Wednesday, April 27, 2011

After a wet and dreary Saturday, the sun finally broke through on Sunday as we prepared to finish building the new chicken coop hoop house.


I use the term "we" in the loosest possible way. All of you who know me also know I wouldn't know how to build a chicken coop any more than I'd know how to build a house.


But as I mentioned in my Part I post, I happened to be blessed with the most talented and energetic honey-do-list-completer that I could ever have hoped for.

You complete me sweetie.  You know that, right?  Just like you complete my honey-do list.

So while I was busy moving my boys to another area of the lawn to mow, Papa Bear was busy starting to staple the chicken wire over the cattle panels.


Enter super-cool-air-powered-staple-gun, a birthday gift from yours truly for PB's birthday last fall. He hasn't really had too many chances to use it since he received it, so I think he was more than a little thrilled to drag it out for this occasion.

Last weekend we had attached the chicken wire to the ends of the coop, laying it in horizontal strips and just wrapping the edges around onto the sloped roof. Sunday we had the easier job of running it up and over the roof. PB had a trick for pulling it off the roll and up over the hoop - (and by the way, we purchased a 4'x150' roll in hopes of having leftovers to build cages for my square foot garden beds) he laid down some boards first, so as he pulled on the wire and it unrolled, it wouldn't be spinning in the dirt.


Brilliant, no?  PB's always coming up with new tricks like that.

Being that this was 4' wide chicken wire and the roof was 8'4" long, we made 3 passes up and over, so there is a lot of overlap between the three sections of chickenwire.  We didn't want to use just two and have them barely meet, as this structure needs to be raccoon-proof.

I figured we only had an hour or so of work to do to complete the coop that day. Three strips of chicken wire over the roof, then put on the tarp.


Boy was I wrong. What I had neglected to factor into my mental timeline was weaving wire to connect all the various sections of chickenwire wherever there was a seam.  Again, to varmint-proof the structure.

We spent at least two or three hours weaving wire seams together.


In case you missed that, that was HOURS. 

Excuse me while I take a break from weaving wire to take this picture of my lovely daughter who has recently enrolled in classes at the University of Phoenix on-line degree program, and who is enjoying the sunshine as she works on an assignment.


I don't really have to go back to weaving wire, do I?  Perhaps I'll spend some time covering the chicken coop door with chicken wire and taking more photos of the door details.

Yeah, that's what I'll do.


Using 16' cattle panels has produced a coop that's about 6'2" at its peak, big enough even for PB to stand up in. The door is also nice and tall. No stooping or hitting ones head to get in and out.


Well, I don't have to stoop. PB might have to duck a little.

In addition, the door has some nice extras, like this latch that you can either padlock, or, in our case, lock with a carabiner. (Extra varmint-proofing measure).


I noticed that once you pulled the coop door shut from the inside, you were effectively locked in.

No problem. PB to the rescue!


Turns out there's a small hole in the latch mechanism that PB attached a pull-cord to and threaded to the inside of the coop. Pulling the cord releases the latch on the outside.


Am I the only one who sees a face in this close-up shot?  This poor fella needs to trim his nose hairs, dontcha think?

Sorry, weaving wire in the sunshine for hours on end is having an interesting effect.

Eventually all the wire was woven and PB put a small older tarp on the back of the coop, attaching it at the grommets with wire to the coop, before pulling out the brand new 12'x16' silver heavy-weight 8ml tarp for the roof.

The roof tarp is attached with tarp bungees to screws in the frame so that it can be attached fully in inclement weather, or pulled back half-way on nice days.


At this point I had to run half-way to town to bring my lovely daughter some items she left at our house that afternoon that she desperately needed.

While I was driving to town and back, PB attached a line of electric wire around the bottom frame of the coop. That along with a small fence charger attached to the back of the coop, under the tarp, and a bunch of extension cords should make it possible for us to position the coop anywhere in the yard but keep the wire hot. This should yield a nice little shock if anything comes nosing along, hoping to crawl underneath to get my chickies.

In case you've been pondering the whole "portability" factor while looking at this amazing structure and thinking it's built like a brick you-know-what house, you're right. It takes two of use to move this beast.

But, I hear PB is planning to put wheels on it somehow.

Part III next weekend?

We shall see. 

But this weekend we're traveling to The Great Midwest Alpaca Festival in Madison, WI where we will be showing Grace in her second show of the season. Let's hope she does as well as she did at the MN Show. (No pressure Grace, we'll love you no matter how you place.)

What are you up to this weekend? Have you built a chicken coop?  Leave us a note - we'd love to learn more from you!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Some days, when it seems I've accidentally put on my crabby pants instead of my big girl pants, there's only one cure - flowers.


