People always ask when and how I got started with chickens. In 2009 is when, coming across a bunch of little chicks in a special needs outreach office is how. One of the outreach women had a hobby farm, she brought in 4 chicks one day for the group to see; when I saw them I gasped and said “oh…I want some”….she told me to take them….I went home and built a nice pen and a small temp laying coop then brought them home. I did a lot of garden decorating in front of the chicken pen so my chickens would have a nice selection of vegetation to eat and it would look pretty for me…I love decorating. I also did research on several websites and found some very good help at http://www.backyardchickens.com
There are as many coop styles as you can imagine, we just built a real quick simple one so I could bring my chics home A.S.A.P.
www.backyardchickens.com is a great site for everything you need to know with forums. Other good places are the poultry hatcheries http://rochesterhatchery.com/ and http://www.mcmurrayhatchery.com/ I can also get chicks from my local Peavey Mart.
My first flock were Buff Orphinton hens, very pretty and friendly. They don’t normally but sometimes go broody and if the eggs are fertile will hatch their own little babies. I found this on utube, a Buff hen feeding her chicks.
The group photo or (feature picture) at the top were my flock last spring. They were a cross breed, the hen was Isa brown and the rooster was a Cochin, I say “were” because I ended up with a bunch of little cockerels instead of pullets so I sold them. I will be getting more soon.
From my very first flock of 4 one did turn out to be a cockerel, I had to give Pretty Pete back.
We built our pen in a large space between our house and old garage. It was a great spot for the chickens to be safe and convenient for me to look after. I could see them through several windows of the house and one quick left turn leaving the back door brought me straight to their pen just off the deck.
I let them out to wander the yard quite a bit. I had a large vegetable garden with a gate I would open for them, they would peck and scratch for bugs to their heart’s content.
My dogs were fine as long as I was outside otherwise they really couldn’t be trusted not to start a game of chase the chickens.
The following year I used my garden space to give my flock a larger space. I didn’t feel my garden plot was being utilized very well for the most part. I had plans to design my yard so my animals had more room but I still had vegetable gardens; i just didn’t know exactly what my plans were yet.
I already had a nice shed in the garden that was used for storing my husbands…..extra stuff…hoarder kinda stuff. It would be my new coop.
These are the beginnings of my construction from garden to chicken pen.
I only had a vague vision in mind for my pen design. I knew it had to be safe so ultimately a wire roof would be required but until then I would make an enclosure and lock my chicks up at night. The first pen was wired on top so my chicks could always be outside if they chose. I already had the pen fencing in place as my garden was enclosed in chain link on one side…the entire space use to be for the dogs but since they turned my grass into dirt and scrub land I thought a garden would be a better idea. I simply dug up and moved my garden fence a bit and transferred my flock.
My husband built a nice new door and I painted the weather worn shed and cut out some windows. My husband had collected some little round windows for me to use in my coop, I glued them in with a hot glue gun and put in a little chicken door.
Then I filled their cozy spacious new home with shavings and I moved their small coop inside the new big barn since they were used to laying in it. But after the struggle of getting it in I decided it was too crowded and put it out beside the barn.
I also brought in 4 yards of sand and spread it out over “my really nice garden soil” so the chickens wouldn’t have to put up with mud. I did leave a good stretch of dirt for them on one side of the pen for them to scratch for bugs and dust bath. I even went hunting for some shrubs and trees to plant in their pen.
It’s so nice to sit on my bench and watch my flock, they are very calming and entertaining to watch.They were very happy in their new home. I used the space beside the barn for compost, this was great for everyone. I had slats in the chain link on that side so my chickens were hidden from any back alley stress. I kept the feed here and a large container to dump the droppings in when I cleaned their coop inside…everyday…by hand…first thing every morning….because I’m a little crazy.
But I then found the best perch were 4by4s. These were perfect in size. My chickens always seemed to watch to perch side by side and these offered plenty of balance and walking room as well as still allowing ample room in the coop for winter when going outside was not so pleasant.