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Chicken Housing - not a work of art, a work of utility

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Project by Radicalfarmergal posted 08-03-2009 07:34 PM 3984 views 0 times favorited 31 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I noticed quite a few Tenders have chickens so I thought I would share my rather unconventional chicken housing. Functional and inexpensive, I reused as much as possible, such as an old dog kennel and plastic buckets.

Here is the hen house I designed and built for our hens so that they could live permanently in the pasture during the late spring, summer and early fall. (When cold weather hits, I move them into the barn and use a deep litter system to keep them warm, dry and healthy. The deep litter creates a wonderful, semi-composted fertilizer that I can apply on my gardens in the spring once I move the chickens back outside.) The purpose of the summer hen house is to give them a place where they can get out of the hot sun and rain and hide from flying predators, such as hawks or eagles. There are also seven nest boxes where they can lay their eggs in a safe, clean (easy for me to find) place.

One of the main criteria was to make it portable, I move the hen house frequently to ensure that the grass does not receive too much nitrogen and to reduce disease by keeping the chickens’ pasture clean. The hen house is inside an easily moveable electric fence to keep predators out (mostly neighborhood dogs that roam freely) and to ensure the chickens continually have access to fresh pasture. Rotating their pasture reduces parasites and disease and allows them to forage for their own food. Chickens eat quite a bit of green stuff, such as grass, clover and the other plants we have growing in the grass. We have seen them eat insects, ticks (right off a goat), frogs, mice, moles and even small birds if they can catch them. The hens consume considerably less grain when they can forage than when they are kept inside for the winter. The hen house is a bit heavy, so I use wooden skids to help it slide smoothly over the grass.

This is the first year we have had a rooster. Although I sometimes grumble at the early hour he decides to crow, this is also the first year we watched a broody chicken sit on eggs. You can see my youngest son with a chick born this past July.

-- "...I have nothing against authorities as such; I am only in favor of putting a question mark after just about everything they say." Ruth Stout



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Radicalfarmergal

4312 posts in 3043 days
hardiness zone 5b

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31 comments so far

View dini's profile

dini

1591 posts in 3497 days
hardiness zone 5

posted 08-03-2009 08:07 PM

It might be unconventional, but it seems to work!

They look fat and sassy, they’re obviously laying well, and you have chicks!

-- the day you quit learning is the day you quit living.

View jroot's profile

jroot

5121 posts in 3410 days
hardiness zone 5a

posted 08-03-2009 08:12 PM

neat. Thanks for sharing.

-- jroot ....... Southern Ontario .......... grow zone 5A ...................."Gardening is an exercise in optimism." ....... . . Author Unknown

View Scott Hildenbrand's profile

Scott Hildenbrand

1690 posts in 3551 days
hardiness zone 6b

posted 08-03-2009 08:54 PM

Ditto what dini said.. I feel so bad that mine have not been able to enjoy being “outside” yet and are cooped up.

-- Planting Daylilies in Kentucky, zone 6b

View GrandmaT's profile

GrandmaT

5389 posts in 3658 days
hardiness zone 9

posted 08-03-2009 10:39 PM

I know nothing about chickens … but this makes sense to me and by the photos you have posted, your hens (and rooster) look very healthy, well taken care of and quite content! Bravo for thinking outside the box! (and your son is a cutie!!)

-- "A beautiful garden is a work of heart" --

View Orchids77's profile

Orchids77

268 posts in 3028 days
hardiness zone 5

posted 08-03-2009 10:54 PM

What a neat idea. Seems a well thought of project. Interesting to see the entrance for the chickens. I like the nest best of all!

-- Orchids77

View Bob's profile

Bob

1429 posts in 3528 days
hardiness zone 3b

posted 08-04-2009 07:28 AM

Radgal, I saw this article in the new York time this morning and thought you and a couple of others here might enjoy it.
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/04/business/04chickens.html?_r=1&th&emc=th

-- I want to believe in a lot of things but, in the meantime I have to deal with the truth

View Bob's profile

Bob

1429 posts in 3528 days
hardiness zone 3b

posted 08-04-2009 07:47 AM

I found this kind of interesting too!

”Although chickens and turkeys can become infected when experimentally inoculated with the virus or bitten by infected mosquitoes, these birds do not develop the clinical disease. Their immune system quickly responds to infection by producing antibodies that clear the virus from their body.
Also, because the virus can be transmitted only through the bite of an infected mosquito, infected
poultry present no significant public health risk. Poultry can neither directly infect other birds,
animals, or humans, nor act as a reservoir for the virus”

http://pubs.cas.psu.edu/FreePubs/pdfs/un192.pdf
I wonder how far theyare away from a human vaccine?
I think they already have one for horses.

