This Chicken is an Answer to Prayer!

Soooo, I'm a homeschooling mom of young adult twins with high functioning autism. When they got their high school diploma, one of them poured herself into Storey's Raising Chickens. I turned it into an extra learning experience and had her learn to take notes from her reading. She persevered for a year and took copious notes on the whole thing. Then this year, I had her learn how to put together a Powerpoint presentation based on the first few chapters, so she could practice her communication skills too. I was so proud of her! The only thing is, I have been so overwhelmed with life (won't bore you with details) that we never actually got a chicken. One morning, completely overwhelmed, I actually prayed, "God if you want us to get her a chicken, make it clear, when, how, what." IDK what I was expecting, maybe some miraculous clearing of my schedule?
What actually happened was that she looked in our backyard one day and said, "There's a strange bird under our lemon tree." When we looked, we realized that it was actually a beautiful chicken! We've no idea where it came from, but research pointed to her being a Silver-Laced Polish. Whenever we went outside, she'd run up the hill to the neighbors brush and we could never get close. I posted in neighborhood forums, knocked on doors and we put up "Found Chicken" signs. No one claimed her, but lots of people wanted her ...several pointed out that if we did not catch her, one of the many coyotes or hawks in our area would. One gal who saw our post, brought over a special pen with a gate, and we were able to catch her (twice actually, but that's another story). She is really quite special, and we are still trying to figure out the best way to take care of her. A friend gave us an old coop, but I feel it's too small (see pic). This friend allowed her hens to free-range her whole backyard, but we don't feel safe doing that because of the aforementioned hawks/coyotes. So, totally unprepared and uneducated, we are trying to figure out how to create a covered area for her on the side of her house (see pic). I was thinking we could put the donated coop in the covered area, so she could still roost in there at night; but during the day, we would like to create a bigger space for her to roam safely. This would also allow us to "sit with her" to hopefully get her more accustomed to us (she currently eats berries from our hands, but is very shy). Also, I will be a lot happier seeing her roam around! I've been reading posts about floor, and it says that dirt is a bad idea, but does that just apply to the coop, or is plain dirt ok for the roaming area? Where we have her now in her pen on the other side of our home, is actually decomposed granite, and we have a layer of pine shavings which we add to when we see her droppings. (i just read today that pine shavings are liver toxic, so I should not have bought that big bag!) Anyways, I would love any advice re.
1. My neighbor suggested that we use poultry netting and anchor it to the house and to the fence in the picture below, using a 2x4 fastened to each surface. he didn't think that hawks could get through and Amazon user seem to say the same, but Storey suggests otherwise. Could there have been an improvement to the product over the years?
2. Is bare dirt ok in the penned "roaming area? I'm thinking we just keep it clean like we would for a dog...just shovel up droppings each day.?
3. What do you suggest for under the actual coop, that we will place in the pen?
BTW: We live in an Orange County suburb, CA and have very clay soil.
4. What do you suggest I place under the coop. My friend suggests pavers to extend the life of the coop. She attached wire mesh to the bottom of the coop that she gave us. but does that hurt the chicken feet when they walk on the wire mesh?
5. Any ideas that would be quick and inexpensive for now, til we have more time to build something more substantial in the summer?
 

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JedJackson

Crossing the Road
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Welcome to BYC. That was a lovely story about the kids and the odd way the chicken came into your life. It seems like it was meant to be.

About the coop. Well, it really isn't a coop. It's a large cage. A coop should be enclosed, usually made of wood, with roosts and a nest box or two. In S. California, you don't necessarily need a coop, but you need to always have shade available because it gets hot there, and you need a solid roof where she can remain dry in wet weather. Polish, because they have crests, really need extra care in this regard.

My advice is to start looking around Craigslist. In my area, I often find small coops listed for cheap or even free on that website. Or perhaps you can place an ad of your own in the 'farm & garden' section asking for a free coop, and explaining your situation.

In addition to shelter, you will need a feeder and a waterer. Clean, fresh water must always be available, and the waterer should be cleaned and sanitized regularly. Good feed, not just scraps, is important for health of the bird.

Pine shavings are fine for bedding. So is dirt, so long as it doesn't turn to mud in wet weather.

You might also think of getting another hen to keep yours company. You might find a free one on Craigslist, too. Chickens are social animals and are happier with friends.

Well, good luck, and I'm wishing the best for you and your family. Happy holidays.
 

hysop

Back from hiatus (11/24/21)
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What a beautiful chicken!!! Definitely get it a friend or two.

People make sheds into coops all the time.

How much space do you have for chickens?

I got dog panels and made a 20 by 20 by 6 ft pen with netting over it with a 8 by 6 ft coop in the middle for 5 of my chickens.

Depending on just how bad predators are in your area you can be a bit more relaxed or meticulous with the security.

My pen and coop is in my backyard and my dogs are my predator repellants. They’re very good at their job.
 
Welcome to BYC! What a beautiful chicken! I hope you will be able to give her a good life. I suggest finding her another chicken friend, so she won’t be as lonely
Thank you! Yes, we definitely have been working on that, which is another reason to create more safe space. our local shop has told us to call weekly to see if they have pullets...my daughters are hoping for silkie, similarly low in aggressiveness.
 

hysop

Back from hiatus (11/24/21)
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Thank you! Yes, we definitely have been working on that, which is another reason to create more safe space. our local shop has told us to call weekly to see if they have pullets...my daughters are hoping for silkie, similarly low in aggressiveness.

If they will just be for pets, then silkies are good. But I saw that they aren't known for their laying. They are definitely a just-for-looks-chicken with the occasional eggs. I'm sure people have good egg laying silkies, so maybe you'll have an egg pumping silkie 😂

Usually at local shops they start getting chicks around March. So that will be plenty of time to have a good set up for a few more chickens.
 

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