Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The best little chicken house, and why we abandonded it (Part 2)

New chicken pen in barn
I know I left you all hanging with the last story about the pretty little chicken house in the yard.  So perfect in many ways, it encouraged the flock to focus their messy free-ranging in our yard.  When I suggested to Scott that maybe the chickens could be confined to the cattle pens and pastures, he jumped at the idea and built our new, larger flock a home of their own in the ag barn.  With a little extra chicken-proofing of our field fence, I'll be able to plant berry plants in the yard without a fence! 

Chicken roosts
The new pen has many of the features of the old coop with additional floor space for our 25 pullets (young hens) and one cockerel (young rooster).  The elevated roosts have removable poo-collection boards that help keep the litter clean longer.  When it's time to change the litter (straw and chopped leaves) I mix the manure back in and put it outside to weather down for a perfect compost.

Feeders and waterers go under the boards to discourage chickens from roosting on them.  In the summer I plan to build a chicken nipple waterer.  For now my fountain waterer is in winter mode with a heating pad under it on low to keep it just above freezing. 

Chickens exploring outside
Chickens will soon have a window and an outside door of their own, but in the mean time they have access to the interior of the barn and like to rummage for dropped grain in the cow stalls.  They are slowly braving the outdoors.

These chickens will play a critical role in controlling cattle parasites- a key element in organic production.  No worries about making chickens sick; species that do not share parasites can safely run together or in a leader-follower system (more on that later).

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