Friday, May 31, 2013

ADOR Automatic Coop Door for Peace of Mind ~ Product Review

*UPDATE:  I currently own two ADOR pop doors, one for my main coop and one for my small temp coop.  Right about 1 year after installing the first door it suddenly stopped working properly.  It wouldn't open more than 2-3" on several mornings in a row, but it would close at night.  I figured it was probably the battery so I replaced it with a new one.  It worked fine for the first night, then would not open the second day.  I replaced the battery again, just in case I got a bad battery.  The door still (two months later) does not open fully on most days, but will close at night.  I have to manually open the big coop door each morning.  Also, the button to manually open the door has broken.  I don't feel the bump under the cover and it will not open or close the door manually using the button.  Because of this malfunction I have removed it from my "Stuff My Chicks Love" page and all links to their website in this post have been disabled.  I never support a product that does not perform well for me.

Note...The second door, that I purchased just a few months after the first one, is still functioning perfectly, and on the original battery.

*Original Post Below*

I previously shared about taking our chicks on a vacation with us.  But I don't think we will be doing that again.  At that time the babies had just learned to put themselves to bed at night but we still didn't have a way of closing them up securely each night and letting them out early each morning unless we are home to do it ourselves.  Having a friend check in on our chickens once a day is good, but asking them to devote early mornings AND just after dark visits to open and close the coop is just too much to ask of a friend.

That's the reason we wanted to invest in an automatic coop door.  I used the word 'invest' because they are not cheap!  I have friends who say that spending $179 for a chicken door is just too much money.  But when you factor in the value of never having to worry about your chickens safety after dark if you are not able to make it home on time, or the benefit of actually sleeping in on occasion, or the ability to go away a few days and not needing to have a chicken sitter, then I think it is worth every single penny!

I looked at what appeared to be the top rated brand of automatic coop doors, the 'Pullet-Shut', but I didn't like the way the door opened, leaving the actual door 'waving in the wind', quite literally here.  We have 5 seasons each year: winter, spring, Wind, summer, and fall.  I guarantee that door would have been ripped off before Independence Day!  Then I learned about the ADOR, an industrial grade Automatic Coop Door.  It doesn't require electricity in the coop or an expensive solar panel to operate.  It runs on a long-life 6V battery that has been shown to last way more than a year with normal use.  I can handle changing the battery every year when we change the smoke detector batteries, even though I wouldn't have to worry about doing it at that time because it has a low-battery warning to let you know long before the battery dies that it needs to be replaced soon. 

The ADOR is a rugged galvanized steel door  that goes up and down instead of out, and it has a daylight sensor on the front so it automatically detects daylight and opens in the early morning and closes itself just after dusk.  If you tend to have late stragglers you can also reprogram it to either delay closing, or do a 'Last Call' where it will reopen briefly, shortly after closing, to let in any slowpokes who were late to the coop.  With the direct sprocket drive you don't have to worry about strings or cables getting messed up either.  Since this door had all the features that I hoped for, and the price was comparable to other quality automatic coop doors, I chose this one.

The only drawback was that the company had only been making this door for a short time.  Long enough to work out the bugs, but not so long that they had hundreds of orders to ship each day.  Until spring of 2013 that is.  I placed my order on April 20th, right about the time many other chicken keepers were also discovering them.  The large influx of orders was a bit of a surprise for Rod, the owner of the company, so they actually ran out of motors about the time I placed my order.  Rod immediately ordered more motors but they had to wait for them to be delivered, then install them in the units.  By that time they had so many more orders backed up that they used up all the new motors quickly and had to place two more orders for more motors right away so they could fill the new orders coming in.

As it turned out, my ADOR was shipped the day we left on vacation with our chicks and arrived about May 23rd.  I picked it up at the FedEx Kinko's on my way home with the chicks, with hopes of installing it the next day.  The night we got home I opened the box and read through the installation instructions.  It was almost bedtime for me so I couldn't do anything until the following morning, but I was anxious to give this thing a try.  I installed the battery and pushed the manual open/close button.  The door churned open.

I then reset it to automatic mode and took it to my bedroom.  I laid it on a shelf near my bedroom window, then turned off the lights and went to bed.  Within about 8 minutes the door closed because it sensed the room was suddenly dark.  At 5:34 am there was just enough light coming through my window that the sensor picked it up and the door opened. The excitement of this new chicken accessory motivated me to get out of bed and go install it on the coop right then.

