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Thanks to last year’s fox incident, I’ve had to keep my 6 girls ‘cooped’ up much more than I used to; rather than running free in the yard all day, they are now spending all their time in the screened-over, fenced-in run that extends around their coop. This isn’t the largest area by any means. It’s larger than the recommended outdoor space for 6 chickens and it sure beats the life that battery chickens or even standard ‘free range’ chickens lead, but I of course felt so guilty making them stay in there all day – you try turning a cold shoulder on a gaggle of feathery friends pacing back and forth behind a fence and complaining vocally to you that they can’t get out!

But this all has changed. They now have a new daytime ‘yard’ that is almost as secure as their enclosed coop area, where they can play and scratch all day without fear of attack. It’s once again the size of the original run, so it has essentially doubled their area. While it’s not exactly a huge pasture or even a barnyard’s worth of space, it gives them a lot more room to dust bathe, dig, and stay a little more spread out from each other when they want some space. Best of all, a tough old grapevine that was growing out of the ground right in the middle of the area that became their ‘vacation yard’ has grown up and over it this summer, and is providing lots of excellent shade – and the occasional tasty grape leaf if they can reach it!

Photos coming soon…

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Today the temperature reached well over 50 degrees and I felt compelled to tackle some of the daunting winter cleanup in the yard.

Since I was planning to spend a few hours outside, I let the girls out to stretch their wings and legs. They were a great help in the garden.

Well, not so much.

Scramble is by far the most entertaining of my chickens; watching her can be quite a distraction from the task at hand. This is her eyeing a wheelbarrow full of just clipped grasses. Surely there’s something good in there somewhere!

What are you looking at?! Get back to work.

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After our fox attack last week, I decided not to give the remaining two Ameracauna pullets too much time to get used to having the whole coop to themselves, lest they make things as difficult for future newcomers as my older girls did to them. I learned a year ago that when a pecking order is disrupted by the loss of the head bird(s), it’s a great time to introduce new members to the flock. Rather than old residents picking mercilessly on the newcomers, everyone has to negotiate a new relationship with everyone else.

The brief solitude did get Scramble and Omelet going into the coop to sleep rather than perching outside every night, so I am thankful for that little improvement. It’s not so much fun to have to pry two screeching chickens from a high ladder and stuff them into their house every night after dark. (And who would do that for us when we were out of town?). My older girls were effective bullies, so Scramble and Omelet preferred roosting outside over the hostile environment in the henhouse. Now they suddenly had the coop to themselves, and they immediately ‘moved in’ for the night – a good start.

After a flurry of Craig’s list contacts and calls, I drove down to Parker to pick up a very eclectic four-some of hens. One was a Buff Brahma, which is what attracted me to the ad in the first place; Pot Pie and Tandoori  endeared themselves to me in short order and I miss them badly, so I really wanted another Brahma. I knew I wanted a couple of reliable layers, and one of the chickens was a Leghorn; another was a Campine, a beautiful, petite breed known to be excellent layers. The fourth was a Cochin, a breed I’ve wanted since I first thought about getting chickens. They have less than stellar egg production but are beautiful, gentle fluffballs – so this hodgepodge group of chickens really appealed to me as a varied and interesting mix of birds.

They’ve been home with me for almost a week now, and today I let them out of the covered run for the first time. For Scramble and Omelet it was the first excursion since the fox attack, and they launched themselves into my raised beds with gusto, eventually finding their way back to their beloved dust-bathing spot under my potting bench. The 4 new birds stayed closer to home, gradually venturing across the yard but spending 80% of their time in and very near the run. When it was time to take Copper for a walk, it was a cinch to herd everyone back into the run. Whether it will remain that way when they all feel more settled is another question.

Here are photos of ALL the girls, since I didn’t get photos of the Ameracaunas before today (those dark, short winter days just don’t present many opportunities for picture-taking!).

Omelet, one of the two Ameracauna sisters who escaped the fox. They are much more at ease with this new group of chickens than they were with my old four.

Scramble, the other Ameracauna. She is a little bolder and less flighty than her sister, and I'm hoping she will tame eventually; she seems to be quite intelligent and spunky, and I love her cheeky expression.

The Leghorn, whom I've predictably named Foghorn. She's a pretty bird and skittish around humans, but seems to be getting along wonderfully with all the other birds. She neither pecks nor gets pecked and seems to be a great forager who stays busy.

