Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Happy Spring!

I know that in the rest of the country it might be feeling more like summer, but it's still Spring in Montana - with a high temp today hopefully reaching 55.

For those of you who asked, the girls (all five) did make it through the long Montana winter.  All of them are doing quite well.  With the warmer weather, they've started to wander around on our fenced acre.  I love to watch them scratch up bugs or whatever it is they are after.  The dogs continue to let the chickens rule.  And, the neighbors continue to enjoy watching the chickens hang out with our two big black dogs. 

The ladies are laying around the yard now.  Once I find their spots, I'm good, but some days it feels like an Easter egg hunt. 

Exciting news - Chickens Magazine from Hobby Farms published a story about building your own coop and they included my coop project. It was really fun to see my project and pictures "up in lights."  It was a bit of a bummer that my picture is in there, but that the caption says I'm the other gal who was interviewed - hopefully she's not too upset about being me! 

Thanks to all of you who follow me and the gals - and I promise to do much better with my posts. 

Best to you and your families, Heidi & Her Happy Hens :)

Monday, January 3, 2011

Warm Breakfast

This morning I'm bring the gals warm leftover cheesy potatoes, lentils and a bit of stale banana bread.  The trick for them will be eat it all before I let Elmer D. Dog out for the day.

Friday, December 31, 2010

A Cold Winter for My Ladies

Oh, I have read so many opinions for winter and chickens that I really question what I'm doing with my beautiful ladies.  This winter in Montana has been bitter.  We've hit another spell of single digits during the day and minus teens in the evenings.  I've elected to keep the two heat lamps on 100% of the time.  For one reason, my coop, while solid, does have gaps and I worry about the breeze that the ladies get.  I also feel like even though they are mostly protected, it's just so cold that your fingers freeze within seconds of being outside.  I am worried...the ladies are stilling laying somewhat regularly and I have absolutely no desire to play God and mess with the slow down that should happen in the winter.  However, I've also read about freezing deaths and that scares me.  I love the sweet henny pennies so much.  I absolutely cannot imagine finding one perished knowing that I could have prevented it by leaving the light on!  What are you thoughts?  Feel free to post below.  You can do so without registering with blogger just do so as anonymous.  I can't wait to read what you write.  Happy New Year to all my dear chicken friends!

Monday, August 30, 2010

I Did It!

Building a Chicken Coop aka
A Lesson in Life

1. Follow directions.
2. Improvise.
3. Ask for help – kids are really good at holding up walls.
4. Ask to be left alone.
5. Stick with it.
6. Return things you don’t need (save receipts).
7. Always have a Plan B (similar to #2)
8. Read directions twice.
9. Don’t spend too much money.
10. Sleep is important.
11. Have fun.
12. Appreciate a sore body!

I began the weekend with telling you all how difficult it is to tear apart a pallet. That’s still true.

Lesson #7 – have a Plan B: I found cedar fencing planks for 97-cents each. This was really a good deal to me because I was just beside myself tearing apart pallets and after posting my difficulty on Facebook, I learned that I was not alone. I failed with others and that’s just easier for me to take.

Shannen helps his mom out a bit.
The plans that I bought from www.mypetchicken.com adapted very well to the cedar planks. I wish that I had used the cedar planks from the beginning, but oh well! I did end up using the pallet wood for the nesting box and they worked out very well. The pallet wood definitely has more meat than the cedar planks and the ladies have a very solid nesting box.

I ran to the hardware store on Saturday at noon, got overcharged for the cedar planks, realized it on the way home and turned around only to have to argue with the guy who rang me up…somehow the 5 foot board that he charged to me as 6 foot board was shorter than me! He kept insisting the board I had was 6 feet. I kept insisting that I could see over the top of the board quite easily so it had to be 5 feet. The manager solved the problem. My kids seemed a bit shocked that I was right!

Construction began at about 1:30 on Saturday. By the end of the day, I had the main structure almost complete, but still needed to finish some of the roof planks. On Sunday, I undertook the rest of the roof, the nesting boxes and doors. I still need to do the roofing material and paint the coop red!

Have I mentioned that I’ve never built anything!!!??? I can’t tell you how good it felt to have my door align perfectly, to drill on a hinge and then have a door that works great -- it even has a latch! And, I did it all (mostly) by myself. On Saturday the boys helped me hold up walls and drill a bit. And, on Sunday, Tim helped me with the nesting box.
The first "chicken" enters the coop
and Dudley hopes someone
throws his ball!

