My husband and I purchased about 6 acres near Charlotte, North Carolina early in 2007. The property was originally the center of a much larger farm and slowly, over time, pieces of the land were sold off to the people who are now our neighbors. By the time we purchased this center property, most of the original buildings were in very poor shape and unfortunately, some of them have had to be removed because they were past being candidates for restoration. Our goal is to put together a little hobby farm. We're still in the clean up stages on some of the property but I couldn't wait to get animals so we started with chickens. I ordered 25 assorted rainbow layers from McMurray and a box full of chicks arrived on May 4th, 2009.
The chicks initially lived in a 100 gallon stock tank in our dining room so we could make sure they were warm and otherwise take care of them. This worked really well for the chicks but it made a huge mess in the house!
This is Jake, my older dog, watching the new chicks in the stock tank. He was fascinated by the babies but we're pretty sure he just wanted to eat them.
These are the new chicks inside the 100 gallon stock tank. At this point they were still too young for wood chip bedding so we kept them on newspaper for the first day until we were sure they wouldn't eat the wood. The color is all red because we had a red heat lamp hanging near one end. That gave them a chance to move out of the heat if they were too hot. They typically moved around the pen like what you see in the picture so I think they were pretty comfortable.
When my husband cleans the larger bin in the mornings, he gathers up each chick, checks on it, then puts it in another bin for holding while he gives them fresh water, fills their food and otherwise takes care of their living space. They're awfully cute! He also checked each chick at night just to make sure that they were individually looked at a couple times per day so none of them developed pasty butt.
After the chicks outgrew their stock tank we moved them to a 5'x5' brooder box on the covered back porch of our house. They were nearby and easy to check on and care for but all the chicken mess was now outside on a porch we could hose down later. We did lose a couple of chickens along the way and we're still not entirely sure why. They'd seem fine and then all of a sudden we'd find them dead. Fortunately, whatever was killing the chickens stopped and we ended up with a flock of 17.
Here are some of the ugly teenager pictures so show about what size they were when we moved them to the brooder.
This is the backporch brooder box that we moved the chicks too once they outgrew the stock tank. My husband put it together with 2x4s and hardware cloth. The thing I do not like about this design is that it's 3 feet tall which means I'm too short to reach the bottom without crawling into the brooder itself. Otherwise, it worked great. The piece of OSB board that you can see in the picture with the red cup on it slid forward to cover the opening that my sister, her fiance and my husband are leaning into. It was far too heavy for any predator to easily move. There's a piece of wood that goes across the top in the middle that we hung the food and waterer from. A couple of low roosts were added and if it got very cold at night we could turn on one or more of the lamps up above. There were a couple of nights where it got very cold and we tarped off the two sides that were most exposed to help protect the birds.
After the chickens outgrew the brooder box we moved them to the goat pen so they could keep our pygmy goat, Annie, company for awhile. We weren't quite ready to get her another goat friend and the chicken coop wasn't ready for the chickens so this solved two problems at once. Our chickens were completely free range without any issues. They picked one of the trees inside the pen to roost in at night and the combination of the trees, goat and her goat box kept the chickens safe from overhead predators. The chickens do leave the pen by flying over it to free range during the day but they stick pretty close to the pen because that's where food, water and some amount of safety is for them. When they started to lay, we added a rubbermaid box to the pen with a hole cut into the side and some bedding material in the bottom. We still get a random egg here or there but for the most part the chickens don't mind using the nest box we've left for them.
Here are some of the chickens now:
This is Mr. Bill, the rooster, and a few of his girls.
We've named her the anti-social chicken.
A bunch of the chickens inside the goat pen.
A more recent picture of Mr. Bill and some of his girls. He's a pretty rooster but he's mean.
Chickens free ranging in the woods.
The coop is still not completely finished but the inside is done enough that we've been able to move the chickens to it until they learn that this is their new home. Fortunately, it coincides with some rainy and cold weather so we're going to leave them inside until the weather improves. Then we'll let them free range again until the rest of the outside of the coop is done, including the planned enclosed chicken yard.
This is the front of the coop with the egg door.
The front door opens out. My husband specifically switched the hinges on the door so that I could open the door to the coop without disturbing any of the shavings or chickens inside.
This is the inside of the front wall. You can see the nest boxes under a fixed window. The space under the nest boxes is covered in chicken wire now to keep the chickens out. We're thinking that there's enough room underneath for chicks once we get some this spring. That way the chicks would have some space away from the bigger chickens.
The cool thing is that the nest boxes are all hinged so we can get to the area underneath for cleaning, etc.
The door to the nest boxes is awesome. It works beautifully!
This is the piece of vinyl we put down for the floor. We're hoping it'll be easy to clean later.
The roosts are hinged at the wall and suspended by chains. There should be more than enough space for all the chickens.
Here's a picture of the roosts when they're down. We thought this would make it easier for cleaning rather than trying to work underneath.
At the top of the walls where there are openings to the roof rafters, my husband stapled up hardware cloth so there would be plenty of ventilation. Also, the walls are fully insulated and covered in a slick wall board that I should be able to hose down. It wasn't cheap but there should be almost no maintenance on it because it'll never need to be painted.