|Excalibur, an Easter Egger|
|Taken when he was younger.|
If you recall, we decided to build a coop from scratch. Yes, I thought it would save money. No, it didn't. Well, it did if you compare what we made to buying an equivalent, but it wasn't the cheapest project. I just got all HGTV with it LOL. So here are a few pics summarizing the process. It's 8 x 8 with a sealed floor covered in sand that I scoop like kitty litter. We put in sand/sweet pdz filled poop boards under the roost and every window, eave, vent etc...is covered in 1/4 in hardware cloth to keep out predators. Lots of door locks too!
|Note: I now have shredded pine in the nest boxes. They thought the shredded paper was delicious.|
|Cynder our Barred Rock|
|Zuni my sweet Easter Egger who lays blue eggs|
|The hen up front is Rain, an Easter Egger. She lays pinkish brown eggs. My other EE, Moon (not pictured), lays green eggs.|
|The nutrient difference free ranging makes. Store bought on the left. Ours on the right. See the color?|
That hawk I mentioned was hanging out this morning? He came back while I was in the middle of writing this post and went after one of my Buff Orpingtons named Pippa (after the little girl Pippa in The Promise of Rain). I heard our rooster alarm and ran out in time to chase the hawk away, but he did manage to peck at her comb. I now have her in our basement in a large dog crate I converted into an emergency chicken hospital a few months back. I cleaned up the blood and am hopeful that she'll be okay. She's pretty shaken though and I locked up the rest of the flock in their coop for the rest of the day.
They really love free ranging but I need to put more places for shelter up. This is their first winter with us and many of the shrubs/small trees, such as our fig, that they were successfully using as hiding places, have lost their leaves. We have large expanses of grass where I'd like to add large, ornamental grasses or shrubs where they can hide (berries to eat would be a plus). If only I could train my dogs to guard the flock and not eat them. They're still getting used to our new kitten, Grimalkin.
Predator scares or not, I absolutely love having chickens. I've done so much research on keeping free range, backyard chickens as safe as can be, but I'm off to do more. Finding that balance between giving them a beautiful life and keeping them safe isn't easy. Parenting is parenting...tough no matter what species you're caring for! Tips anyone?
I'm heading downstairs to check on Pippa. I hope you enjoyed the coop building pics!
Note: Many thanks to www.backyardchickens.com and all the backyard chicken keepers that hang out there, www.the-chicken-chick.com, www.fresh-eggs-daily.com and so many other chicken keeping sites. I'm a lurker, but without all the info and ideas shared online, plus great books and magazines, I wouldn't know half of what I do about caring for a flock of fluffy butts. Thanks!!