We’ve talked about raising chickens at our house on and off for years now. Every spring, the subject comes up around Easter. As I became more aware of the health benefits of pastured eggs, I started to seriously consider raising chickens in my backyard. Besides access to the healthiest eggs I could get, we’ve heard stories from other chicken raising friends of how rewarding raising chickens can be.
We had an old outdoor birdcage with a cedar shake roof in the backyard that I thought we might be able to repurpose into a coop. After checking it out, the roof was the only thing worth saving and a coop was designed around the existing roof. We decided on a condo style coop-a 2 level coop with a roosting area above an enclosed run. An additional enclosed run would be added onto the structure at a later date before our chickens were full grown. To conserve space, I decided upon an exterior nesting box for our birds to lay their eggs in. As the coop was nearing completion, it was time to get some chicks…
Backyard Chickens:Baby Chicks In The Brooder
In early April we brought home five baby chicks. We settled upon three Rhode Island Reds and two Golden Sexlinks. These should be good all around birds in terms of personality, adaptability to weather and very productive egg layers. We kept them inside in a makeshift brooder consisting of a large storage tote with a hardware cloth lid. After about a week, we transitioned to pine shavings for bedding inside our brooder and quickly moved to a hanging feeder and waterer. For the first week, the chicks were on paper towels and clean up was quick and easy. Once we transitioned to pine shavings, they got everywhere including in the water and food. Chicken poop started getting in these as well. I made a hanging waterer out of a nalgene bottle and a nipple waterer you can find at feed stores. Getting your birds’ food and water off the ground is essential from all I’ve read and it really helps cut down on extra cleaning and refilling.
The Coop Gets Finished
After several weeks, it was obvious the chicks were going to need to go out in the coop before they got all their feathers since space was starting to become an issue. The night time temperatures were a little too cold for the chicks, so they were going to need a heat lamp at night. I wanted to have an outlet inside our coop eventually for the winter time, but now I was forced to come up with a solution before the coop was inhabited. I ended up running electricity from our garage to the coop and ran conduit inside the coop (no pecking the wires!). I also used totally enclosed plastic housings for the ground fault interrupter receptacle as chicken waste will eventually rot metal housings. To minimize dust at the receptacle, I installed an in-use cover. We painted the coop to match the house, and I installed a beautiful fused glass window in the door to the coop that Mrs. Wellinformedliving had made. Here’s a picture of the finished coop:
A close up of the art glass window:
A view from inside the coop:
Here’s a view of the inside, you can see the GFCI on the left, one of the roosts in the back and one of the water bottle waterers.
And the coop at night:
The chicks have been in their new home for several weeks now and have adapted quite well. They have learned to use the ramp between levels and their new gravity feed watering system. As they grow and get older we’ll remove the heat lamp and give them some outside free range time each day. All in all this has been an extremely rewarding experience so far.
(Our cat is watching from the plant bed)