Thursday, May 21, 2009

Chicken Coop, Part 2

With my background, caring for animals and their enclosures is second nature.  I long ago lost any gross-out factor I may have had while I worked at the San Diego Zoo, but to have any smells or areas that are difficult to clean is just unacceptable, since it leads to disease or attracting flies, rodents, etc.

Joe salvaged a flat, rolling base from a friend (don't know what it originally held) and built a short table to match the dimensions of the floor.  It slides easily below the henhouse and the blue tarp helps to seal the small gap between the henhouse and the tray.

The tray itself is only a couple inches deep.  I rake out droppings and mix in fresh, so I only change the entire tray every 3 or 4 weeks.  The tarp lifts out and the whole thing dumps into my compost bin.  My 'high tech'  cleaning tools are shown: 

Droppings can be spot-cleaned by raking them onto the dustpan.  A recycled kitty litter container collects droppings and dirty shavings and transports to the compost bin. 


We have two blue tarps, so one is always clean and ready to go.  The dirty one gets clipped to our chain link fence, where I can hose it and let it dry.
Fill the blue tarp with fresh shavings and it's ready to go back underneath the henhouse.

Plain cement floor sweeps clean, can be scrubbed or bleached if necessary.  So far its been just dusty with one or two droppings that have managed to slip between the gap. 

 I've been really pleased at just how easy it's been to maintain.  I'm very happy with how safe the girls are from nighttime predators.  The extra weather insulation was also a deciding factor; it's cooler in the summer, warmer in the winter.  Even their door to the run outside is simple to operate.  Joe designed a system of light chains and pulleys to open/close and lock/unlock the door to the run without ever opening up the main door.  Too wordy to add to this already lengthy post, so I'll just say, if you want to know how, email me.  

There's 5' to 6' between my garage and my fence.  The gate sits on the west side of the garage.  The west and north sides of the garage were essentially wasted space prior to this.  Overgrown, weedy and ignored before, we cleared out the trash and roofed it over with chicken wire.  On the north side, we just dropped the chicken wire from the roof line down to the chain-link fence.  On the west, where the gate is, we ran supporting metal rods from the garage straight across to the chain-link fence, then brought the chicken wire across.  To give you an idea of the height,  Joe is 6'4" and he can walk the entire length of the run with feet to spare.  I consulted with my neighbors before starting this project and keep in touch to make sure that no issues are coming up.  So far so good, everyone's happy.  In fact, one neighbor also has chickens who like to hang out with mine through the fence.

Hope this helps somebody out there.  If you've been thinking about getting chickens, Do It!  They're even easier than you think and just think of all the good things you're doing.  You'll eat healthier, homegrown eggs, you'll find yourself spending more time outside (chickens are fun, really!), they'll make fabulous compost for your garden (you don't compost?!?!) and they'll eat all the bugs in your garden (no more pesticide! yay!).  Thanks for reading.  :-)

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