Expanding the Campus

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As our flock grows, so do the accommodations. Last year, we really wished we had a second henhouse and coop that could be separated from the main one for acclimating new pullets. When Hilda went broody and we let her set on a few eggs, we also wished we had a good place to sequester her. So, while we also fantasize a larger overall henhouse, we decided to add another smaller one this spring. We thought two smallish ones would be more flexible than one larger one!

So, we ordered a kit that we could put together and modify a bit to suit our needs. We just weren’t ready to build an entire henhouse or coop from scratch. This one came with all the pieces, easy-to-follow directions, and all the hardware we needed.  All we did was add our rechargeable drill/screwdriver to the mix and the whole thing went together in about an hour or so. We modified it a bit since we wanted the bottom doors to open into the run, but the top doors to open outside for easy access. This coop also has a removable tin tray that catches the nighttime droppings, hopefully, making it super easy to clean.

When we move the new chicks outside in a few weeks, this will be their first home outside their current brooder box.  We can close it off to keep them safe and contained and then as they get big enough and everyone gets used to each other, we can open the doors and let them all integrate. At least, these are our plans for now!

While we were expanding the campus, we finally decided to do something about the open top of a portion of the run. We have one full-grown Dominique who is still spry enough to fly up and out. We decided to add poultry netting to the top since this is also flexible and easy to remove if we need to. It will also keep aerial predators from getting to the hens. We haven’t really had a problem with this, but know some other urban chickenkeepers who have. We also needed to make a few repairs after a rugged winter: re-attaching some loose slats on our run gate, tightening some fencing, etc. The hens will be spending more time in the coop as the growing season progresses, so things need to be ship shape. They still free range every day, but it has to be supervised and isn’t the all day free-for-all they get during the fall and winter months. It’s our evolved compromise and how we can still have a garden and a big-footed flock of chickens!

Our chicken coop campus is approximately 150 square feet. It is recommended to have 10 square feet per bird for chickens who are penned up full time.  Of course, our girls are not penned up full time, but they currently have about 25 square feet per bird, so they have plenty of space to get away from each other, scratch for bugs and worms (we use the deep-bed method in our coop and it provides rich layers of decomposing goodies for the girls to forage in), take dustbaths, etc. They still tend to cluster together in a close flock for a good portion of the time. With the addition of the new shelter, we now have four nest boxes–although most of the daily eggs get laid in the same nest!

We have seen some gorgeous coops and henhouses–all pristine with curtains and framed pictures. We don’t imagine the chickens know the difference. We’ve also learned what our needs are as we’ve progressed along in our urban farming adventure. We want the hens to live happy, comfy, chicken lives–but they are not the only ones who need to live in our backyard–so, thus, the cozy chicken campus!

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