Sunday, December 30, 2007

Counting Our Chickens

It was a rainy day today, so instead of disassembling the big sheep shelter to move it to the main ewe paddock, as we had planned, Ken and I instead spent some time today discussing our plans for getting chickens in the spring.

The farm has good sized old chicken house, but it's very dilapidated. Plus it's old enough that I'm not sure that the old paint that's chipping off it might not be lead-based paint. So, we decided we don't really want to try to fix up the old chicken house.

It would be really nice to tear down that house and build a nice replacement one in the same spot, but that would be a pretty significant project, and building a new house might make getting the chickens more of an investment than we want to make right now.

So we've been looking at lots and lots of other chicken shelter plans: hoop houses, range shelters, straw bale shelters, you name it. We're weighing the pros and cons of a permanent chicken house in a safe, convenient place vs. a portable shelter in the pasture where the chickens get fresh ground more often but we have to take the time to move them frequently---while also preventing rampaging horses from crushing the chicken shelter to pieces just for the fun of it.

We also have to consider that we get very strong winds here quite often, so a lot of the portable shelters that are light enough to move frequently would also be prone to blowing away on our windy days.

I think for now we're leaning towards a compromise design: A sheltered, semi-permanent location, convenient to the house, which has lots of shade and about 1/3 of an acre already fenced in poultry-appropriate fencing. We'd make a permanent-type wooden floor, just as if we were going to build a wooden house, and then top it with a roof of arched cattle panels and tarps (sealed in with 1" mesh to keep predators out).

Later, if we wanted to finish building a wooden chicken house on top of it, we could take the mesh-and-tarp roof off and use the same floor. And meanwhile, the current house plan would be both easy and inexpensive to build.

Of course, it'll be several months before it's time to get the baby chicks, so we have lots of time to think and rethink the plan before we make our final choice.

In case anyone's wondering, I've had my breed of chicken picked out for years now. I'll be getting Buff Orpingtons. I like them for several reasons: They are a dual-purpose breed, good for both eggs and meat. They are known to set their own eggs, so I can raise baby chicks naturally, without messing around with incubators. They're docile, don't fly much, don't make a lot of noise, and when they do make noise their voices are deeper and more melodious---not like the shrill, ear-splitting shrieks of some of the other breeds.

We've gotten so we do like to have the big "farm-type" breakfasts with eggs pretty often, so it will be great to be able to supply all of our own eggs and have chickens for the freezer as well.


Tikabelle said...

Ooo, be careful with the chickens! They are an addictive sort of creature. My mother started out with two and now has nearly 60! One thing you have probably already thought of is where your new birds will lay eggs. If you let them outside the shelter at all, there will be nests *everywhere.* Horse mangers, rooftops, trees, under the porch... simply everywhere. However, there won't be any bugs or worms or slugs within spitting distance. Best of luck to you!

farm mom said...

Good Choice. Our buffs were the best breed we'd ever raised, especially the rooster. He was huge, but gentle and kind. Which is important when you have children. They're a good breed to free range too. We could let ours out in the morning, and they would put themselves away at night. Good Luck! I think you'll enjoy them.

markmc03 said...

Again, you are a stronger sort of person than I. If I actually got to know the living creature, I'd never eat their meat. But it is one heck of an idea. Self-sustaining. And, I trust, more economical in the long run. Good luck with the project. Soon, you'll be counting AND hatching.

Cheers and Happy New Year Nancy!