Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Chicken Condo

Today the chicks moved out to their new condo. Here's what Chuck built on the back of the shed. It's about 12 feet long and 4 1/2 feet high. The brown door on the end is the "people door." It lets us get in to change the water or refill the food. Beside it is a small peek-in window. We've added a small step-stool below to make it the right height for Fiona. The dark-coloured piece of wood on the front hinges up, revealing a slot too small for a full-grown hen but the right size for a hand to reach into the four nest boxes and gather eggs.

Also on the front, just this side of the larger window, is a small chicken door. Once the dog is gone, the birds will come out here to free-range. For now they need to be kept inside where the heat lamp is and the dog is not.

Today was moving day. We put down one square bale's worth of straw. Those bales explode into immense amounts of straw, but we know from experience that it compacts down pretty quickly. We got the big fount, and the big feeder, and filled them and set them in place. We added a small space heater, our max/min thermometer and the heat lamp.

So here they are, checking out the new pad. It looks pretty crowded, but the heat lamp is only half way to the end of the coop, so there's a lot of unused space in the distance. They're just huddling together getting used to things, checking out the big feeder and all the yummy food. A little more than half these babies actually belong to our friends, who haven't yet built their coop. We'll end up with 10-15 birds (depending on how many are cockerels and end up in our friends' freezer) and this coop will be about the right size for the ones that remain.

The bonus is that now that the chicks are out of the basement, the dog can again be crated there at night rather than gated in the kitchen. Thus the kitchen remains available to the kids for late-night or early-morning snacks and drinks of water.

The kids are still really taken with the chicks. Over the next three weeks, while they stay inside the coop for warmth and protection from canine forces of terror, it'll be tougher to commune with them. We'll have to do the best we can. Perhaps the kids can play right inside the coop. It's not where I'd choose to spend an afternoon, but I can see the kids having a differing opinion on the matter.