The Buff Brahma. So far she has been the most approachable of the current group, though I'm giving them all a few days before I try to grab anyone for forced attention. Her former owner's boys called her Buffy, and I haven't had the heart to change her name; it's stuck already.

My two nutty Ameracaunas with the new Cochin, who doesn't have a name yet. She's huge and has gorgeous plumage. This chicken is definitely the new boss hen; nobody is disputing her authority. Would you?

The Cochin having a drink. Her shape is rather like a basketball. If nothing else, she'll be useful for keeping the other hens warm on cold nights. Though I should give her credit for laying two eggs this week, while everyone else is still on strike while they get acclimated.

This little sweetheart is a Golden Campine. They top out at 4 pounds, and since she was hatched in 2009 I doubt she's even that big yet. She's as flighty as they come, but not stupid - just chicken. Hopefully she'll settle down just a little with time. I've named her Henny Penny.

Everyone exploring the immediate vicinity of the run. You can barely make out Scramble in the raised bed on the right. In the summer, a grapevine grows over the right side of the run and provides welcome shade and tasty, edible leaves for the girls.

A view of the inside of the run, showing the space our girls are confined to most days. I'll be able to let them free range only when I'm in the garden, or put them in the mobile coop. This, though, is their permanent home and they don't seem to mind its small size all that much. Here, they're all inside even though the gate is wide open for them to roam about the rest of the yard.

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I’m going to have to interrupt my regularly scheduled programming to bring you a very sad story. I lost 4 of my 6 chickens today- basically, my flock was wiped out, since the two remaining are young, not yet settled in, and laying about one egg every other day between them. All my good layers, and two of the girls I’d raised from day-old chicks almost two years ago, are gone. It’s been a heartbreaking day, but I committed to chronicling the good, the bad and the ugly parts of chicken-keeping on my blog – and there are some highlights and morals to the day that I don’t want to forget. Ones that might help others in the same boat prevent this from happening to them or at least take some comfort if it does.

This may or may not have anything to do with this morning’s events, but I awoke this morning to the sound of squirrels scrambling around on the roof and scolding loudly. They scold a lot (they’re not fans of my dog Copper, who chases them relentlessly) but the scurrying noise was a little unusual. Unfortunately not unusual enough for me to think much of it, especially since Copper was lounging on the bed with me and not reacting much. Fast forward to half an hour later or so… I’m in the kitchen getting ready to sit down with my tea and book as I’ve been doing these last few lazy days off. Tomas suddenly calls out from the living room, “hey, there’s a fox in the yard! He’s getting away with one of your chickens!” “What?! No!!” I yell and run to the patio door. Tomas is already outside, and as I’m trying to find shoes to throw on, he calls back to me: “he killed them all, honey, they’re all dead.” I want to freak out. This is so much worse than my first thought! I rush outside, half not wanting to see at all, and my only memory is of sort of going to look and sort of not looking at the same time. Through the chain link fence between me and the vegetable garden, I glimpse two or three chicken corpses lying on the ground. Tomas is over there so I start asking him for the details I’m too freaked out to see in person. “How many are there? Are they all dead? Do you see either of the new girls?” (they were conspicuously absent and we thought the fox must have made off with them first). I think I did end up in the garden for a quick survey before turning my back on the scene in disbelief to let the awfulness sink in a bit. They were dead, and not only that, they were all beheaded. 4 headless chickens sprawled in my raised beds and in the snow around the coop.

To clarify a couple of things, we have been letting the girls out every morning to free-range in the garden now that the raised beds are cleaned out, and locking them up at dusk. This has been going nicely since October, and when we added two Ameracauna pullets a few weeks ago, the extra space and distractions really helped smooth over what was a very difficult transition for them into the new flock.

Our coop was and is fully predator-proof, as described in great detail here… but we’d opened the gate so the girls could roam freely. We are fully aware of the MANY predators that frequent our neck of the woods here in the western suburbs, and we take a lot of precautions to keep our birds safe. But this was broad daylight, 9 a.m. or so. So, just as we did every other day, we assumed they were happily waddling around the yard in the sunshine, kicking up dirt and chirping at each other. And on a much less conscious level, I guess we assumed any predators were snoozing in a burrow or nest somewhere until dusk. The large fox disappearing over the fence – and the carnage he left in his wake – was a full-on nasty surprise of the first order.

