Sometime in late April, the chicks began escaping from their brooder. They were getting tall enough that it seemed cruel to keep the lid on, because they couldn’t extend their necks all the way, so we started leaving the lid off. This worked well most of the time, but when it was getting dark in the evenings, the chicks would start “sundowning,” or going a little crazy (see photo at left). They sought both light and our company, which was sweet at times but also a little terrifying. One night Hattie flew into the kitchen while Aaron and I were cooking dinner. A few days later, Aaron and his parents came home to find this:
Chickens on the furniture! And chicken poop, too! These things needed to move outside, and quickly!
Work had already begun, but clearly the process needed to be expedited. Seen below is the foundation for the coop, made from stones we dug out of the crawlspace. Around the perimeter, just inside the stones, is a layer of 1/2-inch hardware cloth buried twelve inches deep to keep out digging predators.
As the chicks got bigger (and the weather got warmer), we started letting them go outside more frequently whenever we were there to supervise. This was partially for their own benefit–the brooder was beginning to seem a little crowded–and partially for ours–I was tired of them perching on the edge of the brooder and pooping outside of it. In the pictures below, the chicks are approximately one month old and have entered what I affectionately like to call their awkward stage.
It was also around this time that I heard the first “cluck.” The chicks were still predominantly “cheep”ing at this point, but every so often there would be a cluck–very exciting!
Here, Aaron came home over lunch to do some framing:
We decided to give the coop a green roof because (A) we didn’t want to lose 30 square feet of yard and (B) it would help insulate the coop and (C) green roofs are awesome! The whole roof slopes about an inch toward the front, and Aaron rigged up some kind of drainage system out of parts he bought at the hardware store and then modified. The whole thing is lined with 6-mil pond liner, topped with a layer of coarse pea gravel, then filter fabric (as seen below).
On top of the filter fabric, we put a lightweight planting medium composed of a horse manure compost mix, perlite, and peat moss. We then planted the whole thing with petunias. A mass planting of petunias is pretty boring, but we had so many coming up from seed elsewhere that it was just too economical to pass up. The coop is mostly done, but we still have to finish the egg boxes before they start laying.
They’ve been out there for about three weeks now, and they seem to enjoy it. We left their brooder inside the coop for the first week or so, in order for them to have some familiarity. For the first few days, we had to pick them up and move them into the coop for the night, but they eventually figured it out and come down on their own every morning and put themselves to bed at night. The whole run is secured from predators (so far, at least), so the chickens can be on their own schedule and Aaron and I can sleep in. And a good thing, because when I leave for work at 6:30 in the mornings, they’re already out in the run.
And of course, they still get to free range whenever we’re hanging out in the backyard, which is pretty much all the time.
I’m excited for them to start laying eggs for us, but I’ll miss when they were babies, tiny and sweet: