Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Chopping Block in the Hen House

You may remember a reference in an earlier blog about The Man installing an automatic chicken door in the Palace.  He loves gadgets and is always trying to "build a better mouse trap". He has never built a chicken coup before so asked me questions like "How big does this door need to be?". I have explained how it needs to open and how the chickens will need a ramp to walk down etc. Usually you would make a simple door that consist of a rectangle of wood that slides up and down in two tracks and has a rope that you pull to raise and lower the door. Simple, right? Not for him.
Sitting in my kitchen watching me make dinner one night he spied my plastic cutting board. You know the kind. White plastic about 12"x 18" with a handle on one end.  "That would make a perfect chicken door" he said. I thought he was kidding or nuts. I should have known better. He bought a new one and next day this is what I had in the side of the coup. He has ordered an electric motor to arrive here sometime next week. It is actually a motor that is used to raise and lower blinds on a window and has a timer so you can set the door to open at the crack of dawn and close after dark when the little darlings are roosting for the night. You can find the whole design and article at http://www.buildeazy.com/photo-chicken-coop-beatarticle.html 

The other thing that he decided the ladies were going to need was a covered run. We wouldn't want our chickens to be house bound in the rain or snow now would we? Heaven forbid they should get wet while digging for bugs and worms out in the yard. Over the back area of the coup and above the automatic chicken door and porch we now have a 12 ft. x 6ft clear rigid plastic roof with a 2 ft. overhang to make sure rain doesn't blow in. (Also he just didn't want to cut the plastic roofing).  Clear because everybody knows chickens need all the light they can get in order to keep up the egg production. Sort of a chicken greenhouse. So does this mean eggs are going the way of hot house tomatoes?
The porch, located out side the chicken door, has a small swinging gate that allows me to direct the chickens to one side or the other of the two runs so I can rotate them on and off pasture and give the grass a chance to grow. Are they spoiled or what?

We let the wee ones outside for the first time the other day. At first they all acted as if something was going to eat them. The "outside" was so huge! But after about 5 minutes some of the bigger chicks started pecking and scratching while the smaller bantams just kept looking out the door and refusing to come out. Some walked down the gang plank and others just did a quick dismount hoping to get a 10 from the judges.(See pix on left)
 I finally had to go in and physically shove them out the door and into the world. For those of you familiar with boomerang kids or just adult children that wont leave home this should sound familiar. It is still a little chilly and the chicks don't have mothers' wing to dart under to warm up so they didn't stay out long. I have one New Hampshire Red that wandered around peeping until it saw me sitting on the ground. She decided I looked motherly enough so jumped up on my knee and slid under my arm to get warm. Hopefully the weather warms up more and I will be able to leave them out on their own without worrying about them getting chilled. In the mean time there is tons of stuff to do around here and I better get to it.

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