What exactly constitutes a farm? Is it the presence of livestock? Multiple animals? Maybe the selling of goods? I honestly don’t know but these days I feel like I am living on one. I don’t even know how it happened. One day I was this single mom with no pets, and now? Well let’s start this past spring when my husband got a grand idea…
A new puppy! We had talked about it for a while because we wanted a pal for Ted. Teddy is an anxious little thing and would do well with company. But a new puppy during the school year? That is just asking for stress so I suggested we wait until summer. Before I knew it, Seth was sending me links to puppies he found online and was setting up an appointment for a same-day pick up! Basically as soon as I saw her picture I couldn’t refuse her so it was settled. We were getting a new pup, in March.
Turns out she is Ted’s cousin! We had no idea when we called to schedule the pick-up so it was a great surprise. She is half poodle, half Shih Tzu so she is a shih-poo. We wanted to name her Luna (after one of my favorite Harry Potter characters, what whaaat) but a few days after having her, I decided she was more of a Lulu. I can’t explain it, it’s a mom thing. The name has to fit! Seth is still making fun of me for changing her a name a few days in. Speaking of Seth…
Needless to say it was a sleepless few nights. Now it may have been the sleep deprivation but I was shocked with the tremendous guilt I felt bringing home a new pup. Teddy would hardly even look at me. He wouldn’t even take a treat from me! It was like he hated me for bringing home this rambunctious little thing that chased him non-stop. I may or may not have cried, like a freaking baby. I can only compare this to that feeling after you bring home your second baby and your first baby is like, mom wtf? I wouldn’t know what that is like but I saw it in a movie once. Within a week though, they were playing together. Wrestling, nipping, licking, um…hugging…as we told my nieces. They were finally getting along, and getting into trouble together…
Now at 9 months old, Lulu is quite the mischievous pup. She is “mostly” potty trained, loves to chew on remotes and sheetrock and, well anything she isn’t supposed to, and is now twice the size of Ted.
She is very smart, and absolutely loves to cuddle.
She certainly gives us a run for our money, which is why I think we must have been possessed when a mere month and a half later we decided to add to our home yet again. This time it wasn’t a puppy, it was…
CHICKS!!! Okay, I know, you think we’re crazy. Our house is currently ripped apart, our yard is not anywhere near nice-looking after the septic overhaul from last summer, we have a brand new pup, and now we are getting chickens?!? Yes, we are apparently nuts.
Honestly, Seth and I have wanted chickens for a long time. We used to talk about it when we lived in our condo and dreamt about a day when we wouldn’t have HOA rules to prohibit us. So that fateful day when we went into Tractor Supply to get materials for the fence we were making ourselves (stay tuned for that blog post but just to give you a preview, don’t do this) we were in awe of the cuteness of the chicks. I know animal activists always say that you shouldn’t get chicks around Easter because it is impulsive and some folks just buy them because they are cute and have no intentions of keeping them as adults. But that definitely wasn’t our situation. So we walked out of the store with the fencing supplies, as well as 8 chicks and all of the food and accessories they would need to keep them safe and healthy.
For a the first few weeks they would need to stay inside under a heater lamp so there was time for us to figure out the whole coop thing, luckily. We shopped around online but 8 chickens need a lot of room and it was going to cost us a pretty penny to get a pre-made coop. Did I mention I am a school teacher? I don’t think taking a loan out against your retirement to cover the cost of a chicken coop is recommended. One day we went to my sister’s house and my brother-in-law offered up an old coop he had in the backyard. It needed a lot of work but it was a great start so we took him up on it. Seth lugged it home one day by himself and got to work.
The first step was taking the side-by-side doors off and turning them into horizontal hatches on the front of the coop. Next, he got sturdy outdoor material to cover up the remaining sides.
Next, we needed to figure out how we were going to keep critters out from under the coop so that they wouldn’t get into the coop. Seth built a box that would fit perfectly around the legs of the coop. He covered it in chicken wire which fully wrapped around the sides of the box.
We had to decide where to put the coop and figured that because of the sun/shade ratio in the narrow path behind our house, it would be best to put it up there. Plus, then we could watch them while we do the dishes! There was already a garden bed with red rocks so we just used that as the perimeter and attached new 2x4s to fortify the base of the part that would eventually be the chicken run (the run is the part that is outside of the main coop where the chickens can roam around and get some space). Next, Seth had to crawl under the coop and attach chicken wire around the entire area under the coop. This would be an extension of the run. I think that this was Seth’s favorite part of the project. I mean, who doesn’t love being cramped up into a tight space for two hours putting millions of staples into wood while you sit on small sharp rocks? Sign me up!
Now that the main coop was fenced in, we needed to figure out what roof we would put on. We had a cheap piece of plywood on there now but needed to weather-proof it. Luckily a friend of ours from karate owns a roofing business and was able to hook us up with this roll-on shingle material. We used that to cover the entire top surface of the coop and the hatch to the egg-box.
