It has been just shy of four months since you have heard from me, so they wanted to do an update on my chicken coop and the girls, well, and the boy!
The coop is still AWESOME!!!!! Lots of room for everyone to roost and lay their eggs. They get lots of free range time now since they are all bigger and are able to defend themselves better. To aid in their defense I have implemented a few "Predator deterrents". I have purchased four Nite Guard Solar Predator Control Lights. I installed them in each direction, North, South, East and West of the coop, facing out. The lights are solar powered and as soon as they detect darkness they blink red consistently all night. I was never sure that there were "visitors" at night, but better safe than sorry is my motto.
|Nite Guard (little black and red box on coop)|
I have also installed three trail cameras by Moultrie. Not so much to protect my flock, but more so to see what they do all day and night. I am nosy like that. As soon as it senses motion it takes a day or night picture. It's like black OPs in the coop zone.
|Coop Cam 2|
We also built a chicken fence to keep the dogs from being able to get to where the chicken zone is. This helps so they are able to have free range time, which was my main concern. It also helps to lesson the stress on the chickens, stressed chickens do not lay eggs, the dogs kinda tormented them while they were in their run area. The fence also keeps the dogs from pooping in the area I have to go to tend and gather eggs.
|Fence during construction|
One issue in regards to predators I have yet to solve..... it is a tricky situation with many considerations. Last week I went out to the coop after dark to close the gate to the run, they had already roosted and the dusk to dawn automatic door had closed so they were all safe and sound. I closed the gate and latched it, stood up straight and heard a rustling noise. I had my big mag light with me and I aimed it all around. I did not see any movement or hear it again. I went to turn and leave and then I saw movement, freaking out ~ frantic movement. I started to hear the theme to every scary movie ever written!
Then I realized what it was ~~~~ a kitten. A little tiny ball of fur and rage! I DO NOT need any more cats to take care of! I opened the gate and out it flew. Then I remembered seeing an adult cat sitting on the top of the fence by the shed doing "re-con" on the chicken zone. I was ready to leave, disaster diverted and then I heard the noise again. I was now peeing my pants; my mind is racing, thinking how many kittens are in there? Why are they in there? I opened the gate again and out it flew. I stood there a bit longer hoping that it was the last one. I closed the gate, latched it and left the chicken zone. But then I started thinking ~ what if some were being stealthy, just waiting until morning for the massacre? My chickens in a closed run are sitting ducks (well chickens) to a freaked out, hopped up cat waiting for a free chicken meal.
|This is Benz, he lives inside ~ he says "Please NO MORE CATS"|
Needless to say I went out five more time that evening, with my mag light, I laid on the ground, looked into the run area that is under the coop. the images of what might happen were messing with my judgement. I imagined these cats being all ninja and being sneaky on my chickens. Of course nothing happened. But a mother worries, ya know? So I am trying to figure out how to keep the cats/kittens out of the chicken zone. I don't want to trap them and turn them into animal control, they will just be killed. Trapping and relocating is like passing your problems onto another and I don't really like that option. Razor wire around the perimeter seems a bit extreme. So this is my dilemma.
I have recently done a "Super Dooper Coop Clean", this entails removing everything from the coop and spraying it all clean with a pressure washer. I then spritzed some water/bleach mixture in the poop zone. I set up a fan to speed the drying. After the coop was completely dried I took out my shaker of DE (Diatomaceous Earth - food grade) and I covered every surface, including the ground all around the coop and run. DE takes care of ants, mites, fleas and other nibbling pests. I then put all new hay into the nesting boxes and the center section of the coop, also know as the dining hall.
|Random Free Range|
Using the pressure washer will only be a once/twice a year kind of thing. For deep cleaning only. On a weekly basis I drop the "cleaner coop tray" and scrape off the poop and gather up any stray poops from inside the roosting area. I also add fresh hay as needed through out the month. I put the poop in one of my unused raised garden boxes to compost. The hay I remove from the nesting boxes and dining hall I just put on the ground around the coop. It adds to the fun of searching for bugs and worms. Makes it more of a challenge, keeps 'em sharp!!
Of course I had to pretty up the coop for the girls, so I hung some nice little lace curtains. This was easy peasy! I bought some marked down lace, cut it to fit the window openings plus margins, and busted out the 'ol staple gun, put them up and allowed for a little overhang to cover the staples. Then I used some ribbon to make tie backs. They love the new look of their coop!!! Will~I~am did point out that HE would have preferred camo ones.
|I want CAMO!!!!!!!!!!|
The chickens are doing great!
I currently have three layers, well possibly four; Sunday there was a super small egg in one of the nesting boxes.
Carrie laid her first egg on November 25, 2012
|Carrie's First Egg|
I was laying in bed on that Sunday, the windows were open since we were having a cold front. All of a sudden I heard chicken screaming, not the "we are getting attacked" noise, but more of a "OMGOSH this hurts" noise. I knew what it was right away. But I didn't go running out there, I did not count my eggs before they were laid, oh no. I got up and ready for church in my normal mode and then I went outside to the coop ~ THERE IS WAS!!!!
A little tiny perfect blue egg, so proud.
