Coop 4: Temple Coop
Timera Temple's family used the downtime of the pandemic to realize Timera's long time dream of having chickens. She ended up creating a run for the chickens after finding that free-ranging was damaging the plants in her yard.
(1) When did you start keeping chickens and why?
I had been thinking about getting chickens and becoming more self-sufficient in terms of food for some years. We got them in July of 2020. The pandemic and my husband’s work situation freed up pressures on me to work outside the home. I also hoped to find ways to entertain and engage my children away from screens!
Timera built this brooder with the intention of incorporating it into the chicken coop as nesting boxes.
(2) How many chickens do you have and what breeds?
Azula Valentine - Ameraucana: Favorite hands down. Very social and adventurous. She can fly at least 6+ feet. Loves to break out and come visit or range the yard. Unfortunately, my dog likes to play with her, which involves carrying her around in his mouth which has caused some injury, so we have had to work to keep her in more.
Matilda- Ameraucana. This is one of our most friendly chickens also, however, she started brooding about a month after she started laying and then did it again almost right away, but she is coming out of it now.
Ang: Whiting True Green, I think. A beautiful bird that is friendly enough!
Peaches: Whiting True Green, I think. Pretty skittish.
Margaret: White Crested Polish: Poor thing doesn’t see very well. When she gets wet the others tend to pick on her head, but so far she heals up ok.
Alex: A leader of the birds. Not sure of breed. Lays largish medium brown eggs pretty much every day.
My parents live in the country and also wanted chickens so we we ordered a “good layer” variety pack of 15 chicks from McMurray hatchery. I had read about Ameraucana’s being friendly and having blue eggs so I ordered 3 of those in addition. I highly recommend these if you have kids or want pet-like chickens.
After finding that the chickens' free-ranging was damaging her garden, Timera created a large chicken run at the back of her yard.
(3) Where did you get your coop?
We built it. I made the brooder box with the intention of converting it into part of the coop with nesting boxes. It was summer so I thought the baby chicks would be warm enough with the poultry wire, and didn’t want to spend on hardware cloth, since I knew I was going to put plywood on it.
We had to add cardboard to keep it warm enough and keep them from sticking their little heads through.
I had hoped to make them a small pen area and let them free-range the yard and I did that for a while, but as my decorative plants started to get destroyed and they found my lumber pile under the porch to be the best place for roosting and thus pooping, I knew I had to keep them in at least until things were able to grow in a bit and I could enclose under the porch. I’ve read a bit more about chicken friendly gardens, but haven’t quite figured it yet! I can say that the plants that returned (most of them) are quite healthy from all that scratched in poo!
So now we have a much larger fenced area for the birds. And I made a chicken trailer that I had hoped to move about the yard. We have moved it once. Its quite heavy and has bad tires so is not currently “mobile." It’s where they lay eggs and we have a little door to access them. I thought I would need to 'show’ them where the eggs go, but I found our first egg when I went to put some ceramic ones in the boxes.
(4) Talk a little about your feeding and watering systems.
We started with galvanized watering cans, but they get filled with poop and dirt. I recently transitioned to the buckets with little nipples on them. It’s so much better. Water gets wasted a bit, but it lasts longer and stays clean. I just put the food in a big open tin. They seem to enjoy scratching for food, so spilling doesn’t seem to matter. Yes, they poop in it sometimes.
We definitely have more rodents since getting chickens and a dog, but are starting to figure out how to minimize them. I would definitely keep food storage away from the house if I could.
Margaret, the White Crested Polish, has trouble seeing at times.
(5) What considerations did you keep in mind with the coop/run design regarding predators?
We have netting over much of it, and they have places they can go to avoid birds of prey, of which we a have many. Our dog helps with other dogs. But he will totally chase the chickens when they are out. He wants to play.
(6) What kind of features address extreme temperatures?
We have heat lamps, and use them most of the winter, but they don’t seem to really like them except on the coldest nights.
(7) Do your neighbors have an opinion on you keeping chickens?
Most people think it’s fine, I assume. There are other chickens in the area. Someone did not appreciate our rooster though and so we had to get rid of him. (It was a bit much!) Yes, we knew it was not allowed in the city, but he really did protect the hens from hawks and other predators and I wasn’t ready to eat him!
(8) Do you consider your chickens to be pets?
(9) What do your chickens eat?
We buy a layer crumble and some dried worms. I also feed them weeds and greens from the garden and the occasional food scrap.
(10) Is there anything that surprised you about keeping chickens?
How much fun they are. I could just sit and watch them for a ridiculous amount of time…
(11) Describe your coop maintenance regimen?
I rake out old straw from the trailer and other coop and put new in every 2 weeks or so. I need to do another big rake out of the whole pen soon. I’ve done it twice before. Gravity and scratching leads all the leaves and straw to low points. Those can get pretty stinky so I like to remove that and make a pile for compost.
(14) Do you have any advice for people considering getting chickens?
Go for it. But start with 3-4 so that you can get to know them better. Have a plan for extra eggs.