First I had to remove the current pop door.  My opening was about 1/2" narrower and 2" taller than the suggested opening size for the ADOR but the door frame would cover any opening so I didn't bother cutting a new opening.  I just mounted it right over the existing hole.  Installation was Easy-Peasy too!  I used the manual override button to close the door so I had access to the three mounting holes just above the door.  I held the door roughly where I wanted it to be and screwed in the center screw.  This held the ADOR in place while I placed a level on the top of the frame.  My 6 year old granddaughter held the level up for me while I screwed in the other top screws to attach the door.  Then I pushed the button to set the door back in automatic mode and within seconds the door opened (because it was daylight).  This exposed the screw holes at the bottom of the frame.  I had to remove the little bar covering the holes, then screwed in the last three mounting screws and put the little bar back in place and I was done.  It doesn't get any easier than this!

ADOR Installed on the Coop over existing pop door hole.

My little Barred Rock (who we think is a Roo) was of course the first to come and inspect the new door.  After getting his blessings I gave the door a test. See the video of it in action.

Later that night I sat in the coop until the sun had completely gone down, waiting for the door to close.  The chicks had put themselves to bed at 7:42pm, while the moon was just beginning to rise in the sky. (the picture below looks lighter than it was outside, my camera adjusted the light automatically).  At 8:11pm the door was still open.  I was glad it did not close too early and lock a chick or two outside but I was a little concerned that it was still open when it was now dark.  I went inside for 2 minutes, returning outside at 8:13pm to find the door had closed while I was inside...darn, I wanted to watch it close!

Chicks heading to bed through the new ADOR Automatic Coop Door

 The next morning I was still asleep when I heard the chicks drinking out of the Chicken Fountain just outside my was 6:05 am and they were already out and about in the run.  I went back to bed until 7:00am :-)  That night the chicks had put themselves to bed again some time before 8:00pm (when I checked on them), then at approximately 8:10pm the door closed.  

Disclaimer: I was not compensated in any way for this review.  I did not receive a free product for reviewing purposes.  I simply bought a fantastic product that will make my life much easier, and my chickens lives much safer, and I wanted to share it with you!  

Keeper of 1 husband, 2 grandkids, 3 dogs,
3 cats, and 17 Chickens!
Follow on Bloglovin

Did this post stir something inside of you? If so, Please leave me a comment, I would love to know what you're thinking!!!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Chicken Dust Bath ~ If you build it, will they come?

It was my hope that if I built a Dust Bath for my chicks, they would actually use it.  Having baby chicks with no adult chickens to teach them, means I either have to teach them myself or rely on instinct to guide them.  I had to consider this when I decided to create a Dust Bath in one area of the chicken run.  The ground in our chicken run is covered with small granite rocks.  I figure that eventually the full-grown chickens will have the rocks turned under in the dirt, but until then it is about 1-2" deep in rocks all over the run, leaving no clear area for dust bathing.  I decided to use a cat litter box, one with the lip at the top in hopes it would keep some of the dirt inside.  I marked the outside edge of the cat box and dug a hole in the ground the depth of the box, leaving the lipped edge above ground.

I filled the new dust bath with a 50/50 mix of dusty super-soil left over from my raised bed garden and sand I got out of the wash down the road.  I added some DE (after lots of debate over the pro's and con's of using DE around the chickens).  I used the litter scooper to remove any small chunks of stuff that might be still in the dirt.  To me it looked like the perfect little dust I just hoped they would actually use it. I've heard from other chicken keepers how they went through the trouble of making a special place for a dust bath and the chickens wouldn't use it because they liked a spot under a bush much better.

But two days later...

Isn't that so Cool?!?!  I was just sitting in the run watching the chickens scratch around for bugs and what-not, then one of the Rhode Island Reds wondered into the dust bath box and took a bath!  As you can see in the video, all the other chicks followed her lead and they all took their first dust bath.  Just like human babies, they became all tuckered out after taking their bath so they took a nap...right in the bath!

Sleeping babes after their first Dust Bath!

