With the price of eggs skyrocketing, I have decided that we need chickens again. However, Farmmom was completely over the whole chicken thing when we stopped replacing last time, so this time we shall have chickens at my house.
But I have dogs, and town is full of feral cats. With that in mind, we invested in a solid coop with a small run built in. At a later date I'll get a larger run that's designed with a knock-out panel to connect to the setup so that they have more room.
There's only going to be a few of them, and they're only going to be outside the coop for cleaning it, for a significant period, because chicks. So for now, the small pen is fine.
We found a coop that has a metal frame, which Farmmom and I both really liked, and it said it could accommodate six chickens. I knew it was an overestimation, but it really is fairly tiny. If you're looking to raise quail it'd be a great one for them, but they can also be raised in 50 gal fish tanks inside your house if you're desperate. Also, don't try to ship quail... we tried it years ago and couldn't get them to survive two weeks after arrival.
Anyway, chicks. We got the coop a while back, and I wasn't in a hurry to put it together because it was cold and I had time. Then I realized chick days at the farm stores usually starts in late February. So last week I put it together.
Folks, let me tell you this: If you ever try to build a 4-6 chicken coop from a box, just know, the directions are worse than Ikea directions and everything is in the three feet above the ground. So you're going to be kneeling or squatting, a lot.
Leg day from hell. And if you're like me, you'll spend more time doing it because if it is possible to put something on backwards, you will.
I wanted to take up therapeutic drinking. But I got it put together, all except the last two bolts on the last fence panel. Somewhere, I used long bolts where I should have used short bolts, and I wasn't taking the damn thing apart again to find them, so the bottom of the end panel will be held by wire or zip ties, whichever I lay my hands on first.
I've got a home for the used bedding from the coop, so I don't have to deal with the dogs rolling in it if I tried to compost it myself, have it take up space in the trash can, or otherwise figure out where to go with it... because I know someone who is starting composting this year, and wood shavings and chicken poop are both great for that.
I also invested in a panel heater. Given proximity to the house, and the number of times I've sent fire departments to structure fires that started because of heat lamps, and the tight quarters, I decided that a heat lamp was a bad idea. So, panel heater, which doubles as a brooder while they're bitty.
It took entirely too long to find one of the chick waterers... I found four feeders before I found a waterer, and I'm pretty sure it might be the last one we have. I only need one, though, since it's not like when we were hatching, brooding, and selling chicks. I don't have four tubs set up for varying ages and splitting up broods when they get too crowded.
Today's task was to put the brooder in, and pressure test it overnight with a thermometer. We'll see how well it maintains with the temps in the teens that we're supposed to get.
Also to clean the feeder and waterer, and the jars for them, those are now drying on a towel. Once they're completely dry I'll put the feeder base back together and go ahead and fill it and put it in the coop. That way whenever I get the chicks whether it's next week or the end of the month, all I'll have to do is fill the waterer and turn on the brooder, and they're set.
I actually did the math (if you know me, you know that me mathing is an occasion in and of itself, I hate math) and buying a new coop, chickens, and feed for a year, the chickens will more than pay for themselves in us not having to buy eggs, at current prices.
Another task for when I have the chicks, I will have to convince the dogs that they're our friends to be protected and supported, not entertaining squeaky toys. It can be done with controlled introductions, and I want to handle the things extensively anyway. It's just going to be interesting to train the prey response out of two very prey driven dogs. Wubba may not be interested in fetch, but chase is his favorite thing. I don't know how Scaredy Pup will do with them. He was intensely protective of Wubba when we brought him home, so I guess we'll see if the concept of "baby" crosses species boundaries for him, or if we'll be settling for him just not actively seeking to murder them because they make fun noises.
Soon: Chicks. In a few months: Eggs. Enough for me and Farmmom, anyway. And Farmmom doesn't have to deal with chickens again, so it's a win all around.