Posts Tagged ‘chicken coop’

Rooster logistics

We’ve been getting a few questions recently about the logistics of keeping roosters in suburbia so I thought I would write a bit more about life with our boys.

Hugh, with his girls

We currently have three (eek) roosters: two Araucanas (father and son Craig and Hugh) and a Light Sussex (Clock). We also don’t count any cockerels we may have growing out for eating at any given time – their first crow is sadly usually their death warrant by the following weekend.  We only plan to have two breeding roosters in the long term.  The reason we have three at the moment is that Hugh (the son) is bigger and better looking than Craig (the father), but Hugh got sick a lot in last summer and autumn and we a) kept expecting Hugh to just die, and b) were sure as soon as we decided he would be fine and knocked off Craig, Hugh would get sick again and die, leaving us roosterless.  So Craig has sort of been hanging around as a backup.  Plus Craig has a very sweet temperament (as does Hugh) and we do like to breed for calm chickens.

Craig, with his girls

(Much younger then) Craig in the kitchen

Clock, however, is a whole ‘nother story – he’s a bit of a bastard.  We were given Clock and decided to breed from him (replacing Red the RIR) because he is quite simply massive and we are breeding for meat.

Clock, in all his massive glory.

But as he has gotten older, Clock can be a bit aggressive and I won’t turn my back on him while in the main pen, nor will I let the 3 year old in the main pen anymore, which is sad for her.  So Clock will probably be heading for the great crock pot in the sky soon – his only saving grace at the moment is his fertility which is excellent!

We built a proper night box (documented here and here) to keep the roosters (Craig and Red at the time) quiet at night and in the morning.  Red kept crowing at random times in the middle of the night and it took us a while to work out that he was waking and crowing anytime our toddler was crying out in the night.  With our new baby due (last March) we knew we’d need decent night accommodation to keep him quiet!

The night box is divided in two so that we can keep two roosters.  Hugh and Clock sleep in it at the moment.  We hoped it would be soundproof, but it’s not, though it does severely muffle the crowing.  When Red slept in there we also used to have a portable radio hanging in there at night to provide more white noise to stop him waking and crowing at sounds in the night, but we haven’t needed this for the current residents.

Logistically, we pick up the roosters and put them into the night box at some point in the evening, usually after they have roosted, but occasionally before if we can be bothered catching them.  We then let them out in the morning.  On a weekday we let them at around 7am.  On a weekend it is more like 8 -10am.  The record lateness was the day our son was born this year – they didn’t get let out until 1pm when we got home from the hospital.  They were fine, just keen to get out!

The night box is sitting in the run of the main pen, so when we open the door Clock just explodes out of it and immediately starts chasing his girls.  Hugh knows to sit and wait until he is carried across the yard to his pen (where he also immediately starts chasing his girls).  Moving them twice a day is beneficial as it means that they are used to being handled.  This means that Hugh at least is quite tame.  Handling Clock a bit also helps to remind him that we are top of the pecking order, not him.

Moving them around twice a day is, to be honest, a colossal pain in the ass.  Clock is really big and I (SF) can’t quite get my hands around him enough to pin his wings down so I usually make WWMD put them in at night.  However, we think of it as a responsibility of keeping roosters in a suburban setting.  We have fantastic neighbours and we want to keep them that way!  We discussed with all our surrounding neighbours when we were thinking of keeping roosters, and they all assured us that it was fine.  Almost all of our surrounding neighbours have dogs that bark a lot (which we also don’t mind) so they were very understanding about animal noise.  We check in with them regularly to check that the crowing isn’t bothering them.  We also reiterate regularly that they need to let us know if the roosters start to bother them so that we can revisit the sound proofing, though thankfully this hasn’t happened yet.  Our bedroom is also the closest to the night box of all the neighbours so we should be able to hear a problem before they do!

There isn’t much we can do about the crowing in the day.  They usually have several crowing sessions throughout the day, and if one starts they all start up so it can be quite noisy at times.  Clock likes to stand up on top of the night box and crow his heart out.

That’s about all I can think of for now, but I’m happy to answer questions in the comments!

BTW did anyone notice that this is our 101st post?!  I can’t believe we have passed 100!