Keeper of 1 husband, 2 grandkids, 3 dogs,
3 cats, and 17 Chickens!
Follow on Bloglovin

Did this post stir something inside of you? If so, Please leave me a comment, I would love to know what you're thinking!!!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Vacationing with your Peeps! ~Traveling with Chickens, DIY Water Bottle

Have you ever taken a vacation with your chickens?  We did!

We didn't exactly have a choice.  When the chicks were almost 5 weeks old we needed to go out of town for 4 days to our daughters house, which is about a 3 hour drive away.  At their young age, the chicks had only voluntarily gone to bed in the coop for the first time on the night before we were due to leave.  So they still needed me to scoop them up and put them to bed at night.  I friend offered to check on our chicks while we were away but I couldn't ask her to come let them out early each morning then come back and put them away each night.  Besides, she doesn't have chicks so she has no experience catching them to put them away, and twice a day is a bit too much to ask.

So the only option left was to take them with us.  So I got started figuring out how exactly we were going to travel with 8 little chickens.  I figured they could travel in the dog crate that we brought them home in, but this time I needed something to keep them in the crate, and hopefully keep some of the litter in the crate instead of in my van.  I picked up a yard of heavy clear vinyl from JoAnn's Fabric store.  I cut it into 12" strips that I placed inside the crate around the walls.  To keep the vinyl in place I used some zip-ties to attach it to the bars.  In order to attach the zip-ties through the vinyl, I needed to punch some small holes in it.  Since I already had my scissors outside with me, I got the really dumb idea of using them to poke the wholes, rather than taking the time to go inside the house to find an awl.  Why was this a dumb idea?  Because when I was poking my very first hole the heavy vinyl I found it difficult to puncture so I had to apply lots of pressure with the scissors...then it gave way and sliced through my finger on the other side!  OUCH!!

The first thought that went through my head, (right after, "OMG that was stupid!") was, "Uh-Oh, right before slicing my finger open I was just flicking the poopy litter out of my way with my FINGERS!" My second thought was, "Gee, when was my last Tetanus shot?"  I couldn't remember the last shot so I am pretty sure it was well beyond the 10 years recommended for booster shots.  I went in the house and thoroughly cleaned my wound and bandaged it up.  Then I went back outside (with an awl that I had in my sewing room) and finished punching the remaining holes and attaching the vinyl to the crate walls.  Then we made the 45 minute drive into town to get a Tetanus shot.

After we got back home I went back to work on the chicken travel crate.  They needed a portable water source so I decided to make them a mini watering bottle out of a DaSani bottle and a chicken nipple.  
It was really easy to make and a great thing to have on hand in the future if I have to confine a single chicken (or more baby chicks) away from the main Chicken Fountain in the future.   Back before we got our first chick, when I was shopping for waterers I came across chicken nipples, so I bought 6 of them to have on hand in case I might need them in the future.  Good thing because they are not available locally and I didn't have time to buy them at the last moment.  I could have bought a portable watering bottle but they were pricey -the nipples were very cheap and the bottle was free.

Here's how to make your own.  Remove the screw-on cap from a water bottle.  Using a 5/8" drill (the threads on my chicken nipples are 5/8", so check yours first) drill a hole in the center of the cap.  Clean off any plastic bits 'n pieces remaining around the hole.  Wrap the chicken nipple threads with a piece of teflon plumbers tape (being sure it is going in the same direction it screws on).  Then screw the nipple into the hole you drilled in the cap.  The nipple just happened to fit perfectly in my screw driver end so I used it to help screw the nipple in.  Screw it in only until the threaded area is no longer visible, do not over tighten or you might strip out the hole.  Fill the bottle with water, screw on the cap with the chicken nipple. Turn the bottle upside down and poke a tiny hole in the bottom of the bottle (using an awl or tiny drill bit).  This tiny hole will allow air to get in the bottle as the water drips out the nipple.  If you don't put the hole in it the bottle may either collapse as they drink or will not allow more water to drain out when they try to drink.  When refilling the bottle simply place your finger over this hole until you replace the cap and turn the bottle back upside down.

At first I used light wire to attach the bottle to the crate door, but I realized that was going to be a problem every time I needed to refill the bottle, so I replaced that with a loosely zipped zip-tie and two pieces of elastic pinned together to hold the bottle in the right position.

