a new home for my ladies!

I am feeling like an irresponsible parent. I finally completed the coop and moved my hens outside this afternoon- and then left town for a two week trip. Two people will be checking on them, but I’m feeling nervous and guilty. They seemed to like their new habitat, but were definitely apprehensive about the major change. If you saw the date on my last post, I was estimating that they would be out of the house within a week- that was almost two weeks ago. Last weekend a friend helping me with a project coined the term “jesstimate”. It refers to an extremely optimistic estimate regarding length of time it will take to complete a given task. At first I was kind of offended, but I think it might be true.

They were initially placed in the outside portion of the coop and huddled in a corner for a while before tentatively exploring a few feet away out. They never were brave enough to make it to the far side where their food and water were located. I was worried that they would not realize that they could enter the attached structure so I carried them inside and placed them on the roost. They were so paralyzed that the just stayed right where I put them.

A little while later and a couple of them had ventured off the roost and were walking on the board beneath. I decided that they were never going to figure out that they had the option of going outside, so I took one of the Buff Orpingtons and put her partway out the door. I left and came back in ten minutes and she was still standing there in the exact same place looking terrified. Apparently calling someone “chicken” actually has some basis in reality.

It still appeared that the chickens on the roost were never going to explore their new world. This worried me because their food and water are both outside and I would hate for them to all die from dehydration and thirst because they weren’t smart enough to walk out the open door. My solution was to shove each one through the hole so that they at least understood that they can move from inside to outside (when I moved them to the roost initially I walked them around the outside of the building and through the human door not the chicken door, so they probably had not made the connection between outside/inside). They did not seem to enjoy being shoved through the opening and there was much squawking and flapping, but I successfully forced them through the hole.

I left with them all huddled in a different corner of the outside part of the coop. I feel ok about it since there is plenty of food and water outside, so even if they get cold because they can’t figure out that they can go inside, they won’t die of thirst. I really hope they have made the connection between the two different parts of their new world, but they are not appearing to be the brightest creatures.

On a financial note, I thought that this project would yield “free” eggs. I don’t even want to think about how much I have spent of the chicks, their food, and accessories for their new habitat. I was at the Farm Store yesterday getting them “teenager” food and talking to the girl there who has 27 chicks right now. She said that she will be selling some of them for $4 each and I pointed out that she has already invested much more than that in each chick. She admitted that was true and I mentioned that I used to think that this project would provide cheap eggs, but I’m pretty sure I will end up paying about $8 per egg. An older lady in line laughed at me and adamantly agreed.

The coop was built using almost exclusively scrap materials. I bought five fence posts, three 20 foot 2x6s, one roll of chicken wire, some plumbing fittings, and some latches for the doors. I should probably calculate exactly what my expenses have been to this point, but it would disheartening and as a guy at a Nilsen Feed Company told me: “It isn’t about getting cheap eggs- it’s about knowing where your food comes from”. I couldn’t agree more.

On a livestock note: two houses down the road from my mom’s is a family doing some small scale farming. They own Organic House Construction and have built the most incredible mobile sheep pen. This picture is across the road from their house. It looks like the thing is moved every couple days and the sheep always have fresh grass. It’s a miniature model of Joel Salatin’s pasture rotation (their property is probably about one acre). I think my mom is secretly enamored with the thing and harboring dreams of having a mobile sheep pen in her field next year. I will be there to help her fulfill those dreams.

~ by ficklehillhunter on May 15, 2010.

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