Yep, it’s time for a chicken update! You may remember our little flock from this post from several weeks ago. Considering that in my previous chicken-related post I confessed to not being a farm girl, would you be surprised to learn that last weekend we not only expanded our chicken family, but remodeled their coop & run, as well? And I went along with it voluntarily? Well, I’m surprised enough for both of us!
Mark had been talking about adding to the flock for weeks, and he finally connected with a chicken-raising friend of his who is trying to decrease his flock size. When chickens feel cramped they get bored, and bored chickens tend to pick on each other. You’ve heard of the “pecking order” right? That term came from chickens- their system of dominance and subordinance is based wholly on pecking. You can look at a flock and immediately tell which chickens are low on the “pecking order” because they have bald backs, all of their back-feathers are pecked out! It’s tragic.
So we took a chicken or four off his hands.
Currently our flock is comprised of the 6 Auracanas, 2 Buff Orpingtons, and 2 Black Australorps. The four new chickens are already laying but we’re still waiting on the Auracanas to fully mature and start. Needless to say, Mark was freaking out excited when we got our first egg! You’d think we actually LIKE eggs (neither of us particularly do). Don’t worry- he’s got several customers already lined up for when this flock starts churning out the eggs. With a flock this size I knew we needed to give them more space!
Several weeks ago we managed to snag a 6′ tall 10’x20′ wire dog pen off Craigslist for free with the intention of expanding our chicken run. Vocab lesson- the little house is called a coop, the larger pen is called a run. Our original chicken run is 10’x20′, so these panels would more than double its size. And then the unthinkable happened. A family friend told us they had a 6’x12′ dog pen they were planning to use as scrap metal that we could have! We carted that baby off so fast, I’m sure his head is still spinning=D
The panels sat for a few weekends while we built up steam (and $$) until finally last Sunday we took that project dowwwwn.
We incorporated two trees into the secondary run out of necessity- those suckers were way to tall to cut down and don’t have any low branches for roosting, so I figure they’re fine. We could have opened up the original run and made it one huuuuge run and added another 20 feet of fencing, but Mark is paranoid about these babies. During the day when no one is home they stay in the smaller run, then when I get off I’m supposed to open the connecting door between the two runs and let the chickens go ca-RAZY in the secondary.
Since neither of us are engineers (and we think better on our feet) the “planning stage” of this project was a 30-second diagram drawn in chalk on the side of our fridge. Once we agreed on the layout, we dove right in!
Step 1: We began by laying out all 8 of the new panels in the grass, making sure that door panels were in the most convenient spots. One panel was pretty crooked so Mark created a makeshift medieval “torture rack” between two trees with ratchet straps and stretched it back into shape (the man’s a genius!). Once the panels were where we wanted them, we set them upright and connected them with the provided hardware.
Step 2: After kicking, pushing & pulling the fencing into the most practical shape, dodging roots, sloping bits of lawn and huge trees (it ended up being kind of an egg shape, oddly enough), we staked the inside edges of each panel. The stakes add stability to the long expanse of panels.
(Mark driving in a stake. I provided the cheerleading for this step)
(the panels all set up and staked. we secured the stakes to the fencing with zip ties)
Step 3: We edged the outside of new run with cinder blocks. The. Entire. Run. This was my least favorite part! We had gone to Lowes earlier that day and purchased nearly an entire pallet full of cinder blocks- exactly 60 of them. Even with half on Mark’s truck and half on his trailer, the truck sat so low to the ground we were afraid a tire would burst! Scary. Mark was super-sweet and kept saying “this isn’t a race!” so I didn’t feel bad about placing 2 cinder blocks to his 3. My upper-body strength is sadly deficient. The cinder blocks not only to add further stability to the pen, but also deter critters (or as my husband calls them, “varmints”) from digging into the run.
Step 4: We opened the connecting door between the two runs and let the chickens figure out the rest!
(check out the Black Australorp sticking her head THROUGH the fencing to get to bugs on the other side- she was too chicken to leave the old run until Mark physically picked her up and tossed her out. Haha, too chicken, get it? LOL dumb bird)
(that door panel back there is the one we stretched back into shape- it still wasn’t perfect and fit best with the door horizontal instead of upright. theoretically we can open the door to let the chickens free-range it out in our back field. mark hasn’t worked up enough courage to try it yet, though! chickens are pretty easy to kill and he’s awfully fond of his biddies)
Oh, also last weekend we clipped the chickens’ wings. This became necessary after Mark watched one of the new Black Australorps launch vertical and roost on the TOP of our 6-foot-high fencing! Yeah, they can’t do that anymore. My younger sister Grace raises her own chickens (she has over 70 so we consider her the reigning expert) and is familiar with clipping wings so she came over and helped Mark “de-feather” our flock. It was a simple & painless procedure- taking off the tips of a few inches of feathers in one wing per bird is enough to keep them firmly grounded. Mark said he enjoyed watching the chickens fall on their faces when they tried to fly around after the clipping! What a weirdo.
Chicken Run Expansion Breakdown:
- $0- pen panels, Craigslist/friend
- $78- 60 cinder blocks at $1.34 apiece minus Mark’s 10%-off military discount)
- $0- metal stakes, leftovers from one of my dad’s projects
- $5- zip ties, Walmart
From Henrietta x5, Butch (Auracanas), Goosey x2 (Buff Orpingtons), Camo x2 (Black Australorps) and myself, thank you for reading!
(you lookin’ at ME??)