-- I want to believe in a lot of things but, in the meantime I have to deal with the truth

View Bon's profile

Bon

7374 posts in 3560 days
hardiness zone 5a

posted 08-04-2009 08:08 AM

Quite the setup you got there.By the look of those fat chickens it seems to work pretty good.Good idea being able to move it around.Cute pic of your son with the chick.

-- Bon,Hastings,Ont.....zone 5a....Always room for one more

View Radicalfarmergal's profile

Radicalfarmergal

4312 posts in 3043 days
hardiness zone 5b

posted 08-04-2009 08:35 AM

Thanks for all your supportive comments. I was a little nervous about posting this project because it is nowhere near as beautiful as some of the projects I have seen other Tenders post. But it works. I have happy, healthy chickens and delicious, fresh eggs with bright orange yolks.

As the article from Bob (see comment above) says, I don’t make any money on chickens. I sell my extra eggs for $3/dozen and that covers my feed and amendment costs (e.g. oyster shells, diatomaceous earth, shavings for nest boxes and deep litter in the winter) but it doesn’t cover the cost of the chicks, annual batteries or the initial cost of the electric fence or building the coop. Raising my own chicks makes it a bit cheaper (mail order chicks cost approximately $6 each when you include shipping, vaccinations, etc.) It isn’t all about the money. I enjoy knowing that I am eating healthy, teaching my children about where food comes from and I find watching chickens is a very relaxing thing to do.

Scott – until your chickens get outside, give them a pile of fresh grass clippings. They will thank you for it. Or, if you weed your garden, toss the weeds (roots, dirt and all) in for the chickens and they will love that too.

-- "...I have nothing against authorities as such; I am only in favor of putting a question mark after just about everything they say." Ruth Stout

View ChuckV's profile

ChuckV

27 posts in 3042 days

posted 08-04-2009 08:56 AM

RFG,

I am just wondering if people like you on this site are “Chicken Tenders” – hehe – sorry :)

-- "...and the flowers bloom like madness in the spring."

View Zuki's profile

Zuki

64 posts in 3336 days
hardiness zone 5b

posted 08-04-2009 07:10 PM

Interesting setup RFG. Is it on wheels or do you drag it around? Either way . . . is does give your chicks access to lost of greens. :-)

That is one really hansom Roo.

Do your chicks have names?

View Radicalfarmergal's profile

Radicalfarmergal

4312 posts in 3043 days
hardiness zone 5b

posted 08-04-2009 08:09 PM

ChuckV – I am still thinking of a witty response.

Zuki – I drag it using wooden skids because otherwise the chain link catches in the grass. We used to have a chicken tractor, with handles for dragging. It was much more manageable, but it could only hold about ten laying hens. Now that we have more than twice that number, I had to design something larger to hold more nest boxes. I would like something lighter, but also something that won’t blow over in the wind. When I was looking at the photos of your greenhouse, I was wondering if/how I could make something like that portable and turn it chicken housing. : )

The chickens don’t intentionally have names but they do gain nicknames if their behavior makes them stand out. Isaac occasionally turns one into a pet and gives it special attention. He had a favorite Delaware hen named Sunlight which we lost to a falcon. We have a Speckled Sussex who thinks she is a person or a goat. She does not live with the other chickens because she will just fly out and go where she wants. So she is often free range or lives with the goats. My DH has a rather unflattering name for her. The rooster is handsome and best of all, he is friendly with people and does not chase or peck the children.

Raising chickens is an adventure.

-- "...I have nothing against authorities as such; I am only in favor of putting a question mark after just about everything they say." Ruth Stout

View MsDebbieP's profile

MsDebbieP

14694 posts in 3780 days
hardiness zone 5b

posted 08-06-2009 05:36 AM

I love functionality!!! THis is great. Thanks for sharing.

-- - Debbie, SW Ontario Canada (USDA Hardiness Zone: 5a)

View mario1360's profile

mario1360

921 posts in 3195 days
hardiness zone 5a

posted 08-06-2009 08:15 PM

ugly but ingenious (not sure about the spelling).....congrats….you got to love smart farmers…..god bless.

-- south shore montreal, zone 5a, whish it was 9

View XploreOrganics's profile

XploreOrganics

1393 posts in 3659 days
hardiness zone 5b

posted 08-07-2009 05:05 AM

Here are a few other chicken tractor designs: http://home.centurytel.net/thecitychicken/tractors.html

We watched a program where there were wheeled tractors for 100+ chickens and they would move them using ATV’s. I am sure a design something like the roof of our green house could work.

