Thursday, March 27, 2014

Chicken Coop Fun (part 1)

In exploring the past, we do more than just make and wear historical clothing. We have many interests including gardening, produce, preserving, and period pets.

We recently had chicken problems. Our old chicken Dotti (standard large red hen) was getting old and lonely. We went looking for companionship for her. Instead of just buying some more standard Isa Browns on point of lay.... we fell in love with a cranky OEG partridge bantam and her 3 babies. As a result we gave the OEGs our commercial coop and built a temporary run across the creek for Dotti.

She loved her new home, until...

1. New neighbours purchased the house next door with little white dogs that yap through the fence at her and also keep escaping into our yard and running around her run yapping at her.
2. We separated the mother OEG (called Lucille) from her babies to get her to stop being broody so that we could get her to lay and stop being cranky.
3. A friend had issues with his own flock of Isa's and asked us to take 2 of his that were point of lay and being bullied. These poor chickens were soo scared when we first got them, they very different hens now.
4. None of them getting along and yes the bantam bullied the Isa's.

This resulted in the run being separated into three and no eggs, due to the stress of the dogs yapping.

To solve this problem we build a new run on the other side of the house to the dogs. To save money we used branches from trees that had fallen down, chicken wire and an old metal framed door from the creek that had been on the property since at least the mid twentieth century. We were also able to line the floor with terracotta tiles that we found on the back lot. For the coop we decided to make a wattle and daub chicken house. We did not have any wattle branches so we used pieces of flexible wood that we had around the garden. The daub was a mix of cut straw, clay from the creek bed and lime mortar that Nic found in some archaeological research papers (we chose not to use dung as research currently has the impression that the quantity in tested specimens is soo low that it could have come from small pieces of dung that came from recycled hay and on testing has made no difference to the outcome of the mix). It took 3 wheel barrow loads to complete the two walls and about 2 weeks to dry properly. The weather has been crazy here so we put a temporary metal sheet roof on it. The next step will be to use some thin pine that was left over from a fence to make a shingle roof. Once it is completed we also plan to lime wash the walls.

This project is more historically inspired and so far is working well. The chickens love the new run. Dotti and the new Isa's (Henrietta and Polly) started to get along straight away. We could not put Lucille in with them and her and Dotti were fighting and Dotti had pecked off Lucille's comb (thankfully it did grow back). We put Lucille back with her babies, but she kept flying out at night (we suspect she didn't like her children on re-introduction) until one morning we found her with the big chickens and she has been happy their ever since. I guess this goes to prove that chickens function better in a nicer and less stressful environment.

The basic run down the side of the house. The branches were put in holes and back filled with gravel and then dirt.
 The framework with Polly and Henrietta supervising construction.
 The daub mixture
 Nic almost finished with the walls.
 The house, waiting for a new roof and white washing.
The chickens enjoying the run.

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