A quick(ish) coop shuffle

We did a reshuffle of coop equipment yesterday to maximize available room for growing out hatchlings.  We basically swapped the housing in the Araucana pen with the brooder pen, but this involved pulling off one of the wire walls of the Araucana run so it took us most of Sunday.  It could have taken much longer, but our wonderful mother/-in-law came over to amuse the kiddos while we worked outside.  She even folded the (embarrassingly large pile of) washing while the kids were asleep.  What a gem!

Anyhow, some before pics:

The Araucana pen.

The partially disassembled brooder.

This is the house that is going from the big chickens to the babies so it was thoroughly cleaned out and miltoned to try to minimise disease spread.  Chicks get exposed to disease over their life and gradually build up immunity.  But you don’t want them getting a massive hit of disease exposure at once from being moved into a pen that used to house older chickens, hence the disinfection.  Chances are the big chickens have already been exposed to anything the chicks have so we didn’t bother disinfecting the house going from the chicks to the chickens.

And after the switch around:

The new chick house complete with heat lamp.

The new Araucana pen.

The good and the bad

The bad part about keeping chickens: looked out the window this morning and saw a rat run across the roof of one of the pens.  (Note to self, must get less lazy cat).

The good part about keeping chickens: just went outside, collected three eggs and scrambled ’em for lunch.

Chicken swap

Following the death of Juliet, I had a friend who keeps chickens offer me one of her Araucanas.  (This is the very same super-generous friend, in fact, who has been giving us all her excess boys.)

So we have done a chicken swap!  Paprika (one of our Wyandottes) has gone to live with my friend, and we have taken one of her lavender Araucanas.

We shuffled the pens around (again…) moving a new pen I picked up 2nd hand on ebay down next to the little pen to give us more options for that whole area.

New fabulous set up

So our new girl, Lavinia, has moved down to the little pen (or pens I guess) with Craig, Thyme and Imogen (Juliet’s sister).

Lavinia

Lavinia is about 31 weeks, so right on the point of lay.  Hopefully now that the winter solstice has passed she will begin the lay once she has settled in.  One of her sisters at my friends place just began laying last week.

Checking out the nesting box (woohoo!)

I've trimmed her face and hair feathers back a bit since this photo so she can see!

This is great for genetic diversity too – Craig and Lavinia aren’t related as far as we know.  Chickens will tolerate some inbreeding, but genetic diversity means stronger chickens.  And Lavinia and Craig both being lavender (which is recessive) means we will definitely get some lavender chicks.

I cannot express how grateful I am for all the wonderful new friends I have met through keeping chickens.

The new girls

The Royal Canberra Poultry Show was a great event.  Aside from some friends doing well in the judging, and the fun we had at the set-up working bee, the highlight was buying three Rhode Island Red (RIR) girls for our breeding program.  We’ve decided that RIRs are the way forward as they’re definitely good eating and apparently good layers too.  And sooooo purdy.

Here they are, our red-theme-named girls Ruby, Scarlett and Carmine

My computer died and I lost a month

So the title says it all really and that’s more or less why it’s been so quiet here lately.  I just can’t be bothered typing a whole post on the iPod touch.  Also, winter is truly upon us; though it does not officially start here until June 1, last week we had -7°C overnight.  So not as many interesting things have been happening in the garden.  Our brassicas are looking a bit sad (I don’t think they are in a great spot I might move them) and the herb garden is dying back, though the garlic, peas and broad beans are sprouting and growing nicely.  I’m counting the days down to the winter solstice (29 to go!) so the days will start getting longer again.  It’s not even winter yet and I’m already hanging out for spring!

The three sussex chickens have slowed down their laying with the shorter days and we usually only get one egg every few days now.  This is one of the down sides of having purebreds rather than commercial hybrid layers whose tendency to broodiness and winter slow down have been bred out of them.  However I much prefer to be helping to keep increasingly rare breeds of chicken alive, so I am happy with the purebreds.

Craig the rooster started crowing a few weeks back and he and Red started having a few tiffs so we moved Craig in with the chicks on the other side of the house.  He is now king of the roost over there rather than at the bottom of the pecking order in the big pen (he was just so small compared the the enormous sussexes and Rhode Island Red!), so he is a Very Happy Boy Indeed.  I finally finished building the little chicks a secure run with a roof, which is now installed.

New run

Chicken sized door

This side butts up against the existing coop

Run with the lid down

Hanging feeder

Chicken sized door to the outside

All in place. The bricks have been replaced with latches now too.