With the dog crate travel-ready, we loaded up the chicks and headed out.  Once we arrived at our daughters we placed the crate inside the 6'x6' chain-link dog kennel and let the chicks out.  To prevent the tiny chicks from simply walking out the chain link I wrapped the bottom 2' with chicken wire.  We then put blocks around the bottom and two pieces of plywood on the top to keep stray cats (or the squirrel overhead) from getting into the kennel area. Then we posted my Boston Terrier 'Piggy' on guard duty.  She loves to chase any cat that moves -other than our own.  Each evening I put the chicks back in the dog crate and we took them inside with us.  Each morning we took them back out to the kennel.  This worked out pretty well except I think the chicks doubled in size during that 4 days (Seriously) so they seemed to be getting a little cramped.

When we finally arrived back home I took the chicks (still in the crate) out to the chicken run.  The last hour of the drive they were making quite a racket so I know they were sick of being cooped up in such a small space.  When I opened the crate door they immediately ran out in flying leaps, peeping like crazy with excitement.  They ran around the chicken run, over to the food and water, then in and out of the coop as excited as kids on Christmas morning!  I could tell they were so thrilled to be back in their big yard and so happy to realize that the dog kennel was not their permanent home.  When it was getting dark they came to me to put them to bed.  Even the Rhode Island Reds came up to me and let me pick them up.  They always run from me so this was totally out of character for them.

I little later I went out to check on them and found them all sitting on their perch for the first time.  "Home Sweet Home" was definitely the mood tonight.

Keeper of 1 husband, 2 grandkids, 3 dogs,
3 cats, and 17 Chickens!
Follow on Bloglovin

Did this post stir something inside of you? If so, Please leave me a comment, I would love to know what you're thinking!!!

Monday, May 27, 2013

I Now Have the Perfect Watering System, thanks to The Chicken Fountain! ~Product Review

I wanted our chicks to never have to drink old stale, hot, poopy water.  I also never wanted to worry that I (or a chicken sitter) might forget to check their water container and let them run out, especially in the hot summer months.  So before I even brought home my first chicken I did some research on the internet (what did we do before the internet?).  I talked to other chicken keepers about what watering system they used, I've read every blog post I could find about chicken waterers, and I've studied the products they suggested.  Somewhere during my search I read a review on The Chicken Fountain.  I wish I could remember which blog I first read this on to give them credit, but I read several and now can't remember which was that first to tell me about the Chicken Fountain.

When I first read about it I said to myself, "Now that would resolve all of my concerns right there!" So I googled "Chicken Fountain" and not only found the company but other reviews for this product.  After reading as much as I could about the Chicken Fountain I decided it was the product for me and my chickens.  I ordered one, even before I had the chicken run built or owned a single chicken. I ordered the Standard Size that is designed for use by 4-16 birds, but they also have a mini and a mega size as well.

It arrived a few days before we got our first chickens.  I read through the instructions and thought my husband would have no problem installing this for me.  But as it turned out, he was stuck on a job the first day the new chicks were home so he wasn't going to be able to install the Chicken Fountain for me.  So either they were going to have to wait or I was going to have to build and install this thing myself. Now keep in mind that my husband is a retired mechanic and a general contractor...and I am not!  But the instructions made it look so simple that I thought I had to at least give it a try.  The manufacturer had very detailed instructions and everything I would need was included with the fountain, including the PVC glue! All I needed was a hammer, tape measure, level, and maybe a screw driver.  What I lack in mechanical skills, I make up for in over-confidence with a new challenge...maybe not always a good thing.

I was able to assemble the (mostly pre-assembled) Chicken Fountain in a matter of minutes. The installation took a little longer because the hubby asked me to not mount anything on the cement siding board on the side of the house (which serves as one wall of the chicken run). But that was the only location that would have sun for about an hour in the morning then shade the entire rest of the day.  It was the perfect location for the Chicken Fountain!  'Creative" is practically my middle name, so I decided to mount the Chicken Fountain to a piece of plywood, then stand the plywood up against the side of the house. I found some old closet rod supports that made great "L" brackets for the bottom to hold the plywood upright so it could be freestanding and therefore portable if I ever wanted to move the fountain to a new location.

