Spring Chickens

While snow flurries taunt us outside, I’m warm inside dreaming of my spring chicks that will arrive in April.  I’ve ordered one each of Barred Plymouth Rock, Buff Orpington, Easter Egger, Golden Laced Wyandotte, Silver Laced Wyandotte, Columbian Wyandotte, Rhode Island Red, and Welsummer.  That’s eight chicks that will be shipped at one day old after being sexed, hopefully to arrive all as females, but I understand the chances of getting a male(s) as well.

Eight.  In November, it was four or six, leaning towards six of course because there are so many lovely birds from which to choose.  The original coop plan accommodated that amount but wouldn’t allow much growth later.  So this is where it gets interesting, or frustrating if you’re not my patient husband.

This past summer, our play set yielded to 10 years of weather and play, posts rotting so extensively that swinging was no longer safe and a decision needed to be made as to whether or not it was worth investing in repair.  Our children decided that they had outgrown it and were really only using the swings at this juncture so if they could have swings on a big tree that allowed for greater soaring, they’d be fine with taking it down.  Hm…that play house on top seemed like a good size for a chicken coop, didn’t it?

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The old play set after swings were removed from left side.  You can see how the playhouse had appeal for repurposing.

My husband agreed and since he’s quite handy and enjoys building, the family celebrated the notion of chicken keeping.  Yippee!   He told me to just let him know what I wanted and he’d build it.  Ideal, right?  Except for the small commitment issues I have and not really knowing what I wanted.  I knew a cute coop when I saw one, having spent lots of time at my friend’s house, admiring her flock and her coop, and clipping magazine images of cool coops for my “one day” file on chickens, and let’s not forget the Pinterest page with image upon image of lovely coops from around the world I added to on a regular basis.  But how to translate all of that into a usable plan while trying to repurpose a roof truss from a play house and any usable wood was beyond me.  It became overwhelming.

I am a visual person and I struggle with seeing what’s on paper and translating that into a real image.   My husband is the opposite and easily whipped up plans with dimensions and lines and…stuff.  He would ask me questions and I’d struggle with an answer because I was more fixated on determining a coop color and weighing the merits of a shingled roof to a tin roof.  And what about a copula and a weather vane?   Flower boxes outside windows?   I knew the basics after reading books but struggled with transferring the needs of a flock into a coop that wasn’t just functional but had a little pinache.  After several challenging discussions on design, my husband finally said he was building what he thought I’d like.  Sounded good.  The challenge for him then became incorporating dozens of images I’d sent to him into one design and trying to reuse some of the play set since it was the impetus for the construction.

Thanksgiving this year was like a balmy day in California.  It was just our immediate family celebrating this year so the day was open to possibilities.  My kids rallied around their father to help begin the work of building a chicken coop in earnest.  Measurements were taken, strings were strung to designate the coop and the run, footers were dug, posts were sunk and a floor was put in place.  When I went out to check on their progress in between making our Thanksgiving meal, I was so overcome with emotion that this was actually happening, that I teared up.   My kids didn’t understand and my husband laughed.  It’s all good because feeling a dream start to play out sure feels good.  It was a great day and there was much to be grateful for beyond the prospect of backyard chickens.

Here are pictures from Thanksgiving when chicken coop construction began:

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The play house truss that was to be the footprint of the coop (my beehives in the background).  This location was chosen so that the coop will provide the bees with a windbreak in the winter and I can see them from my kitchen window.
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The footers were dug deeply.  You can see how rocky our soil is in this image.
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Working hard at filling those holes to hold the posts in place.
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Honey bees flying on this crazy warm November day, looking for any remaining sources of pollen.
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A lesson on careful measuring and right angles for one of the walls.

At the end of the day, I analyzed what was initiated and while I was thrilled with the progress, I felt a lot of uncertainty with what I saw now that it wasn’t on paper but was standing before me.  Fortunately, my husband knows me well and kept at me until I said that I didn’t like the way it towered so high off of the ground despite my request for 18-24″ of space under the coop for foul weather.   Also, the coop would always only be able to comfortably keep six chickens.  What if we lost one or two and wanted to add in the future?  Buying one chick is not really an option.   After much discussion, it was determined that keeping the play set footprint was really not saving us much money by reusing the truss and we should plan for what I really wanted since I waited so long.  He’s a good man this husband of mine.

The following day, major changes were made.  The coop was lowered, the floor print was made sizably larger from 4 x 5′ to 6 x 6′ to accommodate more chickens and the decision was made to have a peaked roof extending over the run from the coop.  I could visualize it now in my mind and I liked it.  With the mild weather these early winter days, he has made a lot of progress and we celebrated the new year with homemade pizzas, movies and the beginnings of chicken keeping in our backyard.

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New design, lower to the ground and much larger.
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Still smiling despite my redo request.
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View from side facing the beehives.  There will be a door here allowing access to the coop for cleaning and poop trays from below the roosting bars will pull out for quick and easy cleaning, both quick and easy being relative.  The far side will be the coop door for the chickens to access their run.  The right side of the coop is where the roosting bars will be installed and outside of the coop, a storage area will be created.  The left side will have two small windows and the nesting boxes.

 

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The run is built out here, extending 10′ out from coop.
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Trusses being added across entire area, coop and run.  This will provide shade and also some protection from the elements giving the chickens lots of outside opportunity.
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Roofing nailed into place.
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Roofing paper added.   The coop was covered with the tarp in anticipation of rain to keep some of the materials dry.

The plan is to shingle the roof because I was given the option of tiled which I longed for or a copula which I adored, but not both.  I opted for the copula because it’s not only aesthetically pleasing, but can provide good ventilation which I’ve learned from bees is vital to good health even when it’s very cold.  This allows for ventilation up high without blowing cold air onto the birds while they are roosting.  After listing many color options and even selecting swatches of paint to compare, I decided to go with a better quality wood and to stain it.   I had considered staining the beehives, but ended up with so many pretty color swatches that I have some hive boxes that are a pistachio green, others that are a sunny yellow and some that are lavender.  While I like the colors and have enjoyed seeing them as cohesive colored hives and now mixed colors due to the evolution of my bees, I always admire stained hives so I’m going with a stain for the chicken coop that will match our board and batten shed for some cohesiveness.  Left to my own devices, the coop could have been red or blue or green and there would have been a riot of color going on out there, which would also have been fine and may very well be so one day if I change my mind down the road.  The floors will be painted with epoxy paint to allow for easy cleaning and poop trays are going to have casters and roll out for easy cleaning.

Little windows were ordered, nesting boxes have been accounted for, a small storage locker planned on the side, and a copula is being built with a weather vane that was just ordered this week to top off this extravaganza.  I decided to order that weather vane before I change my mind and decide it’s really too much.  Plans…like my bees that plan ahead for what’s coming, I too am preparing and it is so exciting!

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 thoughts on “Spring Chickens

  1. So so over the moon happy for you, my friend! Can’t wait to see it all and meet the little chicks. I will admit, seeing that torn down play set broke my heart. So many fun memories on that!

    Liked by 1 person

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