Thursday, May 1, 2014

Hatching A Coop, Part II

We may have been procrastinating on getting our exterior paint job done or working on other projects for our house BUT we haven't been really all that lazy either.
We've been building stuff - chicken stuff! After our peepers moved into their happy little brooder box, we got started on building their home in the back yard to make sure it would be move-in ready when they were old enough.

It started, of course, with a trip to the blue box to buy lumber and hardware.

Our chicken coop design consists of two stacked boxes, one framed out and with a roof to go on top, and the other one open with hardware cloth as an easy, breeze run, measuring 3'x4' and thus creating a whopping 24sqft of living space for our five ladies (more than the required 15sqft).

Plans all finagled out, we got busy cutting, and my Christmas present - the new compound miter saw - really came in handy! Loving my newest toy!

Then husband got real antsy to play with my new toy and I was delegated to take care of the are of the backyard that would house the coop. Moving the new structure into a place that's in direct line of the kitchen window (Chicken TV!) and five feet from the property line, meant our yard needed a bit of rearranging.

The African irises came up as did the Lantana and the Hibiscus to be replanted in a different area. The plywood board was used to determine the exact location for our coop.

And while I was happily digging in the dirt, Little Man and the husband started building the coop.We created a frame on top of the plywood floor, and then covered the sides with strips of plywood.

I got sidetracked and didn't take too many in-progress pictures but we cut out a trap door from the floor to create a doorway for a ladder down to the ground level, added nest boxes by dividing the front into three 12" sections using cut-offs from a couple of old boards we'd kicking around, and added a roof with vent.

Here it is in all its unpainted, unfinished glory! It's still missing its paint job and the roof vent cover, but it's in its proper place and looking good. I was most impressed by the fact it didn't feel like we just sacrificed 90% of our remaining yard - there is plenty of space around it to play with the dog, have friends over, pitch a tent in the middle of the yard, lounge in the sun, what have you. Sure, I'd like a bigger yard - the only thing I'd like to change about my house - but after mowing and weed-wacking, I'm not sure I really do want a bigger yard. Ha!

Anyways, as you can see the front has some sort of locking contraption and you can see hinges as well. That's because the front folds down for easy access to the next boxes (so we can steal eggs quickly), and the bottom front of the run folds up, so we can rake out chicken poop and , well, access the run part. It's all solid and heavy and not going anywhere!

This is what it looks like when you fold down the front. You peek right into the three nest boxes. Three is more than enough - rule of thumb is one box per five hens - but the math worked out this way and they'll have a choice. Since Silkies don't roost quite like other hens do, we added a low and removable roost to the inside of the coop (it's the block shape in the center). In the back you can see the chain that opens and closes the trapdoor down.

Since our coop design was inspired by the SmartCoop, we included the folding roof, i.e. the roof folds up on both sides for easy cleaning. After reading various articles and books on bedding, I decided on using sand (and so far it's worked beautifully!).

Here it is, primed and ready for paint! On top of the vent cover is Ferbie, our porch kitty, who just couldn't quite figure out what it was we were building and what it was for. She sure did not appreciate the addition of the roof vent cover because it messed up her resting spot (obviously sitting in the sharp edge is not as comfy as lounging on hardware cloth). Primed it looks like a cute little barn and for a moment I was tempted to leave it that way.

However, we decided it would be a great opportunity to test our house color scheme on a small version first and see how we liked it.
So the frame of the run was stained dark-brown (should have done that first before adding the hardware cloth, but it did turn our okay), the lower half of the coop was painted a lovely golden aka "SW Bosc Pear" (it's not as yellow as it looks in the picture; it's my camera messing with you, I swear!), and the top a soft sage green aka "SW Oakmoss", with a creamy "SW Antique White" trim.

So far, we haven't grown tired of the color scheme - phew! We may have a winner, but we definitely have a chicken coop!

Monday, April 28, 2014


And here they are, our little peepers! We ordered three silkie chicks through our local feed store Standard Feed, and after waiting for about two weeks we finally got the call we'd been waiting for with bated breath: Your chicks are here for pick-up!

We wanted silkies for their cute looks and less so for their egg production. As I mentioned a little while ago, we aren't in it just for the eggs - those are a neat side effect of having chicken. As a breed, silkies really appealed to us and we are madly in love with their looks. They are also a Bantam breed so they are smaller than the average chicken, but we were very surprised to see just how much smaller they are. The chicks were -tiny-!

We went with three different color for ease of identification: blue, white, and black. Since our family has Irish roots (and I'm a bit Iron Druid fan) we went with Irish names: Danu (pronounced "Da-noo") for our little blue chick, Niamh (pronounced "Neev") for our little white one, and Morrigan for our little black one with the attitude.Aren't they adorable?

