Building Your Chicken Yard

Gosh I’ve got so much to say about chicken safety! Where do I begin?

I don’t care who you talk to, or what group wants to put their two cents into the conversation, you have to find out what works for you. Environment of your area plays a huge part in what and how you build your coop and chicken yard.

To take other voices out of the equation, here’s what I did…

Stop and Look-  You have to stop and think of yourself as a Dog for a moment, or maybe even a Wolf, Coyote or Fox.  Inside an enclosure you see delectable feathered morsels of juicy chicken meat.  All those chicken-legs, are all walking around, just barely out of reach. How do you get them?  This is what they think…

It’s my job to make you think outside of your comfort zone on this topic.

This is what has been prowling my hen-house / chicken yard.

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Lousy Trail Cam Shot, but good enough for the Wildlife Officer to ID it was a Fox.

You are going to have to out think what wants to eat your chickens.

When we began this journey of (first blog post) having chickens, it was an expensive venture. I mean just wire and wood cost us about $1000.00. However, I really had a huge chicken yard. Now, thinking back, it was a bit over-kill. Half of the size I had planned would really have been enough. Initially it was 50 foot long and 20 foot wide. The chicken coop was 10 foot by 10 foot.  The below photo is while this chicken yard is under construction so it’s not complete.

This chicken project has monolithic thought attached to it. I have learned so much since this project began. I’ve learned so much since my first set of hens became a dogs dinner.

Critter safe and Hawk Free Pen

We Hoped it was safe…

What I do want to share with you, is that you can’t see all the details here. Here’s the break down on what we used in the build. Then how we used it.

My first suggestion to you, is that you do not buy “chicken wire”. It’s fairly useless and the holes are too large. It also rusts away very quickly  then you lose any integrity you might have had when you put it up.

1# This is galvanized 1″ poultry wire (Biddy wire). It is stronger and last longer. Mine is 7 years old and still doing its job. Get a good thick gauge wire. You will thank yourself later on. One inch Biddy wire has smaller holes.  It is used so nothing can grab a hen from the outside and pull them through or just eat what they can grab onto and then let them go (How horrible to think of).

This is your fist layer of wire to build with.

Galvanized-hexagonal-chicken-wire-mesh<—-This goes all around and on top. 

After we stretched this wire around the sides, we tacked it down. Then we went over the top and fixed that in place. Afterward, it was wired down on the  edges to the side panels. This made it into one huge blanket of wire which was fixed tightly to the side (shown below).

Photo shown is not 1″ mesh wire, it’s also cheap, but it shows how we fixed the top to the sides. No this is not my photo. 

wire-wrapping

After you get your whole enclosure covered (including top), you go to step #2.

#2 -One of the things I insisted on was 4 feet of galvanized Horseman Mesh fencing (which is made from both 12.5 and 10 gauge wires with 2″x4″ holes). The horseman fencing is designed so that horses can not get their legs through the fence and also hinder predators from getting in.  I figured it would keep out the dogs (and now Foxes).

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This wire was put on the outside of the chicken yard over the first layer of galvanized 1″ wire. (The chicken yard had double wire. You can see this in the photo up top).

Now after you secure this 4 feet of galvanized Horseman Mesh fencing, you might think you are done…  Nope. This next step is actually the most important step in the whole process.

Lay the Horse Mesh fencing down on the ground and roll it out the length of your chicken-yard. Now, split it in half making it, 2 – 2′ tall panels.  After you get through cussing this process, wire one panel to the outside of your 4 feet of galvanized Horseman Mesh fencing you tacked up to form your side protection barrier.  You wire it just like you did your top 1″ wire. Same process. You want this 2 feet of horse wire to cover your ground laying FLAT and be knitted to the side panels completely! Don’t skimp on this process. It should make an “L” shape when done. Remember “L”.

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Just so you get the full idea. Here’s a photo I snapped of how we attach the ground wire to the side of the pen.  It is a long and arduous job, but the payback is worth the effort.

Here you see the ends of each wire which had been snipped off of the 4 ft panel, wound around the upright wire on the sides.

(On a side note….  I also got tent stakes and drove down where the 2 foot panel ran along the ground, on the outside. My husband thought I was nuts.  I didn’t want anyone to trip over the wire, and I figured it would give extra protection until the weeds grew into the holes of the wire).

I had to rake then wash away the dirt so you can see…

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This is whole idea though. You have to keep that Dog or Fox or Wolf, from digging into your chicken yard. They will try to go up-to the wall and begin digging downward. They can’t dig through that 2 feet of wire which you secured to the side of the run. Over time, that wire will fill up with Grass or weeds, maybe even a small shrub or two. That is also a good thing; more barrier of roots to stop them.