I had some trouble getting the nails provided with the fountain to penetrate the old, dried piece of plywood.  One wouldn't go in and the next one bent on me, Grr!  I do happen to own my own power drill so I grabbed it and a few screws the same size as the nails and screwed the "J" brackets (that hold the Chicken Fountain) to the plywood.  Then I attached the hose and turned on the water.  In my excitement to test the fountain I forgot the instruction that said to turn the water on 'Very Slowly" when first filling the fountain, so the cap went flying up in the air.  It was quite funny actually, even though me and the chicks were the only ones around to see it. I went and put it back in place and then turned the water back on -slowly this time.  I had to make a minor adjustment to the internal water level screw (instructions were included about how to make this easy adjustment) and moments later I had a fully functioning Chicken Fountain!  

My only problem now was that I mounted the fountain at a height to accommodate adult chickens.  Mine were only 3-1/2 weeks old so they were not even close to the nipples.  I needed to either lower the fountain temporarily or raise the ground.  So I placed some large rocks under the fountain ends, topped those with scraps of plywood, then piled on some gravel until the 'mountain' was just the right height for the baby chicks to walk up on and reach the nipples.  I figure that as they get a little older I will just gradually knock some of the gravel down then remove the plywood and big rocks underneath by the time they are adults.  In the future if I have babies I can make a new 'gravel mountain' at one end just for them.

My Gravel Mountain to get the chicks up to the fountain nipples.
Now it was time to get the baby chicks to use the fountain.  Since I did not have adult chickens to show them how to drink, I had to do it myself.  At first I used the supplied rubber-band to hold one nipple open to run a little stream of water to get their attention.  It seemed to only scare them.  I worried about them getting too thirsty so I placed a bowl under the stream to give them water to drink until they learned to use the nipples. Mistake!  They would look at the water dripping, but drink from the bowl instead.  So I took away the bowl and placed each chick at the water fountain one-by-one so they could see it and walk away if they chose to.  But at least now they would know where the water was if they got thirsty.

Very shortly one of the Barred Rocks (who I think might be a Roo by the way) walked to the fountain, pecked at the red nipple, got some water on her/his beak and began pecking and drinking more.  Within moments the others were so curious that they each came up my gravel mountains and pecked at the nipples as well.  That was all the training they needed.  They've been using the Chicken Fountain exclusively ever since.  I'm happy, and they seem to be happy as well.

Here are the baby chicks using the fountain.  This was taken on day one!  (In this video you will see my PVC feeder [see the DIY instructions here] mounted on the front of the Chicken Fountain...I thought it best to keep food and water close together.  That may change as they get older.)

If you don't like the idea of your chickens drinking poopy water, or you're tired of the chore of cleaning and refilling your water containers all too often, then you should seriously consider the Chicken Fountain.  It works exactly like it's suppose to and even has a special port at the top to add ACV (apple cider vinegar) or other medications.  The size that I got holds 1-1/2 gallons of water so you add the medication or ACV for that quantity of water, shut off the water so as they drink it, it will not be further diluted.  Then just monitor the water level until the medication has all been consumed.  Then turn the water back on (slowly) and they get fresh water again.

The company has Awesome customer support (replies to your emails really fast), and they include everything you need in the box.  I even sent them feedback about their product with some issues that I ran into (because of my own lack of mechanical skills) and they not only took the feedback in a positive way, they used it to improve their already great instructions for future customers, who like me, might need a little extra explanation.  I highly recommend the Chicken Fountain!

Disclaimer: I was not compensated in any way for this product review.  I was not given a product to test and review.  I simply bought a great product that I wanted to share with other chicken keepers.

Keeper of 1 husband, 2 grandkids, 3 dogs,
3 cats, and 17 Chickens!
Follow on Bloglovin

Did this post stir something inside of you? If so, Please leave me a comment, I would love to know what you're thinking!!!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

DIY Chicken Feeder ~ Easily Make it Yourself with PVC

One thing I hear quite often from backyard chicken keepers is the complaint that their chickens either poop in the feed dish or spill it all over the place.  Since I'm starting out with new chicks, I wanted to start out on the right foot by finding a feeder that would not allow them to get into it or onto it to poop in the food and I certainly didn't want them spilling it on the ground.  Feed is rather inexpensive, but not so much that you can afford to lose half of it to waste.  So once again I went on a search of the chicken forums that I belong to, to find out what might work for me.

