Welcome to the Hen House

Last night I put the chicks in their hen house for the first time.   The hen house has been my big project for the last few weeks.  I am pretty new at woodworking, so there was quite a bit of doing, undoing, redoing, but this weekend I was happy with it.  The chickens however were not.

After - New shutters, painting, water proofing, roost, new door, weather proofing, building a ladder and general repairs bring you this.

Before - I think this building was used as a play house and dog house before we moved here.

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We put them in a few hours before sunset so they could get used to it and be comfortable before the scary dark came down.  At first they wandered around a bit.  They tried out the ladder looked in the nesting box and explored.

Slowly moved towards me.  After a while they were happily settled down on and around me.  But since I have no intention of sleeping in the hen house I left before they could get comfy enough to fall asleep.

About an hour later we came back and they were huddled up very unhappy against the door.  So the way we had things was not working.  First we installed their red heat light and tried a few different method for getting them up on the roost.  This mostly ended with them getting angry or scared and trying to roost on me.   I had as many as 4 chickens at a time on my arms and shoulders making it pretty clear they wanted to go home.  At one point Peep got up on my shoulder, put her head by my ear and told me what she thought about the whole thing.   Of course I don’t speak chicken, but I got what they were saying. I have to admit I the thought did cross my mind they maybe they could live in the house forever and we could just learn to deal with it.   But I know that will not work of course.  They will be happier in their hen house and we can’t have 7 full grown chickens in the house.

So then we tried to make it as much like were they lived inside as possible.  We got their pen, put the small feeder and water in it, put the heat lamp in the same place as inside and put them all in there just like we have done ever night in the house.   That did the trick.  They settled down and stopped yelling at me.

After that I was able to go inside.  Not much sleep was to be had by me.  I stayed in a light sleep all night listening out for them.  I know the hen house is pretty secure, but it is hard not to picture predators getting in.

This morning when I went out there were fine, all cuddled up in the pen.   Last time I went out there I made them get out of the pen and showed them a big feeder and water again.  Hopefully they will understand this is home and feel safe there in a few days.   I will visit them often to make sure they are adjusting well.

The next project is to build them a run so that I don’t have to carry them to the working pen every day.  These chickens are starting to get heavy.

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Here are a few cute pictures of some of the chickens.  I find them all to be so pretty and to each have their own personality.  These three are great examples of that.  Atilla is aggressive and weird.  Betty is curious and though the smallest she has the biggest drive for adventure.  Speckles is prim, proper and polite.

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Chicken Tractor

My chicks have been outside during the day since Saturday.  They love having more space to play, being able to stretch their wings and do their weird hop-fly thing.  They are really enjoying all the new foods.  They have no idea that this is work not play!

They are eating the compost crops I put down a few months ago.  The plan is they will mow down all the crops, killing them but leaving the roots intact to help the soil texture.  While they eat they will poo adding more nutrients, and they will mix everything up with their scratching.  Hopefully they will also eat some insects that I don’t want.

The structure is my own design.  I am very proud of it.  Woodworking is something that has always intimidated me.  It seemed expensive, complicated and scary.  So anytime I have needed something made I have asked Jeff, Erik or other friends help me.   But this time I wanted something done right away and I did not want to wait for anyone else.  So I just did it.  I mostly used scrap wood from the garage, thought I did buy a few 1 x 4s and  1 x 2s.  I only used tools I had (miter saw, screw driver, staple gun and a hammer).   It is not fancy, but it is pretty sturdy and will do the job I needed.  Puck (my husband, the guy in the super man pants) helped me put together some of it, but he knows less about woodwork then I do.  So we both learned new skills.

Of course once they were outside Donnie (the black Maine Coon) had to come out too, so he could keep an eye on them.  When I am outside he sits right beside their pen, and when I am inside he stays in the window looking out at them.  His interest in the chicks is so odd.  Last week the leghorn got out of the pen inside while I was giving them water. She ran away from me and hide behind Donnie.  They have almost no fear of him and he seem to have no urge to eat them.

At night I bring the chicks back inside, because I don’t trust this structure to keep them safe and it is not quite warm enough.  The hen house will be done this week and then they will be out of the house full time.  About 8 weeks from babies to living in their own apartment.  They grow up so fast.