If Jane Austen wrote a book about me:
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single girl in possession of a small farm must be in want of a chicken. (Or seven.)
However little known the feelings or views of such a girl may be on her first entering a Tractor Supply during Chick Days, this truth is so well fixed in her subconscious that upon seeing a trough full of fuzzy little baby chicks she will immediately consider how quickly she can construct a chicken coop.
Right? Right. I mean, you do not mess with Jane Austen.
So, here’s the thing… I was always planning to have donkeys and chickens at the Liberty House, but I was not planning to have them until some hypothetical point in the future when had my life under control and it wouldn’t be five degrees outside… I believe they call that point in time Summer. Or next year.
But here we are, middle of February, two donkeys and a weeks worth of farm chores later, and you know, when you’re shoveling shit out of a barn stall before the sun comes up every day, it gives you time to have dangerous thoughts. Thoughts like, “Well, hell, I build a barn stall and put a fence up inside of a week, I think I can build a chicken coop in the next month.” And, “I’m already hauling food and water out to the barn twice a day, chickens really couldn’t add that much more work.”
It takes at least 6 weeks before chicks are ready to go out in the coop, so all I’m saying is, if I got some now, I’ve still got plenty of time to plan and build. (I actually can’t tell if I’m being sarcastic or genuine in that sentence.)
Anyway, since chicken-switch has been flipped on in my brain, I’ve been obsessing a little over what kind of chicken keeper I’m going to be. I’m probably not tough enough to be able to raise and eat birds (I’m a softy) but I’m definitely in for fresh eggs and, you know, having attack chickens just in case anyone I don’t like comes over and needs a peckin’. (Yes. I just said that.)
So here are some things I’m thinking about chickens:
- I want a small flock 6-8 hens, max
- I’m leaning towards Black Rock chickens (they are “sex link” chickens, which is not something illegal you do with farm animals, it just means they’re bred so that you can tell males and females apart as chicks by their colors instead of… you know… chicken parts.)
- I’d like to let them free-range as much as possible, but there are a lot of natural predators out here (coyotes and hawks for starters) and I can’t watch them all day every day
- I think I’d rather not have a rooster (so that my neighbors don’t kill me because of the noise, and so there’s no chance of having fertilized eggs.)
I hear there are a lot of benefits to having chickens in the garden if you plan correctly, so I’ve started thinking about some potential chicken garden scenarios, and sketching them out on my iPad…
I’d like to plan for the coop to have a good sized covered chicken run (for when I’m at work) and three or four “paddocks” where the chickens can free-range in the garden when I’m home.
Because I’m now a master at installing electric fences (that was definitely sarcasm), I’m going to put a solar powered charger out by the garden and use low voltage electric net fencing around the perimeter to keep predators and anything that might want a taste of my veggies out.
Since I’ll be able to let the chickens free-range more if they have good coverage from aerial predators, I’m thinking some trellises like this might be a good idea..
And of course, raised beds, like the ones I built at Memorial…
While I’m also planning sometime in the future to dedicate an acre of land to a small orchard (or vineyard?) I might plant some fruit trees and berry bushes, along with native grasses and flowers, in the paddocks while limiting chicken access to the actual vegetable portion of the garden.
Once I have a plan, I think I can legitimately knock out the coop in 4 solid weekends, and maybe another 2-3 for the fence if the weather holds and the ground thaws.
So… anyone up for Dueling DIY: Chicken Coop Edition?