[FONT=book antiqua,palatino]PamieJune's BYC Page[/FONT][FONT=book antiqua,palatino]An introduction: My family (well, my Mom mostly) have raised egg-layers as long as I can remember - I think they were White Leghorns, and every two years the post office would call and say, "Mrs. Williams, your chicks are here!" as she ordered them from Sears & Roebuck and they were mailed - twenty-five little fluffballs packed into a box no bigger than 12" square. We loved having the brooder in the house, on a big table in part of the eat-in kitchen and dining area (thank goodness my mother rarely entertained - I can't imagine what her guests would think, seeing a big wooden box in the kitchen with 25 peepin', dusty, little poopers in it!). We loved picking up the chicks and at other times we teased our standard poodle unmercifully by making peeping sounds into our cupped hands so that he thought we were holding a chick.
When they got big enough to go outside, we moved them to a good-sized hen house with a pop door that opened into a large, fenced area in a heavily-wooded area (I think that's why we never lost any birds to hawks. I've wondered why we never lost any birds to any other predators and realized it was because our dog always ran loose - back in those days it was acceptable - and he must have kept them at bay). Once we were old enough to help out with the chickens, we were pressed into collecting eggs, giving them fresh water, and loading the hanging feeder. There was always a rooster or two with each batch of chicks and they would grow to be ornery, so that if you dared to venture into the house or pen, you had to carry this little child's hoe that, for some reason or another, they were deathly afraid of. And every two years, my father would wring every neck and we'd be eating chicken stew for weeks. It didn't bother us too much as we never got close to the birds or named them. Once, my mom got a handful of hens from a friend and had to take a turkey hen along with the deal. We did name her (Gertrude) so she never went in the roasting pan and she was friendly, coming when you called and would "talk" to you if you spoke her language.
When I moved to the country in New Hampshire, many years later, I tried a small home flock of banties, layer hens, and Indian Runner ducks, but constantly battled predators - many of them a mystery until I did some research. I discovered that I had fox, fisher cats, minks, skunks, raccoons, owls, and hawks - all bent on making my biddies their next meal. One night my ten-year-old daughter (who is a shy, gentle girl) was awakened at 4 a.m. by a screeching sound and ran outside in her jammies, never wakening me, to rescue her hen Pidgey (a NH Red) from the jaws of a skunk, who had manged to open the door to the coop. She chased the polecat off with a big stick and then came inside with the bird, finally wakening me. The hen had a badly mangled leg and my daughter implored me to take her to the vet, so I did, and $65 later, we had a one-legged chicken who quickly acclimated to this new status and lived out her life, hopping around on one leg, even trying to scratch for ground feed. After my flock was decimated one by one, I gave up on raising birds here until my daughter decided to hatch out some Bantam Orpington chicks in her apartment in Mass. (actually, they ended up being hatched out in a dorm room at Keene State!) and I ended up taking the 8 (!) roosters that she (obviously) didn't want. She now has 2 hens for indoor pets and I re-homed the roos and then picked up 4 NH Reds at the same time. So...now I am building a predator-proof coop thanks to the wonderful advice, experience (and humor), and generosity of the BYC group, and thought I'd share my building experience here.
I wanted a coop I could move around, as I wanted to have the coop close by the house in the winter (less path-clearing), and farther away in the summer (less odor and access to a run), so I designed a coop built on two pallets, using an idea of another member who built his coop entirely out of pallets. This one is small, as I have a small flock, and will use it as a "halfway" house when (notice I said "when", not "if" - I do pay attention to the advice given here!) I decide to go bigger and build a bigger coop. I read all the posts on the "Things I Learned While Building A Coop" forum and incorporated most of the ideas into my little coop. You can see my design on my "Portable Coop Desgn" page.[/FONT]