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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Cooped Up

A post over at bluebirdbaby the other day asked those who keep chickens to show their coops.

We had wanted and talked about having chickens for a number of years, but were never ready at the right time (one story of our lives). The biggest stumbling block was a coop. We always lacked time and money for the coop project when it was the right time to get the chicks. FInally, last year, we decided to leap, not to wait any longer--once we had the chickens, we would be compelled to make them a coop. And so it was.

I am a proud chicken keeper, and I love our Ladies. Have I ever told you their names?

They are Buffy, Orpy, Bianca Castafiore (my favorite), Petunia, Specklelina, Speckleluna, Greybeard, Blackbeard, Chiquita, and Martha Poultry (naughtily named after the boys' former elementary school prinicpal). We got so many because we just couldn't choose. We visited the feed store with all the fluffy little chicks and wanted one of this variety, one of that variety...and then two of each variety so they wouldn't be lonely...pretty soon there were twelve. One turned out to be a rooster and went to live on my friend Cindy's farm, and one died mysteriously early on.

First, as tiny little peepers, they lived in the bathtub with a heatlamp.

When they began to peck at each other and appear stressed by crowding, we moved them to a temporary cage built by Minou, which still resides now in the chickenyard waiting to be dismantled or donated to another chickenkeeper:

They stayed in this for quite a while while Minou the architect designed a beautiful coop for them. He worked on it with a lot of assistance from G1. I'm ashamed to admit that I, who wanted the chickens most, did little of the actual building, though I did a lot of setting fence poles for their yard. After the basic structure was done, our friend D., also an architect, said that he should have designed it with a "Coopola" on top. Alas, no.

Here is the almost-finished-but-not-yet-fully-sided coop.

You can just see the treehouse, built by G1 and G2 at the bottom of the large fenced chickenyard, in the background. Inside we use straw for their bedding and I change it semi-weekly. They have a hanging feeder in the coop and water outside. We had to enlarge their yard after the first summer because they picked it clean, down to the muddy ground! Now they have quite a bit of space, about 1/3 of our 1/3 acre yard, to roam and scratch. They love to eat leftovers, particularly bread, rice, and spaghetti. They also like fruit and pumpkin innards.

It was so exciting when we got our first eggs, tiny and often with double yolks. Now we usually get 6-8 per day, big and lovely with brown, white, pinkish-tan, and pale green shells. Their yolks are bright yellow and the eggs are so flavorful.

The chickens are very low-maintenance. When it gets dark, they put themselves to bed in the coop, and I go latch the door for the night to keep them safe from predators. In fact, it's time to do that now. Goodnight!

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