It’s been 7 years and it is still strong and I don’t see rust.

When I feel like talking about chicken coops and keeping hens safe there, I’ll type more.

The over protective Chicken Mom

Can you see the heart?  LOL

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The Happy Rump

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Aside

Which Ever you celebrate, Easter or Ostara, you likely will have children who want to dye eggs. Well, we certainly do! Even my older kids love dying eggs. I always enjoyed it with them. It’s tradition and has nothing to do with Age.

With that said, Here’s my Kitchen counter… A mess in the making.

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Notice the Green Eggs and the Different Browns? They All Dye Lovely Colors!

This year I went ahead and snapped some before and after photos. If your kids want to know if dying the brown eggs are possible, then you know the answer and have the proof! YES! And HOW!

If you notice all the different color of eggs, they are as varied as the hens who lay them. Light Brown, Medium Brown, Tan, Beige, Greens in many different shades. They are perfect as they are, but I like the funky colors. Yes, I do.

However, here’s a photo of a collection of hen eggs from the  nests, complete with feather.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We used two types of dye. Yes, it’s the bottle kind from the store. Sorry lovelies… I am a color nut and wanted some really hot wild colors.

The lighting isn’t good. I apologize.  Look at those colors! Wowzers!!

The top egg was a light Green (yes it faded in the photo, but it’s green). Then a medium Tan one under it. The bottom row was produced from a darker brown egg. Still a LOVELY rendition of colors. I’m always so elated at the Spring Green color. It’s just good for my soul. Each egg will produce a different shade of the same color. It is unlikely you will have repeat colors of the exact hues. Check out that Olive!

Well, every year we find new colors and new ways to play with colored eggs and here’s the ending result.  – Happy Easter to you all.  I missed Ostara… Sorry about that, but Happy SPRING to you!

The Chicken Mom – Gin

The Chicken Yard Door

Almost everything seems to love a good chicken dinner. foghorn-leghorn-285

I’m a Chicken Hawk and you’re a chicken!

Most of my ‘chicken time’ I’m working on protecting my hens. I mean, I wake up thinking about them. Are they OK? Did they make it through the night? What new situation or predator do I have to contend with today????

A lengthy conversation with my husband about moving the door to the chicken yard into a new place, blew up into a weeks worth of investigating door construction, wire purchases, and door locking systems… Good God. What Have I Done? Sigh…

Oh wait! Let me tell you how damn long it took me to make him understand how important it was to have a secure, non-saggy door for a chicken yard. He never did understand this, until we lost a hen or five to predators. The saggy door, which he thought was sufficient to keep in hens, was not a deterrent for dogs, coons, opossum, owls or hawks.

Here we are, finally 7 years down the road from Day One, of building the chicken yard and coop. He gets it. He finally gets it. I don’t care how much investigating we have to do. I’m just thankful he is finally understanding, that you MUST have a very secure doorway to a chicken yard. You must have good strong wire. Nothing flimsy is going to work. Mainly, because it seems most things like to eat chicken…  I won’t even get into the fact that most things can dig under any door, no matter how sturdy. I sunk blocks in a trench under the door. Not noticeable, but present!

This is my old door. A hazard to any chicken alive living inside. It’s not a good shot, but the end of the door is where they chain-link ends up top.  It needed to have had a frame fitted with no gaps. OK, so that did not happen. Rookie chicken raising mistake…

Every neighborhood Raccoon and Opossum found a way inside. Please don’t lecture me about how Opossum do not eat chicken. They do. I’ve saved three of my hens this last month alone. When they can’t scrounge up food, they eat whatever they can grab. That includes a hen that might not be on her A-Game. Maybe she’s older and does not run as fast. Hens do not see well at night. They really don’t know all of what’s going on around them. By the time they have been grabbed it’s too late.

old-door

Here is the lovely framework for the new door to slip into, once the cement holding in the posts is cured.  Psst… Yes, I said cement.  I think, he is tired of losing hens to animals also. He has to bury them. I cry.. Yeah, none of that sounds fun.

frame

You will be getting updates on the saga of The Chicken Yard Door.

Here’s a picture of Maggie. Just because. She’s a lovely, noisy Black Australorp hen.

maggie

The Chicken Mom

Rebuilding

My Mom would tell us as kids, “If you can’t say anything nice then keep your mouth shut”. I think I took this to heart with regard to my chicken life as a Chicken Mom. I just have not bothered typing about anything. I have been very frustrated and down about it all.

