Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Henhouse, run and garden

The run still needs hardware cloth on the end and top before the chickens can go outside. What makes me laugh: Seeing the chickens looking out of their plexiglass window. I am looking forward to letting them outside - this weekend, I hope!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Chickens and Pythagoras

For the third day in a row, I've done almost nothing but work on the chicken coop. With the chickens safely installed in the doghouse portion, I turned my attention to the fenced chicken run, while Greg finished the "patio" -- the bricked area directly underneath the doghouse, where they can get out of the weather.

The run is made of 2x4s and 1/2-inch hardware cloth. It could house a chicken, or probably a cow. I seem to not know how to make anything that's not heavy-duty.

I had quite a time trying to figure out the measurement of the angles, since the shape is a slanted rectangle (parallelogram?). I have a tool that has degree marks on it, but I couldn't figure out how to use it. However, helping my kids through math problems recently made me realize that I probably needed to trot out the Pythagorean theorem, do a drawing that contained a right triangle, and figure out the other angles.

The nice thing about having kids in school is that you're constantly using old math skills to help them on tests, and you suddenly find that they really ARE useful to know in real-world situations. I'm surprised somebody hasn't started marketing algebra to baby-boomers who are worried about getting Alzheimer's -- what a way to work your brain...

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Hens in the henhouse

After a weekend of frantic construction work, the chickens went out into their new home this weekend. They're spending the first night outside tonight. I hope it's secure enough to protect them from the raccoons!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Henhouse goes into ground

Last night, after dark, Greg and I set the nearly-finished henhouse/ doghouse into the post holes we'd dug. There's still a bit of work to be done, and I was out there frantically last night nailing cedar planks to the side of the henhouse, trying to finish it off. Meanwhile, a neighbor told us that another neighbor has lost three chickens this week to a marauding raccoon, adding energy to my efforts to build the Fort Knox of henhouses.

The chickens, meanwhile, are like rowdy teenagers who want to skip town and have their own lives, and all three of them now regularly fly to the top of the box and perch there, somewhat defiantly. The bathroom smells like a farm.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Gracie and the chickens

Our dog Gracie, a miniature schnauzer, can't get enough of the chickens. Let into the bathroom, she puts her paws on the edge of the box and looks inside, her tail wagging furiously. I don't know what she's thinking -- does she want to eat them? Chase them? Just watch them, like dog TV?

Meanwhile, the birds are getting out of the box more and more often, perching precariously on the cardboard edge.

Chicken movie

Several people have told us to feed our chickens a little scratch in the palms of our hands. Once we started doing this, the chickens lost their fear of us and began hopping up in our hands, the better with which to survey their world. Here, Mathilda the brave jumps up first, followed by Wilma the leghorn. Gertrude skulks in the shadows.

Chicken salad

"Made the chickens a salad," Greg said.

"Salad? A chicken salad? What's in a chicken salad?" I asked.

"Cole slaw, carrots, broccoli and some bugs."

I worried all yesterday that our newly-flight-worthy chickens would wreak havoc upon the bathroom, but they were in their box when we got home. However, there were random dots of chicken poop on the bathroom floor. The chickens apparently flew the coop, but then came home to roost.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Free Range in the bathroom

As I was getting ready for work this morning, one of the chickens (Gertrude) successfully flew to the top of the box and perched there, clinging to the box edge with its chicken-feet, surveying its domain - the bathroom. I shooed it back in, but by the time I had brushed my teeth, Wilma had done the same thing.

Yikes! Our chickens can now fly the coop! We have free-range house chickens! Not good.

Meanwhile, I have about 12 solid hours of work remaining to do on the coop, plus numerous supplies to buy before they can go outside. I'm feeling the pressure, all right.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The chickens are eating like pigs

Front and back views of the henhouse.

The two doors in back are my handiwork from Mother's Day (some families, ahem, take their mothers out to brunch. Mine left me to build a chicken coop). The hinged doors will allow us to open up the back of the house and gather eggs from the laying boxes I made. I estimate we could get eggs in September -- or possibly next spring, since chickens don't lay eggs in the winter, unless you provide them with light. That's what the books say, anyway.

The birds are really growing fast now, and they eat all the time. The largest, Wilma the leghorn, is about the size of a robin, and the other two are roughly the size of starlings.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

With apologies to T.S. Eliot

The naming of chickens is a difficult matter.
So far, each of our chickens has had THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.

But, there's no poetry involved - we just can't agree.

Greg and I both think that old-fashioned names fit best. So we cooked up a trio of very nice, old-fashioned names for the three of them, and they were automatically rejected by our kids, who have a lousy track record of naming birds.

The leghorn has variously been named Wilma, Phad Thai and Blaze. In truth, I think I will always think of her (I hope it's a her!) as The Leghorn. Or Hawk, because she has a hawk-like face.

The bantie has a few names, including Gertrude.

The Americauna has been christened Mathilda, but we all keep referring to her as Baby, because she's still the roundest, littlest, cutest chicken of the three.

I don't know if any of these names will ever stick, so we may just end up calling them The Chickens.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Great coop example

We were cleaning out the back yard this weekend to prepare the chicken run, and as part of that we set out some old creosote-soaked railroad ties that had been stashed out behind the garage. A woman immediately showed up to take them away, and as we were talking, we learned that she has chickens too.

I followed her over to her house in Ballard to get a look at her backyard coop, which could have been a cover photo for Modern Urban Chicken Farmer magazine - if such a magazine existed! It was really elaborate and handsome. She has three lucky chickens. It's a two-tiered coop, made mostly of cedar, with lots of space on top and bottom for her four hens.

I'm working on modifying a large cedar doghouse, which we picked up for free one summer, and making it into a coop. I think I'm going to have to make it taller, though.