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Today we welcomed a new flock of chickens to our homestead. I have been pining away for chickens for a number of years now so you can imagine just how excited I am! When we moved onto our new homestead last fall, we thought we’d get chickens in the spring. Thanks to the financial challenges of homesteading and the string of crappy events we had, chickens just weren’t in the cards for a while.
I started a Pinterest Board for chickens last year and have been pinning, reading and learning in preparation for “one day” when I would finally become a “chicken farmer” as Little A likes to say. Then two nights ago my husband showed me an ad on Craigslist for a chicken coop built on a trailer frame with ten chickens. It was exactly what we were looking for! It is actually a work in progress since the former owner started building it and didn’t have a chance to finish it so now my husband has another project on his hands.
As luck would have it, we were the first ones to respond to the Craigslist ad. We drove over to check the coop out the next morning and were smitten with this big ol’ coop. My husband hitched the coop on wheels to the truck with all the chickens inside and drove ’em home. Initially we thought we’d have to drive them a couple miles on a windy, bumpy, snowy dirt road to get to a paved side road and then slowly drive them home.
Instead, my husband (who is much braver than I am) drove the coop down a major interstate for about one mile until he could turn off and hop onto the side road to head home. I was sure the coop would blow apart and there would be chickens scattered across the highway, but the coop held strong. I can just imagine what people driving down the highway thought as they saw him trucking along with this coop towing behind!
What I love about our chicken coop is that it is made of all salvaged and repurposed materials. The base of the coop used to be a pop up camper that burnt down. The coop is built of salvaged materials from a century old cabin that was dismantled. The coop will eventually be covered in a beautiful cedar siding and have a metal roof. For now it is predator proof and rain/snow proof.
The flock we bought consists of 9 hens and 1 rooster. They’re all about 1.5 years old and the hens are producing about six eggs per day. The rooster is just a little guy although he is full grown. He is a beautiful bird but a tad shy so we didn’t get any pictures of him yet. The rest of the flock were pretty social and friendly once they took a few minutes to check out their new digs from the back of the coop.
We parked the coop in the middle of our 7,000 square foot garden. We figured the chickens could forage for old fallen produce and dead plants. Plus their poop will be great fertilizer in the garden! We bought a bunch of big straw bales this fall with the intent of spreading them over the garden before the snow arrived. That unfortunately didn’t happen. Luckily the bales aren’t completely frozen yet so I broke one open and pulled the dry straw out and filled the coop with straw on top of the wood chips in there. I’ve read quite a few articles about the deep litter method in a coop so we decided we’d try that out. Plus I’ve heard that a nice thick layer of bedding can help them stay a bit warmer and we need that out here in the cold Montana winters! The wet straw I spread on the ground outside the coop and they immediately started scratching and pecking.
The day we brought the coop home, it was in the 40’s and raining off and on. During the hard rain, the birds took shelter in the coop. When it cleared off a bit, they were back outside exploring their new home. A couple of them enjoyed a dust bath in a bare patch of soil they found after we moved one of the big straw bales.
We thought maybe the drive would’ve rattled the chickens and stop them from laying for a few days. We were so surprised to find two beautiful brown eggs in one of the nesting boxes at the end of the day!
I was so enamored with our new flock that I pulled up a chunk of straw bale, sat down and hung out with them for a little while. The family we bought the chickens from raised them from chicks and had young children. Thankfully the hens weren’t phased at all when Little A started chasing them around trying to feed them handfuls of straw!
I can still hardly believe this day has arrived. Finally! After so many years of wanting to raise chickens, the stars finally aligned and it happened. We’re already talking about adding some chicks to our flock this spring and maybe even a couple turkeys!
Do you raise chickens? Do you have any tips to share?