Monday, January 28, 2013

The Chicken Coop Repair Fairy

In case you haven't noticed, our chickens are pretty pampered.  We are constantly concerned about their health, safety and happiness.  We have both spent too much time worrying about the conditions in the coop, whether or not they're stressed, what they're eating, what their poo looks like, predators, treats, and on and on and on... 

I do plenty of worrying and do what I can to give the girls a happy life, but it's the Chicken Coop Repair Fairy who keeps this little operation humming.  I don't know what I would do without my handy husband and his boundless patience, creative fix-it solutions, and his impressive array of power tools, wood scraps, and hardware doodads.  

Eric constructing the coop

Relaxing after the coop was finished
In anticipation of an impending cold snap this past weekend, Eric installed an additional heat source which also provided some light in the coop.  Unfortunately, the additional light was enough to keep the chickens awake, long after dark, eating and drinking and roaming around.   When the coop reached a certain temperature, the light went out and left the girls stranded in the dark.  This was not good at all!  So, after we both made several chilly trips to the coop to monitor the situation,  Eric asked if I'd like him to unplug the second heat source.  I nodded, he trekked out into the cold one last time to unplug it (after he had just spent a significant amount of time installing it), and we all slept soundly that night.  The next day he did some research and some shopping and came home with a new heater that would not emit light and not stress the chickens (or me) out.  This is just the most recent example of Eric's commitment to chicken and spousal happiness.

Winnie "helps" while Eric buries electrical lines for the coop

Once the coop was built, I'm sure Eric thought he was done spending hours and hours and piles of $$$ at Menard's.  Oh no.  Over the past 4 years he has made countless trips to Menard's and the hardware store to buy chicken habitat improvement supplies.  In addition to executing many special winterizing projects, he has created temporary barriers used to keep the chicks separate from the older hens (older hens like to pick on the young ones AND gobble up their delicious chick food), suspended a "decorative" curtain to keep sparrows from flocking into the coop and eating the delicious chick food, set-up summertime fences which protect our gardens from being ransacked by hungry hens but give them room to roam, removed decorative woodwork (during a rainstorm) under the deck in order to prevent a certain sweet but not-so-smart chicken from feeling confined and confused, manufactured a gutter for the coop roof so that melting snow does not drip down and freeze on the door mechanism, crafted an additional nesting box for chickens who do not know how to share, and countless other projects.  

The hens are used to sharing the coop with Eric & his ladder

It's safe to say that the chickens are so used to the sound of the cordless drill and power saw that it really doesn't bother them at all, in fact they like to watch him work.  They must know that their Fairy Godfather is working hard to make their lives better!

Ray supervises a project in the garage

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Chickens in Winter

Stella doesn't seem to mind the snow too much, thanks to a little extra "insulation"

This has been a tricky winter for the girls, especially for the young ones.  They seem baffled by snow; their world has shrunk considerably and they wonder where their lush green grass has gone.

Chirpy is still smallish and she can't see over the piles of snow.  So, she occasionally gets herself stuck under the deck and can't figure out how to get back to the coop.  She just pulls in her neck, puffs herself into a ball and looks at me with confusion.  I've had to show her the way back to the coop to find her chicken friends who abandoned her hours earlier.  A few times she just hunkered down in the corner under the deck and wouldn't move.  I couldn't reach her, so I used a rake (and some loud expletives) to scare her out then encouraged her to follow me down the sidewalk.  I was worried she'd just stay under there all night if I didn't intervene!  I try to help her out by shoveling the path, even if we've just had a light dusting of snow.  Otherwise I think it just looks like one big, scary, white world out there. 

Chirpy and Redder search high and low for a way around the snow

They explore their options for reaching the deck

Chirpy can't figure out how to get back to the coop

Ray actually seems to enjoy the snow.  She eats lots and lots of it as if it's some sort of treat.  We've seen her eat so much that it makes her upchuck.

A few days ago I offered her some fresh collard greens.  The silly girl ignored the delightful greens and ate the snow off my glove instead. 

Ray sporting a little snow on her beak

Ray contemplates eating greens versus eating more snow

I'm so glad the flock has been able to romp in the yard for the past few days, enjoying sunshine and freedom.  When they exit the coop there is lots of wing flapping, stretching and general chicken giddiness.

I haven't told them yet, but we're about to head into the deep freeze and they'll have to be cooped up for the next 3 days.  I'm sorry chickens.  I'm so sorry.


Are YOU smarter than a first grader???

A friend of mine has a young son whose class was learning about chickens.
Here's what Charles knows about our feathered friends:

1.  Male chickens are called roosters

2.  Baby chickens take 21 days to hatch

3.  There are more chickens than humans

4.  Chickens are 2 feet tall

5.  Chickens need food

6.  Chickens need water

Not bad, huh?  That's definitely more than I knew about chickens when I was in first grade.  In fact, I didn't realize that there are more chickens than humans on the planet until I learned it from Charles.  :)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Hen Heroine

Click HERE for a quick chicken fix and celebrate the wonders of poultry!