In our empty-nest years, my husband, Steve, has been desirous to do all of the issues he’s ever needed to do. I name them his reveries—states of dreamy meditation or fanciful musings; implausible, visionary or impractical concepts. He’s a dreamer and at all times has a brand new thought to dive into. However follow-through? Not a lot. Steve’s favourite pastimes are taking part in (searching and fishing), watching the grass develop (sitting) and napping (in his recliner, in entrance of the TV). So each time he needs to begin a brand new mission, I’ve to consider how it may be completed simply, so I don’t get caught “serving to.” First, it was beekeeping. I knowledgeable Steve that if he took this on, it was his mission and that I wasn’t . However quickly I used to be on the market maintaining bees with him! This dream of his morphed right into a bee merchandise enterprise.
As soon as we each retired, chickens had been the subsequent reverie on Steve’s mind. However my mind stated, “Chickens need to be fed and watered on daily basis, which implies no tenting journeys or touring. Steve, getting up each morning on the break of day to let chickens out? No manner! What about constructing the coop, feeding and watering on daily basis, altering out their bedding, and on and on? I do know I’m going to get caught ‘serving to’ with this!”
Earlier than I agreed to Steve’s “Hen Reverie,” I talked to different folks elevating chickens and researched each software and shortcut I may discover to verify this mission could be straightforward for somebody who likes to play and sit and nap. Simply days after I lastly agreed to maintaining chickens, the phrase was out about “Chick Week” on the native farm feed retailer. If we needed chicks that spring they needed to be ordered, 25 at a time, immediately. And, they might arrive in two weeks! The scramble started.
When the chicks arrived, we had no coop constructed and no place to place them. They ended up in a giant cardboard field in my front room with a warmth lamp clamped to the door deal with of my china hutch—not precisely how I had envisioned this mission to go. The push was on to determine this rooster farming factor earlier than the chicks had been a month outdated. In any other case, they’d be “flying the coop,” out of the cardboard field and throughout my home.
What we developed is what I name our “Lazy Hen Farming” methodology.
Now, this doesn’t imply that it didn’t require work. My objective was to get many of the work completed on the onset of the mission, when pleasure is excessive, in order that there wasn’t plenty of work to do each day. That’s what we wrestle to cope with. Right here’s how we did issues to reduce the each day time and work of elevating chickens for contemporary eggs.
1. Put Every little thing Below One Roof
The coop was one space the place Steve didn’t wish to skimp, however we did some issues to make establishing and sustaining it simpler and extra handy. We selected a stationary coop, as an alternative of the tractor sort that we must transfer each few days. Lazy step No. 1.
Steve constructed the coop with an 8-by-16-foot ground, making slicing plywood for it pointless. It sits 16 inches off the bottom, on stilts, to maintain predators from digging below the coop and attending to the chickens. He sunk 4×4 posts in holes with concrete to stabilize the coop. There was no concrete mixing—he simply dug the opening, leveled the publish, poured dry concrete combine within the gap, stuffed with water and let it harden. We put in a used window with a display so as to add gentle and air flow. Nest bins had been constituted of an outdated shelving unit with dividers added. You’ll find different concepts on-line for every kind of low cost DIY nest bins constituted of issues like buckets and outdated bins. Roosts had been made with 2x4s.
We walled off about one-fourth of the coop and added a door to make a storage space for feed, bedding, instruments, and many others. We additionally used this area within the following years, to deal with chicks and pullets in a giant field earlier than they had been able to merge with the present flock. This proved to be a a lot better choice than in my front room!
We added a shed roof, with a gutter on the low edge funneled to a barrel to catch rain water.
Lastly, we wired each side of the coop with electrical energy for lights, warmth and timers. It appeared like plenty of work up entrance, however finally, it has been very handy and time-saving to have gentle, electrical energy and every part we’d like below one roof.
The coop turned out fairly large by rooster coop requirements so we nicknamed it “Uncle Mike’s Rental.” Steve’s brother, Mike, spent plenty of time sleeping on the sofa at our home whereas serving to construct the coop. The joke was, as soon as it was completed, Mike would have his personal place to sleep on the market within the coop together with his 20 girlfriends!