I really recommend the directions that I got from www.mypetchicken.com. They have pictures for every step and are easy to understand. My insider tips: a jig is just a construction word for a template and a cross-support is simply an “X” to hold things up!

The other night with my coop kind of complete, I really wanted the hens to move in. They were so cute – as I was working on it, they would come over and watch what we were all up to. I picked up Dolly and put her in. I think she liked it. She was still roosting inside this morning. As an aside, Dolly has been acting a little strange lately. I think that Martha may be the top of the pecking order now?

I love to look out the window and see the coop that I built for under $200. I still need to go back over my receipts, but I know it wasn’t more than that.

Now, all I need is to figure out how to move the beast of a coop where it belongs...

I built a chicken coop!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Taking Apart a Pallet

Nobody ever said, “Taking apart a pallet is easy.” But, I thought it would be. And, I was wrong.

Geeze! Taking apart pallets is tough. I followed all the directions for breaking apart a pallet that were part of my chicken coop plans, but even with a chisel, crow bar and flat ended shovel, I just couldn’t do it. (Okay, I didn’t have or know what a lump hammer or carpenters pinchers were, but I had the basics!)

It was so tough, I kinda gave up!

I went to the store to price out wood. Even bought some wood, but then returned it when it didn’t fit in my Honda. Shocking, I know…it’s a Honda – it can do just about everything. The guy who helped me carry it out said in disgust…you don’t have a truck? Got my money back for that lumber!

This is how to really get a pallet apart:

1. Get gloves! Gloves are not on the list of needed supplies, but get them.
2. Get out your saw with a fresh blade.
3. Cut off the tips of the boards so you don’t have to try to get the end nails out. All you’ll be left with is trying to get out the middle nails and with lots of wiggling, stomping, and maybe a few tears of frustration, you’ll be able to get the middle nails loose.
4. Oh, yes, a regular ole hammer comes in handy too. The boys and I couldn’t find ours, so we bought a new one and a hammer turns out to be a very useful tool!

I know that my pallet boards are a bit shorter because I’ve cut the ends off of them, but the plans that I have are flexible as far a size goes. The plans indicate that the coop can house 6-8 chickens, but I’m guessing that because my wood will not be as long, it will house 4-6 chickens. I have four chickens now – I should be able to buy two more. That will make my husband very happy! Ha!

So, today begins the beginning of the building. And, I know I'll need more pallet wood, but I'm tired of breaking apart pallets so I'll do as much building as I can. The weather is nice and cool so that will help my morale. We’ll have to run to Power Townsend to get a few things before the building begins and that will make the boys annoyed. They hate running errands, but it’s just one store and we need nails!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Coop?

I promised myself that even if only for me, I would start to journal my chicken experiences ...maybe nobody beyond my dear friend will find them entertaining? If that’s the case, Patricia this is for you!

Over the course of this summer, my flock has grown to four. When I first started my backyard chicken experience, I got one beautiful chicken named Dolly along with a small coop.

With winter approaching (yes, it's only August, but I swear I can feel winter already in Montana), I must come up with something better for my beautiful ladies. I have checked Craigs List and looked at other local options, but I guess I'm cheep because as much as I completely adore and am obsessed with my chickens it's all just so very expensive!

Therefore, I am building a chicken coop.

At first building a chicken coop seemed impossible, then $1200 for a coop seemed even more impossible. So, building a coop was then again possible. I ordered plans for this coop online from mypetchicken.com.

I thought it would be the perfect plan for my chickens and me because it’s made from pallets so we’d be recycling and it would be inexpensive! My ladies are free range in our almost-an-acre backyard so I didn’t have to look at plans that had an attached run. (Good, one less thing to build!)

After I got the plans and printed them, I realized there were sure a lot of pages of directions. I read the directions and I don’t really understand what a jig or cross member support is?

But, I am going to try to build a chicken coop.

I asked my husband to bring home pallets. His business is in an industrial area in town so there are always stray pallets in the allies. He got home the other night with his catering van loaded with pallets. They are heavy and I have a couple of splinters from helping unload them.

I looked at the plans again with my seven-year-old son. Either he has a lot of faith in his mother or he understands these plans, as he assures me that we can do it.

So, we are building a chicken coop.

I’m giving myself a month.

I’m..or shall I say...we’re going to start to take apart the pallets tonight.