And the best place for me to find gorgeous flowers in bloom, and lots of them, is always the MN Landscape Arboretum.

Even though it is yet early spring in these parts, the Arboretum already has a lot of blooms to enjoy.


Flowering trees, too.


I think it's impossible to remain crabby when faced with so much beauty.


A walk around the grounds always manages to soothe me and calm my ruffled feathers.


What's your favorite trick for healing a bad mood?

Monday, April 25, 2011


The peeps are three weeks old today. I can't believe it. They seem to be growing, visibly, every day now.

Remember this?


Now the Americaunas are THIS big:


(By the way, we named the two Americaunas Chip & Dale, due to the chipmunk-like stripes they had as babies).

You peek into the brooder now, and they all look like mini-chickens running around, instead of babies.

Like this Barred Rock.


We were supposed to get two of these, and a light and black Silkie. What we ended up with was one Barred Rock, one light Silkie and two unknowns (perhaps Black Astralorp?). Time will tell.

This little hen is still unnamed, so feel free to give a shout out if you have suggestions.

One of the Buff Orpingtons and one of the Rhode Island Reds still jump onto my hand or arm when I reach into the brooder.  The Buff I believe really likes the company - the RIR is just looking for a way out of the brooder I think. 


Although, she does settle down on my arm and seems quite content there at times.  She often jumps on my little buff though, which ruffles her feathers and makes her less likely to come back.

And then there's Frickin.


Frickin is just so... Frickin Hilarious.

How adorable are those little feathered bell-bottom looking legs?

He/she's about 1/4 the size of the RIR's, yet you'd never know it. He/she's always right in the middle of the action - whether it's at the water bottle, or in the feeder, or attacking the lastest tuft of turf I toss into the brooder.


Frickin does not come out of the brooder without a chase, a scramble, and a LOT of squawking. What he/she lacks in size, he/she makes up for in spunk.

Papa Bear finished up the chicken coop on Sunday (Part II post to come soon). Next weekend we head to Madison, WI for the Great Midwest Alpaca Festival where we will be showing Grace again, and after that, we're hoping the weather will be decent enough to put the chicks out in their new home!

I am having so much fun with these chickens - it's just a shame we'll have to wait another 5-7 months for our first farm-fresh, home-grown eggs.

What farm-fresh goodies are you waiting for this spring?

Friday, April 22, 2011


It's rainy, cold and dreary here today.  Just what I hoped for on a late-April "spring" day. 

Not.

Instead of shearing alpacas this weekend with our friends at Kinney Valley Alpacas, working hard and laughing until we cry, due to the inclement weather, we are staying home, crying.

{insert sad faces here}

OK, we're not really crying.

But I am taking solace for my disappointment in several ways.

a) I'm currently sitting at my favorite local coffee shop, The Mocha Monkey, in Waconia, sipping a "Lucky Monkey" and thinking about what a Lucky Monkey I am, despite the weather and missing  my friends and a whole mess of flying fleece. I have my little rented 2-acre farm, 5 alpacas (#6 due in August!), 3 cats and 15 peeps. Life is good.

b) We have a freshly made, gourmet-chocolate-cheesecake made by my my sweetie in the freezer, that was meant for the folks at the shearing party. If things get too desperate around here this weekend, that baby's coming OUT.  Shearing party be damned!  (But don't tell Justin!)

c) I discovered a new blog a couple of nights ago, while doing a Google image search for chickens.  Turns out there is a young writer named Jenna Woginrich living in Washington County, NY who is running her own homestead, Cold Antler Farm, and who has already authored two books on homesteading - Chick Days, a subject near and dear to my heart, about raising chickens, from eggs to adults, and Made from Scratch, Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life.

I ordered both of her books yesterday.  Yippee!!

Who among us hasn't had some version of the Farmgirl (or Farmer) dream at some time in our lives? Who has bustled along noisy city streets and not longed for a peaceful acre to call their own? Who has tended seedlings in a window-sill garden, or canned fresh produce from the farmer's market, or picked out their own pumpkin straight off the vine in a farmer's field?

If you have Farmgirl dreams in your heart, and some time to dream and read this dreary weekend, I hope you'll check out Jenna's blog, which chronicles her journey from farmgirl-wannabe living in the city, to certified Farmgirl (or Farmer, if you prefer that title Jenna!).

Jenna lights the way for all of us who are still striving towards our own Farmgirl dreams, wherever we may live. 

Happy Friday!