While yours looks like it is serving the purpose and the chickens seem happy enough, It does look a tad clumsy for you to move around.

And I have to agree with DH that you have one very handsome roo there.

-- Xploreorganics, 5b Canada, LFD 06-20 http://colorfulcanary.blogspot.com/

View Radicalfarmergal's profile

Radicalfarmergal

4312 posts in 3043 days
hardiness zone 5b

posted 08-07-2009 06:34 AM

Thanks for the great website, XO. Haven’t people thought of some beautiful and clever designs? I am rather fond of the chicken ark look, if I can make it long enough to house all our chickens. Because the chickens are always free to go outside, the tractor does not need to be that large, however, they need to be able to keep dry and have enough nest boxes (at least seven) and that takes up space. (During the winter, when they often cannot go outside, they have a little over 100 square feet.) I might just have to break down and build two smaller ones. Because my boys are still so young and my DH works long hours, I need to be able to move it by myself.

The idea of the greenhouse made me think I might be able to extend the outdoor season by using a thick clear plastic to capture the sun’s energy when it is cold and then cover it with something dark to block the sun during the hot season. It would be light and I could use stakes to keep it down. The wooden ribs would give me a place to attach the nest boxes. I was also looking into hoop housing as an alternative but I couldn’t figure out how to install the nest boxes and still have it portable. Anyway, I figure this one has to work until I put them in the barn this winter and then I have to come up with something better before next spring.

I appreciate everyone’s ideas and comments!

-- "...I have nothing against authorities as such; I am only in favor of putting a question mark after just about everything they say." Ruth Stout

View Bob's profile

Bob

1429 posts in 3528 days
hardiness zone 3b

posted 08-07-2009 07:16 AM

I come from a long line of “making do” so I can see where you are comming from and where you want to go.
So many give up because they need to have everythign just so or nothing at all.
Besides, it does the trick and you hens love you for it.
What else matters?

Bob

-- I want to believe in a lot of things but, in the meantime I have to deal with the truth

View Radicalfarmergal's profile

Radicalfarmergal

4312 posts in 3043 days
hardiness zone 5b

posted 08-07-2009 07:45 AM

Bob, you are a sweetheart. We picked lots of blueberries yesterday. C’mon over and you can have some of my blueberry muffins for breakfast. : )

P.S. Please bring some of those delicious heirloom tomatoes you grew with you!

-- "...I have nothing against authorities as such; I am only in favor of putting a question mark after just about everything they say." Ruth Stout

View Bon's profile

Bon

7374 posts in 3560 days
hardiness zone 5a

posted 08-07-2009 11:35 AM

Ooooh fresh blueberry muffins hot from the oven with butter.I can taste and smell them now.It’s been way too long for me since I’ve had them. You lucky gal you.

-- Bon,Hastings,Ont.....zone 5a....Always room for one more

View dott's profile

dott

18 posts in 3302 days
hardiness zone 10a

posted 11-12-2009 12:53 PM

Your hens are so pretty. Love that gold-colored one. What breed is she, and what’s her name?

I only have one hen at the moment, she’s a plain white leghorn, a children’s pet that someone gave me when she hit her first moult and they couldn’t handle the massive feather blizzard she threw off! She’s alone at the moment, but am planning on a couple more hens to keep her company come spring. She spends her days in a big, temporary run made of wire window screen and cheap wood stakes and seems to love it, so don’t worry too much as long as they are safe at night and happily laying!! I have a great big ficus tree near the day-run and use all of it’s dropped leaves for free litter a few times a year, and PerkyGirl has a blast digging through it all for bugs, and over the course of a season all by herself she stomps, and scratches, and churns it all into pretty nice soil for use all over the yard. All I have to do is sift is and spread it.

I love the way your bucket nest boxes are tipped and roll the eggs to the front. Very clever! How did you come up with that, and where do you find the pretty light blue buckets?

Are you, by any chance, a BYC’er, too?

-- Grew a lawn from sugar sand with some help from a pet chicken and the "ghost" of Jerry Baker. Rank amateur gardener, needs all the help she can get!!

View Radicalfarmergal's profile

Radicalfarmergal

4312 posts in 3043 days
hardiness zone 5b

posted 11-12-2009 02:15 PM

Dott, thanks, I really like my hens. The gold colored chicken is a Buff Orpington, a very gentle, calm, heavy-breed bird that lays brown eggs. Being in zone 10a, you might not want a heavy breed because you will have to worry more about too much heat rather than the cold.

