Building “Fowl Knox”

It’s a new year! The passing holidays also marks another milestone: I’ve had my chickens over a year! Having backyard chickens has been so rewarding. Come see how things are going at “Fowl Knox”!

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To recap, I acquired my flock newly hatched, from a neighbor whose hen had a brood of nineteen babies, around Thanksgiving. Having not had chickens before, we were “winging” it! Last holiday, Santa brought a coop, which we set up in the garage until winter passed (see how that went here: http://www.farmgirlbloggers.com/2076#more-2076). Before long we had fresh eggs.

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So it’s been a year. I’ve learned a lot.

The flock’s grown up: large hens and a rooster. Having a rooster’s a blessing; I’m glad “Spot” ‘s part of the flock. He stays in the hen house with the girls at night. I open the door early (but at a decent hour, so he doesn’t wake anyone). He’s a great watchman, letting us know when someone comes down the drive, or mail arrives. It’s important he knows I’m in charge, so I discourage him from mounting the hens in my presence, and by feeding my “girls” first.

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When you have chickens, predators will come. We live in a suburb that’s a mix of town and country, an area that’s become more populated with time. Still, we’re ever-reminded of the “country” aspect with wild critters. Most of my neighbors with chickens have lost more than a hen or two. Having raised my flock from little two-day old chicks, I’m “Mama Hen”, very protective of my feathered babies. As much as I’d like to boast that my chickens are “free range”, they aren’t completely unless I’m outside too. Our coop’s within a fenced “run”. In the suburbs, it keeps them from wandering over to a neighbors yard, or into the street. Second, since chickens will eat anything, it keeps them safe from ingesting plants in my yard toxic to poultry. Most importantly, it keeps them safe from predators.

"Tonight's entertainment provided by Spot and the Chickettes"...

Tonight’s entertainment provided by “Spot and the Chickettes”…

“Spot” looks out for his girls, calling for “back-up” with his “distress call”.  It’s not a crow, but more a quick series of “chirps”. He knows I’ll come when I hear it. Several times, he’s alerted me to a hungry fox. One late morning I heard Spot’s distress call. Cable workers in the street in front were making a terrible racket, so I assumed that’s what it was about. I came outside to assure Spot all was okay, and ran smack into a fox, feet from the chickens’ run! For a moment we stood, eyes locked, both surprised. I’m sure the cable workers thought I was nuts as I chased the fox away in my pajamas, arms in the air, (praying I didn’t end up on YouTube)!

Sneaky foxes!

Sneaky foxes!

We found keeping an old radio on outside, just low enough to be heard near the coop, keeps predators such as foxes, skunks, and fisher-cats at bay. Keeping a nearby outside light on at night helps as well. Digging the fence down a foot is recommended, since predators dig. With Connecticut’s extremely rocky ground, that was hard, so we created a deterrent with a rock border around the fence, matching the border around our different flower beds.

One fall morning, the rooster called his distress call, and this beauty was floating above my yard so low we could say hello!

One morning, the rooster gave his distress call, and this beauty was floating above my yard so low we could say hello!

The run top’s covered with plastic garden mesh resembling chicken wire, bent over the sides, secured with cable ties. The flock gets fresh air and sun, but is safe from the many red-tailed hawks here. Many times we’ve seen a hawk perched atop, trying to “lift” the roof to no avail. The chickens wouldn’t stand a chance completely loose.

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This hawk is a frequent visitor.

This hawk’s a frequent visitor.

There’s also partial covering from a tarp, providing shade and reducing wear on the wooden coop. Of course, we didn’t think it through. The first big rainstorm caused the tarp to puddle water and swell like a giant water balloon! After braving storms to drain rain, we created a “domed” effect by wedging a snow scraper underneath, until creating something less “Beverly-Hillbilly” in style with boards and screws. The whole run and coop can be taken apart and moved to another area when needed.

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I learned to invest in a metal waterer; plastic can warp and leak.

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I feed my flock a good diet, supplementing with lots of greens and a few good treats each day. My girls lay an egg each, daily, sometimes every other day. Three hens is more than enough for our family, and I still sometimes give cartons of eggs away.

I typically get three eggs a day. Once I got a fourth "tiny" egg..

I typically get three eggs a day. Once I got a fourth “tiny” egg..

And a gigantic egg!

And a gigantic egg! Production slows in winter.

There’s arguments on washing and storing eggs. Fresh eggs have a “bloom”, an invisible barrier keeping out bacteria. I settled on quickly rinsing off my eggs in very hot water before storing in the fridge. (Eggshells are porous, so water temps below a hen’s body temperature can open pores and let in bacteria).

Chickens are work, but not near what I expected. Cleaning their coop and area daily keeps away odor, and keeps healthy chickens. They’re a priority, taken care of first thing each morning and again each night.  Would I do it again? Absolutely!

Wishing you a very Happy New Year! Tell me, do you have any tips for keeping your flock safe?

