*This post has been hanging out in my draft folder since May. Quite a lot has happened since then, but this post is too much fun to scrap.
Not too long ago the Heath family had no need of a chicken coop, duck house, lamb space, bee gear, or circus tent.
Now we seem to be working our way through that list in no particular order.
A chicken coop became necessary after a friend stopped by with two itty bitty chicks and left them here. Good thing I *happened* to have chick feed, a heat lamp, and a book on poultry.
that’s what I always say. I wish that were my motto for all of life, but it seems to only apply to being prepared for a menagerie. Chickens? Ready. Ducks? Yes. Bees? I do have a few books on that. Rabbits? Bring it on. Valais Blacknose lambs? Heck. Yes.
So this awesome friend dropped off two silver lace winged wyandottes (pronounced like this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R4uRxFrBnUw though it is way more fun to say Wayne-Dotties) and suddenly the homsechool room became a 4-H haven. It was still quite chilly out in our New York May and, ummm, we didn’t have a coop yet, so the chicks remained happily inside for a few weeks.
A week or two after we got Lacey and Wynona (Dad gave them excellent names, don’t you think?) I needed to go to the feed store to get more chick supplies. A new batch of day-old chicks had just come in and oh goodness! the fluffy, irresistible peep peep peeping! Somehow I did manage to resist, for about twelve hours, then I loaded up the kids and we went on a field trip to Agway to learn about how to buy a chick. We picked out two Araucana chicks and the employee put them in a little travel box for the journey home. I reached out my hand to take the box since the plan had been to bring home 2 green egg laying chicks, but the employee pointed to a sign that said it is a New York State LAW that a minimum of six chickens is allowed per transaction. What to do? Put those little peeping balls of living fluff back in the chick tower and haul my disappointed kids out of there? Or fork over the $3.50 per chick for four more chicks?
Suddenly we needed a coop that could hold up to eight chickens: two Wyandottes, two Araucanas named Eggna and Henny Penny, two cuckoo marans named Chickory and Chickadee, and two black sex-link named Florence Coco and Darlene. Della wants you to know that Cocos is Florence’s middle name, it is not part of her first name. Darlene is pronounced with a Wisconsin accent so you have to really leeeeeeean into the Darleeeeeeeeene part.
I spent the rest of that day cleaning out the rabbit hutch that I just *happened* to have on hand and getting our older girls settled in there. They had started roosting at night and I was frequently finding them wandering around homeschool room instead of hanging out in their brooder. Then the little six were popped into the brooder and we were back to a reasonable level of animal
The days were getting longer, the sun was coming out more often, and I would bring the chickies out with me while hanging out the laundry or weeding. At first, I was worried that they would scatter and be difficult to bring back inside, but they followed me around like I was their mama hen and obediently walked back inside when I came in. We still did not have a coop set up outside and the six littles were starting to flap about and roost and not be quite so little.
My husband and I walked around the property, trying to figure out a good place to set up a permanent coop, or do a chicken tractor. I wanted something convenient, but not too close to the house, and safe-ish from our common predators. We looked at various coop designs and thought we’d have a go at a pallet coop. But would that leave enough room for the ducks?
Yep, ducks. (More on them later)
In the end my husband suggested we convert the shed into a chicken/duck palace. The shed was only sheltering our riding lawn mower which could easily fit in the garage. It is a convenient distance from the house. It provides ample space for chickens (and ducks) while leaving space for storage and possibly rabbits.
A friend with building know-how (the husband of the my friend who started all this with dropping off the chicks) came over and the men set to work getting it ready. They put up a frame for the door – ah I love this green door so much! It was left by the previous owners and I loved it at first sight – and cut a sliding chicken door on one side of the shed. My husband found these old shelves in a corner of our garage, also left by the previous owner, and once they were brushed off a bit they were set up as nesting boxes.
By Wednesday the coop was ready. Almost ready. I had read about whitewashing livestock areas with a lime wash to help with bugs and odor (and appearance). The ducklings arrived Wednesday morning and the homeschool room simply could not contain all the life. I spent an intense two-hour chunk vacuuming the coop with my shop vac, mixing up the limewash, and applying a quick coat over the walls and the floor. This is something you apply every year or so (think of Tom Sayer whitewashing the fence) and I wasn’t too worried about having an even coating. It came out looking…rustic.
The chickens don’t seem to mind.
Next up we need to set up a run for the chicks, and a pond for the ducks, and a pasture for the sheep, and a wildflower meadow for the bees. Might as well add a circus tent for my life.