Thursday, April 21, 2011


Ever since I moved the peeps into the large horse trough on the front porch...


there has been keen interest...


in the goings on of the porch residents...


by one very, very curious kitty.


What's piquing your curiosity these days?  Leave a comment, I'd love to hear!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Like every good (or bad?) idea, first you need a plan. I had come across a couple of coop hoop building plans during one of my chicken researching episodes (aka splink sessions) so I sent them to Papa Bear to peruse and come up with a plan for our hoop house.

PB's good at coming up with designs for things. He's a real "out-of-the-box" thinker.

Like, for example, what to do when your only truck, a '62 International, is sitting in Sheridan, WY, and you have stuff to haul? Well, you make do, that's what.


We call her our "redneck pickup truck."  After getting everything home and unloading it (and, by the way, it was freezing last Saturday when we were doing all of this) the real fun began.

Thankfully, Sunday warmed up considerably. It was actually warm enough for me to remove my Carhartt coat (but not my wool hat) as I altered between helping PB and cleaning out the flower beds (and snapping photos).

Let me preface this by saying this project could be done even cheaper than we did it, if you have enough materials lying around.  We had some of the items we needed, but not everything.  I'll try to get a detailed list put together, with costs, for Part II of this post.


The long skids are 2"x6"x12', and PB angled them at the front to aid in moving the coop around. (One of the main requirements of the structure is that it be portable).


The 16' cattle panels were the hardest part, at least for me. I had to hold them up, nearly vertical, while PB hammered fence staples into the skids to hold the panels in place. Those panels are heavy!  And the staples were long enough to start coming through on the back side of the skids.


PB worked around that issue by stapling them at the place where two wires come together, making it a thicker join.

After the cattle panels came building the door frame, and the back wall supports.


One minute while I segue... as PB was starting the hoop project, I was busy moving lightweight livestock panels (about a dozen) into place along the outside of the boys pasture fence, to let them out to graze some of the yard grass.  My grand plan for the summer is to move these panels around the yard and let the boys mow for me.


Brilliant, no? 

But back to the hoop house...


The back wall supports are finished, and here is a closer picture of the cross-bracing and triangle supports.


And then came PB's favorite part - using his brand new air compressor and staple gun to staple the chicken wire to the frame.


He even let ME (gasp!) try using the new air stapler. It was pretty cool, gotta say.


As you can see here, the sun has left and it's getting a bit darker. PB's been at this project the better part of a day. The sun has gone behind some clouds and is thinking about starting to set.

At this point in time, I'm thinking about how hungry I am, how it's getting colder and darker and how it's supper time and the salsa chicken in the crock pot has been driving me crazy all day with its wonderful aroma.  PB allowed me to go inside and get dinner ready while he worked a little more. He has no sense of fatigue, I swear. When he's focused on something, he's focused!

I, however, was focused on getting noms in  my belly ASAP.

After dinner, the only energy I had left was to put the food away and crawl into bed.  PB, however, made it back outside to work on putting a door together.

God bless that man.

And all for my little peeps, who aren't so little anymore, and who will be moving outside in the next couple of weeks.


What spring projects are you and your hunny tackling this weekend?  Leave a comment!

Oh, and stay tuned for Part II, to be completed this weekend!


Monday, April 18, 2011

The peeps are 2 weeks old today.


Well, except for the Rhode Island Reds, who are about 6 months old from the looks of them.


They kind of remind me of hawks at this stage.  One of them has decided my bicep makes a good roost when I put my arm in their brooder.

They all had a Big Adventure today when I moved them from their second brooder, the small horse trough, into the BIG horse trough.


They responded to all the extra space by staying huddled in the far end, afraid to move.


After I moved their food dishes and water to that end, they started milling around and making happy "peep" noises again, but they all stayed at the far end. Hopefully they'll start exploring the rest of the brooder over the next few days.

Hard to believe this is how they came home only two weeks ago.


And then graduated to this.


I guess since they've made it this far we can now seriously consider naming them.

Kali has a few name suggestions, she told me through the window as she was politely asking to be let out onto the porch where the chickens were...


"Nom, nom and nom."

These are laying chickens, Kali.

I am considering Sid the Sloth's dinosaur egg names - Eggbert, Shelly and Yoko. For the buffs and one of the Gold Stars. Whaday'all think about that? I'd love to hear your suggestions.

And this guy (gal?), the Silkie with the feathered feet and attitude? He's got a name already - Frickin.


So when we get farm visitors and they point to the one chicken that looks completely out of place - the one with feathers on its feet and tufts sticking up all over its head and they ask, "What the heck is that one?"

We can look at them with a straight face and reply...

"That's a Frickin chicken."



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