Thursday, April 25, 2013

Chicken Update 4/25/13

     There has been quite a bit to talk about concerning chickens, but it has been hard to find time to post now that Spring has sprung.  For starters two out of our three cockerels went into the cooking pot a few weeks ago which resulted in a lovely chicken dinner with some friends.  They were pretty birds, but three cocks is simply too many for a flock our size, and I don't like feeding birds that don't produce.  It has definitely been quieter around here since then.

Winter hoop coop  setup

     Last Saturday, the 20th, was moving day.  We repositioned the coop and netting into the first paddock area for the combination food forest/chicken paddock that I am envisioning for our back yard.  It was a lot of work, cleaning out a winters worth of deep bedding, moving all the straw bales, putting the wheels back on the hoop coop, and then moving everything into position.  Since the new paddock includes part of the yard I set them up in for Winter, we were able to move the coop on Saturday, then move the fencing Sunday morning before releasing the birds for the day.

     Under the outer tarp, we found a few hidden nests with 20 some eggs that we didn't know about.  We mixed them with some wood chips in the compost pile since we didn't know how old they were.

     With the hoop coop up on some saw horses, I put the wheels on...

while Nikki used a stiff brush to clean the old litter off the wire mesh.

     Here is a closer look at what I am calling our lever up wheel assembly.  It is made from commonly available hardware.

     The two wheel assemblies attach to the front corners of the 2x4 frame with 3 heavy duty wood screws, one on the side and two on the bottom.  A lynchpin is used to lock the wheels in the up position.

     This is the custom hitch that goes on the front of the hoop coop, allowing us to use a trailer dolly to easily move it around the yard.  It is attached to the bottom of the 2x4 frame with 4 lag bolts.  Please don't laugh at all the grinder marks, this is the first useful thing I ever made on a welder.  It's also quite a bit heavier duty than it needs to be, but the c channel scrap I had available just happened to fit the hitch, so I went with it.  It is made in 2 pieces bolted together so the height could be adjusted if needed. 

     Above is the new paddock.  There are still a few weeks until the last frost in this area, so we moved some bails in as well.  Since the winter setup used the barn wall for one side, it was quite a bit bigger than what one 164' poultry netting can encompass.  The chickens are less than thrilled with their new, smaller accommodations so far.  They have gotten out several times this week.  It started with a few birds flying over on Monday from the top of bales that were placed too close to the fence.  On Tuesday, it rained and one of the stakes in the soft sandy gravel driveway fell over.  I came home from work to find the entire flock, soaking wet and happily turning the straw left over from the winter setup.  Wednesday I found the one cockerel and two hens had flown out and torn out the peas I planted in the back lasagna beds.  I was able to pick up the hens without too much fuss, but the rooster was too wary.  After about five or six laps running around the netting while swearing loudly, I wondered if the neighbors were watching and decided to change tactics.  All I had to do was move one end stake inward so it made a spiral instead of a circle, then do one more lap and chase him in the pen.  The rest of the flock was nervous about the commotion and stayed inside, so I didn't have to worry about the opening in the fencing.  My threats and angry noises must have had some effect, because he stayed inside for the rest of the day.  Today, of course, he was out again; along with one of the Rhode Island Red hens.  Ok, make that twice today.  Sigh.   Looks like we are going to have to electrify the netting after all.  If that doesn't work we will try clipping wings on the offenders.  I may end up caging off the garden as well, though I hate the inconvenience of it and, other that the chickens, we don't really have problems with foragers. (knock on wood)


  1. Get out your scissors. Clipping wings is way cheaper than electrifying the fence. Do it after dark and they won't give you much trouble. Remember only one wing! It's a balance thing.

  2. Thanks for the tip. Luckily Nikki had some experience from keeping pet birds, so she got the job done this morning. Seems to be working so far after clipping the two main troublemakers.