Ada's Gypsy Chicks

By talkingriver · Jun 2, 2012 · Updated Jan 12, 2013 ·
  1. talkingriver
    Hi! My name is Adrienne (or Ada), and I started raising chickens in the Spring of 2012. I'm in LOVE, and really enjoying the education and entertainment of BYC. Here's a little chronicle of how we finally settled on a coop, and of our first ten feathered children.

    A friend was raising the chicks for us, so we had a few weeks to decide how to build a coop. I looked for repurposed materials, or existing structures I could convert. There was a beautiful old shed about an hour away that someone was selling. I went to look at it.


    It was about 7.5' square and the loveliest color blue. I longed for this shed. But it was rotting around the edges, problematic to move, and he wanted too much money for it. Sadly, I let it go.

    The days passed...

    Now I live in a house built in 1799. It needs a lot of repair. Between working full time, keeping up with the house and dealing with various plumbing surprises, I wasn't squeaking out much time for coop building. So I was looking in various places for convertable structures... there was a short school bus at the scrapyard that would have been cool, but someone had already bought it. I was getting a little worried that I would run out of time before the chicks had to come home. So I was casting around Craigs List one day and someone was selling a cool playhouse made from a kit. It wasn't a coop, but it was a neat building and the writeup said they also made chicken coop kits. There was a closeup picture of a little plaque on the door with the manufacturer's name. Cottage Kits. I went on their website. And what did I find? A little gambrel-roofed shed type chicken coop. It was a bit smaller than the Blue Shed that Got Away, but completely serviceable.

    I mulled it over for a couple of weeks and talked with my family and my boyfriend about it. Then, in a time marked by strict budgeting and stern austerity, I whipped out my 0% card and went into interest-free hock.

    Here's the short version:

    Here I am, all optimistic and unburdened by any inkling of what was before me!

    [​IMG] We dug six holes in the very rocky Connecticut soil and filled them with small stone to level the pavers. The lawn there is on a very slight slope. They said we could put the runners directly on the ground, as they're pressure treated, but I thought it would be better to have the pavers.

    The kit came partially pre-assembled, so we didn't have to do any framing. The runners have supports in the middle that were misplaced, so we had to bang them out with a sledgehammer and place them correctly so they wouldn't interfere with the joists in the flooring. This was one of several little "oopsies" we discovered from the manufacturer. In the end we fixed it, attached the runners and put the floor in place. I got scrap linoleum and we nailed that on. I caulked it later, a couple of different ways, but by now the caulk is coming up anyway so I'm just hoping for the best as far as longevity. I don't hose out the coop anyway so it'll be fine for a long time, I suppose.

    [​IMG] The coop comes with a side vent, a little window in front and a very demure chicken door. I have a feeling we'll want to enlarge that a bit. We also added another window which you'll see later, and a louvered vent over the human door.

    [​IMG] I have a little kitty named Smidge. She's a year and a half old. She and her mommy were feral, and I helped rescue her when she was about two months old. She's the first cat I've ever had. She is fabulous! Of course she had to check our work along the way.

    [​IMG] So here's the basic coop before shingles. It does not come with any roofing materials exept the particle board that you see. So I got to learn how to roof a shed!

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    This was pretty fun. The days were starting to get warmer and I could see the end in sight... or so I thought.

    Suddenly we got a call from our chick-raising friend, in a panic. She had my 11 chicks, plus about 24 of my sister's, plus half a dozen of someone else's... they were only 4 weeks old and she was completely out of room. They were escaping the pen she'd set up in the basement. They were eating her out of house and home. She was getting desperate to give them to us. Could we take them right away?

    Gack! The coop was basically up, but the whole inside still needed to be done: insulation, walls, some painting, and other modifications. The family mobilized and my sister, my brother in law, my boyfriend and I went into emergency mode. (This is the mode we use when a pipe joint suddenly gives up the ghost in the basement, or the well pump stops working. We're used to it.)