After looking at several PVC feeders I settled on a final design that I got from a fellow chicken keeper called "appps" on the Backyard Chickens forum.  This design holds about 10 lbs of of feed (depending on how long you make the vertical tube) and has two feeder holes with a slight (22 degree) bend to prevent the chickens from accidentally scooping out more food then they can eat.  I went shopping for the parts but my limited knowledge about plumbing parts caused me to get parts that wouldn't work together.  On my next trip to the hardware store I took the hubby along.

Our Shopping List: (All parts are 3" white PVC)

(1) 5' length of pipe (they cut the pipe to the size I needed)
(1 ) "T"
(2) 90 degree Elbows
(1) Cap
PVC cement (which we already had)

How to assemble: (see Image #1 below for the finished product)

1.) Cut off two 3" long pieces from the 5' pipe. (needed to join the Elbows to the "T")
2.) Apply the PVC cement into one of the side holes of the "T" and quickly place one of the 3" long pipe pieces in the hole.  Work quickly because this stuff becomes solid almost instantly.  Then repeat for the other side.
3.) Dry-fit (do not cement yet) the Elbows onto the 3" pipe stubs.  Turn the Elbows in a slightly upward & forward position about a 22 degrees forward.
4.) With a Sharpie or other black marker, make a line on the Elbow pieces and directly across to the joining part of the "T".  This will help you quickly get the right angle when you are actually gluing the parts together in the next step.
5.) Now use the PVC cement to glue the pieces together in step 4.
6.) Glue the long pipe in the top hole of the "T".
7.) (Optional) Turn the cap upside-down and Carefully cut four slots in the sides of the cap. (this helped me to keep the cap from getting too snug on the pipe) (see Image #2)
8.) Install the feeder where you want it, (I used wire) strapped in two or more places s that it not only holds it up at the level you desire, but also supports the tall tube so it doesn't move.  Make sure there is sufficient room at the top to allow access for refilling.  If it is too tall, you can always cut off a bit of the tube.  Also make sure the feed bowls are no higher than chest-high of your shortest chicken.
9.) Fill the tube with your desired chicken feed and place the cap on top...Do NOT force the cap on because you will need to get it off when its time for refilling.  

Image #1 (finished product)
Image #2 Cap with slits cut.
Since my chicks were spending most of their time in the coop still, I installed my feeder inside and right on the floor.  A few days later I moved it outside and attached it to my watering system (see next post). The chicks had no problems reaching the food, even when the food level was down very low. Sometimes (probably because of humidity or the compaction of the feed) it takes a little extra pecking at the food at the bottom before the feed in the tube loses its battle with gravity and falls down into the bowls.  The chicks can always reach the food in the bottom even when it seems really low, then all of a sudden it will give way in the tube and pile up higher in the holes, but never overfills the feeding bowls.  Unlike other PVC feeders, this design with the 22 degree angles and deeper bowls, also prevents the chicks from scooping out more food than they are eating. 

I plan to build a roof or cover over the feed tube area when it starts approaching monsoon season so the food does not get wet in the holes.  Even if it did get a little wet though, it wont get the food up in the tube wet so once the chicks eat away at the wet food, the new dry food will come tumbling down for them.

This was a very easy project that just about anyone could do, but if you are not familiar with the plumbing parts, take a picture of this with you to the hardware store and they will be able to get you everything you need so the parts will work together properly.  This will save you the time I wasted returning to get the right parts.

Well with the feeder done, time to work on the waterer.  Please come back soon to see how I found the Perfect Watering System for my chicks!

Keeper of 1 husband, 2 grandkids, 3 dogs,
3 cats, and 17 Chickens!
Follow on Bloglovin

Did this post stir something inside of you? If so, Please leave me a comment, I would love to know what you're thinking!!!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

We've Got Our New Chicks!

Now that my coop and run have finally been built it's time to bring home some Chickens!  I had planned on getting young chickens, at least old enough to go straight to their coop without needing a heat lamp.  I have only heard bad things about heat lamps and coop fires so I wanted to completely avoid that stage.

