well, it IS the time when our wedding schedule slows down. So-hopefully yes. We have a wedding show this weekend and then next week I’m expecting a shipment of rare Kiri Kiri! I’ll be getting their habitat prepared next week!
We’re wedding photographers. So, summer hits and it’s goodbye everything else-until Thanksgiving.
Lot’s going on in my chicken world and I think today I’ll try to make some updates, stay tuned!
Raising chickens is great, although letting them out every morning and in every night get’s REAL old-REAL quick. Before I built the outdoor/enclosed run-our chickens would have access to our native back yard and I needed a solution for the opening/shutting chore.
After MONTHS of research and too many youtube videos featuring old men describing how to disassemble power drills… I came upon this product: the AXT Electronic Automatic door. I chose the “duck” size door and the light sensor option with a small light sensor on the end of a wire, I fed it through the upper wall venting. It’s battery powered, moves slowly and will retract if there’s an object in the way-like a bird.
What can I say… it opens at dawn, closes at dusk. It’s awesome!
Wow-what a day!! Bend’s Second Annual Coop Tour yesterday was quite a success! Non-stop talking about the coop. I loved sharing how I do things and the feedback was amazing. I had people saying “this was the coop to see”, “everyone’s talking about this coop”, “Poop Hammock” this and “automatic door” that!
Here’s some key elements to my coop and how it stays clean and my chickens stay healthy.
If you have chickens, you have a battle with poop… If your getting chickens-you’ll soon find out. I found that out last year when we bought our first mature laying hens… the first thing they did when we got them in the kennel to take home was lay the biggest, foulest smelling, fist-sized poop. I thought we may have made a huge mistake and there was no way could have 8 chickens running around our property laying poops like that! Chickens actually wouldn’t live in poop and the belief that chickens are would live in filth is wrong and unhealthy! An accumulation of poop and feather dander in your birds’ living quarters is incredibly unhealthy. This thread on the BYC forum will help you to understand just how unhealthy it is. My best advice… join the BYC forum and read EVERYTHING by “resolution”.
I stumbled across this thread and after discussing it with “resolution” I started the chickens on Forage Cakes and amended their Organic Pride layer pellets with Ultra Kibble. The result is smaller, harder, walnut-sized, very low-odor poops. The chickens are obviously absorbing more nutrients.
Here’s what a month’s worth of accumulated poop in the “Poop Hammock” look like:
Which brings me to the “Poop Hammock”. It’s something I created out of ideas I got from my friend “resolution”, who hadn’t really named it but had fabric tied and hanging under his roosts. From the information I gathered from him, I sketched out a design and asked him if this was something like what he described since I had never seen a picture of such a thing. “resolution” is a wildlife biologist who studies rare-treasure birds…. birds our chickens descend from. His response was… “PERFECT!”.
The “Poop Hammock” is constructed out of shade cloth I got at The Home Depot. You’ll first need to construct your roost. Chickens would roost high off the ground on a branch… so if your chickens aren’t too overweight, try giving them things to hop/fly up and down from (and get rid of those ridiculous ladders!). Make their roost at least a few feet off the ground. Mine has a lower bar 2’ off the ground and the upper roost 4’ off the ground, they roost on the higher one. I will replace the 2x4’s with perfect, straight but undulating branch’s-when I find them.
Once your roost is constructed (or reconstructed), measure your width and measure between poles-dipping the tape about 12” below lower bar adding about 4” to that for the rod-pocket-depending on what type of rod you use. I used 1”x2”s. If your a fancy sewer or know someone who has the ability to create side gussets-that’s what I did. They’re just side panels that hold the poop in the hammock.
I had a lot of people asking me how I train the chickens to poop in the hammock. Ha-I wish! Chickens naturally put themselves to bed at dusk, and from that time until dawn-when they’re roosting, they’ll poop. The “Poop Hammock” just catches that poop! No poop on the floor.
Use eye-bolts screwed into the tops of the 1”x2” s, cutting small holes in the shade cloth and burning the holes to prevent fraying. Match the eye-bolt positions to mark placement of the hooks you’ll attach to the lower edge of the roost poles.
For easy, monthly clean-up… unhook the “Poop Hammock” and carry it like a burrito out to the composter… wear a mask and if your chicken poop is like ours, when you shake it-the dried poop just CRUMBLES out! I’ll spray out any smears and occasionally use a push broom and some dish soap. It all takes less than 10 minutes, really, no joke.
In keeping with the “keeping it clean” idea… let’s move on to food & water.
First off, get your food and water OUT of the coop! If you read the thread I spoke about on the BYC forum-you will have read about the “poultry smut” in the coop and how dangerous it is for your birds to breathe, collect on their beaks when preening and how it can contaminate their water-which they drink! Get their water off the ground and out of the coop. Chickens need clean water-just like you do. Your eating their eggs or their meat. Realize and understand that contaminated water infects and creates unhealthy, infected birds.
We live in the mountains so we use a heated base that has a built in thermostat which heats at freezing. The watering station is on an elevated base of river rock, I also use river rock around the outside of the outdoor, covered run which cut’s down on dust getting in the water on windy days. I can also just hose down any poop around the waterer.
Here’s what I do with their water:
And now, to the food. I do use a layer pellet. I use Organic Pride… because it’s available at our local feed store High Desert Ranch & Home. If I can find something else that’s readily available, I’ll use it.
I amend the food with Ultra Kibble and have it in a feeder placed on an upside down planter-off the ground. I placed rocks around the base which the chickens stand on to reach the food, if any falls to the ground, it falls between the planter and the rocks, they can reach it with their beaks but they can’t walk through it or poop on it. I also don’t feed them anything on the ground. Chickens work for their food… if you’ve ever let them out into your garden, you see how the dig, deep and wide and then they use their beaks even further, pushing the dirt out of the way to find insects and worms. There isn’t poop on it. If you just throw food out (over poop), like “scratch”… they don’t work for it, it’s just right there and yes they will eat it-even if it’s laying on poop. That’s gross! No thanks. That’s not a “treat”, that’s a recipe for infection! If you want to give them a treat, set up a foraging table or bench and get some Forage Cakes which will get them healthier and reduce their poop size and odor!
Here’s what I do with the food and some ideas on a foraging table or bench:
The next best thing in keeping your coop healthy, is keeping it safe!
I’ve used hardware cloth for my outdoor run panels and gates. It’s also dug, 2’ down and 2’ out around the entire perimeter of the coop and run. The roof is corrugated PVC panels which let light in but keep the run dry.
Here’s what I’ve done with the outdoor run:
Next: More on the outdoor shelter/run and free-ranging area.