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My Crazy Chicken Idea

My Crazy Chicken Idea

it all started with whining about wanting chickens for long enough that people started paying attention. that only took about 5 years. then some research on breeds, what would be fun to raise, since we only want eggs and preferably colored ones. it's really all about fun, so colored eggs it is. during that research, i discovered that a whole lot of american livestock breeds are threatened and even endangered! how terribly sad - not only has our insatiable demand for instant gratification led to an almost exclusive domination of factory farms and non-earth friendly practices, but most people don't even know that most of those breeds used to exist and soon might become extinct.

this really, really bothers me. sure it's probably an exercise in futility, but now that i know i have to do something. so, i picked several of the chicken breeds on the list and did a net search for hatcheries selling them. about this time i realized another website that i belong to had a farm and livestock section, in addition to the gardening sections i had been using. started looking through it and saw some other people's pictures of peeps, and it was all over. didn't even have to keep whining about chickens, just kept showing my family cute pictures of peeps until it drove them crazy. for my birthday, we started building a chicken house.

actually part of it was already there, a little boy's playhouse up on 4 x 4 stilts. so we decided to put the house underneath (the "ground floor"). we didn't really have any plans or diagrams, it seemed simple enough to just make a frame and cover it with plywood... building useful things out of "whatever is around" is sort of my husband's special gift.

first we lined the floor area with a layer of papercrete bricks.

   

this is a papercrete mixer. think giant blender made from a horse                        the mixture is then simply poured into molds and left to dry about 2 days.
trough. the blade is from a lawnmower and is turned by any spinning                   molds can be any size or shape you want.
generator, in this case the real axle of our pickup truck. we are
working on a non-gasoline generator but it is not ready yet.  

papercrete is one of our alternative technologies, basically concrete made from recycled, shredded paper. it is durable, fireproof, and (if you add borax) insect proof, and has an incredibly high insulation value. it is also virtually limitless in supply because every business throws out mountains of paper every week. we put plywood over that layer and started building the walls with 2 x 4s and plywood.

   

this is me and mom building. the 4 x 4 posts are                      here is the 8 foot wall. the plywood extends up
at the corners, with a 2 x 4 frame built around                           to cover most of the 2nd story as well as the coop.
them, over two layers of stacked papercrete
bricks. the pieces of plywood are not an exact fit
at the corners but any spaces will be covered over 
with papercrete insulation.

pretty simple, finished size is 4 x 8 x 5 tall. 2nd floor is the same size, with an angled roof with leftover shingles from a roofing job my husband did a few years ago, and will have solar panels installed to power lights and heater in the winter.

around the building is a large fenced run area. numerous predators - mainly semi-feral dogs that people around here abuse/neglect and then leave to run wild at night - are in our area so true "free range" with no enclosures is just not practical or humane here. in addition, we have owls, hawks and eagles so the run area also has to be roofed with chicken wire. the run is 8 x 20 x 6 tall and the overlaps of chicken wire are tied together with wire so no large spaces are there. the wood is mainly 2 x 2 square posts in between 4 in round fence posts, which are red.

   

mom, measuring out the chicken wire                                                                 me, threading the wire through to secure the upper and lower wire sections

wider and thicker papercrete blocks are set around the base of the chicken wire to discourage predators from digging into it, or the chickens from scratching out of it.

photo of large blocks

the nest boxes will be made from drawers from a bureau that was mine but did not survive 4 moves well over the last 10 years and can no longer be repaired. the scrap wood from the bureau will be the dividers, so 3 drawers will make 4 comfortable nest boxes that will be bolted onto the center 2 x 4 along the 8 ft side of the coop. we may need to add a few upright pieces for support as well.

photo of nest boxes in progress

the roosting ladders are made from leftover 1 x 1 pieces. we haven't yet but will sand the edges to round them and minimize splinters.

photo of roosting ladders

garden scraps will be plentiful, food and water will be kept in the coop and there will be plenty of grit, dust and grass inside the run area.  in addition i am planting giant sunflowers around the outside of the pen to give extra shade by the end of summer when the heat will be unbearable for the rest of us.

a nice overall view of progress so far.

and here is the barn sign, to be hung on the side of the coop, which i will also modify for use as my egg box logo:

      (click to make it readable)

plans still to be pursued:

solar panels on roof for lights and summer fan/winter heat

layer of papercrete bricks on ground floor wall surfaces for insulation (this also means we don't have to paint because the bricks are naturally gray-white)

door under 2nd floor ladder leading into the garden for larger range area & pest control

finish solid door into coop to keep it cozy at night

finish wire-covered door into run area so we can get in and out comfortably

plant grass seeds in run and sunflowers etc to create shade during the summer

Just one more thing - we need to Fill It With Peeps!

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