Saturday, October 25, 2014

Our Mobile Chicken Coop

I realize that I haven't blogged in FOREVER. This is the first thing I've felt like sharing in a long time. It must be because we're so excited about it! We decided to build a mobile chicken coop for our backyard. Believe it or not, we used about 80% recycled materials from around the backyard. We only bought the chicken wire, wheels, hook and eye door latches, and lag bolts. I even used an old can of paint to make it look like a barn! 
 The reason for our mobile coop is fairly easy to explain. We want them to be able to eat grass and not be stuck in the same place for their whole lives, but we need to keep them safe from our dogs and predators. The major bonus of this method, is that they fertilize the ground, and by moving the coop to a fresh patch everyday, should encourage new growth by the time we get back around to where we started. (We have quite a large yard) We water the patch of grass we just moved from to get the poop to get absorbed in the ground.
 I should mention that we are in no way experts on any of this. We have done a lot of reading and research, and we are also learning as we go. We didn't follow any plans for the coop, but looked at a bunch online and then drew out our vision for our own. It then took shape as we looked around for materials we already had. The shutter is something I saved from my days as a wedding decorator, and now it is our egg door.
 The door to the bottom is off of an old yard sale find. I have a cabinet that I remade into an entry table and I removed two of these light green doors and saved them. I'm glad I did! All we did was add some hinges and the lock.
 We already learned to hang the water higher, so that they don't get it all dirty. This is an early photo. The first night was hilarious as we sat outside to watch and see who would discover the ramp and top floor first. We all cheered on our own hens. Their names are Doris, Mabel, Mildred, Eleanor. I love that we can easily tell them apart based on physical characteristics. They each have their own personality and it's been fun to watch them these first few days.
 We really didn't know what to expect, as far as egg laying. We didn't know if they'd start right away, or if they had to get used to their new home first. We also didn't know if they would know where we wanted them to lay the eggs. The person we bought them from gave us two of their eggs and I decided to put them in two of the nesting boxes to give them a hint. The first day, it was so exciting to open the door and see this in one of the boxes! I should have taken a better photo of the house part, but there are four nesting boxes right when you open the egg door. This is a close up of one of them. You can see where the ramp comes up in this photo. The rest of the floor is chicken wire, so that their poop falls to the ground. So far, it has worked perfectly. We wanted minimal cleaning.
It has been really fun for our family to watch the hens and learn their routines. I always expected to go out early in the morning and find eggs, when in fact, our hens lay them during the day. I will look out the window and only see 3 on the ground, hear a bunch of squawking, then when there are 4 down on the ground I will go out and check, and there's an egg!