Sunday, October 31, 2010

Two Dozen and Counting!

The hens have been clucking around for two weeks now, and the wonder of it all has yet to wear off.  Are getting approximately a dozen eggs a week from our three ladies, and they are delicious eggs!  Seriously, I have never been much of an egg fan, but I made scrambled eggs for my son and myself midweek while Derek had conferences, and they were amazing.  I have never liked scrambled eggs, but I knew Owen would eat them, so I decided to go with it.  I was SHOCKED at how yummy they were.  I went back for seconds!  The difference between store bought eggs and backyard eggs is unbelievable.  Too bad we haven't had any spares to share with friends yet...  (It's not looking like we will anytime soon.  They're just too darn good.)

We did have a bit of a scare on Friday.  Derek thought that Layla (the Australorp) went missing.  The two Wyandottes were together, but Layla was no where to be seen.  Poor guy searched the yard and peeked into all the neighbors' yards looking for her.  Turns out she had just found a great spot in a bush to take a nap.  She was fine.  Totally safe and sound.  Owen is now calling her a "Nawny Ninnen"  which toddler translates to "Naughty Chicken."  It was great to see how much Derek likes the hens though.  He was so upset when he thought she was gone.  He's already planning on adding to our flock next spring.

By the way, our girls have names now.  Layla is the Black Australorp, and she is definitly at the top of the pecking order.  Atilla the Hen (Tilly) is the larger of the two Golden-Laced Wyandottes, and Yadi (in honor of Yadier Molina) is the smaller of the Wyandottes.  Yadi is fiesty and probably the number two bird.  Surprisingly, Tilly is at the bottom of the pecking order even though she is the largest bird.  Not to worry though.  There have yet to be any squabbles, and they all get plenty of top notch food.  They love eating rinsed egg shells and apple cores.

We are thinking about starting construction on a new, larger coop soon.  I think I like the looks of The Garden Coop.  What do you think?  We'll put the nest boxes on the outside and move the door to the side so that there is room for ten hens.  Should be plenty of room especially since we let them free range for a few hours every day during the school week and all day long on the weekends.

From left to right:  Tilly, Yadi, Layla

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Free Range

Our chickens have lived in our backyard coop for a week now, and they are already very much at home.  On Tuesday we let them out of the coop to wander the backyard for the first time.  They were out for a few hours then we chased them back into their house.  On Wednesday we let them out again after school but let them go back to the coop on their own at dusk.  Thursday and Friday worked the same way.  This morning Derek let them out first thing in the morning.  They'll have access to the yard all day long.  We'll see if our eggs still end up in the nesting boxes...

Speaking of the eggs, we are up to a grand total of NINE beautiful eggs.  Not quite as much as I hoped for, but there are a few hen things to keep in mind.  Hens slow their laying when stressed, and the move from Calhan definitely stressed them out.   They also don't lay as frequently in the winter.  Not because of the cold but because there is less sunlight.  Most chickens need about 12-14 hours of sunlight between eggs.  That takes longer in the winter.  It's nature's little way of giving the hens a break.

We have spent every afternoon outside this week, and it has been wonderful.  Our dog Cooper even hangs out with us watching the hens free range in the backyard.  We introduced her slowly, but now she shows no sign of want to chase those birds.  She's a lab mix and a very good girl.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

They're Here!

We drove out past Calhan early this morning and bought three beautiful hens from Barebottom Ranch.  They birds were free-ranging with a bunch of ducks and turkeys.  The owner was very kind and helped us catch our three new ladies.  We put them in a wire dog crate in the back of our little orange car.  They were a little stressed out on the drive home.  We put them into their new coop, and they all ate a few bites of their chicken chow before finding their way into the hen house.  I'll let the pictures tell the rest of the story.


Friday, October 15, 2010

Creature Comforts

We finalized the coop today by adding pine shaving, a water jug, and some food.  My not-quite-two-year-old had a blast "helping" with the pine shavings.  I think he thinks the coop is his playhouse...