    To make that arduous weekend short, here is the finished inside:

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    [​IMG] This is the window we added. It's actually the kind you put in your basement, but it was the smallest window I could find. My brother in law framed it out like the rest of the openings, so it looks like it belongs!

    [​IMG] In the very nick of time, the coop was basically finished (except for insulation in the roof which can come later) and a temporary pen set up for my eleven little babes. (I got an extra roo in the mix, which we have since re-homed with a friend who needed one.)

    Pine shavings were installed, chick feed and water obtained, and the chicks came home to their GIANT coop.

    I say that purely from their perspective, since this coop is Lilliputian for a human. One must be very careful going out the human door, or one will crack one's skull until one cries in pain and shame for one's foolishness! We EACH did this at least once.

    So today, June 2, 2012, the chicks are 12 weeks old and just starting to free range in a supervised way. In the last month we have had a huge amount of predation in our area -- foxes, mostly, but hawks and raccoons and fisher cats are in the neighborhood, too. I have decided to build a large, permanent run for them rather than just taking down the temporary pen when they're bigger. They'll still be able to go outside sometimes when we're around but I simply couldn't bear to lose them for lack of vigilance. So, the construction will continue for a while, but in the meantime... I bent 3' hardware cloth at the bottom of the fencing so it goes out 2' under some big flat rocks. I just could not see digging a foot or two down in this rocky, rooty soil. I've had no evidence of anything trying to dig. And it made a nice patio:


    And here is what the coop looks like now!

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    VOILA!! I got my little blue shed!!! [​IMG] (The color's a little off, but it's blue all around.)

    *Later Note:* We made a screen door for the back so that on hot days we can leave the big door wide open. That really helped all summer.

    [​IMG] We hung this a couple of inches off the floor so that it wouldn't scrape the shavings every time we opened it.

    In my flock are two Araucanas, two Ameraucanas, two Rhode Island Reds, three Australorps and one Buff Orpington Roo.

    [​IMG] Here's Napoleon Dynamite a few weeks ago, and one of the Rhodies. We've named the reds Molly Weasley and Hermione, but now we can hardly tell them apart.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Gosh, they look so young there...

    [​IMG] Here they are quite a bit bigger.

    [​IMG] We let them out for the first time this past week. Of course there is no grass or living object left to peck inside the pen. They were very happy to see grass up close and personal.

    [​IMG] The Australorps are all named after famous black jazz singers: Etta, Aretha, and Pearl.

    [​IMG] This is Betty. She's blond.

    Josie. As in, Josie and the Pussycats.

    [​IMG] And yes, this is Veronica. She is brunette.

    [​IMG] MayBelle. She will sit willingly on a lap.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Napoleon Dynamite! He's so handsome, and he's started trying to crow. He likes to hop onto our shoulders. And there he is among the hay bales, with Smidge wishing so hard that she could stalk him. But he is too large for her now, and besides, there are nine other big birds running around, and none of them are the least bit afraid of her. She finally resorts to stalking crickets and little snakes, and scary evil things like pieces of bark and cottonwood fluff.

    So that is the story to date of the Gypsy Chicks. By the way, I call them this because until recently I was a touring musician. I traveled this country and overseas for 11 years with a band, and eventually the little coop will be decorated not unlike a Gypsy Vardo. Hence the nod to my nomadic days!

    Update as of August 24, 2012

    All the girls are well, and Napoleon has turned into just the most beautiful, shimmery Buff Orpington. For a while he took to attacking me (in a very fluffy but determined manner) and any other women who came around. He thereafter had several encounters with the Broom of Discipline, which would help for a few days. Then he'd get notions again. Last time he tried his bravado on my sister, I suggested something I'd read here on BYC, which she tried with great success. She just went to pick him up from the front, but slid her hands down his sides and took him by the drumstricks and gently picked him up, turning him upside down in the process. He hung there bewildered for a minute or so. She gently put him down, and when he'd regained his feet, took a few steps toward him to make sure he'd walk away. We really haven't had any trouble since then.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    You can see Josie's crossed beak. We've been using a dremel tool on it about once a week. I hope eventually we can get it closer to normal. She doesn't seem to be missing out on any food. In fact I'm calling her "Cheese Ho" lately because she snatched a hunk of goat cheese that was bigger than her head off a plate last week as we were eating in the yard. I do believe she got most of it before the teeming masses arrived.