2. Straightforward Coop Cleanup
Steve determined to make use of the deep-litter methodology utilizing wooden shavings—lazy step No. 2. Reasonably than cleansing out the bedding each week or so, new bedding is simply added excessive of the outdated. The bedding partially composts because it piles up, and so long as it’s stored dry with a contemporary layer once in a while, ammonia doesn’t construct up. It will get cleaned out every year, and will be added to the compost pile or backyard beds. We put a entice door within the ground of the coop, so we may simply shovel the outdated bedding by way of the opening onto a tarp below the coop, and drag it over to the backyard. An ideal system for lazy rooster farmers!
3. Keep away from The Want For Wing Clipping
We constructed a run across the coop with T posts and 4-foot welded wire fencing, however this was not tall sufficient. The ladies may flap their manner over it and escape. We added 2 ft of rooster wire above it, and this nonetheless wasn’t sufficient. We ended up overlaying the entire run and rooster yard with inexperienced plastic snow fence and rooster wire, attaching it to the highest of the fence and fastening it below the fascia board on the roof of the coop. This stored them in, eradicated the necessity to clip wings each few months, and stored predators, like hawks, out.
4. Rounding Up Chickens: Wait Till They Roost
We had been in a position so as to add our 20 Golden Comet pullets to the coop at 4 weeks outdated, after which continued to work on the extra lazy farmer instruments. We needed to train the pullets to go up and down the ramp to the coop door, as they only couldn’t determine it out. In addition they didn’t perceive, at first, that they had been to go in the coop at evening to fall asleep. We spent the primary week chasing them across the rooster yard every night, making an attempt to catch them, or shooing them out from below the coop with a brush, grabbing them and shoving them shortly into the coop earlier than shutting the door. We had been worn out after these chasing video games and I’m positive we appeared ridiculous.
Then one evening, we forgot in regards to the chickens till it was darkish, and we found one thing: As soon as chickens have roosted and are sleeping, they’re nearly comatose. We went out that evening at the hours of darkness, and located them roosting exterior on the gate, the window ledge, the ladder and within the tree subsequent to the coop. We scooped them up three to 4 at a time, tucked a pair below every arm and tossed them within the coop—they usually by no means flinched.
For a number of extra days, till they realized to return into the coop in on their very own, we waited till they had been asleep to seize them and put them to mattress.
5. A number of Day Feeding System
Understanding that we needed to have the ability to go away for just a few days at a time, we made a feeding bucket that holds about three days price of meals. From concepts we discovered on-line, we made an auto feeder utilizing a 5-gallon plastic bucket, a plastic plant-pot saucer and 4 bolts.
To make it, we drilled 2-inch-diameter holes each 2 to three inches across the aspect of the bucket, simply above the underside. Smaller holes for bolts had been drilled by way of each the underside of the bucket and saucer, and the 2 items had been bolted collectively.
We hung the bucket from the rafters at chest top for the chickens and stuffed the bucket with feed. The feed comes out of the big holes into the saucer because the chickens eat.
6. Automated Watering System
Not desirous to have to hold water out and refill a water bowl on daily basis—and even each few days—we long-established a rain-barrel system to gather water, and added elements to make it an auto-fill, little-work-required contraption.
First, we constructed a sturdy platform so the water within the barrel may gravity feed to the coop. We connected a versatile downspout pipe to the tip of the gutter on the coop roof and angled this throughout the tip of the coop wall to the black plastic drum rain barrel. We anchored the downspout to the south wall with screws and wire. This orientation would assist to seize as a lot winter solar as attainable to maintain the water from freezing contained in the black drum. We lower a gap within the prime of the barrel and glued a chunk of display over it to maintain out particles. The top of downspout pipe match over this gap. On the backside of the drum, we put in a brass spigot by drilling a gap and utilizing waterproof caulk.
Subsequent, we long-established a self-watering system from the rain barrel to the coop. We connected an extended, washing-machine hot-water hose to the spigot on the barrel. Then we drilled a gap by way of the coop wall and fed the hose by way of it. Contained in the coop, we connected the hose to an automated pet watering bowl—a stainless-steel bowl with a float. As soon as the spigot is opened and the float is adjusted, the bowl gravity-fills with water to a set stage, maintaining the waterer from ever having to be manually stuffed.
After all, the chickens don’t simply drink from the water bowl. They stand in it, kick bedding into, poop in it and spill it. We put a plastic lid from a big storage tub, lip up, below the entire contraption to catch the spilled water and defend the ground. And when the water will get disgustingly soiled, we seize a bucket out of the storage space, dump out the soiled water and the bowl refills.