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Predator Proof

After school today, Derek and I situated the coop in the area we had prepared last weekend.  Maybe its because I don't know what I'm doing, but the area we prepped was quite a bit larger than the coop.  The top of the buried hardware cloth could still reach the coop if folded down, so that's what we did.  After putting the coop on top of a border made of pave-stones, we folded down the wire and screwed it to the coop.  I didn't like the look of the exposed wire, so Derek shoveled dirt all around the coop.  I'll put some ground cover in next spring to make it even nicer.  It was getting dark when we finished tonight, so the picture isn't great, but I'll take more after we get it all decked out tomorrow afternoon.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Coop!

It came early!!!  The delivery guy called me this afternoon and said he could drop it off today if someone was home.  I asked my dad to run over and sign for it, and I got my coop(s) an entire day early!  So, of course, I had to put it together right away with the help of my wonderful hubby.  We assembled the "Foursquare" model, and it went together super easily.  This is a very well-made coop.  We are pleased with the quality of construction.  Thanks,!  We ran out of daylight today, but we will get it outside tomorrow.

Our First Coop

My First Trip to a Feed Store

I had off yesterday for Columbus Day, so I decided to run around town to gather everything the hens will need in addition to the coop.  I went to Circle F Ranch Supply on Garden of the Gods first.  Although the displayed selection was not great, the service and prices were wonderful.  I bought a feeder, and quart-sized waterer, a 2# bag of oyster shells, a bale of pine shavings, a 50# bag of layer pellets, and a 50# bag of scratch.  I spent about $45, and the chicken chow should last quite a while.  Originally I had wanted to go organic, but that was not available at this location.  The birds we are getting Saturday have not been raised organic thus far, so I'm not too concerned about it.  I also checked out the Circle F down on Union.  Same company, but there is far less to choose from there.

After school, the family and I went to Colorado AgriFeed just off of Austin Bluffs.  They had a much larger selection, comparable prices, and were able to order organic starter feed.  Some information that will come in handy in the future.  They had more options for feeders and waterers too.  I will definitely be going back to them in the future.  I want to see how the feeds compare.

Since I still wanted more, we decided to drive out to Falcon to the Big R.  They by far have the greatest selection and lowest prices.  There are also lots of choices for feeders and waterers.  We bought a 3 gallon heated water jug for about $40.  I was planning to order the same one online, so I was thrilled to find it at the store.  Big R is worth the drive.

The coop comes tomorrow afternoon!  I'll post pictures when we get it.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Almost There

Our coops will be delivered on Wednesday, and we are going to a ranch on Saturday to pick out two already laying hens.  We will be able to choose between Easter Eggers, Black Australorps, and Golden-Laced Wyandottes.  Tomorrow I will be running around Colorado Springs to find all the things we need to outfit the coop.  We decided to start with two adult hens and then buy the four chicks we picked out in the spring.  That way we'll have eggs right away and our coop won't sit empty all winter.  I can't even describe how excited I am!
Trench with Hardware Cloth
Filled in and ready for a coop!

Friday, October 1, 2010

We bought a coop!

It's happening!  We purchased a chicken coop today... actually, make that three chicken coops.  Crazy?  Yes.  MyPetChicken is currently having a sale on coops, and we went for it.  We bought two Foursquares and one Saltbox for our future ladies.  I was totally ready to build a coop using a plan, but this deal was too good to pass up.  The price wasn't much higher than we were expecting to pay for lumber and supplies.  Plus, my husband and I know nothing about construction, so building a coop would have been quite the event.  So once we factored in time, supplies, and potential (probable) errors, we decided it would be better to just start with some pre-made coops.

We are planning to hook the two Foursquares together to make a larger run area and give our flock more space.  We are also going to dig around the base and bury some mesh wire to predator-proof the coop.  We are thinking about keeping the Saltbox as a hospital/broody house, but we are also considering putting it on Craigslist.  We'll see what they look like when they actually get here.

I'm so excited, and I don't know if I'm going to be able to last until spring to get chicks.  There are some Rhode Island Red pullets in town for sale on Craigslist, and I am very tempted to buy two as soon as we get the coops.  Now I just have to convince Derek.