Hen House

August 29, 2015

Our chickens after one year

Chicken sand bath
Chickens Taking a Sand Bath

Our three wyandotte hens are one year old.  We brought them to the homestead last October and they lived initially in our sunroom until they moved into their mobile predator proof chicken coop the following April.  They free range almost all day and return to their coop on their own at night. Having chickens roaming the backyard makes you feel like a real homesteader and is a big step in permaculture.

Although I'm a weekend homesteader, I found that the chickens were a low maintenance addition.  Other than opening and closing the coop the hens enjoy free-ranging all day and are very happy ladies.

The hens enjoying their coop.  I added branches for perches, but most of the time they're exploring the backyard.  Here two of the girls are taking a sand bath together.  Luckily we have a sandy backyard.

When the weather turned super hot this summer two of the hens went broody.  They wouldn't leave the nesting box even though we took them out repeatedly.  So we gave them all a slightly cool bath. It took two of us to hold them in the water, they really did not like having a bath. They were bright white after that.

Chickens climb stairs

Chickens climb stairs

Since the girls started out with living in the sunroom they got quite used to climbing up and down the stairs.  When they hear us in the sunroom they come up looking for treats.

July 19, 2015

Predator Proof Chicken Coop Protects from Raccoons

Predator Proof Chicken Coop
Predator Proof Chicken Coop
My husband was up at 4 am the other morning to let our puppy out. This is what he saw from the back door.  A whole family of raccoon trying to break into the chicken coop, it's a good thing this is a predator proof chicken coop.  It must have been a frightening experience for the ladies.  Also we found bear poop in our side yard.  Good thing we used extra thick wired fencing and a strong frame to keep the ladies safe.  I can see four raccoons in this picture.  One raccoon on the roof, one climbing down the door, and two in-front of the door.

The hens have really become part of our every day life.  One of the family let's them out in the morning to free range in the backyard.  We all sprinkle bits of leftover bread or unfinished meals for them to eat.  It feels nice to throw out less food and get it converted into new food.  They actually follow me around the yard as I check on my vegetable gardens.  And it is always such a nice feeling when you look out the back windows and see the ladies pecking around the backyard.  It just looks so peaceful.  And all of that is without even mentioning the eggs.

We seem to average about two eggs a day.  The yolks are almost fluorescent yellow.  Those free range eggs at the store have such pale yolks in comparison.

June 2015

Give Broody Hens A Bath

First one hen decided to go broody, then a week later a second hen joined her and for about a week we've only had one egg a day.  So I decided to take action!  I looked up that it seems that if you cool down their body temperature that that will stop them from brooding.

Broody Hens

So the kids and I set up two stations.  We partially filled a wheel barrow and added some soap and I added about a bucket of hot water so it wasn't freezing cold.  Then we filled a plastic tote partially with water for rinsing.  And we also added some hot water to the tote as well.  We had a towel ready to dry them off.

This was definitely a two person job.  The girls did not like getting wet and I had to hold their wings down quite firmly and of course we all got soaked.
Chicken Bath

I held them in the soapy water for a few minutes to soften up the poopy bits, but I still wasn't able to get them perfect.

Also, we had to separate the first wet hen from another as one of the dry hens started attacking her at first.  We think it's because she looked and smelled different, not sure...

We gave them all a good squeeze in a towel after the rinse and let them free range.  It is a warm sunny day here today.

Hopefully we have solved the broodiness by cooling them down.  I'll let you know.






April 2015

DIY Mobile Chicken Coop to Pull with ATV

The chickens have moved into the great outdoors.   I got the three hens in the fall of last year and didn't have time to build a predator proof chicken coop, so I bought a store-bought somewhat flimsy one and had it set-up in my sunroom all winter.  But once the weather started warming up I wanted to reclaim the sunroom for regular use so the race was on to get the mobile predator proof chicken coop built.  That's me towing the coop with the ATV.

How to build a predator proof chicken coop
How to Build a Predator Proof Chicken Coop

We decided to build our own chicken coop and we wanted the following specifications, that weren't so easy to meet.
1.  in-expensive
2.  portable
3.  predator proof against bears, racoons, foxes, and weasels
4.  be able to slide the store bought coop inside
5.  Have a bottom open to the ground

Well, that ended up being a not too easy list to meet but we did it!

Here's the first stages of the coop being built in the driveway.  Here my son and I are working diligently.  Things are going well as my son is giving me the thumbs up.  here you can see the basic frame made of 2x6 pressure treated wood.  The wood size is a bit over the top but it order to stay 'inexpensive' as on my list of requirements we pulled out the wood we had in the garage left over from other projects.  Overall we decided to build the outer cage to be predator proof for the large animals and use the little coop inside to keep out the little predators like ferrets.  We went with 14 gauge fencing.
mobile chicken coop hitched to ATV
Mobile Chicken Coop Hitched to ATV

Mobile Chicken Coop
Mobile Chicken Coop.
Here's the finished coop, hooked up the the ATV.  A great homestead view chicken coop and laundry hanging on the line in the background.

