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” ,

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Welcome to Cluckingham Palace

Now has come the time to move my 6 hens into their permanent home. I have been keeping an eye out for the items I need and have finally collected them all up!

  • Shed – Any size, ours is 6ftx8ft from the garden at home.
  • Herras fencing – old tatty stuff from the builders, I got 6 panels, but 4 would do.
  • Several bags of gravel. Old school folks use smashed glass, but gravel works too.
  • Postcrete or Quickset Concrete – One bag for each panel.
  • Large cable-ties.
  • Small cable-ties.
  • Soft netting for the roof – I used pea nets at first, but have now replaced this with game netting.
  • Chicken/aviary wire – enough to cover any shed windows and the bottom of the shed.
  • A gate/door – I used the one from my current run

First things first was to get our old shed from home down to the plot. Now THAT was a faff. However, when we finally got it there and up, everything is pretty easy from here.

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New chicken house

MrT used some of his wonderful man-skills to cut me a rectangular hole in the left-hand wall of the shed with the windows on. This fitted just perfectly between the two vertical supports for the wall of the shed, so that was a success.

I took the perspex out of the roof vent and out of the windows and filled this with aviary wire for ventilation. This means the hens wont cook in summer, but the windows can be put back or covered with fleece in the winter. I just used my staple gun for this, quick and simple.

I also put some aviary wire across the floor to stop the rats from chewing through from underneath, however to be honest this didn’t help much.

Next up i screwed the old wooden ladder i found in the greenhouse to the wall of the shed. I took the sawn ladder out of the current coop and used this as a ramp up to the other longer section of ladder. This would become my hen’s roost perch.

chicken shed

Roost in! 

I then covered the floor in dust-free shavings to make everything nice and comfortable for them. It also means that i can just scoop this out and replace it when they have ‘messed’ everywhere.

I moved my laying boxes across into this new shed and “voila!”.

Next up was the run. This was the most time consuming part but was super satisfying when done. Remember I was doing this alone, so if i can do it, anyone can!

First step for the run was to lay out my fencing around the shed in the layout i wanted. I winged this, but here’s a rough plan of what i did. You can do any layout you like!

chicken run

I dug trenches where i wanted the panels to sit. About a foot and a half deep, and a shovel width. The corners and midway through the long side I dug down much deeper to allow room to concrete them in. This took so long!

I then put my gravel in the trenches, just a few inches deep. Make sure you leave the corners clear though! This is the first step to stop Mr Fox. If (when!) he digs under the fencing, he hits the gravel layer and doesn’t like the feeling of it so gives up. The old school Flatcaps use smashed glass, but in my view the foxes are only hungry and trying to eat, so the last thing I want to do is hurt them and make their life even harder! I just don’t want them eating my chickens!

Now since I was still on my lonesome, the next part was quite a juggling act. I filled up two large buckets with the amount of water recommended on the bag of concrete, and had them on standby. I opened up my bag of postcrete and had that at the ready. These fence panels have one ‘top’ which is level and smooth, and a ‘bottom’ with extended posts which usually fit into concrete bases. I lifted my first panel into place, top up, bottom down, and pushed it into the gravel as far as I could. Now these fence panels are super heavy, super broken, and super sharp, so if you are doing it PLEASE get someone to help you. I am just impatient and stubborn.

Trenches.jpg

Hard digging through weeds! 

I then held one corner, and completely left the other corner to do what it wanted. I poured in my postcrete powder, made sure it fully enclosed the end corner of my panel and poured in the water needed as per the packet. I then had about 2 minutes to make sure this corner was plumb and level before everything started to set. I was doing this on a crazily hot day, so everything was pretty hard in about 15 minutes. During this time just keep holding it firm, even if you think it is set it might not be.

Then you’ve got to lift up panel 2 and do the same thing with that panel, but marrying it up to the un-concreted corner of panel 1. Does that make sense? I used large cable-ties to keep the corners together while i concreted them in. This way the corners are concreted next door to each other, leaving no gaps between the two panels. Its just like putting up a fence at home, just without putting the posts and panels in separately.

Work your way around doing this for all of the panels.

Then have a rest. You’ve earned it, and if you haven’t crushed yourself with a Herras panel, you’ve done better than I did!

 

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Phew! 

Next up was to fill in the trenches. I had a bit of gravel left so topped this up in places, but then plonked my soil back over.

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A different view

Now how do humans get in to the run? At this point it was pretty dark, so all my hens were in the roost sleeping but just to make sure they were safe i locked them in the coop.

I took the gate off the temporary wooden run, along with the posts the gate was attached to as installed these in Panel 1 of the Herras Fencing. To do this, I basically cut down the Herras panel, cable-tied the gatepost to it for the time being, and the screwed the other gate post in the other side. These cable-ties were industrial ones my mum sourced, but you could always concrete this post in when you do Panel 1. The next day I did bolt the post to the Herras post, but i wasn’t in the mood to be drilling through metal that late in the evening!

chicken run

Gate is in! 

Just a side note here, but if you haven’t read my first chicken run post, the same tip still applies… sink a slab under the gate or lift it slightly, as otherwise it will drag on the floor on every lump and bump!

Home time!!

The next morning I went down to finish off and make sure that everything was still standing. That was the most tense walk down the allotment lane I’ve ever had!

Yay, it made it!! Although now in the daylight i can see just how damaged my second hand panels were. None were straight and they were all a little bit bent, but what is perfect in my life?

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The joys of recycling – nothing is perfect!

I removed the old run and let my hens explore.

Then I realised that they have wings and fly.
While Mr PigeonMan returned my escapee chicken, I stretched some netting across the top. This also means that it is compliant should we get another bird-flu scare.

The chickens seem to like it so that’s good!

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Proud Sue!


Sucker for a sob story

I can never say no to a creature in need. Unless its MrT, in which case he can fend for himself.

So when i got tagged in a post about ex-battery hens, I went with a clear mission to get 4. Only 4.

The mistake I made was taking my mother.

We came home with 7.

So now i had 13 chickens.

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Poor girls

They had hardly any feathers and didn’t know how to be ‘chickens’. They stood around in the rain without taking shelter. They didn’t know how to scratch, and couldn’t eat food off the floor. They didn’t know what grass was. They didn’t even move for the first hour.

How anyone can keep animals like this i don’t know.

The next day I went in to work and found this!!

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Guess what – Its not shredding.

And guess what was in the box – and it isn’t shredding…

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Meet Rhianna.

This sorry looking hen was bought in by a Director at my work. She and another hen had lived with him for many years, but unfortunately her companion had left her the day before.

So what was his first thought – I know who has chickens!

And thus, I now have 14.

Welcome to Cluckingham Palace Rhianna.