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The Rookie Homesteader: Chicken Coop Update

The Rookie Homesteader: Chicken Coop Update

[Be sure to check out the entire series, if you haven't yet.]

Rain. Most of the time where I live, it’s just gray and drizzly. But not always. We had some pretty solid rain for a few days a little over a week back. The thing about rain is, it teaches you stuff. Things like where your character lies when working in it for days, or in this case, where the holes in my coop are.

My wife had a great idea, which was the best first solution to stop water from getting in. The way the water was wicking along one wall edge told us it was coming in from the doors on the ends of the coop. So we used leftover roof flashing to make some water-stops over the doors, similar to the sloped one over the rolling egg boxes. (I’m glad you all know what those are, BTW, because the lil’ raptors sure don’t. 🤨 )

It seemed that the small gutters up at the roof line just weren’t keeping enough water from running down the walls and under the doors’ trim. A little silicone and some roofing screws and Presto!

 Water stop over door

water stop over egg box

Now, we still have some small drips. We’re giving our shavings a little more time before I climb in to fix those with some more sealant. We have a corrugated vinyl floor on the deck but under the shavings that I don’t want to break crawling in. But my idea is to get in and close the door behind me so that any other pinhole leaks in the ceiling are easier to see. Moving on…

bedding pellets breaking down in the run cage to fight mud

We’ve started adding horse-stall bedding pellets to the ground in the cage. It’s done pretty well at cutting down on the muddy mess. The rain collection works well. Those heavy rains were very efficient at filling our barrel, as told to me by the overflow pipe. I cupped my hands under it and they filled in less than two seconds. Of course, what I hadn’t told you, yet, was that the dumb-dumbs kept breaking our water cups. It took not one but two pieces of scrap post material suspended over them to provide a protective barrier so the birds would quit standing on them. As you can see in the photo, we’d moved on to a second style, the one with no cup. But I couldn’t decide if they were learning how to use that style very well, so we mixed styles and added the second piece of wood and haven’t seem them on there since.

Wood to block chickens from standing on drinking cup system

I mentioned the “egg roll” earlier. We’ve tried ceramic eggs and real eggs, we’ve only seen one or two eggs get laid in there. We’re averaging five per day, all in the shavings in the coop.

The dirt bath. I know, I know… “Look around at your chicken yard!” I get it, there’s dirt everywhere! But this was another great idea of Dorothy’s! She found a free, broken kiddie-pool on Facebook Marketplace. We filled it with a soil and sand mix and put it under the coop. Remember those heavy rains? This was the place the ladies went when they didn’t want to be under the cage’s metal roof. All eleven of them on or in that pool. But despite it being a respite from the mud and deluge those days, they do get in and use it to bathe, too.

We also added another roost out in their yard, and we hang homemade suet from it. Dorothy uses their feed, mealworms, herbs, cracked corn, etc. to make the cakes in a silicon mold (mixed with coconut oil as the binder.) They enjoy the pecking more than the actual eating. I know, because they told me… 🤣

The kiddie pool dirt bath

The automatic door works as we expected. But most nights, someone has to go put one in after the door is closed, and that is usually the same one or two “less smart” ones. But one night recently, it was all of them. I think they’re plotting…

We get mostly brown eggs, with occasional green ones. The four breeds: we have three Smoky Pearls; one Pearly Onyx; three Americanas; and four Starlights. Considering they just started laying a few weeks ago and it is now October, I’m content with five eggs a day.

We gave three roosters to a nearby farm. We’re just taking all of this in baby steps, and learning to either brood and hatch babies (or butcher roosters) was something for later. Actually, in the near future we’re taking a hands-on butchering class from a local homesteader.

Rain barrel overflow pipe

I’ve been warning my wife, daughter, and grandson not to name the chickens. In truth, it is me I’m worried about. I’ve grown fond of the little terrorists. Next year we’re going to get some meat birds. Learning to treat them like the resource they are is all part of shedding the city-slicker and becoming the homesteader. And though the chickens have told me they like me, make no mistake—if they were ten feet tall, I’m absolutely sure the bastards would try to eat me!

 Thanks for reading along!

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