Can yall believe it’s been a whole year since the chicken project was started and I got the first chicks? For the first few months I posted several videos about building the coop and how the chicks were doing. After the chickens start laying, there is not that much to post about. They are chickens, they do their thing, they lay eggs and that is about it.
Now that the hens are a full year old I thought it would be good to post some kind of up date to let people know how things are going.
Between the last weekend of February and the second week of March 2012 my wife and I bought 15 chicks. Two of the chicks died a few days after we got them. After those first two died, we have not lost another chicken.
As some of yall may know chickens are part of my long term SHTF survival plans. In the next few months my wife and I are looking at moving to the homestead. After we get moved we are going to build a 30 foot X 75 foot chicken yard, along with a 20 X 16 chicken coop, then expand the flock to around 50 hens and maybe 5 roosters.
My experiences from the past year will help me build the next chicken coop and chicken yard.
Chicken Project Observations
Remember when the coop was being built, i-hooks were installed next to the door, then a snap ring was tied to the i-hook with a piece of trotline string? That has worked very well. The snap rings have worked well, the wood is not rotting out around the i-hook nor is the trotline string is not brittle from being exposed to the elements.
The ladder door has worked well. Everyone morning the ladder is lowered, every night it is raised. Not a single predator has gotten into the coop at night.
Chicken poop gets hung up on the 1/2 inch hardware cloth, especially if the chickens have been feeding on grass.
A large spatula is used to remove the chicken poop from the hardware cloth. One side of the spatula has fine teeth on it, which helps to cut through the packed chicken poop.
During the summer of 2012 a couple of my chickens had a case of avian pox. It took several weeks for the flock to clear the infection. No chickens died from avian pox.
The tarp over the run has worked well. The chickens take their dust bath under the tarp where they are out of direct sunlight.
The hens have around 10 square feet in the run and 3 square feet in the coop. Even though the chickens do not have a lot of room, they seem to be doing well.
The 1/2 inch hardware cloth on the windows has worked well. No predators have broke into the coop via the windows. The next coop I build will probably have some kind of mosquito netting. Mosquitoes are one of the primary vectors for the spread of disease. Bugs bite wild birds nesting close to the coop, then the bugs bite the chickens, thus facilitating the spread of disease.
The wider the perch, the better, as the feathers cover the feet with a wide perch.
Hens do not like to jump down onto the hardware cloth. Almost every time they come down from the roost they aim for the plywood the water and food are sitting on.
If any of the hens escape from the run, its probably going to be the speckled Speckled Sussex.
The Barred Rocks pace up and down the inside of the run looking for a way out.
Rhode Island Reds can be a little temperamental. One Rhode Island Red is so tame I can pick it up with no problems. While one of the others pecks at my hand if I get too close.
Some of the hens molted around December, while some of the are molting in March.
I was a little worried if the open bottom was going to be too cold for the chickens during the wintertime. Here in southeast Texas our winters are more cool and wet then cold. To us, a cold day is in the 20s. A few times this past winter the nightime tempos dropped into the upper 20s. The next morning I saw no signs of frostbite.
During the last week of November and the first week of December egg laying slowed down from 10 eggs a day to 3 eggs a day. During really cold nights I hung a heat lamp from the ceiling close to the waterer. This provided a little warmth, and helped prevent the waterer from freezing. With the light in the coop the egg production picked back up.
The light was only kept in the coop for a couple of weeks.
After a cold front pushes through egg production drops the next day.
Overall, I am happy with how everything turned out. The coop and run are working well and the ladder is working as expected.
The one thing I would change is the water system. Those water dispensers that the local feed store sells fill up with dirt in a matter of hours. If I would have done one thing differently, I would have built some kind of water system with nipples.