Hurricane Irma sort of ransacked my hen house and chickens yard. (I’ll insert photos when I can. Right now, my phone is being difficult).  The roof, the wire on the sides and top, were ripped down, and a small outbuilding structure was toast. We have spent some time rebuilding, but it’s not easy. I still need to rake and burn branches and storm debris. There are still huge branches precariously perched above the coop which must be cut down. Frequently, I’m just too tired to mess with it. I don’t like it though. No; not one bit.  In my minds-eye, I have a fancy whitewashed coop with a nice floor covered with new shavings, and freshly painted nesting boxes. Ah… Hen heaven.  Yeah, well that’s not exactly where we are.

We had to evacuate the area for two days. The day we were packing to leave, I put what the girls would eat and drink in places where they could get to it should the water come up. Let me tell you. The water came up, big time. We had two feet of standing water (the house was fine). The girls were unable to go anywhere except a small patch of dry ground in the middle of the hen house. It was raised just enough so they could gather and stand on it. Thankfully, I had presence of mine  to put down a couple wooden pallets. I knew they’d float if the girls needed to find refuge. It saved them.

When I got home, I let out a yelp of help to the family. Getting the hens outside of that area one by one. They were mostly dry but they looked frazzled. Heck, I looked frazzled. This was a horrible storm. I can’t even imagine what it was like here while I was safely tucked away in another area.

The girls stayed out in the yard foraging and having a blast while we began to remove broken tin roofing and ripped wire. We did what we could for them at the time, but we had a lot to do and still have a lot left to do.DSCN0367.JPG

Victoria and Cleo. Victoria, is a Lavender Ameraucana. Cleo, is a Cuckoo Maran.

 

free-handyman-clipart-people.png It makes me difficult to live with. My husband, the poor guy… (laughing).

Sometimes I do wonder if he secretly wants to duck and run when he sees me wanting to work on the chicken coop…

 

 

I just wanted to drop in and give you notice, I’m still around, and the girls are fine!

Hey, a friend mine is writing about my girls. If you’d like to go read her blog, she’s amazing! Here’s her page link.     Peace With My Life 

 

Sending you folks lots of Love and Best Wishes…

The Chicken Mom

Chickens and Noise

I fancy waking up and hearing the Cardinals or other song birds singing in my window… My reality? I wake up to hearing loud decibel yelling of a hen announcing the arrival of her newly laid egg. 350x

Did your Mom yell for you while you were outside playing at a friend’s house? Mine did. It was a great bellowing banshee type yell that God and every existing person in the neighborhood could hear. Yea, so do chickens.  I was not quite ready for that with hens. Yes, I knew roosters crowed a good bit, and quite persistently so, which is why I elected to omit roosters from my flock of birds.

This sound is not lightly taken, really. You might assume that it’s a nice easy to get-use-to cackle. Oh, let me assure you; this sound will jar your nerves. The announcing of an egg arrival will last quite a while. Twenty and maybe Thirty minutes. Now, multiply that by 5 or 6 hens all doing the same announcement at the same time.

After all the hens have laid eggs for my day, I’ve heard that song maybe 10-15 times just for egg arrivals.

Then, they make that same sound when they  have been forced off a nest by another stingy hen who wants her nest. Ah! Add another Twenty times… No, maybe more…

Hey, take a listen to this Youtube video from a fellow chicken lover, of a hen doing what hens do. This is just one bird. Hen NOISE!

They also make a broody hen noise when they decide it’s time to have babies and sit on a nest for days and days… Broody Hen Noise!

I’m typing all this so you can determine if you have a neighborhood which would support this racket. The Noise Factor. Most people never consider the Noise. Heck, I didn’t even consider the noise. Well, lets just say, I did underestimate it.

Also, while outlining my Chicken Keeping plans, I might have undervalued the noise while deciding the placement of the chicken yard.  I thought it would be a nifty idea to put the chicken pen near the house (shaking head). Not a great idea. It has worked, but really it should have been in a different spot. I mean we do have a quarter of an acre in the back, which would have done just fine.  Fear of their demise from outlying neighborhood dogs prompted me to keep it close. That way I could hear if there were danger or threat to the hens. Well, I succeeded that Just fine…

The down sides to this arrangement, is the noise and the occasional flooding to the lower quarter of the chicken yard.  Oh man, does chicken-shit stink when wet, mixed with a bit of left over feed. Yes, “Stink” is an understatement. It will gag-a-maggot.  I have a strong whiffer constitution and can stand most noxious, odoriferous emissions.