I use fallen leaves in the autumn for my chickens’ bedding as well. Free is good!

The idea for the buckets came from an article in the magazine Backyard Poultry, Dedicated to more and better small flock poultry. The buckets contained a foot drench for my neighbor’s horses. He has more than he can use and gave them to me. I scrubbed them out very well with hot soapy water, cut the tops and drilled holes to be able to tie them together so they wouldn’t move around when the hens were using them.

Help me out, I don’t know what a BYC’er is.

-- "...I have nothing against authorities as such; I am only in favor of putting a question mark after just about everything they say." Ruth Stout

View dott's profile

dott

18 posts in 3302 days
hardiness zone 10a

posted 11-12-2009 07:58 PM

Ah, it’s an acronym for members of a popular chicken keepers site, but, if you read Backyard Poultry, you are probably already familiar with it, too. The letters are an acronym for the site’s members.
I’m hedging here because…. well, are we allowed to post website names? I don’t know for sure from the rules if that a no-no!! Meantime, I can point you in that direction with a hint, in case you haven’t been there already.

If you were to google “chickens”, the three letters are an acronym for the site and it’s title is very close to the title of the magazine you read, too. How’s that? :P

-- Grew a lawn from sugar sand with some help from a pet chicken and the "ghost" of Jerry Baker. Rank amateur gardener, needs all the help she can get!!

View Greenthumb's profile

Greenthumb

2290 posts in 3600 days

posted 11-12-2009 10:51 PM

looks like a type of bantam to me

-- just one more rock, and the garden is done ; )

View Greenthumb's profile

Greenthumb

2290 posts in 3600 days

posted 11-12-2009 10:58 PM

my first egg cost me at least five grand

and then I dropped it and the dog ate it.

I think my eggs are down to about a buck each. If life were all about money, I would have straved to death many moons ago

-- just one more rock, and the garden is done ; )

View sharad's profile

sharad

1671 posts in 2997 days
hardiness zone 11

posted 01-29-2010 11:16 AM

Robin I am reading this post after so many days from it’s posting and I have thoroughly enjoyed it. Your pictures are very nice. I can see how your son is fully engaged in the company of a chick.
Sharad

-- Bagwan-- “If someone feels that they had never made a mistake in their life, then it means they have never tried a new thing in their life”.-Albert Einstein

View Radicalfarmergal's profile

Radicalfarmergal

4312 posts in 3043 days
hardiness zone 5b

posted 01-29-2010 12:23 PM

Getting chickens has been immensely rewarding for us. I recommend it to anyone who has the inclination, time and energy.

-- "...I have nothing against authorities as such; I am only in favor of putting a question mark after just about everything they say." Ruth Stout

View Iris43's profile

Iris43

3811 posts in 3410 days
hardiness zone 5a

posted 01-29-2010 12:37 PM

RFG, I agree with sharad. I read this posting last summer with much interest and admiration, when you first posted it. I have just re-read it, still with admiration. I love the down-to-earth wisdom you have, and your imagination, and your energy. :-)

-- 'To plant a Garden is to believe in Tomorrow'

View Radicalfarmergal's profile

Radicalfarmergal

4312 posts in 3043 days
hardiness zone 5b

posted 01-29-2010 07:04 PM

Thanks, Iris. I wish you were my neighbor.

-- "...I have nothing against authorities as such; I am only in favor of putting a question mark after just about everything they say." Ruth Stout

View Scott Hildenbrand's profile

Scott Hildenbrand

1690 posts in 3551 days
hardiness zone 6b

posted 01-29-2010 10:33 PM

“my first egg cost me at least five grand”

LOL.. Mine was around $1K, but I didn’t keep track.. Think it’s best that I do NOT know how much went into the chickens. :)

Else I’d never have that “It’s cheaper to have my own egg laying chickens!” mentality that keeps me sane… If not oblivious. :)

-- Planting Daylilies in Kentucky, zone 6b

View MsDebbieP's profile

MsDebbieP

14694 posts in 3780 days
hardiness zone 5b

posted 01-30-2010 07:52 PM

you invested $$ into the enjoyment. The chickens and eggs are free.

-- - Debbie, SW Ontario Canada (USDA Hardiness Zone: 5a)

View Greenthumb's profile

Greenthumb

2290 posts in 3600 days

posted 01-30-2010 08:21 PM

I dropped my first egg…...............sigh !

-- just one more rock, and the garden is done ; )

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