April 27, 2012

Hen Haven: Our Chickens and Coop

So we got baby chicks near the end of March and had them indoors, heat lamp and all...but they were so big for their tub by this last week, that we were ready to move them outside and get them use to the outdoor temperatures and situation.

We got four types: Ameracauna--will lay green eggs ("Scratch-n-Sniff" because she's bi-polar and always scratching everything and seems kind of jumpy), Buff Orpington--will lay light brown eggs ("Sandy" because of her color--she's the smallest and most timid, but I assume she'll plump out when bigger), Plymouth Barred Rock--will lay light brown eggs ("Rocky"), and a California White Leghorn--will lay white eggs ("California" because the breed and color and it seems to just fit her). They definitely have personalities and are so fun to hold and pet. And I think they've finally outgrown their overly jumpy stage at every little noise.

I'm glad to be out of the baby chick stage, because although cute, they poop and throw pine shaving all over everything--in their food and water and such. They're not very clean. So, I was happy to hurry up and finish building the coop so I didn't have to deal with cleanliness-issues as much.

I built the A-frame last fall with scrap lumber from dumpsters in the neighbor (from all the house building going on our street). And then last week I finished the rest and painted it and added the chicken wire (which was the least fun part--that stuff is pokey!). And the most expensive part was the primer and paint and screws, because the rest of the stuff I scavenged for free. The green is called "Garden of Paradise," which I thought was pretty cool.

Honestly, it was hard to make and I didn't have any set plan to follow, since I just was using scrap wood and making the fewest amounts of cuts possible into a plan that seemed practical and most convenient for me--and so I didn't have to use the scary wood saw cutter thing that is ridiculously loud. And I probably won't do it again. But I'm glad a did it, and that it's now over with and I can just stare at it and think..."I have chickens in my back yard. Alright!"
Money-wise, does this make sense? Short-term, no. Long-term...break-even if not saving a little money, if you're smart about it and don't spend tons of money on a coop and fancy stuff you don't need.

The chicks cost between $2.50 and $3.50 each. Then we had to buy a heat lamp and bulb (abt. $15) and some pine shavings (abt. $12 that will last a year or more) and some medicated chick food for their first 18 weeks...about $15). Then we bought the water and food containers for about $8. Total that up and it's not bad, considering we buy between 2-3 dozen eggs a month I think. The coop cost about $40 to make (using paint and nails and hinges I had to buy, but we have tons of paint left oveR). The main cost that recurs is their food, but they eat anything and we made it so that the tractor will move and they can forage, so their food supply is supplemented by foraging and our kitchen scraps (that we choose not to put in the compost).
I'll probably post an update in a few months, once they start producing eggs and see if I'm still liking this all and how the coop is working out. I'm sure by then it will have the wheels, so we can move it around more easily--like a tractor. :)

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