If you have a situation where you can manicure your chicken yard and hen-house, and roof the whole bit, God Bless you. I do not. I keep it clean as I possibly can, yes. Even that is a daunting task. If you read my blog you know how hard it is.

Our hens yard is Fifty feet long and Twenty feet wide. I’d say 1000 sf. is a lot of space to manage for one person with this many birds. However, I do dream of whitewashed board fences and a lovely cottage type hen-house…  Those, get shit on too, By-The-Way.

If you do still decide you want hens, maybe just get a very few? Another suggestion, is go babysit for another who has hens. Getting your feet wet (pun intended) is a good way of finding out if you really want to do this.

The Chicken Mom 🙂

I’m A Chicken

I shared most of this story on social media recently, but I did leave out a few points of interest. I say “interest” but really, most folks could care less. It’s we oddballs who love chickens whom just garner every scrap of shared knowledge about them and their world. Then the others loves who live vicariously through us. Bless em…

By The Way, I will remind you I express myself pretty bluntly. 

Sometimes Animals just baffle my brain.

I’d been cleaning the chicken yard and nesting area and coop all day. This was my end of the season pressure washing adventure. Usually, it unearths all sorts of disgusting bullshit. This time it found me screaming like a scared kid running out of a graveyard. “””shudder””” I really hate spiders.  Nope don’t like them one bit. Well, this one, which I unceremoniously blasted with high pressure water, hung on. When it finally let go, I swear I saw that monster come at me! Could she do that? I mean Fling Herself directly at me?  OH Hell, I’m not standing to find out! Off came my shirt! I’m standing in bra in the middle of my chicken coop beating the mess out of my shirt on the back of a plastic lawn chair. When I’m totally sure there is nothing on that shirt, not inside or out, I slip it back on.  Then you look sheepishly around hoping no one was around to Youtube your situation…

I flopped down and took a break in that same chair. Yes, I searched the chair to make sure that spider didn’t find a way to hide on it. While sitting, Victoria came over and wanted attention (by now you know of Victoria. If you don’t, she’s a ‘blue’ Ameraucana hen. She’s the queen of the coop), but she almost always wants attention. So I’d bend over and grab her up easy-like, and hug her and kiss her cheek and head. Yes, she loves it. Victoria2

We sat together watching the other birds. Some jumped up on my lap with us and she pecked them away (Yes, I giggled knowing she likes our time alone. I was a bad girl. I admit it…). After a few minutes, I know it’s time to get up and get moving again, before I decided to stop all together.

Victoria goes back to the ground, and she fusses at me, but back to work I go to finish what I was doing (minus the spiders.. YUCK!).

Victoria kept me in sight most of the day. Either near me or not very far off (I fuss at her if she’s under foot while I work. She knows this). Moving all the stuff in the coop and pressure washing the walls and ceiling now, and I’m about done. The stuff gets put back inside, including the large roost made of 2×4 lumber. Its collapsible so it can be removed or moved to a new spot.

I took a deep breath, told Victoria it was time for lunch (late lunch), and pick her up and kiss her. She’s making some kind of babble at me which I do not understand, and finally, I left to go eat lunch. I could hear her yelling for me as I walked off. Still, Ya gotta eat sometime…

Going back out, she’s still standing there waiting for me. I bend down and pick her up, and nuzzle her neck cooing to her. She’s such a pushover… (I’m such a pushover). Putting her down she won’t quit making that “PICK ME UP NOISE”. Then I get the image in my head of her wanting some bread. I pick her up and go back to the kitchen, she’s neatly tucked under my arm, with her legs swinging freely beneath her. We go to the bread cabinet and pick out some older slices. She’s totally relaxed and not saying a thing, waiting patiently. Setting her down, I give her the usual plate of bread pieces and a touch of water.

I realized I had left for lunch without taking her with me. I mean, she was yelling to high heaven as I walked off. I just didn’t understand what she was saying… Now, I know that’s what she was yelling about. Bread. It’s all about the BREAD!  LOL  Well, she does love the stuff…

After she had contentedly eaten the bread, she walked over and waited for me to finish my drink, then happily pooped on my floor (Disgusting; which of course, now I must clean and disinfect). Oh Happy Days.

Then I pick her up and we go back outside so I can finish my chores. I set her down and get busy picking up tools and packing up the pressure washer. It’s fairly late in the day, about 3:00 PM.

Finally, I’m done about an hour later and flop down in the lawn chair, exhausted.

Victoria walks over to me with the “noise” and I pick her up to nuzzle her and talk to her.  I sit down with her. She’s not happy at all with me. She forces her way off my lap, stands flat footed in front of me staring at me, yelling (again…).

