Tag Archive | hen

Chicken Coop Build

As promised, here is the post on our chicken coop build. To start with let me give credit where credit is due. I am NOT a carpenter and don’t play one of TV, so I found these barn shed plans and winged it from there. My lovely wife helped and when a problem arose we sketched it out and made a decision and went with it. We chose this design as our house has gambrel ends and we wanted the coop to match in style.

So first problem we encountered was the area we chose looked almost level, but wasn’t even kind of. So the downhill side was raised almost 30 inches on pressure treated posts. Along with that we live at Stone Hill Ridge, with an emphasis on the “stone”, so digging holes for concrete supports was out. We decided to use concrete deck blocks like this one.

Concrete Deck Block

Concrete Deck Block


After that was settled, we build the floor deck and walls on our house deck which was flat and level. Really the whole build was done our deck and moved up the hill to the build site for assembly. Here are some picks of the deck and walls going up.
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Then the siding, roof, and sliding barn door went on. The trick we used to get the gambrel roof trusses to match was that after we cut the 2X4’s to the correct angles, we laid one on the deck and used scrap 2X4’s to create a jig. Then we built them by placing 2X4’s into the jig, gluing and screwing the gussets at each joint. The barn door was made from a 2X4 that I routed out the back of to make a lip dep enough to hold the siding. It has casters mounted top and bottom that slide in a 2X4 frame attached to the front wall.
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On the inside we added flooring, roost (made from fencing with some spindles removed), and a nest box. The flooring didnt go down well, it was cold and rainy, but we wanted to get it done. We used vinyl flooring which we will cover with wood shavings for easy cleanup. This worked well in our tiny city coop, so why not here. We built the feeder from scrap lumber. It sits in the corner and is gravity feed. It will easily hold 300 lbs of feed, which I have to watch or I will have a 300lb mouse to show for it. The nest boxes were ordered from eBay. The seller recommended a box for each 3-4 hens. I went with four because the size and shape fit well with the coop and I don’t plan to have more than 16 laying hens. The funny part was the hens started by laying eggs on top of the feeder, but the would roll off an break. I finally took a cardboard box with some straw and placed it on top of the feeder. They are slowly transitioning to “real” nest boxes, but I have one or two that still prefer the cardboard box.
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The final view of the outside. It is 8X10 foot and about 15 ft high at the roof peak. If I do the math right that is 80 sq ft and if you subscribe to having 4 sq ft per chicken I could have up to 20 birds. My birds free range some (see post on Chicken Lock Down) so could go more than 20. We currently have 11 layers, 1 rooster, and 2 guinea fowl. Short term as we raise meat birds we could add birds to the coop, but long term we cant even eat the eggs fast enough as it is with just 11 layers.
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Chicken Lock Down

A quick post that I will update later with pictures of the new enclosure.

It appears our original plan to free range the chickens will have to be rethought. While the birds seem to love the freedom, it has come at a cost in both lives and landscaping.

First of all in lives. I am sad to report that in a two week period we lost two guinea fowl and four chickens, before a single egg was laid. I put up a trail camera and although I didn’t catch it in the act, there is strong evidence of a coyote in the area. One evening while watching TV, my son saw something moving through the backyard. We had discovered piles of feathers in this area indicating it was where bad things were happening. So he took at it! He didn’t get a good look at it and thought it might be a fox, but I think it was the coyote. My son was able to follow it (at a full run) several acres over on to a neighbors property before he lost it in the thick woods. It has been over a week and no new loses, but cant count it.

Second in landscaping. While I fully understand there would be some damage to the minimal landscaping we have, but with 22 acres I guess I thought it would be “minimal”. At first it was fine, a peck here and plant there. Then the rain started and it rained almost every day for a couple of weeks. Apparently this drove the birds up to the house and into the landscaping where they systematically ate most all of it right down to the ground and then scratched up the mulch to make sure they didn’t miss anything. We were not amused and determined that they would need a proper enclosure for “their own safety”! We still plan to free range them on weekends and times that we can be outside and watch them, but otherwise they will be enclosed.

Currently it is a 6 foot wire fence wrapped around the trees that naturally surround the coop, so folks with OCD who prefer a square or rectangular chicken run would have a fit. We like to call it all-natural. Currently there is no overhead netting, we will keep an eye out for flying predators and decide if we need that later.

I actually planned to build something eventually as I plan to have a garden once we clear a few trees, but this just accelerated the build plans.

Jen the hen

So in a follow up to the post on Kazooster the rooster finding his maturity, this post is about the hens becoming of age.

So lets start with terminology. Young male chickens, under a year old, are refereed to as cockerels. After a year they are called roosters. So technically it is “Kasooster the cockerel”, but that doesn’t have any zing! Female chickens, under a year old, are referred to as pullets. After a year they are called hens. So again technically it is “Jen the pullet” and again, no zing!

Next lets talk about naming the animals. There are different opinions and I believe you shouldn’t name anything you intend to eat, but with that being said – I give you Kazooster and Jen. 🙂 I dont see us eating the rooster any time soon since we only have the one, so he got a name after a horrible first week of attempt to crow. Jen is another story. While we will eventually rotate out these hens for new ones after a couple of years I have affectionately named them ALL Jen. This started when one bird seemed to always be at my feet when I was around the coop and as I would talk to her about why she was always bothering me, I decided she would get a name. I tried to determine which one it was so I could pick her out in a crowd, but apparently I am not that good Since they are all Plymouth Barred Rocks they tend to look a lot a like. There are slight variations in darkness of feathers or size of combs, but really in a group they tend to blend together. So I have just started calling them all Jen when I am speaking (or yelling if they are in the landscaping) directly to a specific bird, except Kazooster of course.

That leads me to real reason for this post, one of my 11 Jen’s has matured enough to start laying. This name thing has worked out since I don’t know which one actually laid the egg, I can just say “Jen started laying!” The chickens are a little over 4 months old, so getting started this early is awesome. At the old house we had Leghorns, since the city didn’t allow roosters we went for an all egg breed. It took them over six months to start laying. The first eggs are a little small, but I have found that to be normal and the increase in size as the birds mature. Here they are verses store bought grade A large.

Fresh eggs

Fresh brown eggs

The other thing I find exciting/interesting is free range eggs verse store bought. You can read the internets about free range organic is better for your health, but you can tell just by looking at them. The one on the left is the free range egg, look at the beautiful deep orange color.

Free range vs Store bought

Free range vs Store bought

And what would a post about fresh eggs be with out a picture that shows one good reason we raise chickens?

Eggs, biscuits and gravy

Eggs, biscuits and gravy