Chicken Coop Design
We decided a long time ago to build our own chicken coop. It ended up costing just about as much as it would have been to buy one. Here I am showing you the finished product, as I cannot find the pictures of us building it. Needless to say, with my husbands antics it took about 72 hours to build the entire thing. We copied the idea from The Wichita Cabin Coop. The run to the left was added later, as we decided that we wanted more than 6 chickens which required more run space. So here we are, we have four BSL (Black sex-links), two Buff Orpingtons, and two Easter Egger hens.
One is definitely a Wyandotte-Mix. I have never raised chickens from chicks, but our first four chickens were hand-raised by a lady who is actually married to a man who works for Foster Farms. They know how to raise chickens better than anyone. I was honored to receive four chickens from her. At the time, that is all I thought I could handle. Ha! Yeah, I didn't realize there was something called "chicken fever"- where you just want more and more hens, the more that you have the better! I am happy with eight chickens as of right now, but who knows when that will change?
This is the Wyandotte-Mix Easter Egger I spoke of. The things you find at someone's farm. She is one of them.
I am sure the best part about having so many chickens (so many for backyard standards), is that you can achieve this many eggs per day, especially during the summer:
What I really like about having different breeds, is that even though I have generally brown egg-layers, they certainly don't lay the same color brown. Some are more pinkish-brown, and some are very lightly tinted.
Once the coop was established, the chicken fever was on. I learned very early on that during hot weather, the coop should be cleaned about once per week in order to keep the smell down, and the flies at bay. I also found that my chickens were much calmer on an organic feed such as Scratch and Peck Non-GMO Organic Layer Feed. I recommend this, as it is not processed, non-pelleted, and your eggs will be a bright orange color whether they are getting free-range time or not.
Eventually, you get pretty tired of cleaning out traditional chicken feeders. So I went in search of alternatives to the traditional feeder, that would also deter rodents and birds from sharing the food with the chickens. I found this member page about building your own treadle feeder. Of course, you could always buy one from Grandpa's Feeders, but who wants to spend 200-300 dollars on a metal chicken feeder, when you know it does not cost them anywhere close to that to produce them? I know that they are not cheap, but it does not cost more than $80 to make one yourself.
Here is what we designed. We liked the original idea, that the feeder holds about 40lbs of feed- and will open with one chicken standing on the treadle. However, my husband believes that everything must be industrial sized, thus, ours holds about 2- 40lb bags of scratch.
And here it is: You can see that my husband had the brilliant idea of building it into the chicken coop. Which is a great idea, but only time will tell about cleaning it, and whether rodents make their best effort to get into the coop to chew into it. However, I will say that we have made our coop rodent proof with 1/4 inch hardware cloth, and I have never had a problem- even when we had open feeders.
I also looked for ways to train them on how to use the feeder. The only way I can recommend, is to prop the feeder open half-way with a brick, or a piece of wood, so that they will see and acknowledge the food's existence. They realize where it is and start going to that spot. Thus, the idea is that when it is closed, they will still know where the food is, and try to get it. I thought this process would take weeks for them to learn. One lazy morning, I forgot to prop the feeder open; about 72 hours after we installed it, so they had already had a few days to see and get at the food. Early in the morning, I heard the feeder open and close with a pop! Immediately followed by chickens clucking and "bagawking", and then the sound of something popping again. I went to the window to see what was going on. Brilliant! They had figured it out. Chickens are smarter than you think. Above is a picture of them using it full force, with no prop, or cheating, as I call it. Of course, you will always have flock members who will take advantage of the fattest chicken sitting on the treadle while they are getting food from the side.
Another plus side to this feeder, is that all the "crap" from the coop stays out of it; shavings, sand, poop, etc., while the 'good stuff' stays in. I now have not had to chase any sparrows or chickadees out of the coop who have decided to pick at the food from the open feeders.
I have not had any of my chickens get hurt by the Treadle Feeder closing on them. Although, I will say that this is also a learning process- so one or two may get knocked on the head a couple of times until they realize that they need to watch their timing, especially if they are freeloading off of another chicken actually sitting on the treadle.
More to come...