We have 1 German Shepherd, 1 Miniature Schnauzer, 3 cats and 8 chickens. We live on 20 acres in south central Oklahoma and we love it here.
The chickens started off as a bit of an accident. A few years ago, I was in the local farm/ranch store with my niece and nephew and they had baby chicks for sale. Because my heart is sometimes bigger than my brain, I let them each pick three chicks. We had no idea about any of the breeds, but ended up with 2 New Hampshire Reds, 2 Black Australorps and 2 Americaunas...recommended by a store employee for their colored eggs. Even though he mentioned the eggs to me and we were buying chicks, I didn't really give much thought to the fact that I was going to end up with hens. ) A month or so later, as they were taking up more and more room in their brooder, the light bulb came on...we were going to need a chicken coop.
I went to the internet and started reading what had and hadn't worked for others and came up with what I wanted. Luckily, my husband is VERY handy and has a large woodworking shop at the house. Due to the abundance of wildlife here, the fact that EVERYTHING likes to eat chickens and my niece and nephew had named the chicks and we had been spending time holding them and getting them used to us each day, we opted not to try free ranging. Instead, we built what we affectionately refer to as "The Henitentiary". They have a 4'x8' coop that is 6' tall (so my husband can go in) with a window on the south and what we call the "poop chute" on the north. This is a door that opens that is behind their roost (with chicken wire to keep them from getting out) so that I can clean up after them more easily. They also have a vinyl floor to make clean up easier.
Their attached run is 8'x10' and is also 6' tall. We used 1" chicken wire on the sides and top to help keep them safe from aerial attacks. We also went around the sides (at the bottom) with hardware cloth that covers the bottom 2' of the run and then bends out at a 90 degree angle for 1'. We put 12" inch pavers over the part of the hardware cloth that is on the ground to prevent anything (including our dogs) from digging in. So far, only 2 rat snakes have made it through and luckily, they were only after the eggs. Our backyard where the coop, garden and dogs are located is surrounded by electric fence. This way, for anything to get to the chickens, it must be able to fly over the electrice fence and then, dig an 18" tunnel and neither of us could think of any animals that could do both. )
We did loose two of our original hens but it seems that they had each (several months apart) flown off the top of the nesting boxes and crashed into the wall. There were no marks on them and no sign that anything had been in the coop with them.
This March, we let the kids pick out four more chicks. We were going for two Americaunas (for the colored eggs) and two New Hampshire Reds, due to their docile temperament. They were out of the Reds, so we got two Salmon Faverolles instead. All eight are thriving and doing well.
When the weather became insanely warm this summer (and we nearly lost a hen to heat stroke) we added a tarp at a 45 degree angle on the south end of the run to give extra shade and added water misters...which they absolutely love.
We still don't know a lot about chickens, but are learning more all the time, thanks to sites like this one.
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