The big pen has been in a bit of a state of flux over the last few weeks as our friend has been bringing us her boys as she is downsizing her flock.  Some are a bit small to eat yet so we are growing them out.  We’ve now eaten two Rhode Island Reds (this one, plus another a few weeks later), and at the moment we have five boys in the growing queue – another RIR, the two barnevelders, an ancona and an araucana.

RIR #3 and ancona boy

The barnie boys

Red and the two barnies

Including Red and Craig, we currently have almost as many boys as girls, but luckily Craig is the only crower, and he doesn’t crow much yet and so far the neighbours don’t seem to mind.  I dearly wish we could give them eggs for being so great about us having chickens, but we just don’t have any!

And finally, some chicken dramas recently:

  • One of the barnies ripped off a toenail/claw.  It was only half off at first and it bled a lot so he got to be isolated for a few days until it pretty much dropped off.  Incidentally, this is now the only way we can tell the two barnies apart.  This one is Barney, the one will all his toes is Fred.

Missing a toenail (don't worry, it's actually betadine here)

  • Juniper got a cut on her comb
  • The sussexes all got lice so everyone (including us in the process – ew) got to have several extra Pestene (flea and mite powder) doses.  Dusting flapping animals with a fine powder.  Not as fun as it sounds.
  • While excavating to install the new chicken run we discovered a family of mice living under the little coop.  Four baby mice were rapidly dispatched with a spade, and six more (and counting) with traps since.  This area is in the middle of a mouse plague so I suppose we couldn’t stay immune forever.

Excavating a mouse house under the little coop

Four baby mice

Well, that’s about all I’ve got time for now.  Off to bed soon, early to bed early to rise and all that – it comes with the farmer/toddler territory!

Four more chickens…

We have four more chickens.  This is clearly becoming something of an addiction.

The first is a Rhode Island Red boy, (creatively named Red), bought from the same place as the three Light Sussexs.

Red

Red is about 12 weeks old and therefore not crowing yet but will be by about 6 months so we are hurriedly improving the coop to add an enclosed and hopefully sound proof box for him to sleep in before then.  Red will be the first of our breeding chickens – he and the Light Sussexs will produce sex linked chicks.  This means day old chicks can be identified as girls or boys by their colour, and we can sell off the girls as chicks and raise the boys to eat.  I have no idea what crossing him with the Wyandottes will look like, but it sure will be fun finding out!

We bought Red last Sunday and put him in with the other six girls, who are much bigger than him (for now…) where he was promptly made aware that he is the bottom of the pecking order while he is smaller.  He was doing okay in with them, but seemed a bit lonely and I’m not sure how much food he was getting since the others would chase him away.

He probably would have been okay by now, but on Wednesday we got three more Wyandottes – two tiny gold laced and one a bit bigger from Raf’s blue laced red project who were much too small to go into the pen with our now rather large 21 week old and 16 week old girls.

So we knocked together a new mini coop and run for them (on a scorching 37°C day no less) until they are big enough to go in with the rest of the flock.

New run

Mini coop

We moved Red in with them, figuring he would at least then have some friends for now, plus by the time we move them all in together he will be big enough to assume his rightful place at the top of the pecking order!  Once these four are in the big coop, the mini coop will be our broody pen.

So the new tiny gold laced Wyandottes are Sage and Thyme, named after herbs since their run now encompasses some of our herb garden.

 

Sage

Thyme

They look a bit scruffy at the moment as they are still little and growing in their feathers.  They are going to be just gorgeous though – much more gold than Paprika.

Bleu (also creatively named) is the Blue Laced Red.  Well, sort of – it’s not yet a recognised breeding colour in Australia, and the colour is still being developed.

Bleu

She is such a stunning bird, so much so that she might go back to Raf’s to be bred from if she turns out very well.  Her red colouring originally comes from a Rhode Island Red rooster (quite a few generations back) and her red is very close to Red’s red.  (Wow that is a lot of reds for one sentence).

Colours

She is apparently a sibling in the same generation as our original three Wyandottes, but she is quite a bit smaller than Paprika and Juniper, and still a little smaller than Pepper – closed to Red in size.

The four of them sorted out their pecking order in about four pecks and Red has taken charge and is showing the others all about being a chicken here at the suburbanite farm (having three more days experience, naturally).  Bleu also seems quite sweet tempered and is taking care of the two littlies.

All four in the mini coop.

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