We have been scouring Craigslist since April 23rd for wood.
That is because a long-waited-for ordinance was passed that we can have hens in the town I live in. I had nothing to do with the passing of the ordinance because I’m pretty much the opposite of an activist. If an activist needs a hug and a shoulder to cry on or someone to yell to, that’s me. Actual activism? That’s not me. Appreciation? Oh, that’s SO me.
We have a rough coop design already, thanks to hours of searching on Backyard Chicken and then changing the design based on personal whims and preferences. Also, you know I want it to look like a little barn, let’s not even play I don’t have a huge streak of country in me. (I hide it well, but it’s there. Especially when chickens are involved.)
Why Chickens? That Seems Weird.
If you have never owned a chicken before or had a chicken as a pet it’s going to seem weird to have livestock for a pet. I get that. No judgement from me. Also, if you have had a chicken as a pet or friend you can totally skip to the next section because I’m going to explain it for the uninitiated.
When I was young (I don’t know how young, but we lived in California in a beautiful house with a built in pool and a very nice guy and it’s where I learned to swim, so “learned to swim” age.) I had a pet chicken. I don’t know how I got her or why she became my pet.
Her name was Penelope and she was probably a New Hampshire Red based on pictures I have seen online of what different chickens look like. I have very fond memories of holding her and carrying her around with me and talking to her and that one time I got a lollipop stuck on her feathers (no lie) and she was a real pet.
I couldn’t have cats or a dog because I was highly allergic. I still am. When we had dogs and I would pet them my forearms would break out in hives. Cats mess me up even worse.
But chickens by and large are awesome and I’m not allergic and …
Benefits of Chickens as Pets
Most animals you own you just give and give and have to be content with love in return. Vet bills, food, and for what? Love. Don’t get me wrong, love is awesome and I have a turtle that doesn’t give me anything but enjoyment so I am not judging you dog and cat lovers.
But when you have a pet that gives you FOOD? Daaaaang….that’s just taking the whole relationship to the next level, now, isn’t it? You give them food and they give you food back. It’s like some kind of quid pro quo magic land where pets show you they care with eggs.
I know that’s not really what’s happening, but honestly, I don’t care. It makes me happy that I will give to them and they will give to me and we can have a symbiotic relationship like that.
Second, the next time we have a spider, ant, other-bug infestation in this house? You’re damn right I’m letting a chicken in my house. They’ll eat those insects up like nobody’s business! ”
Oh…but I don’t want them pooping all over my house while they are eating all the ants!” I hear ONE of you saying right now. I hear it in my mind. It’s okay, it’s a good question. Well let me introduce you to the solution….
The Chicken Diaper!
Oh yes, this is a thing. A real thing. I could not be more excited.
I really love the idea of a chicken diaper and you can probably find chicken diapers on Etsy because someone has to be making these in their kitchen as a home business. HAS TO BE.
So not only do chicken diapers exist, you can get them from multiple places. Consider this your fun fact of the day. Whip this fact out at a cocktail party and you’ll seriously be known for the best small talk in the world.
So when I see ants I’ll skip the Borax, skip the white chalk, skip the vinegar, and just let a chicken do the job for me and be terribly thankful I gave her such a nice treat!
What We Have to Do Before We Get the Chickens
There is kind of a weird, backward process to this.
1. Get a building permit for the coop. (It’s the same as a shed permit.)
2. An inspector comes out and inspects the coop. If it passes you get a pat on the back. I guess. We’re not there yet.
3. You apply for and receive a poultry license. (This is free. Allows for up to 6 hens. NO roosters!)
4. You are now allowed to get your little bundles of chicken joy.
It’s weird because if you plan on having loving, well-socialized chicks they have to spend about two months indoors from birth being taken care of and fed and loved and watered and whatnot. Sure, you can buy a 10-12 week old chicken and put it right into the coop, but part of the joy of the whole thing is having the little baby chicks and raising them and naming them and learning their personalities. (I mean, I’m not pretending they’re people with feathers, but they do have different personalities. That’s a thing. I didn’t just make it up.)
But as good, caring, law-abiding citizens we will wait because that’s what good people do.
*ahem* where was I?
Want to See My Coop Design?
Well, I don’t know where Mr. Brickie’s actual graph paper drawings are, and they’re really more ideas anyway as we scour Craigslist for materials in the “Free” section we can use to make our chickens their new mansion. We probably have about fifty percent of what we need so far. (We work fast.)
Here is the basic design we are working with because OMG it’s so perfect. (Our code allows for 24sqft for the coop itself and 32sqft for the “chicken run” around the totally enclosed “keep those coyotes away from my girls” coop.) I found it on BackyardChickens.com where they have a whole bunch of coop designs you can be inspired by. Some include full plans and all of them include pictures!
Our design has to be modified because this coop is 5′ x 10′ overall and we can only have 32sqft. The little enclosed coop part is 5′ x 4′ and we can actually have 24sqft so we could make it a little bigger. (Maybe we won’t. It depends on the wood and how everything fits together.)
Probably the best advice I’ve gotten is DO NOT USE CHICKEN WIRE. Use galvanized hardware cloth. It’s like mesh and it keeps predators out. Chicken wire will keep your chicken in, but won’t stop a raccoon or coyote or big dog.
So this is my little homesteading hill I’m going to fight for.
I have become a chicken lady, and I couldn’t be happier.
Other Interesting Things About Chickens
Chickens can be recognized as emotional therapy animals.
Chickens are smart and have bi-lateral right/left brain thinking! (this article is long, amazing, and has scientific sources)
Here is a link to a chart on cost of ownership for one person. (I like that he has with and without coop because our coop certainly isn’t going to cost $400!!) His breakdown shows $3.50 per dozen eggs is the overall cost if you were JUST using your chickens for eggs. Considering they’re organic and free-range and you know exactly where your eggs are coming from… $3.50 is about what they are at Whole Foods, aren’t they?
Stick With Me and There Will Be Pictures!
So far all we have this this one of Mr. Brickie with a piece of reclaimed wood that is going to be the second layer of cover for the coop. We are going to paint it and give the coop a rustic look but the underneath layer is going to be solid.
As you can see this is his, “Are you seriously taking a picture of me right now?” face. I have to give him credit because if it was me and he tried to take a picture I’d probably shriek at him.
He’s a good guy.
Our chicken coop is going to be so cool.
If you have any questions or recommendations or want to tell me something you think is critical to know about raising chickens or building a coop, don’t hesitate to leave a comment! I’m all about learning and want to do this as well as I can from start to finish.
I have wanted a chicken like a little girl wants a pony for years. I could not be more excited about actually getting to make that dream happen.