Thursday, March 29, 2012
Tour de Coop
I could probably blog more if I would carry a camera around my garden instead of a cup of tea -- but I can't manage both, and the tea wins every time! These past two weeks have been taken up with a lot of dealing with a horrible itchy poison ivy-like rash (and a week dose of steroids to calm it down, which it did, but now that the steroids are gone the rash is back), monitoring blood pressure following alarmingly high readings at the dr visit regarding the rash, and a broken tooth, necessitating my first dentist visit in I don't want to even say how many years (bad bad bad, I know). But it's all to the good, and all will be well (if this allergic rash can get under control) -- so on to my chickens.
It seems like everyone is posting pictures of their new cute chicks and waxing enthusiastic over coop plans and the eggs to come, so I thought I would join in.
I guess I'm just ahead of the curve, as I began urban backyard chicken keeping 6 years ago. I began with 4 ameracauna hens, 2 of which I still have and still give me an egg each almost every day. They used to lay through the winter, but the past 2 years they stop in November and resume in late February (and really, who can blame them?). At one point I had 6 hens, having added 2 babies three years ago. Now I am down to 2 of the six year olds, and one of the youngers -- so only 3. However, from these three I am currently getting more than a dozen eggs a week. I would like to get two or three new chicks or pullets this summer, but we go to the beach in May, which makes timing difficult. Often when we get back the stores have sold out all of their chicks and don't get any more. But we'll see.
We also need to revamp the coop and set aside a larger area of the backyard for them to roam, so as to reclaim the rest of the backyard for our use!
We made our coop out of 2 old rabbit hutches, place like a "T", with the sides of one replaced with wire.
We have lots of doors and latches for ease of reaching in (the latches are to confound raccoons and possums), and the "downstairs" is screened, with a ladder that raises up and down. I usually let the girls out in the backyard in the afternoons. Right now there isn't much damage they can do, but they will destroy any plantings I try to do or any planted pots. They chew the irises and lilies down to the ground, and no grass survives back there. We keep bird netting strung across half the back yard to keep them out of the vegetable garden.
Project number mumble mumble for my husband is to revamp/rebuild the coop (which is rotting and practically falling down) and to fence off the back part of the yard, thus allowing access from the back to the vegetable garden again (currently can only access from the driveway and gate) and replanting our backyard to make it more pleasant.
The heat of the summer is more of an issue here, than winter cold. In the enclosed part, there are doors that open to screened windows to get cross ventilation. In July and August I keep an old sheet draped over the top to shield the coop from the brutal afternoon sun, since our back yard neighbor cut down their large oak tree. Sometimes I wet the sheet down to help them keep cool, when we hit triple digits. Ameracaunas are a good hot weather breed, as they are not very big and heavy. There are usually only a few nights in the winter when we have to rig up a heat lamp. This winter I think we only used it a total of 4 nights.
Usually we pull up the ladder at night and lower it back in the morning, to deter raccoons and other critters.
The pay-off! A wooden ball encourages the hens to lay in the spot that I want them to, rather than any old place -- I sure don't want to have to dive deeply into chicken coop to search for eggs!
linked to Farmgirl Friday; Home and Garden Thursday; Homestead Barn Hop