Reasoning that there was nothing we could do with 4 dead chickens, and that the fox had already made off with the other 2, we decided to let him come back for the other bodies. Better let them feed some hungry fox pups somewhere than go to complete waste. He returned quite soon, and proceeded to try to launch himself back over our 6-foot wood fence with a 6-pound chicken in his mouth. That didn’t go so well. After a few tries, something spooked him and he vanished. We watched him come back and try again to gather the birds in a corner of the garden and take one away with him – but I finally gave up and let Copper out, who was growling and barking at him through the window. We had to bag up and throw out the bodies ourselves.

In the meantime, Copper was REALLY interested in something over on the south side of the yard – far away from the fox and chicken action. In my fog, I didn’t pay much attention to this either, until Tomas shouted “I found two of them!” The Ameracauna pullets were behind the wood fence in our neighbor’s yard and apparently hurrying back and forth over there and wondering how to get back home. By some miracle, the neighbor had not yet let his two large dogs outside. Tomas went over to tell him what was going on, make sure his dogs stayed locked up, and enlist his help. I grabbed the small dog crate that I use for chicken transport and followed close behind. To add to the circus atmosphere of it all, at that exact moment, Tomas’ mother pulled up in her minivan with his 18-month-old nephew. I found out later that she was bringing us loaves of leftover bread… for the chickens.

Catching these two frightened, still maladjusted and mistrusting birds was quite a caper. Three of us with a tarp, cardboard box and crate were put to shame by these nimble girls who, after all, had just escaped a seasoned, wily predator. When one of them, Scramble, darted through the gate that I had foolishly not quite shut behind me, I thought it was all over; we’d never catch her out in the neighborhood. Luckily she headed toward our backyard fence, and we realized we could open our back gate and try to herd her in that way. It worked! Maybe she knew this was the way home; in any case, she chose to run through the narrow opening rather than split in another direction. We slammed the gate behind her – at least she was in the correct yard – and decided to try to do the same with the other girl, Omelet. As we herded her towards the open gate, she caught sight of the dog crate sitting open nearby, decided it was a safe haven, and dove inside. Success! The remaining task of cornering Scramble inside our own yard and actually catching her was no small matter. I feared she would fly back over into the neighbor’s yard, where he had just released his dogs, and then to my horror Tomas’ mother opened our sliding door and almost released Copper (who would gladly grab a chicken and make it into her latest tug toy). Finally, we caught her and returned both to their enclosed, locked run.

I still had two chickens! It was a silver lining on a really rough day; I still had to pick up a mass of feathers, down and bloody debris in the garden but I felt somewhat better than hopeless. When I brought them some leftover bread as a treat, it was comforting to hear their soft warbling sounds in the space that only recently had been the scene of so much fear and death. Still, the loss of my 4 favorite birds – true personalities, all of them, and wonderful layers – was a hard one.

But I want to end this post with some thoughts on the lessons I mentioned above. To start with, none of this would have happened if we had left our girls safe inside their enclosed run instead of letting them free-range around the garden. There may be some places where unsupervised free ranging is ok for a bunch of plump hens, but a suburb of Denver along a riparian corridor with coyotes, foxes, hawks, eagles, owls, snakes, raccoons and skunks is probably not one of them. I will have to take this experience to heart and keep the hens more restricted. We can still alternate between their little enclosed yard and the covered chicken tractor that we built to pasture them in the greener seasons. Letting them out into the garden and turning my back on them is just not an option, not now that Mr. Fox has found us.

Second, my two least tame birds are the ones that survived this terrifying experience and are now the entirety of my flock. While the loss of my ‘pet’ birds, which I raised from day-old chicks, is heartbreaking, I have real respect for the instincts that got these girls over not one, but two tall fences to safety. These don’t necessarily pair well with my pastoral idea of a happy clutch of chickens scratching around garden and stopping to take some cuddle time in my lap. But they proved appropriate today in a dangerous situation. I’ll give more consideration in the future to smaller, flightier breeds – maybe a Hamburg or a Campine, gorgeous birds that lay lovely eggs and just aren’t known for being docile or cuddly. They might be better cut out for life on the edge of the wilderness than some of the slower-moving, gentler breeds that I have been so biased toward.

A new project I see coming our way in the spring is to extend the chicken run. A larger space will make it easier for me to leave the girls ‘cooped up’ all day when I’m at work, without the guilt that caused me to give them too much freedom in the first place.