February 2015

Our First Eggs

She's a beauty.

Our hens laid their first two eggs on a very cold winter day. The hens were born at the end of June, so it took 6 months.

One was frozen, I had given up looking for eggs awhile ago, so I didn't catch the first one. Luckily my son never gave up and he found the two eggs.

Of course we fried up the egg and all ate a couple bites. It was yummy.

And we've now had a third egg. So it seems that only one hen is laying so far (Shelly). Once all three of them get going we should end up with an egg a day. I wonder how long it will be before I don't have to buy eggs anymore. I can't wait for that moment. It will be a good sign of living a country life.



Egg Update:

We're now getting an egg every day and skipping a day here and there. One strange thing is all the eggs have been the same size and colour but then we got one darker brown egg. I was thinking maybe a second hen had started laying but we haven't seen another darker egg in a few days now. Interesting. I wonder why a chicken would lay different shades of eggs?



January 2015

 Our First Hens

I've been thinking about getting chickens for at least a year, but I didn't have any experience with them and was a little afraid about what I was getting myself into. But who can resist all those country photos with chickens running around in the yard.

Then on Halloween, we took the kids out door to door and we went to one of our neighbours which I spied what I was pretty sure was a chicken coop when walking the dog in the summer. So I send the kids to the door with a mission. I told them to say trick or treat and then ask if he has chickens. Surprisingly enough he said he had chickens and would the kids like to see them! So of course my husband and I walked up with the kids and our neighbour showed us his little chicken coop with six hens roosting.

Well, that did it. I thought if he can do it, I can too. I did some quick looking up at our local by-laws and found that I was allowed to have hens (girl chickens). And being me, once I decided I wanted chickens I had to have them right now.

Finding a Coop

I did some searching on line at hardware stores and found a coop that I could temporarily locate on my deck and within driving distance. So my son and I headed out in the 'beater car' and brought it home strapped to the roof. And then we all had fun building it together. And I laid down the rest of the hamster little wood chips for bedding and added a floor from our old portable dog crate that we never used. Well that was enough for that day, it's hard to find time to do everything.

The next day I started my search for chickees. I knew I didn't want day olds as I work out of the home for part of the week and I wouldn't be able to take care of them. Then I looked up on a popular free for sale site and found someone, not too far away, selling pullets, which of course I had know idea what a pullet was. But I looked it up, and they're kind of like teenager chickens, ready for the coop and independent.

The lady was selling Wyandottes, which again I had no idea what they were, but I looked them up and they seemed perfect for us, very cold tolerant and heritage which of course I liked the idea from as I'm trying hard to get away from the GMO concept and back to the basics.

We met the really nice lady selling the Wyandottes and she explained how she has kept this type of chicken for many years in an unheated barn and were good egg layers and good for meet too. Of course the kids were thrilled and we all got to hold them, which I've never done before. And they made these cute bock, bock sounds. Lots of fun.

Here are the 3 Bocka Bockas, as my son nicknamed them,
just first arrived in their coop. Their real names
are Shelly, Luna and Clover.
They are Wyandotte pullets, all girl hens.
She gave us some food and some treats and we wrapped them up loosely in a box with a blanket over top and brought them home in the trunk of the beater car. Here they are just newly deposited.

I filled up the old automatic dog waterer which we also never used and set out their food in the lid of a bowl and they were set for their first night. It was early November so I wasn't worried about them being too cold at this point.


 Queen Hen at 9 months old

Our three hens are making good progress.  That is two of the three hens are now laying eggs.  And about once a week the leader of the hens has double yolkers.

Shelley at 9 months old in the nesting box.  She's the Queen.
Shelley has always been at the top of the pecking order and was the first to lay eggs starting around 8 months old near the end of our winter.  And now a second hen is laying too.  It was so awesome to check the nesting boxes and find two eggs one morning.  It's amazing how something so simple made me so happy and proud.
The rest of the gang, Luna and Clover.
Notice these Wyandottes don't have combs.
These are apparently closer to what the breed should look like.

The girls are still living in their little chicken coop in the sun room but hubby is working on building a predator proof chicken cage to slide this purchased coop into.

The other night we left the sunroom door open and my husband got up in the night to let the puppy out and he switched on the light to find a hugemungus racoon sitting in the corner beside the coop.  So we are building a fortress for these girls as our backyard backs onto woods and we've even had a baby bear wander into our yard a couple years ago.  I'll post pictures of the coop within a coop once completed.