7. Winter-Proof Watering
We didn’t wish to be out within the coop within the winter, always coping with frozen water or temperatures too chilly for the chickens, so we got here up with some concepts to make winter rooster farming simpler.
To stop their water from freezing, we wrapped the rain barrel and hose with electrical warmth tape and plugged it in throughout below-freezing climate. We additionally wrapped the rain barrel and hose with fiberglass insulation, after which wrapped each barrel and pipe it in black shrink wrap. The rain barrel has by no means frozen up in winter with this association.
Water Dish Heating Tray
We did have so as to add a 3rd warmth supply in winter, for the water bowl. Once more, utilizing a design thought discovered on the web, we used a wired gentle socket with an inline on/off swap, a steel oil drain pan and a chunk of sheet steel to make a heating tray. A gap is drilled by way of the aspect of the oil pan for the sunshine socket, the sunshine bulb is screwed in on the within of the pan, and the sheet steel is connected to the rim of the oil pan with sheet steel screws, making a backside. The steel auto-fill pet bowl sits on prime, and when the climate is basically chilly, we activate the sunshine bulb contained in the oil pan creating warmth. This retains the water within the bowl from freezing.
8. My Favourite: The Automated Door
The pièce de résistance—the one factor I knew we needed to have as a result of my husband would by no means rise up each morning to let the chickens out—was an automated door. We had heard about these from one other rooster keeper and knew it was for us. Our first resolution was an expensive, pre-made door opener labored by winding and unwinding a string connected to a skinny wood door, which was set on a timer, for opening and shutting. The door opener labored effectively for a time, however wore out manner too quickly for the worth we paid—we went by way of two of them in two years. Not desirous to fork out the expense once more, I appeared for a distinct DIY design.
We constructed our personal door opener utilizing an affordable motorized automotive antenna, two outdated pc energy provides, some electrical wires and connectors, and a timer. We’ve simply added this lately, so hopefully, it will likely be sturdier and longer lasting than the opposite pre-made designs. It positively was cheaper!
9. Predator Safety
We thought we had our coop and yard fairly safe, particularly with the rooster wire excessive to maintain the chickens in and the hawks out, however throughout our second spring, we found that raccoons may by some means get within the run, work their paws below the door, elevate it and get into the coop. We misplaced just a few chickens earlier than we figured this out.
To maintain the raccoons at bay, we added a lip on the skin of the door opening utilizing a skinny piece of plywood about 3 inches excessive. This prevented the critters from getting their little paws below the door and pull it up.
We additionally discovered we needed to set the timer on the door to shut sooner within the night, particularly throughout the early summer time, when younger raccoons had been foraging. The raccoons would get within the coop at nightfall, earlier than the door closed.
And despite the fact that we had lined the rooster run with railroad ties alongside the underside of the fence, we needed to go round and fasten the fence to the ties, to maintain the raccoons out of the rooster run. Raccoons are sensible, pesky critters and had been fairly well-fed round our home for some time.
10. Holding The Hen Yard Enticing
One downside with a stationary coop is that the chickens finally eat up all of the grass, leading to a muddy mess. This 12 months, we’re including a chunk of fence between the nook of the coop and one aspect of the run. This may shut off half the rooster yard, which after three years of chickens is a wreck. The chickens will likely be confined to half of the rooster yard, whereas we plant a particular mix of grasses and chickweed—or “chick crack,” as we name it—within the different half. It’s one in every of their favourite treats to forage on. As soon as the brand new development is established, we are able to transfer the piece of fence to the opposite aspect of their door, they usually can forage within the new grass whereas we plant the opposite half.
One Each day Chore
With all our Lazy Hen Farming shortcuts, the one each day process we now have is to gather yummy eggs and prepare dinner some for a meal. Belief me, contemporary eggs have an entire completely different style than those you purchase within the grocery retailer, and we now have no hassle promoting our further eggs to family and friends. We additionally spend plenty of our spare time sitting in garden chairs out by the coop, watching rooster antics, what we name “Nation Of us TV.” However with all this further time, Steve is dreaming once more, planning his subsequent reverie … rabbits. I’d higher begin discovering rabbit-raising shortcuts, shortly!