See how tiny they are? This is Danu, our snuggle chic. she loves to cuddle right into the palm of your hand when you pick her up! They are about half the size of regular chicks of the same age.

And here's the peep squad rocking out under the red light of the heat lamp!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Hatching A Coop (Part I)

With our chicks safely tucked into their brooder box for the next couple of weeks, it was now time to start planning and building our chicken coop.
Pinterest proved invaluable in collecting information and inspiration. There are so many different types of coops around, from plain and utilitarian to fancy and whimsical, in all sizes, colors, and even architectural styles. After a while your vision goes blurry and your brain will stop working. It's great to have pinterest to collect all the inspiration in one neat spot:

(check out my chicken board here)

We really, really loved the Hobbit Hole type of coops, but for our small urban backyard, space considerations played a major role in deciding on a coop design. Since we are required to keep our hens safely fenced in and need to protect them from birds of prey and the cats during the day, we needed to include a run while keeping the coop a whopping 5' away from the property line to boot. Not a small feat when half your yard is already taken up by an above-ground pool and two A/C  compressors - ugh!
That pointed us into the direction of two-story coops, the kind of coop with a run as the ground level and a cute little ladder going up to the second story penthouse!

Like this one.

 (Pin here)

Or this one.

(Pin here)

We also discovered the Smartcoop (tm) online and really, really like its look, but there were a couple of details that didn't mesh with our requirements, for example we wanted a coop with floor for our silkies (they aren't big on flying and roosting due to their fluffy feathers) as well as a separate door to access the nesting boxes, so we didn't go for that one.
However, after building our coop and adding up the expenses I'd say go for it, especially if you aren't handy with tools. Right now they are even offering free shipping!

At the end of the day we decided on a two-story coop with fold-up roof for easy access and clean-up, a separate door for access to the integrated nesting boxes, and a bottom run. Those two stories with a measurement of 3'x4' give us 24sqft of living space for our chicken without additional attached run (future project alert!).

Not wanting to use pallet wood due to its chemical soaked nature we went shopping at the big blue box first! Stay tuned!

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Broody Box

As somebody who considers anything below 79F "sock weather", I can seriously relate to chicks needing warmth to thrive. Hell yeah! Even I would consider a heating lamp over my nest absolutely creature comfort.

So, in preparation for the arrival of our babies (special ordered silkies) we had to create a brooder box for them to keep them warm, safe from cats and dog, and contained.

We started with a large-ish plastic bin. We picked the clear plastic for entirely selfish reasons - we wanted to be able to see our baby birds from every angle, and we're glad we went this route because OMIGOD they are cute!

Our plastic bin came with a handy warning label that you cannot put babies into it with the lid on, so we cut a hole into the lid and covered the opening with some hardware cloth.

We wanted to make sure that neither cat nor dog could get their paws onto the peepers while at the same time allowing for plenty of ventilation. The top was easy to cut with a sharp knife. Not quite like "buttah" but not too bad either. Just stab and slice, and keep going.

Working with hardware cloth is painful - it seems to consist entirely out of sharp edges and stabby spikes - but it is so much more solid and thus safer for your chicks than chicken wire. I used a pair of pliers to tuck back the pointy ends so nobody would get hurt.

I used a drill to drill holes along the perimeter of the opening and then used thin wire to 'sew' the hardware cloth to the top.

Chicken wire should really be renamed to something like Veggie wire; it's good for keeping out birds from your veggie beds but you're not supposed to use it for anything chicken related, really, because it's too flimsy and doesn't offer protection from predators. Go, figure!

I drilled two more and bigger holes into either side of the box and ran a dowel through it for a quick and easy roost.

Final touches were the water bottle which was fashioned from a simple water bottle to which we attached a drinking nipple (drill hole into lid, screw in nipple - done!) and a store-bought feeder. We line our brooder box with paper towels so the peepers don't slip and develop a case of spraddle leg, and then top it off with a layer of pine shavings (Remember - No cedar shavings; they are toxic for chicks).

All set and ready for some baby birds!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Cluck Yeah!

Life's been crazy - that seems to be the norm over here these days and I'm not particularly crazy about it - and while there's not been a peep from me here ,life did not come to a stand-still. Oh no, no such luck.

Biggest news - chicken are legal now!

Thanks to the initiative of Lauren Trad and "Hens in Jax" and the wide-spread support throughout town, Jacksonville is finally embarking on a limited two-year pilot project allowing up to 5 hens (no roosters) in combination with single family homes in residential areas. A few neighborhoods opted out but fortunately for us, Historic Springfield is on board!

