Sunday, March 23, 2008

Home Sweet Home, if You're a Hen

I have more pics but hughesnet was being slow again last night (will it never end?) and only one would download.

Here are the girls in their new home in the coop. As you can see, they'd already knocked over their chickie feeder.

We set up the larger feeder for them instead. Almost like they were saying 'you've got to be kidding, that thing's for babies.'

With the weather turned chilly again, we put the heat lamp on for them, and kept their old box in the coop as a familiar place to huddle if they get cold. It will be nice to see the weather turn warm for keeps, but that's a few weeks off.

The coop has solid plywood walls up 4 feet, then oak planks that have small gaps betwen them for air flow on the top 3 feet. There is a trapdoor under the roost for easy clean-out. Last year at the FFA auction we bought a replacement set of galvanized nest boxes--the ones I was using were about 50 years old and had rusted out.

We also have a hanging feeder for them that holds 25 pounds of feed at a time, and a 5-gallon waterer with a warming base so that the water will not freeze in winter. There is a timer that we use on the lights when the chickens are older to be sure they get the required amount of light to lay: 14 hours.

Larry did a thorough cleaning after the old hens left, washing down all equipment and walls with bleach water, and tossing lime on the floor (and apparently some on the walls!).

Chickens need grit for their craw so they can digest their feed. We give them a little pan of wood ash and sprinkle it in the coop too, keep it smelling fresh. Wood ash is good in the chicken yard too, if you keep your hes penned as we do. Our pen is about 8' x 20' long, 6' high with chicken wire over the top to discourage hawks. Every varmint, it seems, wants to get into a chicken house!

We also save egg shells and toast them, then give them back to the chickens. You can buy oyster shell and use that instead--the calcium in both helps make the shells harder when the hens are laying, and provides some grit too.

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