We also have a "rogue" chicken that comes into the yard. "My milkshakes brings all the boys to my yard" or rather my chickens bring
all the ............................you know where I am going with that. Anyway, I named it "Rogue", I am still not sure where he comes from. I think it is a wild chicken though, looks like my amerucanas do, but skinny and smaller.
|Rogue inside the run|
Willow ~ one of my Buff Orpingtons that I hatched now goes by Will~I~ Am - like the dude from the Black Eyed Peas. He is a lovely rooster that is starting to crow, although it sounds more like a pre-pubescent boy with his voice changing. But two out of two experts (Me and my chicken partner in crime) agree that this IS a rooster.
I hatched this handsome fellow!! The chickens have been free ranging during the days, they really love it. (Please note that in the photo you will see two orange 5 gallon buckets , they are covering sprinkler heads that would drench the coops, so until I get them capped, we have buckets) Don't judge.
I haven't yet put mulch down over the sand, so I have been putting the hay from the nesting boxes down. Honestly, I don't think they mind at all, as long as they can scratch they are happy. A worm or a grub ~ BONUS!!! They have the whole side of the house (top of pic) and more space behind where I was standing to take the picture. That is Will~I~Am and Jenny on the fore ground, Mo and Sno and one of the Cuckoo Marans with either Carrie or Miranda.
I want to share a little story about one of my hens. Her name is Sno, I got her and her sister Mo after one of my silkies went to the big coop in the sky. I didn't think Jenny would do good alone, so I rushed off the Griff's ~ A local feed store, and got two baby chicks. Both Amerucanas. Sno was the only pure white chick in the box, and well I just had to have her because she was so different from all the others. We picked Mo because she had a black patch in her head that looked like a Mohawk. That lasted about a month and then started to fade away.
Sno and Mo have been raised by my Jenny, they always nestled next to her and roosted with her when they all got bigger. They were so much smaller than she was, but being a Bantam Silkie Jenny is now dwarfed by Sno and Mo.
|Jenny and Sno|
That is Jenny and Sno right when I introduced them. I am sure Jenny was like "what the heck is that". But she quickly started mothering them. Never a peek or a squawk towards them.
They all stayed in the brooder until Mo and Sno had their feathers and then I put them in the little coop. I didn't want to throw them right in with Carrie and Miranda, they were both so much bigger then the little girls.
|Jenny and Mo|
So after about another month I decided to put them all together in the big coop. I decided on the "slip 'em in while it is dark" tactic. They wake up and would be like "Yo who are you?" and they would say "Dude I have been here forever, you are losing it". It worked, they all get along great. In fact they all roost side by side.
On January 23, 2013 I came home from work and gathered eggs, and there were THREE!!!!!!!!!! I was sure I had collected them all the night before so I had a mystery layer. I had a mystery to solve and by golly I grabbed my Nancy Drew hat and I dug right in. I gathered DNA, took finger prints, made mold castings of foot prints. It was on, on like Donkey Kong.
(brown is a wooden prop egg)
Such excitement - I was shaking
Actually I popped out the SIM card on the camera in the coop, ran into the house and put in in the computer and started scrolling for the picture proof.
|Sno ~ "I just laid an egg!!!"|
This picture is the exact moment she stood up after laying her very first egg. I am so proud..............tear.
She was hatched sometime at the end of July 2012 or the beginning of August 2012, I got her on the 24th, and she had to have been a few weeks before they sell them. So now the wait is on for Mo to start laying. (*UPDATE ~ Since starting to write this blog entry this week I have had a fourth layer, the SIM card was put in upside down so no picture of the "moment". I have since put the SIM card in correctly and now am just waiting to see when another long skinny egg is hatched.
|1, 2, 3, 4 let me have some more!!!|
Here is the low down on my chickens:
Carrie ~ Amerucana ~ Purchased from local feed store ~ Hen ~ Named after Carrie Underwood ~Singer
Miranda ~ Amerucana ~ Purchased with Carrie from Local feed store ~Hen ~ Named after Miranda Lambert ~ Singer
Jenny ~ Blue Silkie (actually looks black) ~ Hatched in my guest room ~Hen ~ Named after my sister
Mo ~ Amerucana ~ Purchased from local feed store ~ Hen ~ Named because she had a Mohawk
Sno ~ Amerucana ~ Purchased from local feed store ~ Hen ~ Named because she is pure white
Will ~ I ~Am ~ Buff Orpington ~ Hatched in my guest room ~ Rooster ~ Named Willow then realized she is a he, Will ~I ~Am in the Black Eyed Peas ~ Singer
Emma ~ Buff Orpington ~ Hatched in my guest room ~ Hen ~ Named because this is a good solid country name
Abby ~ Cuckoo Maran ~ Bought from local feed store ~ Hen ~ Named after Abby on NCIS
Zeva ~ Cuckoo Maran ~ Bought from local feed store ~ Hen ~ Named after Zeva on NCIS
So there you have it, among many other activities I am currently partaking in this is my chicken zone in Sunny South Florida.
As always we love to hear your comments and questions. Please feel free to leave either and we will get back to you.
|Will ~ I ~ Am and Emma|