🐤🐤🐤: We built a “new” mini-coop this summer. Sometimes a few chickens need to be separate from the flock for awhile — introducing new birds, a hen with chicks, too many roosters, an injured hen etc etc. Usually you’d pop them in a barn, but we don’t even have a garage, so by “barn” we usually mean “Kate’s office”. While I like my office to be modular, I also like it not to smell like chicken.
♻️🏗️: There is some fresh lumber in this build — we rip down ungraded/seconds 2x4s for the framing. But also so many scraps!! Including extra fence boards from raised beds as cladding, a salvaged steel roof, and part of our friends’ old kitchen island.
✂️🏠: The ridgecap is probably my favourite part of this build. We had just enough metal roofing to solidly patchwork the roof, but no ridgecap. So I took my tin snips to the extra pieces, and with a little 170lb persuasion (I leaned on them), I convinced the offcuts what they really wanted to be was a ridgecap. They generously agreed.
👩🚀🐔: A separate 4×6′ extension airlocks on to the main building, so the little dinosaurs have access to a larger patch of greens. Dig dig look, dig dig look…
🌱💦: The temporary clear roof on the extension is repurposed from another build, and is ultimately destined to become part of a water collection and irrigation system for our off-grid garden. It’s like a Matryoshka doll of repurposing. Plans within plans!
A very cold day here starts with a walk to the chicken coops, around 7:30AM. We close the coop doors when there is windchill or severe lows, so the chickens stay snug as fluffy bugs inside and I let them out in the morning. Next is a check of their waterers. Though the waterers sit on heaters, the water in the reservoirs can still freeze on very cold days. If there is ice building up in the drinking tray, we swap two sets of waterers in and out of the house over the course of the day to keep them thawed. Plenty of food gets dispensed to keep the chooks warm, then back to the house to do the same for the humans.
We’re not dependent on our woodstove for either heat or cooking, though we often use it for both, and it’s indispensable when the power goes out. When we moved in here, the house had an oil heater. We got rid of that on day one (technically day two…), replacing it with an electric heat pump that has served us well. But we use the woodstove a lot through the winter. The heat pump keeps a nice baseline of “not cold”, and we use the woodstove to top things up to comfortably warm.
Today that first means clearing out the ash, and emptying the ash bucket. I like things here to get double or triple use, and that’s certainly true of the stove ash. From the stove it goes to a metal container outside, to ensure it is really and truly cold before being put to other uses (too many stories of friends and neighbours accidentally setting their outdoor ash storage on fire). Once it’s stone-cold cold, we use it to help clear ice on the driveway, sprinkle it around for traction, and mix it in to the chicken’s dustbaths to help combat parasites. For household use, I once used the ash to make a batch of lye, which I combined with lard to make soft dish soap. (The soap works beautifully and I hope to make more again sometime.)
The ash cleared away, it’s time to get the fire going. Lots of extra shavings from the hand planes in the woodshop provide excellent tinder. The kettle and frying pan get popped on top of the woodstove, to start warming up straight away. While the fire gets going, I’ll get some water in reserve. Any time the weather is very X, there’s a decent chance we’ll lose power at some point. So a big jug is filled with drinking water and grey water tubs topped up with whatever’s left in the chicken waterers (for flushing), to be on the safe side.
Today’s breakfast will be buckwheat pancakes with maple breakfast sausages, plus a few delicious cups of tea. Then, fuelled up and rewarmed, we’ll embark on the rest of the day. And it seems like a rather perfect day to empty out and defrost the freezer. Since I think we’ll have *no trouble* keeping the contents cold if we pop them outside today… 🙂
Prefer to listen to the story? Click the image above to hear the narrated version of this blog entry.
This is Scrappy. A wild eastern cottontail rabbit who has been visiting our property most evenings, all spring and summer. We can tell Scrappy is Scrappy and not other rabbits because Scrappy is missing a chunk of one ear. Which is how Scrappy got his name.
(We think Scrappy is a he, though we don’t know for sure. And however Scrappy rolls is alright by us.)
Lately we’ve noticed that while Scrappy frequents all parts of our yard, he seems to favour the clover-y grass near the chickens. And since there is clover-y grass all over our yard, we finally started to wonder: perhaps it’s not the clover that’s the reason Scrappy is there, but… the chickens?
Scrappy and our Wyandotte chickens tend to be in the yard at the same time. Our chickens live in coops that are attached to enclosed and reasonably spacious runs. We open the doors from the runs to their yard area — currently quite a bit more exposed to predators — only when one of us is outside. We try make time for this, even on busy days. The “old guys”, sometimes also known as “the little guys”, tend to come out in the morning. They’re the bantams from our original flock, and they’re much more advanced in years, so they like to go to bed early. (Our little 9 year old silkie SooZee in particular keeps a tight 4PM or earlier bedtime.) The chickens that make up the younger flock, all Wyandottes, stay up much later, closer to an 8PM or later bedtime.
Our Wyandottes are fond of rummaging around in and trimming the long grass, so we often refer to their yard time as “running the lawnmowers”. As in “do you have time to run the lawnmowers today?” The lawnmowers usually get run first thing in the morning, and again in the later evening. And Scrappy fairly consistently shows up somewhere in the yard right at Wyandotte o’clock. Not only that, but though he has his run of the yard, Scrappy also tends to work the clover on whichever side of the fence happens to be nearest the Wyandottes.
The other night, Neil and I had our last work meeting of the day outside, so the chickens (and us) could enjoy the beautiful evening. The chickens, and us… and Scrappy. Who not only appeared out of nowhere when we let the chickens out, but also went to the yard nearest them and settled down in the grass for a nap.
I think our flock might have an honorary member. If he lays eggs… do you think they are chocolate?
Here’s Lin enjoying a kale and borage piñata. One of the summertime treats we put out to feed the chooks/enrich the runs. And the kale comes complete with complimentary cabbage white caterpillar topping!
I know she looks skeptical, but that’s kinda just how Lin always looks (she is a very sweet chicken). That piñata will be annihilated by day’s end.