thing I can conclude. It looked like a cat crime scene.
The chicken wire had been forced loose near the ground enough to let the critter enter, and one by one, carry Gumdrop and Lolly away. All that remained were a few scattered small feathers from each. I was heartbroken, and angry at the cat. But, I relized that it had been my thinking all along in building the coops, that I was building something a chicken could not get out of. The idea that there could be a predator strong enough to get IN, never entered my mind. The coop was chicken-proof, but not cat-proof.
I was in a distraught mood all day while repairing and improving the coop to make it a safer environment for my remaining hens. Rest in Peace: Gumdrop and Lolly

Now,here's how the other chickens have grown over the past month.

The white barred and black barred chickens are now approximately 10 weeks old. Several have proved to be roosters, and I will discuss their possible fate later. They are all quite attractive and healthy birds.

The three Rhode Island reds (I refer to them as the 'Brownie Troop'), and the White Leghorn hen (Snowdrop) are approaching 8 weeks of age.

One thing all my chickens have in common is that they seem always hungry! At present, they consume about 10 pounds of mixed grain feed in less than a month! No wonder organic eggs are more expensive!

More Chicken news soon!!!