The Chick Inn – “Always room for one more”

So, this post has been a long time coming. You’ll remember from the end of last year my worries about the girls current living arrangements and how I wanted to get them in to a custom-built coop. Unfortunately, the best laid plans always fall through and it has taken us this long to get around to finishing off our ladies’ new digs.

I took a day off work and roped in MrT to help build the new palace. Turns out it took much longer than a day and has actually taken about 3 weeks of weekend and evening work, but that’s by-the-by. We had no strict plans, no measurements, nothing. I just knew what I wanted and had to try and relay this on to him. We were planning on using as much of the spare tongue and groove wood from our new log cabin at home as possible so that it was built with some thick, well treated wood and would last a long time yet.

Sawn up fence post ‘legs’

We started off by building the base. We simply picked the shortest lengths of wood, slotted them together and kept going until it got to the right size. We made sure that the smooth side of the finished wood would be inside the coop. This lends itself to easy cleaning and also reduces hidey holes for redmite and other nasties. We then screwed a wooden square to the base for strength and the floor was done. Simples!

A very blurry MrT

Because the wood is so thick and heavy, we really needed to put it in to place before we added any more to it. We attached six leg (three either side) made out of old fence posts cut to size. This will keep the floor off the ground and reduce hiding places for Ratty and Co. to live and chew through the floor like they have the shed. We dug six holes in the ground to sink the legs and when everything is built and settled we will postcrete this in to stop it sinking. We placed it in the corner of the run so that we still have optimal space for the girls, and up against the fencing so that I can have the laying box outside the run without compromising the girls safety.

A bit wonky, but they got straightened up when we put it in position
The girls loved the readymade dust baths!
The only part we made sure was level was the floor

Next up was to build the rough structure for the walls. Again, we had no particular measurements so we used the offcuts of the base to make a rough shape. Initially I had pictured an apex roof, but I soon realised that was way too much effort, even if MrT thought it would be easy enough to do. I knew that I would end up finishing this off by myself though so opted for the easiest option. We just used a longer length for the front elevation, a shorter one for the back, and an angled piece at the top to hold it all together and support the roof. It needed to be steep enough for the rain and snow to run off, but not so steep that it makes the living quarters too shallow for the girls.

This is how it’ll look from the side
Build one side then use that to make an exact copy for the other side

Next up, screw these to the base and put in two equal lengths of wood across the front and back to make a “wonky box”. Mr T cut and installed some lovely diagonal ‘bits’ to keep the walls from flopping over in the wind. We then installed a ‘H’ shaped structure which was the height of a chicken to create the pop-door. My descriptions are obviously very technical and in no way made-up.

Don’t do this on a windy day!
Our pretty little ‘wonky box’

I wanted to include a nice laying box set-up for the girls which stuck out of the side of the herras fencing run so that I didn’t have to go in and disturb them every morning or evening. We made this run the full length of the house so that the cladding would run smoothly and to provide three nice big spaces for the girls to lay. 3 of the older ladies no longer lay much and the new girls are Bantams so take up very little space so 3 laying boxes would be more than enough for our 10. I planned to make this have a lift up lid for ease of access but also to keep it as fox-proof as possible. Its hard to describe the shape of the structure we built so take a look at the photos below and if you’d like measurements and instructions get in touch and I can send them over.

I built it through the fencing and cut the bars right at the end to keep it fox proof during construction

The next problem was that I wanted a nice people-door and a window in the new chicken-abode. MrT thought we could build them, I thought we should use the readymade ones from Cluckingham Palace Mark 1.  After many minutes of heated marital discussion, it was decided that we would do it my way. Obviously.

Nice hot pink window frame
This’ll be their view from their bed

Mr T went back to work for the rest of the week and left me with struct instructions to leave it until he we next off, so of course I got all of his tools back out (sorry love!) and spent my weekend carrying on with exactly what he told me not to do.

Cutting around the window frame was so difficult as I had to work with what tools we had

So the nice hot pink door and window frame were installed and looked beautiful. I took the window home and removed the chicken wire to install some clear Perspex. They don’t need it for ventilation as they will have the permanently open pop-door as well as a ventilation hole in the top of the coop.

Cladding up the stairs

Then it was just a case of cladding up the sides front and back. Much more difficult than it sounds since we had to try and work through herras fencing on two sides, with one also covered in brambles and nettles. Thick trousers and a jumper were required but I still felt like Snow White in the woods when the brambles grabbed hold of my hair!

This was hard to do single handed I must say!

