Saturday, August 6, 2016

Chicken run!

All of a sudden our homesteading went into overdrive!
I had started on the next project of our developing homestead; the obligatory chicken coop. That was easier said than done, since I have never before undertaken such a large project, meaning the construction of a coop, large enough to house a chicken population, large enough to sustain the five of us, in a nordic climate with a next to zero budget. Talk about a challenge....
But now all that scrounging of materials came together. The pallets I collected became the floor and the inside wall and roof, the pile of wood planks collected april last year was largely turned into walls and roof and the load of roof tiles my son and I got in the summer of 2015 topped it all literally. All of this came together and became a chickenhouse. Yes, house. If I add a small stove, a bed, a chair and a table one could live there. Smallscale, but still....
So I happily started tinkering, sawing and hammering away. I had no real fixed plan, other than using the pallets as the floor, erect walls around it, put on a roof and have a door and 2 windows in the south facing front. The size of the planks did not exactly match the size of the floor, leaving small gaps in between. But that was quite ok, since I wanted the chicken coop to match the style of the house. I was planning on adding extra slats anyway. But now I needed to fill in the gaps and lo and behold.... we had a few bags of mineral wool, which we.... surprise, surprise.... we got for free.

What the hell did I get myself into this time???

Errr.... this goes in here somewhere???

And then, while I was happily tinkering, it happened; we were offered 7 free roosters! But we had to come and get them fast. Almost immediately after that I came across someone selling hens from the breed we wanted in varying ages and we arranged for us to go and get 6-8 of them at the end of the same week as we were going to get the roosters. Now the pressure was on! We had about 1 week to get it all done!
On top of things...

And I underestimated the amount of work going into making a chicken coop and outside area. The rough building of the house was the easiest part. Next came the small chores; door, windows and above all; insulation! Now that took a lot of work and even more time! But I feel that in our climate it needs to be done and to be taken seriously. We are not planning on heating the henhouse, so They have to maintain temperature themselves. That plus 3 windows on the south side. These are placed in such a way that only during the cold months the sun will shine into the henhouse directly and only for a brief period. So instead of 2 windows I opted for an extra one in the door.
Stuffing that mineral wool into all the cracks, nooks and openings was a real pain in the butt. No skin actually, but I am sure it will pay off.
Luckily I did get some occasional help. My son helped me with the fencing and the construction of the overhead netting to keep out the birds of prey and my youngest did her best with the wool. After filling 2 slits she had to call it a day. Itched like hell!

And, as it always does with projects like this, there are many more subprojects than one anticipates on the get go. An entry into the outside area for instance. I had to quickly make one, after I realised that I would not otherwise be able to access that area!
Another fun issue was the placing of the poles to hold the fencing. The underground contains rocks.... and a lot of them! Not just rocks... boulders. Maybe even bedrock. The ones nearest to the house would not go down for more then 25-30cm, before I hit a dead end. Many wouldn't go down straight anyway.
In the end I ended up improvising a lot. When the day came to get the roosters I was long from finished. Felt like a realtime house move; moving in while you're not done building/renovating. But I guess the roosters didn't mind all that much. So we kept on working on the place with the animals on site. On the to-do-list were still covering the outside area. We tried netting used for keeping bird away from fruit bushes and trees. Big fail. Got torn up the first time one of the roosters flew into it.
The interior of the henhouse was makeshift too, but it worked.... sort of.
One achievement was that I did not get injured! Those that know me know that that is no little feat... I had 2 close calls though as first one of the endboards of the roof gave way, when I was standing on it with one foot and the other was when the kitchen stool I was standing on flipped over and I almost nose dived into the grass.

Now there's a story to those yellow wooden shoes; before we went and got the roosters we had to make a planned stop at someone who was selling these wooden shoes. Found them on a sales site and I have been wanting a pair for a while now. These were real cheap and possibly in my size. If not they'd make a nice ornament. When we arrived it turned out the lady in question had bought these shoes in the Netherlands during the late 60's or early 70's. My vintage... and she was having a yard sale. So some other stuff followed us home as well AND we now have an address where we can buy square bales!! Hence the boot of our car looking like a farmer's truck or pickup! The only thing is.... we still do not have chickens! Both the parties selling those, and which we had contacted, backed out for various reasons. With one the chickens had become a lot less favourable socially or had begun brooding again and the other one took ages to respond. I sure do hope we can settle things fast with either one or both, since our guys are lonely!! We'll only keep 2 of them. The rest are walking dinners.....


  1. That's a great picture of you. Happy Homesteader! How can anyone NOT smile with yellow shoes on?

    Love your hen house. Watch out for frozen combs and wattles on the birds. You're right about being able to live there. In the 60s one of our bunch who was a little more weird than the rest of us lived in an abandoned pig house all winter.

    1. Thanks, I like that picture a lot too.
      Wooden shoes do not give happiness at once, only sore feet... in the beginning, especially on top of the feet.
      The breed of our choice, hedemora chickens, are local and hardy.

    2. Yes but you can stand in water and do paddle boarding. He hee!

      Cool new breed that won't be coming to San Joaquin Valley. TOO hot!