In order to snatch up one of the 300 coveted backyard hen permits, Little Man and I signed up for the required class (we both enjoyed that very much thanks to the fun speakers), received our chicken class certificate, and then filed for our permit the next day. In less than a week we were holding our backyard hen permit in our hot, sweaty hands.

Cluck yeah!

Why chicken?
For the heck of it.
 I mean, we are not in it -just- for the eggs. At the end of the day it'd be cheaper to keep on buying organic eggs at the store, especially with our silkies who are not known for consistent egg production, but it's not nearly as much fun and as rewarding.

We ordered our Silkie chicks and while waiting for our chicks to arrive, we did major research on which coop for our hens, planned where to put it, did some slight rearranging in our backyard and got going on building a home for our feathered pets with benefits here at our little old house.

More on that later!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Oh No, You Didn't!

Oh yes, we did.

I know I said that 2013 would be all about getting our Little Old House's exterior spruced up. A whole new color for the ol' gal.

I wrote a detailed email about how we chose our color scheme here and even created some clip art to show everything went together, both on our house and for the big picture aka our blog of the 'hood.

Then this happened - husband finally spoke up that he really didn't like the colors we'd agreed on, and all our plans went, well, to hell in a handbasket. Back to the drawing board it was. After all, the exterior is such a big project that you better 'like' if not 'love' what you put on there since repainting it wasn't going to happen.

We spent weeks painting different shades of blue on the back of our house, until we finally broke down and mixed out own because they all were either too blue, too light, too dark, too grey, too green - well, you get the idea.

Then summer rolled around and all of our plans came to a screeching halt.
Sloshing halt, really, because last year's summer was hot and rainy and miserable.
Mosquitoes grew to the size of helicopters, it was hotter than Hades, and if it wasn't, it sure was pouring buckets whenever we had spare time to actually do paint the house.

The back of our house continued to look like this throughout the remainder of the year. Fall came, and with it nicer weather. It was still wet - wetter than in past years - but there were plenty of nice weekends, just right for painting, and yet.
No painting got done.
We deliberately procrastinated.
No kidding.
I was so not ready to pull the trigger, no matter how much I hated the scruffy look of our little old house.
Then, just a little over a week ago, I caught myself playing with the Sherwin-Williams Color Visualizer, and I realized that while we found a blue we liked, I never quite liked it for our house.

Our little old house just isn't a house that wants to be blue.
History repeating, eh? Now it was my turn with the 'I don't hate it, but ...' spiel.

Before confronting the husband with what had been nagging on my mind for the past months, I kept on playing. I'd recently hit a Craftsman style streak (more on that sometime within the next couple of weeks) and dug deep into the concept of Craftsman style sensibilities. While our house is not a proper Craftsman-style house - its architecture is a bit muddled down - it's a bit Craftsman and Bungalow influenced. We'd already talked about emphasizing rafter tails and such, but playing with the color program I decided to give our little old house a Craftsman make-over, even going so far as to playing with a two-tone color scheme.

And BAM!
That's when I found it: THE color scheme (no, really, this is it).
The moment I painted on the two-tone color scheme on the back of the house (virtually, of course), the architecture of the back of our house where all original features have been lost due to the enclosing of the two small back porches and the second-story addition which now houses our master bath and the dressing room started to make sense again instead of looking bland and faceless!

 I know that it's difficult to understand my excitement over this color scheme when all you have to look at are these pictures. They really could be better ... you know, this one was taken in really rotten weather and it doesn't do anything to prettify the back of our little old house (nor does the stack of wood leaning against the a/c compressor).
 This one - taken and modified online with the color scheme - I snapped to show the husband how the two-tone color scheme would look on the side of our house. He was a bit concerned at first about having a two-tone house in green (a dark sage green/ Sherwin-William's "Oakmoss") and gold (a rich, earthy gold / Sherwin-William's "Bosc Pear") next to a green house and a yellow house, but these colors are very different from the colors of the other two houses so there's nothing to poke fun at.

The real kicker came when I bought two testers with these colors to try them on the house. Nothing is more important than to test your paint on the object of your desire - no, really. Light, sun exposure and shade, and even the texture of your siding make a -huge-  difference in how you perceive your color and how true it will look compared to your paint chip. In all cases prior to this, every color I'd picked required massive ttweaking - going darker, going lighter, going greyer, etc.

These two?
Spot. On.
 And then I discovered this gem in one of my books - a historic craftsman influenced historic house with a two-tone color scheme (green on top) and and off-white/yellow at the bottom. Score!

I'm so stinkin' excited to get started painting I'm rotating on the spot while waiting for an available weekend with good weather!