This took a lot longer than I though and I needed about size hands, but eventually I managed it just in time for MrT to be off again. We went out to the DIY shop in my lunch hour and spent an awful lot of dosh on some hinges, hooks, hasps and roof panels which just so happened to be the perfect width. He then spent the afternoon creating a lovely lift up hatch for the laying box.

Being the hard worker that he is he had to go back for another full-on week (or perhaps he just pretends to go to work to get out of chores?) so I carried on regardless. I installed some laying box dividers made from offcuts of the hatch. I sanded and painted and made it look beautiful in ‘Slate Grey’. I hinged the door, added a hasp lock so that I can keep them safe and added a small hook and loop to the door so that I can pin it open should I need to.

The girls weren’t happy with my mess

Then, on the windiest day of the year, I decided to put the roof on… by myself.

Sadly, this is where our lack of measuring and squaring up really hindered us as it turns of that the whole place isn’t square! I nearly flew away many times and could hardly lift the heavy wooden sheets, but I managed it in the end so sat and had a victory brew surveying my building skills.

I then had to put the roofing felt on top, which was even less fun as when the wind catches that it rips the felt out of your hands along with the skin on your fingertips. Don’t try this at home kids. But guess what? I managed it in the end so sat and had another victory brew surveying my building skills.

Late on Monday evening, I went to the pet shop and loaded up the car with some fresh bedding and went on a mission to move in my girls (and Jimmy the undercover rooster) in to their new digs.

We blocked up the door to the old house and installed a roosting bar and a ladder entrance to the pop-door, filled the new place with bedding and hay, added their food and water dispensers and snuck in to the old coop to move them in. MrT was on removal from the old roost, and I was on placing on the new roost. I definitely picked the right job, as MrT soon saw what I meant about Jimmy looking after his ladies when it gets dark. After a good few nips to the wrists, MrT soon learned the best way to pick up a rooster is quickly and from behind!

All of the girls have now moved in to their new digs and appear to be loving it! There is less space in there than the old one so they are much cosier and its really toasty in there. They still have enough space to spread out and section themselves into their groups, but there’s less area for Jimmy to have to patrol and they can now huddle up without having the tiptoe along the bar in the dark.

We went down there again last night and found that only two of the girls had figured out how to use the ladder. Bloody birds. So, we spent another evening putting them to bed. The last man standing was Jimmy and he couldn’t figure it out for the life of him. After almost an hour of trying to corral him up the ladder, he finally got on to it by accident. It was almost as if you could see the lightbulb!
Hopefully now that he has worked it out, he will show the other girls tonight, but it’ll be another trip down there later to make sure the last of the stragglers know where ‘bed’ is!

Now finally, welcome to The Chick Inn – “Where There Is Always Room For One More” ,

Advertisements

A day of good and bad… and its only 9am!

We lost one of our chickens this morning… poor girlie.

We think she may have had a sour crop, but unfortunately there was nothing we could do to help her. She had been very quiet all day, sitting in the coop, but having been broody for a week or so we thought nothing of it. When I went in to feed and water though it was obvious she wasn’t very well.

We put her into the spare coop we call the ‘recovery coop’. Its bright pink and lovely and warm and quiet. We gave her lots of clean bedding and water with Apple Cider Vinegar, and ‘burped’ her as best we could. She seemed a little perkier before we left and was snuggling up into her bedding, but unfortunately she was gone by this morning.

0134


Itsy, Bitsy and Small…

We did have three new arrivals today!

Welcome Itsy, Bitsy and Small.

30739827_10156514501143296_1816827705157484544_n

Itsy

30713865_10156514501198296_1513808876137349120_n

Bitsy

30738408_10156514501013296_8334507840320307200_n

Small

These three ladies have come to join my current boy and two girlies. They are a bit bigger than the resident 3, even if they are a lot younger.

The resident quail came from a facebook friend who needed to get rid of them quickly. They knew I rescued my dogs and ex-batts so contacted me. They knew I wouldn’t say no, so they ended up living with us! They were very, very scared, and unfortunately 4 soon became 3. We think they are much older than we were told, but we don’t mind. They have only laid 3 eggs since we have had them, but winter was hard this year and it is only just beginning to warm up.

The new three are Jumbo Coturnix Quail, and are adorable! They are very inquisitive and active, and are already braver than my other three. The man says they have already started laying, which is brilliant for MrT’s cheffy antics!

I hope they settle in wonderfully and that they will have a lovely happy life with us.

Girl, if you were a chicken you’d be impeccable.