OK, what’s going on here?

She’s still yelling and staring straight at me making squawking sounds.  Reminds me of when I scolded my kids for doing stupid crap. I folded my hands and just watched her. She finally shut-up, and relaxed her stand into a near squatting position, then wiggled down onto the ground. She nestled down further closer to my feet, resting lightly against my foot, leaned over, got comfy and took a nap… I dare not mess up her sleep time! Crap! It’s NAP TIME! I look around and the other ladies have found a nice nap-spot and had already conked out.

Good gosh! I’m a Chicken too now, and Victoria says, “It’s nap-time stupid”….

The Chicken Mom

 

Hens Personality

The way a chicken behaves daily changes, DAILY. Truthfully, the same joyous happy hen today, can be a pain in the ass the next day. I don’t even know why, but they do swap moods frequently.

For instance: Thelma, a normally standoffish New Hampshire Red loves me to scratch her waddle but if I go to pick her up, she’s not happy about it. Now, all of a sudden she’s following me around talking to me as I do chores in the pen, begging me to pick her up (Go figure)… She’s a three year old now.

Victoria2

Then another hen, Victoria; a blue Ameraucana. She’s a babe and my sweetie, but let me tell you, she has a mood. When a hen molts, they get very angry if you want to pick them up. I mean heck, I likely would feel the same if 70% of my feathers were off my body and I had these little stick-like quills poking me,  pressing into my body, when someone picks me up. OUCH!!  That has to hurt.  You think that the mood would pass after the molt passes, but nope; it does not. Until their hormones return to normal and they get the urge to lay again, you can pretty much forget any loving feelings they might have toward you. During this molt, she eyed me suspiciously and ran every time I wanted to kiss her little chicken face.  Poop! What a downer.

Shnewhampshireredirley, my LOUD MOUTH New Hampshire Red, has become a love bug. She’s never been overly affectionate but she’s sure the one to watch. She likes being picked up and nuzzled. That’s another one I couldn’t have called. She has been a real pain in the butt, up till now.

I could go on an on, with each hen getting rated on behavior, but really, most of them have changed significantly. I don’t really know why. When I sat and thought about it, I realized that most of my ladies are three years old this year.  There must be some maturation which occurs in the three-year old category, which just makes them more likable.  Then again, maybe they just like me more after three years.  Ha! I’ll never know…

With all my pondering on this subject, I find few facts. I just go on personality and habit. How they act, as opposed to how they acted last week or month or year. Victoria is in a very cordial mood this year, so far. She’s not molting and she must feel good. All she wants is for me to carry her around and talk to her. I’m not going to get too secure with this, because I know that next week or even as soon as tomorrow, it can all change.

I can’t even get into discussing why now, Cleo (A Cuckoo Maran) thinks I’m demon spawn… cukoomaranShe runs from me like I tried to make her my dinner. I did not!!  I can’t convince her that I’m a nice lady. What change after her molt, I can’t fathom either. She was such a sweet girl, but now she’s not a happy camper. Although, I don’t miss her trying to eat my freckles…

No this is not Cleo. She wouldn’t be still for a pix!

(This image from -http://chickenpic.blogspot.com/2008/03/maran-chickens-cuckoo-marans-chocolate.html)

Anyway, I really wanted you to get an idea that you can’t buy a chicken breed and think you will have the perfect hen. They change personalities like the wind. You can buy the type you ‘think’ you might like most, then spend a mega amount of time with that bird, from baby to adult, so it gets use to human contact, and hope it comes out nice and docile.

None of my birds peck. OK, just one (come to think of it). That’s a Barred Rock hen who I got from a 4-H youth as an adult hen. She never had any personality but she lays like crazy, so I  kept her. However, none of the others peck. They are all cool and if they don’t want me to pick them up, they just struggle to get down. I get that… I would too. Most of them tolerate my desire to kiss their face, and nuzzle their neck (and likely, hug a bit too much). I can’t help it…

A lot of new backyard chicken keeping folks, get frustrated when the hen they have turns out to be a scratching pack of feathers and a beak. This ideal bird, which is pictured in the youtube videos and the photos of children holding them, you see in the web, has been cultivated and nurtured. The Natural behavior of a chicken is to run like hell from humans or anything else.

So, in closing. If your child or yourself decide on a chicken. Spend time finding out what you like, then also what is a good fit for your family. Then spend time talking to folks about chicken breeds. Decide to spend a goodly amount of time with that chicken from the time they hit the door. … By The Way, They Poop. Get over it…

Yes, I’ll answer your questions if you have any! I’d be happy too!

The Chicken-Mom