Tuesday, July 5, 2011

No longer cooped up

When we realized we really enjoyed our chicks and added a few more, we knew we needed a bigger coop.  My husband is very handy with electricity, fixing things, hanging pictures on the wall, and all things computer-oriented. But he'd never built anything with a electric saw. And we had salvaged wood in our garage plus wood siding that someone dumped in our dumpster. And so a challenge was born!  Could we build a coop ourselved entirely from recycled or salvaged materials?

And the answer is YES!  Except for the hardware cloth- we decided the chicks' safety was most important and couldn't scrimp on that.  First, we reused a pile of bricks that were dumped in our backyard.  We thought these bricks would be the ideal base for the coop. Raccoons and other animals will not be able to dig up under the floor to get inside.  We (the collective "we"- I just watched) chipped the old mortar off the bricks, laid them down for the floor, and put concrete in between:


Next, we added the walls above the brick. It leaned a little bit at this point (we didn't exactly know how to build walls...) but we decided the windows and siding would give some stability to the coop.  A contractor friend brought some lumber by that he was going to throw away because it was warped. Chicks don't care about warped wood so we were grateful! The windows were found in a dumpster at my old studio.  The door was actually on the back door to our house- I think it looks much better on the coop.

The trip to the salvage yard for the metal roofing and sides was quite interesting.  They weren't quite sure what to do with me showing up in flip flops at a metal junk yard and were very concerned I was going to cut my feet. Because apparently I might burst into a run in a metal junk yard and not watch where I put my feet. They ignored me at first but once I started picking up metal siding and moving it myself, men showed up to help with a forklift in tow.  Any reason to use the forklift is apparently cause for celebration at Star Salvage.

We had leftover paint from my studio- our choices were either periwinkle blue or lime green. The lime green was rather jarring in the garden so we decided to pretend that the coop was Monet-influenced:

And the crooked door inspired our name "The Crooked Coop".  Inside the coop, we put roosting bars, a box underneath some of them to contain some of the poo (important for keeping disease down), and added nesting boxes.  We also built a drawbridge door to use once we build the run on the outside. Of course the leaves and pine shavings got mixed together after 10 minutes of  furious chick-scratching. But the chicks decimate the leaves nicely which will be delightful for our compost.

To the left are the nesting boxes. To the right, you can see the roosting bars, door to what will be the run, & the shelf above the window where chickens sleep

We added the run this past weekend and the chicks are happy and safe.  The chicks love that they can escape into the run and we cannot follow easily. Actually they seem to like my husband and me- but escaping from our lovely, enthusiastic children makes them happy...  Here is the completed coop/run:

Friday, July 1, 2011

Trendy or trend-setter?

One of our neighbors heard us hammering the other day and came over to see what we were building. We told him about our new chicks and he scoffed, "Chickens! You and everybody else in Buckhead has chickens nows." Really? Are we (horrors) trendy? Granted a number of our friends have brought little flocks home recently or are planning to get chickens. But why is that unusual?  We seem to be one of the few cultures that doesn't have chickens roaming around. When we visited my brother in Greece, we woke up with the sound of chickens. In the Bahamas, chickens. A friend from Kenya says he had a hard time acclimating to the silence of this country because there were no chickens.  People we know from Mexico, Ecuador, France, and Jamaica all think having chickens is a normal part of life.  You raise the chicks and eat the roosters for Christmas dinner. Well, we won't be eating our roosters for dinner because we are softies but for many other parts of the world, this is an expected cycle of life. 

Cinnamon and Fuzzball- our Mille Fleur Bantams

Midnight and 2 of our black Penedesencas
Bringing these little creatures home has been such an unexpected joy! Unexpected in many ways- first, they were only 2 weeks old when they joined us. I thought they were going to be 4 or 5 weeks old.  Not that it really matters except that 2 week old chicks don't have feathers yet and have to stay inside under a heat lamp. And we have cats. 

Second, these little chicks are growing so fast and have really endeared themselves to us.  When the chicks were inside, each of our children would wake up and immediately want to play with the chicks. Now that they are outside, the kids love wandering behind them and watching them. Or scooping them up and carrying them around to play.

In the last month, we found a previous owner of our house who lived here in the 1950s.  He said they had a chicken coop with 70+ chickens. So we aren't trendy after all! We're just getting back to the roots of our house.