    [​IMG] I really ought to use a better camera. But in the moment it's hard enough to get a picture of these runabouts with my phone. Anyway we spend a lot of time admiring this fellow.

    October 14, 2012

    Here's a better picture of my shimmery boy:


    Everybody's well, though I'm getting anxious about getting the large run up. My builder applied for a town permit for it, and promptly got sick for three weeks. I still think we'll sink posts before the ground freezes for good.

    It's been a mucky Fall so far. I love weekends when they can free range for hours at a time. Every nice, sunny day at this time of year is a gift. [​IMG]

    January 10, 2013

    Happy New Year! Everybody's alive and well, despite a few slings and arrows. We had a total of two fox attacks in 2012, and Napoleon (barely) survived them both. The second one was in the same place in the driveway as the one last summer, and I got out there just as the fox was going to carry him off. I thought he was an ex-rooster. But he woke back up as I carried him about, and is growing his tail feathers back very nicely, thank you. Since then we had a cold snap (9 degrees one night) and despite a heat lamp in the coop, he has developed a bit of frostbite on two of his comb points. It looks like he'll lose the tips and now I know to use vaseline if we head into another one.

    I tell you, that boy has had some knocks in his life. He just keeps springing back. He also still tries to attack us sometimes, but he's been turned upside down so many times you'd think he would learn. Sometimes I just pick him up and cuddle him for a while instead, until he forgets what he was trying to do. He's just doing his job.

    The large run was completed just in time for the first big snowfall.


    It's terribly fancy because we had to get a permit for a roofed structure this large, and they have lots of regs about materials, bracing, etc. This thing is going to last just about forever. It's 30' x 15', and I no longer have to feel guilty on the days when they can't free range because I cannot supervise them. The best thing was that this was built around the smaller, temporary pen, so at no time were the chickens displaced during its (seemingly endless) construction.

    Because the ground slopes gently towards the coop from the driveway, I had to put a gutter on the front or a-a-a-alll that rainwater that dripped off the roof would seep right back into the pen.

    I thought this green roofing would be more translucent, but it really isn't. I was happy to see that the run still gets a fair amount of sun, as it has a southerly orientation.

    We still have some disassembly to do. The hardware cloth skirt I wired up around the edge of the small pen is pretty hard to pull up at this point, grass having grown well through it. The chickens don't care, and the ground has been to frozen to work with for a while anyway.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Some snow does drift in, but it's certainly better than if I'd had to shovel an unroofed area. I can't tell you what a joy it is to go in there every day, and be able to stand upright.

    In the Spring I'd like to garden-stake some galvanized fencing around much of this side yard, an area that includes the coop and run, so that when we can be out with them to free range, we won't have to follow them all over the property to make sure they're safe. It'll be like in the summer when they were smaller, and we brought our favorite book and a lawn chair and watched Chicken TV until dusk. No more predators. I decided I didn't want to hunt cycles of foxes in perpetuity. That doesn't solve anything and I have better things to do. This was a huge project and it cost a bit (cough cough), but now it's done and my girls are livin' large.

    SO! My family, some friends and I have turned our attention to this year's chicks. I have room to enlarge my flock a bit, so we've all gone in on an order from McMurray's. In a couple of months I will be the recipient of two Delawares, two Cuckoo Marans, and another blue egg layer of their choice. (They kind of lump them all in to one category, so I'm not sure what strain I'll get, but it doesn't matter.) My brother-in-law's neice has offered to raise them for us the first two months, so she'll get her chicken fix and we'll get pen-ready birds when it's warm enough for them to be outside. I have to do a little fun research on how to integrate them with the older ones.


    Stay warm, all, and keep usin' that vaseline...

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