I knew what breed of birds I was interested in and did some internet searching to find that there is quite a lot of backyard chicken keeping activity going on here in Arizona.  I am also part of an online chicken forum (or two) that has sub-groups for Arizona Chicken keepers within Phoenix and the surrounding communities, so I figured I wouldn't have much trouble finding the breeds I wanted locally.  I was right.  I found a lady that had most of the breeds that wanted, the only problem was that they were only 3-1/2 weeks old.  However, because she lives in Phoenix, where it's already breaking 100 degrees, the chicks were already living outdoors.  The nighttime temps in Phoenix were in the 70's.  Our nighttime temps were still dipping down into the 50's but I figured I could keep the windows and doors on the coop closed in the daytime to build up a good warm temp for nighttime inside the coop.   So I took the chicks home.

We got 2 Buff Orpingtons, 2 Rhode Island Reds, 2 Barred Rocks, and 2 Black Australorps.  We hoped they were all females, but she said I could bring back any Roo's that we discovered later.  She was 90% sure they were all female.  So we packed them up in our dog crate for the drive home.  A few of them were small enough to easily walk through the 1-1/2" wide wires...I had not planned to get chicks this small remember.  Once during the trip I thought I heard a couple of babies peeping a little closer than the dog crate, and sure enough the smaller ones had wondered out and were in a bit of a panic.  I put them back in and we continued on home for the 1-1/2 hour drive.

It was just beginning to get dark as we arrived home.  I read that it is best to introduce chickens to their new home at night so I thought this would be perfect.  I placed the entire dog crate inside the coop and opened the door.  They wondered out to check things out but quickly returned to the crate.  To make sure it was warm enough in the coop I placed my digital outdoor thermostat inside the coop, then placed the indoor portion with the digital display in my bedroom.  The chicken coop is outside our bedroom window so I could hear the chicks if anything happened.  I was as nervous as a new mom bringing her baby home from the hospital.

 I stayed up for hours watching the temperature drop in the coop.  It had suddenly turned cold today and I didn't want to freeze my babies out their first night in their new home.  So the hubby and I reluctantly went out to the coop in the dark with only a flashlight to see and hooked up the heat lamp that a friend had given us 'just in case."  Once we had the lamp securely attached to the rafters, safely away from anything flammable, we went back to bed, at least not worrying about the cold temperatures.  Now we just worried it would get too warm or catch on fire.  We didn't have any experience with heat lamps and really didn't know how much heat they might produce in the coop.

But sleep finally came.  Throughout the night the temperature stayed sufficiently warm for the babies but not enough to burn anything.  I woke up very early to the sound of the babies peeping inside the coop and the slight hint of the sunrise coming in our window.  We made it through our first night as new chicken parents.   I quietly got out of bed and made myself a cup of coffee, then went out to the chicken run to do what I have wanted to do for some time now -watch chickens!  They were so entertaining.  I didn't realize how much I truly missed watching chickens until now.  Even at this young age I could already see some of their little personalities showing.

Today is going to be a very busy day for me because I have to assemble and install my watering system and build a feeder.  I didn't want the chicks pooping and spilling their food and water dishes so I didn't even buy any of the traditional food or water containers.   I hope you will come back again soon to learn about the Chicken Fountain watering system and the PVC Feed dispenser that I built...those two posts will be coming up next!

Keeper of 1 husband, 2 grandkids, 3 dogs,
3 cats, and 17 Chickens!
Follow on Bloglovin

Did this post stir something inside of you? If so, Please leave me a comment, I would love to know what you're thinking!!!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Preparing for our Future Chicks ~Coop, Run, Deep Litter Method

The preparations for chicken keeping can be a bit overwhelming, especially if you live in an area where there are a high number of predators...including my own pets!  But we finally got the chicken run built and the coop installed inside it.  Then I had to cover the run and bury wire along the fence line.  I wanted my run to be like a 'Chicken Fort Knox' yet still be a calm, peaceful place for me to enjoy my time with them...and I think I accomplished that.

The run is approximately 20' x 16' with a 6' fence surrounding it.  The fence has 1/2" hardware cloth along the bottom 3 feet and regular rabbit fence on the upper 3 feet.  I covered the top with wildlife netting that is suppose to even keep out hawks...lets hope so because the day I was installing the net a huge hawk kept flying over our property.  

