Archive Tag:coop

Predator Alert

The weather is getting nicer with the arrival of spring, which also brings the arrival of local predators.

Generally I try to lock up my chickens just after the sun sets. However, by the time I finish cooking and eating dinner, I look up it is already pitch black outside and the coop door is wide open.  A flood light in the yard has done a great job of deterring predators since we got our chickens, but we had an unexpected visitor the other night.

My husband had just finished putting my oldest son to bed, and he headed out the door to lock up the chickens. Getting ready to open the back door, he watches as 4 of my 5 chickens walk out of the coop and stand a few feet away as a possum waltzes in.  Luckily, this possum was not in a vicious mood (other possums I have come across have been quite defensive). Taking a 2×4, my husband gently nudged the possum out of the corner of the coop. He asked me to go take a look at it in case it was sick (it was just playing possum).

I got outside and followed the footprints around through the snow just to make sure he/she wasn’t still nearby. This possum was determined to bed down somewhere because the footprints went all around our 4 car garage before coming back to the coop. After being evicted, the footprints led out to the pasture and into the tall grass.

I convinced the girls outside that their coop was empty, and found one Marge in the nesting box. I’m just happy none of the girls were hurt during this, but we now make sure we don’t leave the coop open after dark.

For tips on protecting your flock from predators, check out the learning center at

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Franny: The Defender

Backyard chickens are making a come-back. I saw this poster on Facebook a few days ago.

As people decide on what kind of pet to have, chickens have been thrown into consideration. So much so that they even sell chicken diapers for those chickens you just have to have in your studio apartment in the big city (ordinance permitting) Don’t believe me? Check out Amazon

There’s nothing like standing on the front porch, sipping a cup of coffee, and watching the flock of chickens doing their silly walk across the yard. Or in some cases, since my girls are free range, the squawk of alarm/ “where the hell are you”.

Once I hear that call, I drop what I’m doing, bundle my son and rush out the door to see what the fuss is about. Sometimes the situation is that one of the girls (usually Roxy or Marge) got separated from the rest of the flock. In most cases, the other girls are concealed 10 feet away, and heaven forbid they make a single peep so the prodigal can return.

Other times, it may be that there is a predator- like the day the hawk was actually inside the pine tree that the girls roost in. The girls, however, were smart and stayed outside the tree using it as a block between them and the hawk.

Each chicken has their own personality, and Franny is definitely the leader and defender of the group. I have seen her “rank on the chicken totem pole” a few times when my pit bull, Fendi, gets in her territory.  Fendi is, of course, oblivious to a little chicken, but it is hilarious to see Franny marching up behind Fendi as if she was going to chase the dog away.

(This is a picture of a Franny/Fendi faceoff)

In any case, Franny is always the one to start moving around the yard, and the rest of the flock follow her. She is the one who is first out of the coop, but always the last into the coop if she thinks I’m “trapping” them too early.

She is the defender, and some day soon she may end up pecking Fendi. We will just wait to see how Fendi takes it.


Winterizing a chicken coop

The time has come! Fall is here; pumpkin is everywhere in everything. And with all these changes comes that cold weather, so our chicken coop needs some winterizing!

Here is what it looks like now.

We are going to change the way the nesting boxes are. We think that with the A frame style of the roof, the girls are having a hard time getting into the built-in nesting boxes.
We started with adding a floor to prevent mice and other rodents from building nests inside the coop.
We constructed the new nesting box on the back 24 X 12 X 12 X 14 so that the roof is angled to prevent water damage. Making sure to paint the complete inside and outside for ease of cleaning.

Adding the hole in the back of the coop for the nest entrance may seem complicated, but we used a circular saw. Placing the saw in the middle of the line to cut helped to make sure I didn’t cut past the size of the hole we wanted to make.

The last thing we did to winterize was put a piece of sack (from a seed bag) over the window to prevent drafts. dsc07126
Now our girls will be happy and dry this winter!

Coop for the girls!

Weekends are the only time we get things accomplished in large-scale. Hubby had to leave for two weeks so we needed to get the laying hens’ coop built in a hurry.

I found a book at Farm and Fleet which was really helpful, Reinventing the Chicken Coop by Kevin McElroy and Matthew Wolpe. A great reason to get this book if you are building a chicken coop, (and don’t have a lot of experience building things) is that this book gives you the entire shopping list of building materials and tools you will need for each version of coop. It also gives you instructions.
Some of the designs had great features that we will like to apply to a future chicken coop, but with the time crunch we had we needed to stick with the original plans. We decided one of the easy coops was the ice box version. It seemed easy to clean out, and it was tall enough to put our already made watering system inside the coop.
(Picture of waterer)

Hubby is such a wiz with getting things done that he got the main coop cut and built in about a day.

coop 1

coop 2

(Sides and bottom of coop)
coop roof 1
(frame for the coop roof)
coop roof 2

(Bar to support the nesting boxes and provide a roost)
inside 3
We will need to install another board on top of the nesting boxes to make them darker so the chickens feel more comfortable laying eggs.
inside 4 (supports for the nesting box walls)

We used an oil base outdoor paint on the coop to protect the wood, and it is water-resistant!
closed coop
(The front door and window)
They recommend using hardware cloth, which is tiny squares, but we happened to have the chicken wire left over from the meat bird coop. The hardware cloth is more durable, providing ventilation and protection from predators.
open coop
outside run
Since I am home, my girls usually go out in this run during the day. They can hunt for bugs to supplement their feed, and eventually they will be able to get in the yard and garden.

We do have a hawk in residence near by- happened to see it on the garage this morning. I took some fishing line and tied it to the posts across the run. I am hoping this will prevent the hawk from coming in and carrying off one of my chickens. In the future I would like to plant some shrubs and bushes that the girls can hide in when the hawk is around. We have some wild birds that chase the hawk, and I have read that martins are great at keeping hawks at bay. So I will be looking for plans to build a martin house next to my coop.

Lastly, pictures of my girls, they are getting so big!
the girls 1
girls 3
girl 1
Can’t wait to get some eggs!

Update: Upon further reflection and actual use of the coop, helpful additions to the icebox coop are:

Paint the inside of the drop down door- my ladies poop on it frequently so the oil-based paint will help keep the wood from getting damaged faster.

Buy a small brush and mount it on the side of the coop- I filled the inside of the coop with pine shavings and the girls drag heaps of shavings out with them during the day. The brush is handy for removing those shavings to prevent damage to the hinges of the drop down door.

Original post published on June 29, 2016