Monday, August 19, 2013

The coop has arrived!

Our new coop - the long view
Well, though the wait was long, we have determined that it was worth it. Our chicken coop arrived from The Chicken Saloon at the beginning of the month, and this weekend we put it together. I don't have pictures of the process of assembling it, but think of it as Ikea for chickens - the pieces were pre-assembled, and we just had to put the various bits together. It took two of us a bit over an hour and a half to build, I think, not including the run.

Side view of the coop and run
We purchased The Ranch coop, both because it was the largest coop available and because it came with a detachable run. Our goal is to have about 12 or 15 hens and a rooster, so we needed something large enough to happily hold such a flock. The Ranch is rated for up to 15 hens, and so seemed ideal. The attached run is a total of 12 feet long by 3.3 feet wide (making it just shy of 40 square feet of run space), and the coop itself is 3x3.5 feet. It has three roosting poles inside, and a removable litter tray that you're supposed to be able to just slide out, clean, and return.  It has two ventilation windows, and two bump-outs that are nesting boxes (basically giving you 3 boxes on each side). I have decided that this coop and run will comfortably hold up to 10 chickens, no more, no matter what the paperwork says. I'm actually okay with that, though.

Removable litter tray
The coop is made of cedar, and is untreated. The smell is lovely, natural, and at the moment, very strong. Time will dull that scent, but for now, it should repel bugs just by its very nature. There's a reason we use cedar wood in our wardrobes and dressers! The pieces went together easily, and each pre-drilled hole was in the right place. The only real difficulty we had was that the instructions for putting together the run (which arrives in large fenced sections) were lacking. We had no idea which pieces went where, and had to do the jigsaw puzzle thing for a half hour before figuring it all out. It was easy to put together, just a bit complex to maneuver into place.

Litter tray (mostly) closed
The instructions have you screw the run to the coop, and we'll be doing that to start with, but we eventually expect that we'll follow the lead of someone I saw on Pinterest a while back, and use hook and eye closures (heavy duty ones) to hold the run against the body of the coop. That should make it considerably easier to take on and off. The run itself has a human door in the side, allowing we two-legs in to clean, feed, and retrieve eggs from our birds.

The coop itself is raised up off the ground, with a small run area underneath. To either side of the coop is a handle, allowing four people to easily lift and move the whole coop (run NOT attached) from place to place, even with chickens inside. This is something I think will come in handy, as we'll be able to shift the coop for cleaning and to allow the hens access to fresh grass and weeds.

Ventilation window
I was surprised at how quickly it all went together, and how well the walls, run, and roof all fit together. We'll see how it does during our next rainstorm, which is likely to happen before our hens arrive. If it doesn't leak, I'll be thrilled. If it does, we'll have to do some caulking or perhaps pick up a tarp, but I'm hopeful that it'll just work.

We've situated the coop and run right beside our compost bin. The general idea is that throughout the year we'll be able to clean the coop out and dump the dirty litter into the compost directly. Come spring we can turn it, and by the following year it should be transformed into some pretty beautiful soil!

Nesting boxes with latch
The nesting boxes are actually a pretty amazing design. While the bump-out isn't removable, the separation slats and the bottom do pop out easily. Chickens can be shoo'd out to the run and locked out of the coop for cleaning purposes, allowing you all the time you need to pull out dirty litter, pop out the pieces, clean them, then return them with fresh litter. I'm happy with this set-up. I'll be picking up some wooden eggs to help our new hens figure out where to lay, and hopefully it'll be a relatively painless process.

The back of the coop comes off for easy access to the interior.
We've decided to put food and water inside the coop itself, because it will help keep the water from freezing in the winter. We're picking up something called an Aqua Miser, which will allow us to turn a 5 gallon bucket into a waterer that will always be free of chicken poop. We'll be mounting our bucket from the roof, hanging by a chain but still supported at the wall to keep it from spinning or moving too much. The feeder will be set up in a similar way. We'll be wrapping heating tape around the winter water bucket, then insulation over that. This will hopefully keep the water within from freezing even during the worst of weather.

I admit, I'm really looking forward to getting my chickens, now. The children will each get to name one hen, thereby saving that hen from later inclusion in the stew pot (we don't eat pets or friends). I'll be getting a couple of expanding bands so that we can tell the named chickens from the others easily. Kids will have the chore of hunting eggs each day, and bringing them in.

I can't wait ... the flavor of truly fresh eggs is so different from store-bought!

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