I also need to employ a few more predator-deterring tricks. Coyote urine was discussed at length on Facebook today after I posted about our incident. Giving Copper more access to the side yard so she can patrol it and leave her own marks might not be a bad idea either. And I’m reminded to go out and do a thorough inspection of the run in the next few days. Two summers and two winters may well have caused wires to loosen or rust, wooden framework to split or warp, or nails to come loose. Just because you build something to be predator-proof doesn’t mean it’s predator-proof forever. It’s imperative to keep an eye on the condition of your coop, and to repair it as needed to ensure it continues to keep your precious charges safe from intruders.

Last but not least: don’t give away all your eggs just because you have a couple cartons too many and the chickens are laying more eggs than you can keep up with. Our two dozen extra eggs should tide us over until I can get some new girls, but we’ll have to be sparing with them. You can go from plenty to poverty in just a few minutes! 

Mr. Fox (or Mrs) was a gorgeous, impressively large creature. I had the wherewithall to snap a photo of him on his return trip into our yard. It reminds me of the wilder side of this suburban life, and the harsh beauty of the natural world. For better or worse, we share our lives with nature and all her creatures.  I like to think it’s for the better most of the time.

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P1150777Sesame’s unusually small egg this week.

This is one of the eggs that my one-year old Ameracauna, Sesame, laid for us this week. It could be a complete fluke of course; I think we may have gotten one miniature egg last year when the girls were just starting to lay. However, given the fact that we just brought two new chickens into our fold – a pair of one-year-old Brahma sisters – things have been a little unsettled for poor Sesame, who was already the last in the pecking order. I noticed her getting picked on a bit more severely than usual by the Buckeye, Tipsy (who was perhaps trying to establish herself as the boss to all other parties, since the newcomers probably pose a legitimate challenge – they’re not small chickens!), and I also noticed her avoiding the new girls almost in a panic, rushing out of their way whenever they came near her for any reason. And to top off her erratic new behavior, she started laying eggs under the coop and on the floor inside the coop instead of in the nest box she usually uses. And one of them looked like this. Tomas called it a “sample size egg;” that’s one of her regular ones next to it.

Sesame and her endlessly cute cheek muffs.

Sesame and her endlessly cute cheek muffs.

All things considered, though, the Brahma sisters are settling in well and everyone seems to be getting along splendidly; I haven’t heard a single altercation and only seen a little bit of posturing between Tipsy and Sesame. It will take me a while to figure out the new pecking order, but I think Tipsy has positioned herself near the top. And Sesame is laying normal eggs again, though still frequently far out of reach under the coop. I tried to get one out with a pitchfork the other day – not a good idea – but the girls enjoyed the surprise egg-yolk snack while I hastily removed any shells from their reach.

Finally, here are couple of photos of the new Brahma sisters, named Tandoori and Pot Pie. And their lovely eggs. Happy chicken-keeping!

Pot Pie scratching at something yummy. Note the feathered feet, characteristic of the Brahma breed.

Pot Pie scratching at something yummy. Note the feathered feet, characteristic of the Brahma breed.

The Brahma sisters, Tandoori and Pot Pie. Tandoori has more dark markings on her back, a really pretty girl. Pot Pie (right) is quite the little renegade; she refuses to go into the pen in the evening and always gives us a run for our money. Perhaps a better name would have been Houdini...

The Brahma sisters, Tandoori and Pot Pie. Tandoori has more dark markings on her back, a really pretty girl. Pot Pie (right) is quite the little renegade; she refuses to go into the pen in the evening and always gives us a run for our money. Perhaps a better name would have been Houdini...

New eggs in the collection. The speckled one and the pinkish colored one on the right are the new colors; interesting to me that two birds of the same breed can lay such different looking eggs, but it turns out we don't get speckles all the time! The large buff colored ones on the left are from Curry, our Australorp; still the most consistently large, beautiful eggs of the lot, but these new Brahma eggs are quite wonderful as well!

New eggs in the collection. The speckled one and the pinkish colored one on the right are the new colors; interesting that two birds of the same breed can lay such different looking eggs, but it turns out we don't get speckles all the time. The large buff colored ones on the left are from Curry, our Australorp; still the most consistently large, beautiful eggs of the lot, but these new Brahma eggs are quite wonderful as well.

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Sesame looking at me from her vantage point on the rim of her open coop.

Sesame looking at me from her vantage point on the rim of her open coop.

It’s June and this is when I got my batch of peeps in the mail last year. They’re one year old! (ok, next week). It’s gotten me to thinking that there are probably a lot of folks out there looking to build their first hen shelter, and I thought I would share what we did for ours, because it was cheap, easy and is working out really darned well for our girls; they seem to be warm, safe and pretty happy. Before you shell out big bucks for a custom coop, check out this list of basic needs that you need to cover, and see if it’s not something you can scrounge up some materials for and do yourself!

