The big project other than the farmhouse remodeling projects has been turning an old horse shed into the future JAZ Farm chicken coop. This is an attempt to use what is already here rather than build something new. The shed was essentially a structure that the animals could come into in order to escape the elements. You’ve probably seen them on any trip to the country. The front is open and has a sloped roof to channel water from when it rains or snows and can house a manger and water trough out of the baking sun or the severe elements of winter. The shed on the farm also had, on its southern end, an enclosed tack room. While the whole thing was well worn and used, the tack room had a professionally poured cement floor! Perfect for a coop. The big issue with any chicken keeping operation is to keep predators out of your coop and chicken run. It seems that not only does everything taste like chicken, EVERYTHING likes the taste of chicken. I believe in sharing, but coyotes, foxes, badgers, falcons, owls and hawks, tend to take more than their fair share! The cement floor provided the space for a roosting and laying coop that can’t be burrowed into or flown into by said critters.
This is what it looked like:
The big plus, of course, is that there is water right at the coop. The big negative is that the horses had kicked in the paneling and chewed most of the rafters and stringers that hold the paneling. While the cement floor is solid, it wasn’t too terribly critter proof with all of the holes in the walls. Also, the shelter part of the building did not meet the ground solidly all the way around. So while it is an existing structure with support posts and a solid roof, the entire thing needed to be rebuilt. This is a very BIG Chickie Hilton! Also, you might have noticed that there is no fence around it to keep the birds in and the other diners out!
So as Zina took over the interior painting jobs and with the dog run finished, I have set to transforming the old horse facility into the JAZ Farm chicken coop. We plan on raising 15 to 25 egg layers (probably a combination of Rhode Island Reds, Buff Orpingtons, and Barred Plymouth Rocks). We know this will give us far more eggs than we could use, but I have also had indications from clients and neighbors that they would happily receive fresh eggs from us! The layers will get the cement floored coop. On the other side, because they don’t need nearly as complex a coop, we are going to raise 25 – 50 meat birds a year. If one goes with the Cornish X hybrid, they grow to slaughter weight in about 8 to 10 weeks (its almost like somebody blows them up with an air pump they grow so fast) so they won’t be around long. They also don’t need laying boxes, insulation, electricity, or all of the creature comforts the more spoiled layer women require.
As of this writing, I have replaced the old horse chewed stringers and replaced the paneling all the way around. Zina has finished the interior farmhouse painting and came out yesterday to help prime the plywood. As you can see below we had a fencer come in and build a 25 x25 foot chain link fence for the chicken run. If we really wanted to go all out it would be possible to house up to 100 chickens in this setup. Considering how much bedding and feed that would take, don’t hold your breath – unless we find a lot of eager customers!
There are several tasks yet to complete. The fence needs to be covered with hawk proof material, the entire perimeter needs to be made burrow proof to keep out the four legged hunters. The feeders, waterers, chicken doors, roosts and laying boxes need to be installed. There will also be windows and screen vents for proper air circulation. This will take some time but the pictures below show the stark contrast of what was and now what is.
We are anxious for the day that the construction comes to an end and the squawks, cooing and crowing replace the noises of the air-compressor and circular saw.