Until Next Time…Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

 

Leave a comment 19 Comments

  1. Dori Troutman says:

    Hi Nicole, I miss having chickens. We raised our kids with chickens – they sold eggs and we matched their money! Then we retired and moved to our farm here in Tennessee and have spent the last 3 years building a house and now a garage/shop. The chicken coop is slated for this summer! I cannot wait. I loved our hens. And don’t you agree that once you eat home-grown eggs you cannot stand the store bought ones? I’m lucky my daughter has hens so I still don’t have to buy them! Love your hens… and even love your rooster! :-) – Dori, the Ranch Farmgirl –

    P.S. I love your idea of keeping the radio playing quietly near the pen. That is brilliant.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Thanks, Dori! I bet you can’t wait to get your chickens this summer! There truly is nothing like fresh eggs. I love that your kids grew up with chickens, and how you matched their egg sales – that’s teaching them great work ethics, too.

      As for the radio, it really does work. The day the fox came back was the day that it had gotten turned off by my Roo stepping on top! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  2. Teresa Dempsey says:

    I enjoy reading all about your chickens. I too, have chickens and I love all 8 of them. I started out with a lot more but have lost a few to either hawks or the dog that is up the road from us. It has been a learning experience for me and it is a labor of love taking care of them. I live in Tennessee so we do get cold and sometimes their water freezes up but I bought a heated dog dish that is working out great – just in case you have same problem….

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Teresa! The hawks are really something, aren’t they? I had one fly inches above my head when I was on my deck and holding my little chihuahua! I always know when they are around because the squirrels and chipmunks hide.
      Aren’t those heated dishes the best? Tractor Supply makes a base for the metal chicken waterer that automatically turns on if the temps go below freezing. I didn’t know about the dog dish, but that is a great idea too! Thanks for mentioning! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  3. Joan says:

    A great tour of the chicken suburb. I am blessed that, my sons family lives in the Black Forest of Colorado, they have the same concerns for their chickens – no bear yet but always aware that they can come too, I live close enough that I get to enjoy the wonderful eggs. Your girls and boy are beautiful and their produce – yummmy.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Thanks, Joan! I never thought about bear…eek! We have black bears in our area, and they’ve been seen on my street. Thankfully, I haven’t seen one up close. I’d probably die of fright before it got a chance to eat me, ha ha. I have seen a track in the snow before that certainly looked like a bear, though. So far, bears have not approached the coop that I know of. Thanks for “stopping by”! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  4. bonnie ellis says:

    What a good chicken mama you are. Your chickens are beautiful. My friend April has a rooster named lance romance who doesn’t act as nice as yours. Keep up the good work. Bonnie

  5. Roksanna Stephens Anderson says:

    Thank you. This article wasso right on. Chickens are my dream and one day be a reality. You made me smile.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Roksanna, I hear you. I dreamed of chickens for so long. It’s been great. The hardest part (and most expensive) was the initial set up. I hope you get to have your dream of chickens someday, too! Thanks for “stopping by”! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  6. Beverly Battaglia says:

    Such pretty pictures! I am so glad I got to see your chickens and beautiful rooster, “Spot” last July. Enjoyed reading all about them and comments you received.
    Love, Mother

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Thanks, Mama! I am so glad you got to see them, too! I always think of your story of your little hen that your grandma gave you. Love you, Nicole

  7. CJ Armstrong says:

    You go farmgirl! Glad you are enjoying your chickens. My parents had 150 laying hens when I was a teenager and my younger sister and I had to gather eggs twice daily. We washed them and helped my mom get then candled, sized and packaged for delivery on my mom’s twice/weekly egg routes.
    We don’t have chickens currently because I really don’t want them. We would/will if necessary, but we have SOOOOOOO many predators it would be a major undertaking to have them.
    We have three different neighbors that have chickens that I’m able to get eggs from so we do enjoy FRESH eggs!
    CJ

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi CJ! Wow! 150 Chickens!That’s neat how the egg washing, candling and packaging was a family affair. Lovely! Aren’t fresh eggs the best? I can say I am an egg “snob” now (ha ha), because nothing beats the taste of a fresh egg! Thanks for sharing your memories with me! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  8. CJ Armstrong says:

    Nicole . . . I still have the two different sizing scales we used in that operation. The first one very simple and labor intensive. The second one a bit more efficient.
    To be honest with you, my sister and I disliked the process!

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      I bet as a teen, I wouldn’t have liked it either, to be honest. Audrey doesn’t care for feeding them and won’t touch the eggs until they are washed (though she loves eating the eggs)! Do you use your scales as decor now? Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  9. CJ Armstrong says:

    I use the first one, which is red and cute. The other one is in the shed as it’s kinda big for anyplace in my kitchen. 😀

  10. Marci D says:

    I have a few hens too and I enjoyed reading about your flock.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Marci, Aren’t hens the best? I am so glad I am zoned where I can experience having them. Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

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