Our free chicken coop

I started incubating duck eggs on Thursday night, and I’ll put the chicken eggs in this coming Thursday night; that way all the eggs should hatch about the same time.  Then we’ll decide if we want to keep any of them, and which we’d keep (ie, the ducklings or chicks – still a good amount of debate about that and I think it will depend on what kind of ducklings hatch out).

For quite some time I’ve been keeping an eye out for possible frugal housing options for them once they are hatched, assuming we decide to keep 3 or 4 for pets/eggs.  But one big thing holding me back was the limited time to put together some housing without spending much money on it.

This morning, my ds11 came home and told me he saw that someone put out a sturdy wood dog house for free and thought it would be just the right size for a coop.  I took a walk with my dd13 to go look at it, and he was right – it was just right.  Big enough for the amount of birds we’re considering, but compact enough to not be a major presence in my yard.

But dh had taken the van to work, and what would usually be a quick and easy jaunt to pick this up wasn’t.  It was HEAVY.  Dd and I started carrying it, but after just a couple of minutes, I sent her home to bring back reinforcements (ie the muscles of some other children :)).  Since ds16 was at shul (synagogue), dd15 was davening (praying), ds11 was at piano lessons – so the only muscle was from dd9 and ds7.  Not quite the muscle I was envisioning.

But they did great and we got the doghouse home with a good amount of effort, laughing most of the way at how ridiculous we probably looked to people driving by.  We’ll have to make some adaptations to it – namely, to put in a perch for roosting, nesting boxes for egg laying, and to make the roof hinged so we can open it from the top easily for cleaning.  But the frame and size are good, and I think that’s doable. I also like that it doesn’t look like a chicken coop.

Having this housing at least partially taken care of is one more thing that I don’t need to think about, and having it means that it’s looking a lot more likely that we’ll end up keeping some.  We still need to put a fence around our entire property – not a small project at all – but I have a new friend in the area who is enthusiastic about doing this as a team effort.  If she has anything to say about it, I’ll have a fence up before you know it, lol!

I still have several weeks before anything will be hatching, and then it will be at least two more weeks before I’d think of transferring them outside – so about 5.5 weeks until I need to have everything in place.  So while it doesn’t feel very urgent, time has a way of going very, very fast, particularly when you’re busy with lots of other things (which I am).  I know that if I don’t think about this now, there’s no way we’ll be ready to deal with everything later on.

Wasn’t that a great find?


12 thoughts on “Our free chicken coop

  1. In our city, you’re legally allowed to have three or four (will check exactly) hens on your city property; no other livestock is allowed unless you’re in a rural zoning area. I wouldn’t even consider having ducks or chickens if it weren’t legal. But I want the fence so that there’s no reason for someone going by who doesn’t know it’s legal to call zoning and complain (since it’s not exactly your typical backyard pet :)). Well, that’s one reason for the fence, in addition to preferring privacy from the eyes of everyone who walks by – as the saying goes, “Good fences make good neighbors.”

  2. I’d say this’ll be another good way of proving to your whole family the importance of what we eat, if my mother’s reminiscences are anything to go by. Her parents had chickens (during and?) after WWII (rationing went on in the UK till well into the 1950s) for the eggs and the occasional meat, and gave them grain and kitchen leftovers, beyond the worms etc they pecked from the garden. Once they tried buying ‘chicken meal’, because it was supposed to be cheaper. Not when you end up throwing away most of the sack because it makes the eggs stink and taste of bad fish! (The ‘chicken meal’ seems to have been/included ground up fish bones, and my grandparents were not the kind to throw such things away lightly.) When they eventually stopped keeping their own chickens, it took the whole family awhile to get used to bought eggs, which seemed colourless and tasteless, apparently. (My mother was quite a little girl at the time, so this was all very memorable.)

    Are you planning on the fence being enough to keep out cats/foxes/other local predators, or are you going to have a wire ‘run’ as well?

  3. Are you letting your chickens be free range, or are you keeping them in the coop?
    Just note that chickens will eat up your plants, as ours did to our garden. If they’re free ranging, you might need caging on your beds; if they’re not free ranging, they may not lay eggs (our chickens don’t always lay eggs- they generally lay when they’ve come out of the coop).

  4. I was wondering how the cost off the coop was going to make the chickens be worth keeping. I was thinking about this myself after your first chicken post and kept coming down to how expensive even building a coop would be.

    How big of a backyard space to you need for them to roam, even in a run?

    1. kaet – I agree that there’s nothing like raising your own food to help you feel connected to where your food comes from! I’m planning an enclosed run to protect them from predators.

      PP – what kind of chickens do you have?

      Sara – I’ve been planning to use recycled materials to build the coop to keep the costs down. Nowadays people are spending huge amounts of money to build chicken coops that look like miniature houses, but though it looks really nice, it’s not at all necessary.

      I’d like to make a large enclosed wire run so they can safely be outside all day long even without anyone around to watch them – the coop will be only for sleeping. And then in addition to that, they’ll be let out of the wire run when we’re there to keep an eye on them to protect them from neighborhood cats – which I see as the biggest daytime threat around here. to let them out of that to . As of now, I’m planning to take a chicken tractor kind of approach, rotating the area where the run is so that the area is fertilized and given time to recover while the chickens have a fresh area every couple of days.

      How much space they need depends on if they’re kept in a coop or not.

  5. Some people keep their chickens in the coop all day and night, so they’d need a larger area than those who are given ample outdoor time/space.

  6. i have read blogs of people who have kept chicks in a children’s wading pool in the basement for the first several weeks, so you could buy some additional time that way if needed. also, our farm egg guys just told us that the chicken droppings are great for the tomato plants. i am so excited for you!!!!

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