The whole point of getting an allotment was to make something to eat. But at this stage of the game, that’s a long way off.

So if I cant grow anything, and I can’t sow anything, then maybe Mother Nature can help.

CHICKENS!

Now yet again, MrT was working. So I was going it alone. I had a very vague plan and a very big dream, with not much in the way of strength or money.

I figured that I would make a temporary run and coop, and gradually update it as and when I had more of a plan and had done a little bit more research into the best ideas. Since I couldn’t find much info on how best to keep chickens at an allotment, I just adapted what I could from all of those posh folks who have big enough houses to keep them at home (not jealous at all!!).

So my plan was to put the chickens by the front gates, in the hope that then my pigeon keeper neighbour would be able to look in on them while I was working.

32

The chicken ‘area’

So this is where they are going to go. That pallet block up a space in the hedging which goes through to the abandoned waste ground next door. This plot is impossible for the council to clear so they have left it as a ‘Wildlife Area’ – also known as a dumping ground. It does mean though that the tree overhanging that corner cant be accessed from anywhere but on my plot, and what is that tree? An Elderflower! Champers here we come!

Not yet though, before drinking comes building. So onto the internet I hopped in the hope of finding a potential ‘chicken house’.

playhouse

Look what I found!

And thus, the temporary chicken hut was found. I took out the window panels and put in some chicken wire for ventilation and put up an old wooden ladder cut in half as a roost. I built a nesting box out of some scrap ply and hoped they would like it!

So next up was building my little chickys a run. This would be the ‘interesting’ part. I powered up the cordless drill and gathered up my supplies early Saturday morning in the hope of getting everything done in a day.

I began by journeying to the local DIY shop to buy myself some treated wooden posts, and soon realised that I needed to edit the size of the run so that i could fit it in my car. Not a great start.

Having managed to haul it all home, I spread out my ‘posts’ and began to build a cube. As the daughter of an engineer dad and a mother who asked for a compound mitre saw for her birthday, I knew reasonably well how to work a drill.

Having built my giant cube, I then added two beams the same height to one side to act as a door frame. I didn’t cut this down to sit flush with the walls, as I wanted to make sure that I could attach a hasp and lock to it so that I can keep it closed when I’m inside the run with them. It also means that it can only open outwards, not inwards. I thought this would be easier to stop the girls from escaping when I am going in and out. If you wanted to make it open both ways, just shorten the beams so that they sit flush with the cube sides, and shorten the gate to fit later on in the steps. If you’d like me to send you over the rough drawn napkin plans I made for both scenarios, just leave me a comment with your email.

Next up was to cover my  cube in aviary wire. We found a roll of this at the allotment during the Mass Mow and I got some more by scouring online freebie sites, but I still didn’t have enough to do the whole thing. I used the thicker aviary wire around the bottom of the run as foxes can chew through normal chicken wire! This was stapled on with a heavy duty stapler I already had at home and some galvanised staples, in the hope that they wouldn’t rust away. I didn’t cover the gate opening for obvious reasons! I made sure to leave a ‘L’ shaped overhang at the bottom of the run to stop critters from digging under the fence too.

Next step was to finish off enclosing the sides with chicken wire. I also used so scaffolding net to cover the top of the run, as I didn’t want to have to clip my hens’ wings.

Then I had a well earned brew and admired my handiwork.

22

Break time.

While the kettle was boiling, I quickly made up a rectangle the same height and width as the door frame. At this point, make sure that you leave half a cm either side so that the door can swing open and closed easily, even when cold and wet and the wood has swollen. I put a brace across the middle to keep it square. Usually this would be diagonal, but I really didn’t have the brain power this late in the game to work out the angles, so this would do for now. It also aids as an extra place to add my handle/bolt.

Time for another brew.

Next up, cover the gate in the same mix of aviary wire/chicken wire as the rest of the run. This was so easy, but make sure that you wear gloves when cutting the aviary wire. It is blinking sharp and hurts when it catches you!

Now it all comes together. I used two hinges top and bottom, and a bolt to keep my girlies safe. This was where I made a boo-boo. Make sure that you lift the gate off the floor slightly with a bit of wood or a slab, as otherwise your gate will catch when you open it!

23

Almost ready!

My final step was to add a nice handle either side and make sure that everything was tight and secure, then add my chickens!!

We decided to buy 6 young hens from a local breeder. They came vaccinated, well socialised and a week or two away from laying.

11

Arent they adorable!

So they are now moved in and happy, but I am already planning their permanent home…just to source the parts now.

I will keep you updated when I begin the next stage!