Last Update: July 04, 09

Waiting on the Arrival of My Flock

I often slow the truck way down at places that I know have chickens, hoping to catch a glimpse of them...where they are foraging, what they look like, how many out in the yard that day, etc. My husband calls it 'chicken envy'. Maybe he's right. I imagine how my flock will present itself to others as they wander the area I am preparing for them. I am a country girl at heart, I guess. When I was growing up we had a flock of Banties that were housed with the horses & dogs & cats...why, I even had a baby caiman at one time! I remember holding & petting the chickens and I remember a couple of winters that some lost combs or even feet to the cold.
Years passed, I married, had 2 children, lived in the 'burbs and a pair of zebra finch was all that I could muster as a pet. When my youngest was 8 years old, I decided it was time for the kids to have a REAL pet around and in came our first dog...the chicks came later.
The chicks were free from work after an educational endeavor of watching the eggs hatch ended & they needed homes for the chicks. I took 2, 1 for the daughter, 1 for the son. I think about 1 week passed & we lost 1 chick. It was just dead one morning, we knew not why. The one chick left was my sons...he named it 'Chicky Poo'. The bird was allowed to 'free range', although I don't recall that term back then. It was truly a pet, coming when called, jumping up to sit on your lap & if you were bent over doing something low to the ground Chicky Poo would jump up onto your back or head. Quite endearing really. She left us 1 egg everyday, layed on the cushions of the deck furniture...we loved her. She took up the notion to roost on the tree branch just above the deck, so I figured it was time to build her some sort of housing for protection. It wasn't fancy by any stretch of the imagination. Ramshackle is the word that comes to mind now, however, it served the purpose then & Chicky Poo never filed a complaint.
Spring, summer, fall. Time passed quickly and the cold weather would soon be upon us. My mind kept replaying the sight of our Banties after a hard WI winter...missing combs, missing limbs. I did not want that to happen to Chicky Poo. There was no way I could provide the shelter needed, so I looked for alternatives.
I thought of a farm we passed everyday going to & from work. The sign hung at the end of the driveway "Fresh Eggs For Sale" . It was a decent looking farm, as farms go...not too fancy, not too shabby. And so, the day finally came to load Chicky Poo into the car. Our son was quiet as we headed down the road with Chicky Poo sitting quietly on his lap like the good girl she was. I tried to assure him that this was the best thing we could do for Chicky Poo, that she would be happy in her new home with other chickens. I know in his heart, that he knew this was for Chicky Poo's good. But his heart, I was about to find out, was breaking.
We pulled into the driveway & stopped up between the barn & the house. I remembering commenting as I pointed to the barn, "I bet that's where Chicky Poo will live, that's a nice barn" & all I got was a weak smile. A friendly 'farm lady' greeted me at the door & listened as I recounted the circumstances of Chicky Poo. She wondered what breed of chicken we had & I did not have a clue. "A white chicken that has been laying 1 egg a day, I don't know what kind", I said, "but she's a good bird, will you take her?" "I need to see her" the farm lady said, and with that, we walked toward the car.
As the bird we so fondly knew & loved as a family member was being checked over, I turned back to my son to see him quickly wiping away tears as fast as they were falling & turning his head aside. I knew then how much that chicken had come to mean to him. It wasn't 'just a chicken', it had, over the months become a companion, a pal & it had been 'his'. There was love as well as ownership. I was so sorry that I had broken his heart & felt I'd betrayed Chicky Poo.
The farm lady accepted Chicky Poo, "Oh, she's a fine looking bird, she'll do fine here." We returned home...a quiet ride, arriving to a sadly quiet yard. We still have our memories, although we never made an inquiry at that farm to know how things really did go for Chicky Poo. We remember how she would come strutting up when we called to her, "Chicky Poo, come get your rice...", and we still smile about it. Yes, sometimes it is a hard lesson we learn, young & old, to give up something or someone who has become a part of you & your daily life/routine...and how, over times passing, the stinging hurt that you think will never go away somehow does heal & fade. Not a relished lesson in life, but a necessary one none the less.
Our remembrances of that bird & it's personality have stuck with us. It is one of the driving factors in starting up a small flock, even after all these years. Our son is also looking forward to seeing chickens in the backyard again, although he will be leaving to marry his sweetheart at the end of next year, I'm sure he will make the most of spending time in the company of those in the likeness of 'Chicky Poo'.
*Spring Chapter will start with 'New Flock' & Related Stories *

A Little of This, A Little of That
I attended my first Chicken Show / Swap. I was able to get 'up close & personal' with quite a variety of birds! 1. I now thoroughly understand why roosters could/might/WILL upset the neighbors. 2. I also experienced the musical sounds of the guiney hens, bless their little tick-picking peckers. and 3. I gleaned helpful chicken info from those milling around @ the show & the vendors. The majority are more than happy to share what works for them in the 'wide world of chickens', and you can tell by their initial response, when someone is just too 'busy to be bothered' with 'trifles'. I came away from that show knowing more about where I'm going with backyard chickens and an admiration for those patient folks who happily share all that chicken knowledge with morons like me. Oh, I did come home with a feeder & waterer, hmmm...guess I better get started on that coop so I have some place to put them.
...And GOD Said, "Let There Be A Coop..."