Our 6-bird coop (currently inhabited by 4).

Our 6-bird coop (currently inhabited by 4).

First of all, we live in the 21st century and there is no way that we will be here every morning to let the chickens out, and every evening (right at dusk!) to lock them up. We have jobs, and sometimes we even go out of town for a long weekend. So our first consideration was simply to enclose their actual coop (the little house they sleep in) inside a larger, completely enclosed and secured run. Here, with a small hinged door that can be propped open and stay that way for days at a time, they can come and go from their house morning and night, and still be safe from predators. And we can leave the property for more than 12 hours.

Another detail to point out in the above photo is that you don’t want to be stooped over all the time while you are in the run with your birds (hanging out with them, cleaning, collecting eggs, whatever). So we built it to be higher than my head, even if it does seem like more vertical space than a couple of plump, mostly earthbound birds would need.

Flaws: since we salvaged an old dog house to use as the coop, we couldn’t have a nest box attached to the outside fence with a flap to get eggs through, so we have to actually enter the enclosure and step in chicken poo every single day. But all in all, a small trade-off for not having to build the actual henhouse part of this project.

Two kinds of wire used to fence in the chicken run.

Two kinds of wire used to fence in the chicken run.

Next, I want to point out that we had to use two different types of wire to enclose this run. One is poultry netting a.k.a. chicken wire, which we enthusiastically bought a million yards of, thinking it was all we’d need. Turns out that a raccoon can bend the stuff and create a hole big enough to walk right in, which I was fortunate enough to read about rather than experience. But the larger, stronger wire (hardware wire, with about 2″ x 4″ openings) is of course too large for 8-week old chicks and they themselves will walk right through it. Not to mention any number of other critters. So we ended up with a combination – and I believe I am not the first one to do it this way.

Another important detail: The top of the run is also covered in wire, necessary if you have hawks or owls (and who doesn’t?). Or raccoons, and I hear that foxes climb as well.

Hardware cloth 'raccoon guard' around the base of the run.

Hardware cloth 'raccoon guard' around the base of the run.

There is one more kind of wire on this run: it’s called hardware cloth (though where the word cloth comes in, I sure don’t know) and it’s really expensive. We paid $30 for a piece just big enough to do the gate. However, because those crafty raccoons will also reach through chicken wire and pull bits of chicken through the fence with potentially gory results (’nuff said?), you need something with really small openings around the bottom of the run. We used some leftover pieces to add some just to chicken height, reasoning that the raccoons would not be able to reach down and grab a bird from any higher than this. It might at least buy the girls enough time to get away from the sides of the coop.

Jungle gym for chickens: lots to climb and perch on.

Jungle gym for chickens: lots to climb and perch on.

Because we live around a lot of predators (owls, hawks, eagles, raccoons, foxes, coyotes, possums, snakes and dogs, to name a few) we only let the girls free-range when we’re home and can keep an eye on them, ie. evenings and weekends. The rest of the time they are “cooped up” in this run. So we built in plenty of things for them to do so they could stay in shape and not resort to picking at each other out of boredom. Here you can see stumps and logs, a ladder, and a roost; behind the camera there is also a dust-bathing corner which I resupply periodically with a fresh bag of sand. Plus, their house itself is both short enough to fly on top of and set high enough on concrete blocks for them to crawl underneath for extra entertainment, shade or shelter.

Sesame on the perch inside the run.

Sesame on the perch inside the run.

Here Sesame, my Ameracauna, is demonstrating the use of their outdoor roost. She is smaller bodied and the most nimble of my girls, and easily hops and flies around to various perches. The twiggy thing in the picture is a grapevine, which is greening up as I write this and will soon provide the girls with tantalizing snack food as well as shade.

Predator-proof lock? We hope so...

Predator-proof lock? We hope so...

They say – back to those darned raccoons – that if a 4-year-old child can open a lock, a raccoon can figure it out. I have not kid-tested this carabiner system yet, but figure it requires enough dexterity that it’s a good deterrent. The latch won’t slide unless you remove the ‘biners, and they’re pretty tricky. Whatever you do, make sure it’s not just a simple latch! We had a padlock for a while, but soon gave up on it when it started seizing up in the cold and wet and we almost couldn’t get in a few times to let the girls out of their coop or feed them.

