We did a blog post last year called “What Came First the Chicken or the Egg” that wasn’t about chickens at all. It was about choosing paint and fabric. This time, however, we’re actually talking about real chickens. So…what came first, the chicken or the egg? Even if you’re not a backyard chicken enthusiast, you may still appreciate seeing our chicken coop and our chickens because they’re so darn cute.
My grandfather, “Pop”, who passed away more than ten years ago, always said I should get some chickens. I would just laugh and roll my eyes, never entertaining for a minute the idea that I should get chickens. I could not imagine myself dealing with smelly clucking chickens. Well…times are a changin’ and here I am with 13 hens and a rooster! I confess, I am not a fan of chicken poop at all, but I am loving my chickens and I am obsessed with Ricky the Rooster. He’s just so pretty! I sure wish Pop were here to see Ricky and the hens. He would have absolutely loved the fresh eggs.
About the Coop
As I’ve mentioned on our Instagram, I just love the Instagram account, “Happy Days Farm”, as well as Penny’s blog. She has the most beautiful and functional chicken coop ever. I got a lot of good ideas for how to set it up and make it predator-proof. While we have a pretty fabulous coop, it is more of a “boutique hotel” rather than a “grand resort” like Penny’s, but it is still 100% awesome. I think we will have some spoiled and happy chickens.
I found a really fantastic company in Gap, Pennsylvania called Glick Structures. They were a breath of fresh air to work with and provided the best customer service ever. We wanted a functional and attractive coop that matched our Four Gables farmhouse, but we didn’t want to spend an absolute fortune on a custom plan like Penny’s, so we met in the middle. We selected the Quaker style coop from Glick with the options we wanted, and we were able to have some parts customized. We added an extra-long run with a metal roof in Galvalume, custom paint (Benjamin Moore White Diamond), and a cupola with a verdigris chicken weathervane. I plan to paint the main door of the coop the same Yarmouth Blue as our front doors, as soon as I get a free moment (or maybe Paul will volunteer to do it for me :).
Chicken Coop Options
Who knew a chicken coop had so many available options? I certainly did not. I just thought a coop was essentially a small shed where the chickens slept at night. Here are the options we added:
- Epoxy floor for easy clean-up
- Electrical package
- we added two exterior Laramie wall sconces from Barnlight
- outlets for ceiling fans (two exterior and one interior)
- outlets for an interior heater
- Litter boxes under the roosting bar (These are filled with sand; you scoop the poop like you would a cat litter box, and no, the chickens are not trained to use the boxes, but they poop A LOT while they’re on the roosting bar, so most of it goes in the litter boxes.)
- Individual nesting boxes
- Extended run
- Galvalume metal roof
- Cupola with weathervane
- Automatic run door leading inside the coop
We also had our builder, Shawn, install a water hydrant at the coop so we don’t have to truck water from the barn. Best idea ever.
My Hens, “The Girls”
For some reason most chicken owners refer to their hens as “the girls”. So far I have resisted, just as I have resisted calling my students at school “kiddos”. Okay, to be perfectly honest, I detest the word “kiddos” and I have to refrain from putting my hands over my ears and screaming every time I hear it (which is a lot). Here are “the girls’” names, in no particular order:
- Princess Lay-A
Chicken-ish names, don’t you agree? And then, of course, there’s Ricky.
Ricky The Rooster
Ricky gets his own heading. He is a beautiful creature. Don’t get me wrong, the hens are sweet and cute in a chicken-sort-of-way, but Ricky is truly magnificent. He has a plume of deep green tail feathers, a multitude of feather colors ranging from deep brown to auburn, a regal stature, and a handsome bright red comb and wattle. Ricky was hand-raised from the time he hatched, but he is still uncertain and skittish around us. In time he will come around, I’m sure. I really didn’t think I’d end up having a rooster because I’ve read that many of them are jerks, but I knew I wanted one if I could find a nice one. Turns out I was in luck. My friend Lory’s daughter raises chickens, and she had four roosters, all hatched in her coop. Her birds are used to being handled and are quite friendly and gentle, including her roosters. We were very grateful and jumped when Brooke offered us one. The hens agree. So far they seem to love Ricky. We will see if that continues as they mature and Ricky is ready for some action, ha ha.
Bringing Home the Hens
The poor hens were scared when we got them. Sadly, hens raised on poultry farms are typically kept in pretty tight quarters with limited or no access to the outside world. I can’t comment about the particulars of the place we got ours, because we were in and out of there really quickly. I can say, however, that these birds are treated like objects. The worker picked up four or five at a time, upside down by their feet, and literally threw them into our boxes. I was shocked and definitely unimpressed by the callous treatment. The chickens were virtually silent all the way home. We introduced them to their run, not sure what to expect. They didn’t know what to expect either; they were totally dumbfounded by their surroundings and all of the open space they had never experienced. They huddled together and tentatively explored for a little while until dark. Paul and I had to catch them and herd them into the coop. What a sight that must’ve been! Our coop is raised off the ground and has heavy gauge metal wire on all sides of the coop and run, all the way to the ground. Where do you think the chickens went? Yep. Under the coop where we couldn’t reach them. Paul had no choice but to blow them out with the leaf blower. I had to catch them one at a time, set them at the edge of the little entry door to the run, and nudge them inside. Once we had them all rounded up (no easy task) and inside, I had to pick them up and put them on the roosting bar. They screamed bloody murder at being handled, but settled down for the night once we turned off the lights and left.
Their First Few Days
A week later our hens are still not fans of being handled and picked up, but we are slowly making inroads. They discovered the food and water the evening we picked them up, but they were too skittish to eat. They made up for it the next day, and every day since, in spades. We’ve only had them for just over a week, but they’re already bigger and fatter. And did I mention they poop a lot? Chickens are also not the stupid creatures some people think they are. They figured out how to use the waterer on their own in no time at all. They have to peck at the little metal ball to get to the water; we were told we would likely have to show them how to use it, but we did not. They also got the hang of when to go inside the coop and how to get up on the roosting bars without falling. Now they’re on something of a schedule. I have no doubt that Ricky will look out for them and keep them in line!
We are expecting to get eggs in about a month or so. We have a lot to learn about keeping and raising happy chickens, so if you have any suggestions for us, we would love your advice.
Until next time…