Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Look Back

I get so excited by the things going on in the moment that sometimes it's hard for me to look back. Nevertheless I thought I should add a couple posts that I probably should have started out with.

This is my first box of chicks. I ordered with a friend and we ended up with 50. The hatchery added some extras to make sure the box was packed with enough chicks to keep each other warm. They came in the US mail and spent 2 days in transit. The extras are the yellow ones with red dots on their heads.

Chicks are so cute and fun to have around, but it's possible to have too much of a good thing. They were OK for the first few days when all they seemed to do was eat sleep and poop. But after only a couple of weeks they had tripled in size and were a rambunctious group of dust monsters.

I ended up making a 4'x 1o' corral for them in the living room where they had more room to run around, but they grew a lot faster than I expected and were more aggressive then their little fuzzy butts would lead you to expect. I had only had them for about three weeks when I woke up to the neighborhood roosters crowing as usual. It took me a few minutes to realize that one of the crowers was a lot closer than the others, he was in my living room. One of the little cockerels was practicing and doing a pretty good job. He sounded a little like a tin wind up toy but I could hear the potential.

I got to work building their permanent home.

My yard has an incline ranging from about 30 degrees to 75 degrees. I chose a spot near the end up my property under this white sapote tree. It would offer shade from the afternoon sun and it wasn't quite as steep as other parts of the yard.

I wanted to have a dirt floor so that I could use the deep litter method inside the coop. I had to dig out the back end to make room for the foundation. It was a lot harder than I expected. Even though this spot initially looked reasonably level, as I spent a weekend excavating, it started to seem steeper and steeper.

It took me the whole weekend to get this far. So little, and yet I felt a huge sense of accomplishment, matched only by my desperation to get the chicks out of the house.

I spent the next weekend assembling this metal shed that I got cheap off of Craigslist. I probably could have built it cheaper from scratch and it would have looked more charming, but this was fast and easy and I could carry the piece up the hill by myself. I can't imagine what it would have been like to drag a bunch of plywood up there.

The shed had crappy little sliding doors that I didn't have much confidence in. I made two new doors meshed with hardware cloth. This provides light and ventilation but should still be secure enough to keep predators out.

I put the hasp on the door and started carting the chicks up to their new coop. They seemed to adjust pretty well. The shed is 10' x 8' so they had more space and they loved scratching around in the dirt.

It didn't take long though for them to outgrow this too.
Look how big this mofo is. This is one of those little yellow chicks with the red spot on the head.

It took me another month to finish the run that connects to the back. I don't have a good picture of that but you can sort of see it here, almost overgrown with grass.

The metal shed has been easy to work with and modify as necessary. I've been able to use a pocket knife to cut through the sheet metal to create more ventilation and to make a door into the run. I still think it's kind of ugly but one of my neighbors said that she loves to see it as she hikes along the top of the ridge. She feels like she's almost home when she see it.

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