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Petidote of the Day 2012-08-17

twig's picture


The best hen house ever! (Part One)

A few weeks ago, Correntian insanely sane mentioned that she had chickens. And so I'm all like, "Pics please," and voila -- here they are! Insanely documented the building of the hen house, made largely from found materials and what was on hand. So even though it looks plush, it cost very little. Plus, there are pictures of baby chicks (awwwww!) in their new home. Even if you're not into chickens, this is a very cool story.

I documented the journey from ideas and plans to building the house and outdoor coop. I started around Thanksgiving time Fall 2011.

hen house

Hen house

front of hen house

Front of hen house

By Feb 2012 the house and coop were finished and furnished and I was ready for baby chicks. I got 11 peeps ( all girls... supposedly) on March 30, 2012. They were 3 days old. All were eggers that lay brown or blue shelled eggs. I chose a mix of breeds based on friendliness and calmness and also egg laying. I was going for a "laid back" bunch of layers, LOL

baby chick



So now, 4 1/2 months later, we have 10 nearly full grown pullets and they will begin laying in a month or so. My first time for this, so we are all going to learn together. (Eleven chicks but one turned out to be a rooster. We found him a new family. )

So far the hens are happy and growing.They free range during day and then at night they go into "Ft Knox"... I have an automatic closing door. All windows have heavy wire nailed over. I have motion sensor lights and predator lasers that flash at night. I just went for it!

The interior framing wood for coop was milled from a Redwood tree that I grew for 35 years too close to our house!! It had to come down so we used it to build the coop.

It's a big shed, 12' x 9'. Chickens in the back third. Storage for my stuff in the front 2/3. Chickens go out a back door into a fully enclosed heavy wire wood framed outdoor coop. They are safe in there. From there, they can be let into the orchard all day, then they go back into caged coop and house by dusk, locked up secure for the night.

We have coyote, foxes, raccoons, bobcats, hawks and big owls here, so I took every precaution.The house and secure coop is as safe as you can make it.

I stole ideas from assorted internet chicken houses. I also came up with details with my carpenter friend who built it for me. For weeks, I went to recycle places and junk yards and got all the wooden windows and doors for free or really cheap. Same with hardware, lamps, chair, pictures. Nothing cost more than $15.00. Most was free.

There is so much info on chickens on the web. Lots of great ideas.
Fancy Farm Girl was shamelessly copied! She is awesome.
But it's about the birds.

My birds are a nice mix.

5 Buff Orpington
2 Black Australorp
2 Americauna
1 Maran

We are all gardening organically together! They till and poop and I plant and harvest. They get some of the harvest every day!
We plan to sell some eggs and also share some with family.

Thanks, insanely -- this is such a great story. I love the way you recycled materials and made something useful and attractive out of things that were being thrown away. But the chickens are the frosting on the cake -- brilliant!!

Next Friday, Part Two: Baby Chicks Grow Up!

Click on the images for the full-size version. Click here to see the entire series.

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insanelysane's picture
Submitted by insanelysane on

Update: I found our first egg 6 days ago. My beautiful Black Austrolorpe has begun laying.
Her eggs have a tawny pink shell and are small because she is still just a pullet, and not fully grown. She lays one a day and without any training, she laid them in the nesting box exactly as planned. Smart hen.

Now, the other 9 birds should begin laying soon.

Chickens are amazing

twig's picture
Submitted by twig on

That must've been such a thrill, finding the egg in the egg box! And these are organic, free range eggs, too, right?

Once production gets rolling, I'd love to know if you find the eggs taste differently than the ones in stores. I grew up with chickens, and I swear, those eggs -- organic and free range (although no one called it that back then) -- had a very pleasant flavor. The ones from the supermarket, even the supposedly organic ones, taste like nothing to me.

Submitted by lambert on

This is:

I have known people to get seriously ill from cleaning a chicken house--they had to go to the hospital and had serious breathing and other problems. I'm unsure that it's a good idea to sit by the chickens and their manure in part of the chicken house, especially if the doors and windows are closed.

See this link:

NOTE I've asked whether this is an industrial operation; Maine had a big explosion of poultry industry for awhile, and after they'd exploited enough, they moved on.... So a lot of ill-maintained operations.

insanelysane's picture
Submitted by insanelysane on

Thanks for information, but I think that is for industrial Agribusiness chicken raising.

My house has amazing ventilation with 3 windows and a set of double doors. Also, I keep it incredibly clean since the chicken poop is the best part of this operation and I am an avid composter, it is cleared every week and new shavings laid in....
Also the girls spend sunrise to sunset outside in the orchard so they don't spend a lot of time in there. consequently there isn't any odor at all in there.

The feed and the kiln dried shavings are dusty though so I power vac every week.
It's always good to be cautious so I will look into it a bit more.

Anyway, the hens like to listen to the baseball game and we sit and cheer on the Giants together!

insanelysane's picture
Submitted by insanelysane on

And even more amazing to watch the interaction of my yellow lab and the birds.
Mags the Lab sat with me, watching the peeps all rainy spring. She knows they are "special".

Happy to protect

Submitted by hipparchia on

labrador retrievers are justly famous for their soft mouths, gentleness and cooperation. they may be very interested in birds, but, in general, they have little or no prey drive, meaning they have little or no desire to kill birds.

the bird-hunting-retriever-training world is actually chock-full of stories of labs picking up baby chicks and bringing them - unharmed ,without a single feather ruffled - to their owners, this thread being one of many such discussions on the subject, both online and irl, for the past hundred or so years (hpr = breeds that hunt+point+retrieve, as opposed to breeds that only retrieve, like labs and goldens).

twig's picture
Submitted by twig on

that is quite amazing! One reason I haven't gotten any chickens is that I was worried about my dogs (mixed breeds) chasing and/or killing them. The thought they might be able to co-exist is an entirely new one. Hmmmm....

Submitted by hipparchia on

but labs are more likely to be sweetie pies and less likely to be killers. and border collies (some of them, anyway) herd ducks. livestock guardian breeds will consider the chickens to be among the livestock that they're supposed to take care of, but be sure to check out the great danes and the gsp - too cute!

not sure about terriers and chickens... terriers have long been kept around farms because they're good rat-killers, much better than cats, actually. presumably they wouldn't have been allowed to stay had they also been chicken-killers, but that's one of many dog-related subjects that i don't know much about.

yes, lots of dogs, even sometimes the unexpected ones, do coexist peacefully with chickens.

insanelysane's picture
Submitted by insanelysane on

The sculpture is one made by an artist from Seattle,
Andrew Carson. He calls them kinetic sculptures.

All the different levels spin in the breeze. Because the glass and metal pieces are concave in different directions, the different levels spin in different directions.
A very very slight breeze is enough to have all the levels in motion .

It moves very smoothly and silently. It's very soothing to watch.

NWLuna's picture
Submitted by NWLuna on

Storebought eggs have a blander taste than the fresh-from-the-chickenyard eggs I had growing up, per my memory.

We had banty hens. And Silkies, which were silly-looking chickens with silky topknots. Chickens can be pretty entertaining.

Submitted by hipparchia on

isn't every chicken coop furnished like this? ;)

of course, as you've pointed out, it's really a space that you made for yourself, to be shared with your animal companions. it's lovely!

if ammonia fumes [reading lambert's link] are the only health concern, then yes, keeping the place well-ventilated, cleaning out the used bedding/shavings regularly, and letting your feathered friends spend their days outdoors will prevent that problem. it's exactly like keeping up with the litter boxes when you have indoor cats.

Submitted by lambert on

Didn't even notice the furnishings; I was looking at the beauty of the wood....