Inside view of gate closing mechanism.

Inside view of gate closing mechanism.

When I go inside to feed the girls or collect eggs, this is what I do with the ‘biners. It keeps the gate shut behind me, because it doesn’t stay shut on its own – which results in runaway chickens and lots of wasted time before work.

Hanging chicken feeder

Hanging chicken feeder

You’ve probably seen these over-priced beauties in the feed store, but they really are the best way to feed your birds without feeding the rest of the neighborhood. It helps keep a lot of litter out of the feed, too.

Galvanized steel poultry waterer.

Galvanized steel poultry waterer.

And put your watering thing on top of at least a couple of good level pavers; this will keep a lot of dirt and junk out of their water. In winter, I keep it on top of a heated base which we have to run power to with an extension cord. It beats the heck out of breaking ice every couple of hours.

The very shoddy-looking but functional coop.

The shoddy-looking but functional coop.

A quick note on coop construction: whatever you do, you need a window (for light) and ventilation. On this reclaimed doghouse, we just removed the roof and replaced it with a new plywood roof that is hinged in the back. I can prop it open it a little or a lot for ventilation on warm nights or during the day (see picture below); the rest of the time it’s quite snug.

Java sitting on the rim of her ventilated coop.

Java sitting on the rim of her ventilated coop.

Hinged coop door. A second set of 'biners holds it open during the day.

Hinged coop door. A second set of 'biners holds it open during the day.

Java was in the mood to do some modeling, so here are a few more shots of the more functional components of our coop. Since the dog-sized door was letting in way too much cold air, we boarded most of it up and left a small chicken-sized opening with a hinged flap. We can use the carabiners to hang it open during the day or for several days if we’re out of town. The flap provides yet another perch for the girls to play on when it’s open.

Inside the coop: Java modeling the use of the roost.

Inside the coop: Java modeling the use of the roost.

Believe it or not, this pint-sized coop has enough space inside for 6 chickens to snuggle up to each other and still have a little space on each side. All chickens want to sleep on a roost, so you must provide one. They settle down with their down feathers covering their bare feet and stay nice and warm (I do provide a lamp on the coldest nights). This roost is only about 6 inches off the floor of the coop, but the important thing is that it’s off the floor so they can hop up to sleep.

4 eggs and a golf ball (left there as a deterrent to egg-pecking).

4 eggs and a golf ball (left there as a deterrent to egg-pecking).

Finally, a quick view of a nest box. We have two inside the coop, and installed them such that the coop roof, when closed, is the lid on the nest boxes so all I have to do to collect eggs is lift up the roof and reach in from above. Pretty clever if I say so myself. All 4 girls use the same nest box; the other appears to be untouched 99% of the time. But it’s having the choice that matters, I suppose.

Parting shot: Sesame and Curry using the open chicken coop for recreation.

Parting shot: Sesame and Curry using the open chicken coop for recreation.

Despite this long post and the many exhaustive photos, I want to emphasize that chickens have few needs – but they are concrete needs and must be fulfilled. However, as you can see, it’s perfectly easy to meet those needs in a wide variety of ways, using all sorts of salvaged and found materials, and without having to spend a fortune (or a lifetime) on a chicken Taj Majal. My next project is to paint the coop – but I am sure only I will care about the results. The girls are safe, busy, have a sheltered place to sleep and lay their eggs, and I even have a little space to spare… in case I want to expand my little flock. (It’s always a good idea to build for more chickens than you actually want to get).

I hope this helps someone out there come up with their own creative solutions to chicken housing. Good luck with your coops and most especially with your peeps!!

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Here begins my reporting on the successes of the various remedies for egg-eating in the henhouse. Things started promisingly…
On Wednesday, I let the girls free range all day while I was at work – more than 9 hours. They were so thrilled to be out that they didn’t touch the two eggs they’d laid. The next day was just as successful with 3 clean, untampered-with eggs waiting for me in the evening.
Today the backsliding began. Just as I was celebrating the possibility that I might be able to keep my favorite girl (and emerging egg connoisseur) Java, I came home after dark today and reached into the nest box to find 4 eggs… And a sticky mess next to (and on) them. I can only imagine that someone got into an egg just a little late in the day, and was discouraged from finishing by the oncoming darkness.
4 eggs is not a bad taking for one day, when you only have 5 birds to begin with. Still, I know that this is not a problem I’ll be able to live with. So the search for a solution (or magic combination of solutions) continues…

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