We live in the country in high desert Arizona so besides our own dogs and any nearby neighbors dogs, we also have three cats that would love to catch a little chick.  Then there is the wildlife...such as the hawk flying over, snakes (one of which I had to forcibly remove from our garage), coyotes, Javelina's, and I am sure there are other predators that I don't even know about yet.  But I think I have the run pretty well protected.  

The coop itself is 6'x6' with all windows covered in 1/2" hardware cloth and plexiglass over that to keep it warm at night, and during winter.  There are 5 nesting boxes.  I currently have to open the pop door each morning and close it up each night but I have ordered an automatic door from Ador that is due to be delivered very soon so I wont have to wake up at the crack of dawn to let the chicks out each day.

We bought the coop from a freind moving to a new home where he couldn't have chickens.  It is a very nice coop with two pop doors, and a human door.  It is painted a barn red with white trim which is nice, but I want to have a coop painted calming I will be painting it in the near future.  We brought it home in two parts on a flatbed trailer.  Then we used the tractor to lift the parts off and take them around to the back were the chicken run was being constructed.  Here is the coop waiting to be placed in the run.

Two parts of the coop waiting to be installed in the run.

Moving the Coop with the tractor.

And here it is once we installed it in the run and completed the final run walls. (excuse the ladder and other clutter in the run, I was lacing up the wildlife net above.)

The floor of the coop was only wood framing and hardware cloth because he thought that was easier to clean.  I have been reading up on different flooring types for coops and like the deep litter method best as it requires less work cleaning it out so frequently, does not smell, and when you do clean it out every 6 months you can use the litter in your garden or add it to your existing compost pile. 

So I asked my husband to put in a plywood floor and then top that will a piece of vinyl flooring.  That all went down very easy.  And a bonus was that the coop was now much warmer at night.  Something we were concerned about since we live in the high desert and it is at least 20 degrees cooler than Phoenix (where or friend lived) during the day and probably 40 degrees cooler at night.

Linoleum Scrap for flooring (purchased for about $10).

Next came the litter.  I chose wood pellets rather than wood shavings because they are less expensive for one, at only $3 per bag, and you only need 3 bags to make a 4" deep litter once they are broken down.  They are also much finer than wood shavings so they are easier to turn on a regular basis.   Mostly the chickens will do the turning for me if I simply toss some scratch on the floor in the evening when they are going to roost.  

Breaking down the pellets was super easy.  You just pour the bag into a tub or wheel barrel. I have tons of rubbermaid tubs that I use for all kinds of things, so I split the three bags of pellets between 2 tubs.  It only filled them about half full.  Then I turned on the garden hose and sprayed water on them.  I didn't know if I needed to stir them around to help break them up so I did a little experiment.

Comparison of which method needed to break up pellets with the least amount of effort.
In tub #1 (on the left) I just sprayed the pellets until they looked very wet on top and I could see wetness through the sides of the tub as well, then I just left them alone.  In tub #2 I sprayed them, waited at few minutes then stirred them around with my hand-shovel, then sprayed the dry ones deeper in the tub, then stirred it around some more.  I had to spray and stir about 4 or 5 times to get everything thoroughly wet and broken up.  Tub #1 that I left alone was soaking up all the water I put on it in the beginning (lots of water by the way) and by the time I finished all the spraying and stirring of tub #2, the first one had puffed up and began to break apart just sitting there.  So as I learned, all the work was totally unnecessary.  Just spray the pellets really well and walk away!  It was a warm day so they dried out quite nicely under the warm sun in a few hours.  When I scooped them out of the buckets and tossed it into the coop the pellets all fell apart exactly the same, regardless of which method I used.  So save yourself the hard work, just spray the pellets really well and walk away! Unless it makes you feel more productive to break a sweat and work your upper arm muscles.

Started filling the coop floor with the wood pellets (broken up and dried). Filled to about 4" deep.
So with that finally done it was time to get my chicks... Please come back soon to read about our new baby girls (at least we hope they are all girls)...

Keeper of 1 husband, 2 grandkids, 3 dogs,
3 cats, and 17 Chickens!
Follow on Bloglovin

Did this post stir something inside of you? If so, Please leave me a comment, I would love to know what you're thinking!!!