The main coop was almost ready so Seth got started on building the frame for the run. We wanted to make it as tall as possible but still structurally sound. It took us two weeks of sporadically working on this to finally get it done.
Inside the coop we wanted to make sure the chickens had a place to perch that was easy to clean. I followed instructions I found on a blog about backyard chickens to make this perch with a dropboard underneath. It fit perfectly in the corner of the coop!
The inside of the coop was almost ready for the chicks! We just needed to add some material to the floor of the coop for them to use. We eventually replaced this with sand but at first we used pine chip bedding. The chicks loved their new coop.
Seth was able to finish up the netting on all of the walls of the run and install a screen door for us to easily access the coop. For the first few weeks we kept the vents and doors covered at night because it was a little cold. But the entire summer, all of the siding from the front of the coop has been removed as well as the vent spaces above the egg box. The chickens get lots of air, which is a good thing if you have ever smelled the inside of a coop…
For a while we didn’t have netting on top of the run because we couldn’t decide if we wanted to add solid roofing so that the area was covered in the winter. But the chickens started roosting in the pine trees above the run at night, and although it was funny it was a pain to get them down from there every night. So before we went on vacation we finished up the coop by adding mesh and netting to the top of the run.
The chicks were growing so fast! They were losing their fuzz and getting their full feathers. They loved to huddle together to sleep at night and we had no issues with them pecking each other or getting too bored. From early on Ted took on a protective role with the chicks and wanted to see them all the time. Lulu on the other hand didn’t really understand that they weren’t toys to play with. So we had to keep a close eye on her.
The kids loved the chickens and would dare each other to try and pick them up. It really isn’t that hard so I am not sure why this was such a dare…but I didn’t ask. We are constantly amused with the way the chickens run. They seriously look like raptors. I have a theory that they used chickens with motion sensors on them to get the computer animation of the raptors correct in Jurassic Park.
Once the chicks got a little older, we started being able to let them out for a little bit at a time to roam the yard. I called these field trips. Lulu learned to be a little more respectful, and at this point the chickens chase her around too! It’s all in play so far so let’s just hope it stays that way. I think Ted might have gotten pecked because he seems to have developed a bit of a chicken phobia recently.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before the chickens started plotting during their field trips and figured out how to hop the fence. We couldn’t believe it when we saw it the first time. We looked up ways to stop this and everyone said to clip their flight wings on one side. So we did that. And…this was the next day…
Honestly they always stay close to home so it isn’t THAT big of a deal but they keep going over into our neighbors’ yard when we aren’t looking! Luckily our neighbors are awesome and super understanding. But either way, that just can’t happen! So we decided we needed to keep them in the run most of the day and only let them out when we are with them. To keep them occupied in there Seth installed some more awesome perches. We also give them extra treats in addition to their food, usually in the form of produce from my brother-in-laws garden that has started to split or get bug-infested. The chicks go CRAZY for a good tomato with a side of fruit flies.
We went away for the first two weeks of August and were fortunate enough to have an awesome house sitter for the pups and chicks. While we were gone, the chickens got to just the right age where they would start laying eggs. We were so anxious to get home and see! Low and behold, we got home and found eggs…IN THE EGG BOX! How did they know to go in there? That is so cool to me, I’m sorry.
At this point we have 5 of the chickens laying eggs, and we are patiently waiting for the other 3 to catch on. The eggs are delicious and once we get all the chickens laying, we will have plenty of eggs to give to friends and family. It is pretty awesome to be able to eat off of your own land, whether it is tomatoes from the garden (our garden really sucked this year but the 3 tomatoes we managed to grow were freaking delicious) or from your chickens. It made all the coop-building hell worth it!
We have lucked out with other animals trying to get into the coop. Knock on wood, (Lord knows we have plenty around here) we haven’t had any invasions yet. Unless you count this…
Now I know what you are thinking, awwww look at that little chipmunk. I will give you that, he’s cute. But I swear, if that is the chipmunk that decided to invade and live in our kitchen this past winter, then he is not cute, he is a jerk… a little devil that cost us several hundred dollars and a new dishwasher. So as far as I am concerned, his comfort level in stealing the chickens food is a declaration of war. Bring it on, Alvin.
At least the other animals on our “farm” are behaving for now…
According to Merriam-Webster, a farm is “an area of land and its buildings used for growing crops and rearing animals, typically under the control of one owner or manager.” Okay so I guess that technically fits, in a small way. I mean calling our 3 tomatoes we got this year “crops” is a little overkill, but I think we will be able to grow some in the sunroom this winter (after it is not being used as our tool room). Does that count? We have five nice sized goldfish and koi in our pond, several frogs, two dogs and eight chickens so I think we got the animal part of the definition covered.
Plus, if you can sit outside and eat your fresh eggs while the chickens that provided them to you peck at your toes, I think that counts for something…
Okay so it isn’t a farm, but it is definitely a far cry from where we were 13 months ago! And although our house is currently torn apart and our yard looks like a jungle most days, we are content with that.
Better run, I hear the chickens singing their egg song!