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Monday, June 22

Long Way Around (Dixie Chicks)

My kids absolutely adore chickens...they always have.  Maybe it was because their uncle and papaw used to work chicken houses.  Me, I despise the things.  (I had a run in with one when I was young.)  However, we decided that keeping chickens would be a wonderful home school hands-on activity, as well as provide us with fresh eggs.
The first thing we did was decide what kind of chickens to get.  We opted for baby birds bought from our local Tractor Supply store.  Color didn’t really matter to us - I wanted the kids to be able to see the chicks grow up, and mature, and then lay the eggs...maybe eventually hatching some off of our own.  Big birds are already set in their ways and temperament, and you can’t easily hold them.  My kids are 10, 8, 4 and they love to hold baby birds. 
Of course, when you get chickens you have to build them a house.  The size and type depends on many factors, some of which include: how much space you have, the amount of money you’re willing to spend, and how many birds you have or will have.  We had a small holding pen for the chicks when they were brooding, but we knew it wouldn’t be a permanent fix.  You can buy pre-made coops, but I hate those.  Oh they’re adorable, but for the amount of chickens we had (eight), $400 for a cute barn coop with a small fenced in place underneath didn’t make the most sense. They are made for six chickens max. We wanted something that wouldn’t be maxed out when we decided to hatch off chickens. So we decided to build our own. We live in the country, so space wasn’t really an issue for us, but money definitely is.  I wanted something that wouldn’t break the bank, but would last for several years.  

I’m not a builder, neither is my husband, but lucky for us my father-in-law is!  He was more than happy to help us with this project. We couldn’t decide on one particular design from the chicken coop books I bought him, so we began combining our favorite aspects of each one to make our coop.  We knew we didn’t want the pre-made nesting boxes because they look too small.  We agreed that you want something they will actually lay in and use, and not have to worry about it. We decided to make five nesting boxes, with three along one side and two on the other.  We weren’t sure how many hens we had at this point, but we knew we could always make some more, and there’s always that one chicken who will lay on the ground even if you give her the most posh nest available. We made the boxes wider than the ones you buy and not quite as deep.  They have a solid bottom, but we filled them with shavings.  

For the actual coop design, we were torn between a barn design and some of the more exotic ones, like a gazebo.  The design is more for you than the chickens...they just want to stay warm and dry. I wanted something pretty to look at. We knew we would need it to open some way for us to get the eggs and clean it out.  He wanted to have the roof open up on one side and reach in from the top to gather and clean.  It was a cute idea, but in practice I couldn’t reach but one side of the coop and we wanted the kids to be able to gather and clean as well. 

Making the roof open from both sides was a hassle, so we had to have a good think on it.  We were basically going with a barn design, with a few modifications to suit our needs and taste. I suggested having the whole back let down, basically acting as one big door.  It allowed access to the whole interior and was easy to assemble. We decided to cover the roof with an old shower curtain to keep the rain out and make it look nice.  We used craft spay adhesive and a black shower curtain. Easy peasy! 
 
Then I was informed the chicks had to have a way in. Yep, they need stairs or a ladder. He left me to figure that out while he and the kids started building the coop.  Finally it was zero hour and they were in need of stairs.  I was frustrated because “How to you build chickens a ladder??” So off the top of my head I said “Why don’t we just attach some of the limbs I pruned off the Bradford Pear the other day to a piece of wood?” and voila! We had stairs.  And they are just too darn cute if you ask me...


Finally, we had our coop. It took about four days to build with our modifications as we went.  The next part was the grazing area, and that was easy because we were just fencing in an area of our yard. We used metal fence posts and chicken wire. We attached the wire with cable ties, and fenced in a 12 x 12 area (we'll expand as we add more chicks). We decided to cover it with a net because we didn’t want hawks or any other predators getting our chickens.  We put bricks and landscaping rocks around the bottom to keep the babies in and land predators out. Once we had all this figured out and completed, we added the chickens...who wasted no time making themselves at home.  The coop still needs a paint job, but the chickens seem to love it!!!


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Chastity is a homeschool mom of 3 - two boys, one girl. You can find her at Lemongrass or on Facebook. She is a self-proclaimed bibliophile, and spends all of her spare time reading!

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