I have been to the building supply stores about 5 times now. Today being the 5th. I walk the isles searching different departments, seeing what is available & what I might possibly be able to use it for in the coop. The base of the coop has been put together & coated in vinyl flooring. I had the pre-assembled framing for the walls (meant to be for shelving in a workshop), but todays purchases included plyboard for walls/roof, hardwire to cover vent/window openings, cedar color paint/stain, plexiglass for windows/skylight, handles for the assorted doors & an open wire closet shelf to hold the nesting boxes. This weekend, if the weather cooperates, should see the main building completed by Sunday. Wish me Luck...
Walls are built (modular style), painted with stain, stacked & ready to be moved into place. I installed the door to access the nesting box area. Whew, what a day! It was continuous work for 7 1/2 hrs for 2 people. The work for tomorrow: Raise the walls & plumb, add roof, insert plexiglass window(wall), insert plexiglass skylights & roof vents, hinge & hang door, attach all hardwire over openings. The fencing for the run I plan to put up in the spring when we return from FL., so only the coop is my main focus right now. During this time of the year, it's a race against the weather... I am taking pics of this & will post them (in sequence) when the coop is together.
Walls are up & plumbed. Ran out of lumber & rain is on the way...
Trip to the lumber yard & back home to put on the, just done before the rain started! Hanging the door & installing the plexiglass window are the 2 major issues to complete. Attaching the roosting pole & puting the nesting boxes on the wall are a couple of minor jobs left. Of course, the 'extras' are things such as a windowbox for flowers & trim pieces to the outside of the coop are not done yet. There are wall vents & a roof vent (passive), a plexiglass skylight, and an access door to gather eggs through. I don't expect to get back to this project for a couple days due to the rain forecasted...but we'll see.
RAIN, RAIN, GO AWAY...(this is ridiculous) COME AGAIN ANOTHER DAY !
Well, a wet week has passed! Trim, up & painted. Roof, shingled. I have decided to have a split (dutch) door, so I need to cut the full length door in half & make the adjustments before hanging it. Then, set up the inside, ie. roost, nesting boxes, insulation & attach the pop door closure. My husband even came up with an old feed sack to hang in the window!








A week has passed again...despite the bad weather, I have hung the door & trimmed it out. We also added a drip edge around the roof to prevent rot. To avoid problems with moisture, I have decided to use closed cell/styrofoam type of insulation instead of batting/roll type & use plastic sheeting to cover it, which will prevent the birds from pecking it. I will continue to try to make progress on the coop as weather permits to work outdoors (tonight is forecast rain/snow mix).
I finished the inside insulation, cut & glued the white styrene (1 1/2 in thick, R 6.0) to fit inbetween the 2x2 framing (walls & ceiling). Covered with clear plastic sheeting stapled to the studs preventing birds pecking the styrofoam. It took 3 weeks to get to this point. I will post a pic soon...since I don't have the birds yet, I have the coop STUFFED FULL of my garden/yard things & need to move it all out to take the inside photos. Like I mentioned before, I will wait until spring to put up the fencing for the run, so more pictures will be posted later on the completed project as a whole.



ROOST & POO BOARD: (vent in background/nest box in foreground)




General Stats Overview:
overall 4x9ft, front 6ft high, back 4 1/2ft high, 1 sky
light, dutch door, pop door works on pulley system, 2
wall vents & 1 roof vent, 2 hole nest box, egg access
door, roost & poo board, vinyl flooring, 1 1/2in styro
insulation board, plastic sheeting covers all wall
insulation, rolled roofing, plexiglass window w/flower
box. Proposed census is for approx. 6-10 layers.

It seems we did a decent building snow has blown in (and we have had PLENTY!). I will also be inspecting for evidence of rodents, and if neccessary make changes to exclude them from taking up permanent residence...come spring, that coop is only for my chicks!

LORDY, LORDY...bunnies taking refuge from the winter are under the coop!
SPRING IS AROUND THE CORNER. . . I know this because one of my chick resources sent me an e-mail in Feb. that he was ready to set eggs ! HOORAY ! (I know, I know...don't count the chicks before they hatch.)
WHAT NEXT ????. . . OK, OK. Bad luck hits all of us every once in awhile but....
Here it is folks, my 'chicken supplier' has emailed me that the heat lights went out & all the Black Australorp chicks died. Then the Barred Holland eggs were being comprimised by a naughty egg-pecking hen (which was caught in the act & confined). My order of chicks has now been pushed back to a June delivery date. I am you see the puddles of my tears at the bottom of the screen? Sad, just sad...
HERE CHICKY, as a "Pick Me Up" ... I put in an order for 10 chicks to be picked up @ the feed mill in Sauk City on May 22nd!!! Hurray, and I'm still keeping my original order (of course!). Everyone under our roof can't wait to see the little darlings. They will be different breeds (but still egg layers) than my original order, so o o o o o, we really will have the 'variety pack' going on here! And they do say that "variety is the spice of life", right???!!!
***SORRY...I have been so busy since my "gang of 10" arrived I have made no entries, but NOW there are even first order of 6 are now here as well and all live happily together! I will 'go back in time' & download pics w/info & bring it all up to date. It's a CRAZY world with 16 chickens of various ages...stay tuned for some stories I'm sure you'll love & can relate to !!