Our journey into the world of Chickens…

When my wife came to me and suggested that we get chickens… initially – I thought she had kind of lost it. We’re in the middle of the city, I hadn’t taken the red pill of Urban Homesteading just yet, but at that time, there was a massive push by a local citizens alliance, “Chickens in the Yard” or C.I.T.Y. for short to get backyard hens legalized in the City of Salem. Shannon became very interested, we even attended a couple of the city council meetings… it was quite the battle, and the citizen alliance won out, but unfortunately, in the all encompassing wisdom of the Salem City Council, the first iteration of the ordinance involved a significant permit fee ($150), a bunch of legal hoops, semi-yearly coop inspections… all for 3 backyard hens. Realistically – the conditions were too onerous for the average citizen. Your die hard chicken keepers would keep chickens for that kind of money, but the average citizen would say no thanks. (which I think was kind of what the City of Salem actually wanted…)

Thankfully cooler minds prevailed, and the Salem City Council relaxed many of their outrageous expectations, and adopted a far more balanced approach. $40 dollar application for permit, a structural Coop Inspection prior to getting the chickens, then 5 birds. No complaints, no problem. Potential of fines if there are valid complaints.

Being that this was far more reasonable, Shannon wanted birds. Bad. We finally bit the bullet and started the project this past November once we made the decision to stay put and make this place our home.

For those of you who have been reading this blog since we started it, I have mentioned numerous times that we were in the process of going through the beginning steps, and getting it built. Due to many things: Scheduling, Weather, Material Acquisition, other projects that popped up, etc… it took significantly longer than we expected.

… Not to mention, the coop itself quickly became the flagship of our homestead, and as such – it became more of a precision project than a “slap it together and let’s get chickens” sort of deal. My brother-in-law is an incredible carpenter, and very giving person. So he agreed to help us out – and we are very thankful for that.

I’m happy to say that we built the entire coop save a couple of items from reclaimed materials. The only items we purchased for the coop itself were the fasteners to hold it together, the glass in the windows, the ring on the door pull, and the poultry netting. Everything else is recycled materials from torn down buildings, old fences, salvage parts from various places… all either donated, or salvaged ourselves.

I’m very proud of the work that we put into it, and the final product is truly beautiful.

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The process it took us to get there was exhausting, and took quite some time – some of you will look at it and go, “Oh, that’s nice.” Others of you are like me, and will want to see the process we underwent.  This will be a long post, but in case you don’t want to read the whole thing to get to the finished product, the TL;DR is above “Hey look we got chickens, and here’s where they live.” If you want to see more, keep reading…

With no further ado – here is our journey into the world of Chickens.

Just like real estate, with chickens its all about location, location, location… but no. Really it is. At least with the regulations we have in Salem. The coop has to be a certain distance from all neighboring buildings, fence lines, etc.. but thankfully we had this large patch of grass and junk next to our shed that used to be the home of an old gnarly diseased plum tree that we removed the first year we moved in. We tried various things there, but nothing really did well. Except of course… Grass and kids toys. They multiplied plentifully… perfect place for chickens. Centrally located, easily accessible… perfecto.

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Once we had made the call to put the chickens there, we chewed up all the grass with the weedeater and laid down straw to choke out the grass, which worked remarkably well.  In future photos, that straw is what you will see piled in the middle of the lawn, in later photos, that is the reason for the large dead patch right smack dab in the middle of the back lawn. Ooops. 🙂

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I began the process by digging out and leveling the ground, and setting foundation blocks along the footprint of the coop (Yes the one closest to the camera is wonky… whoops). The initial design gave us a coop that was 6 feet wide and 10 feet long. We didn’t want an exterior “run” being that we’re in Salem and it rains buckets, frequently sideways. So we wanted to enclose everything, giving them an internal run with roost space, nestboxes, etc.. figured 60 square feet was modest digs for 5 birds. The problem was – we had no materials whatsoever to build from this point. I didn’t want to spend a fortune on the coop, and I desperately wanted to use recycled materials. (I’d love to tell you it was all because I wanted to save the planet, but its more that I’m a total cheapskate… saving the planet was a close second though…)

My brother-in-law Matt worked for a construction company here in town owned by another friend of ours, and I told him what we were doing, and asked if he could keep me in mind if they had any demo that needed to get done – I figured I’d go in at night and tear stuff out to save the studs and materials and save a little here, little there. He said – we’ve got a house down right now, and it hasn’t gone in the dumpster yet… lemme call my boss and see if we can go and get it. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves…

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It was cold and wet, hence the fog on the camera lens, but we ended up with an entire truckload of old rough cut lumber…  (Which was CHOCK full of nails… there was much de-nailing to be done – but the coop building could commence!!)

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With the process just starting, our energy levels were high, (Of course we were downing energy drinks – so that may have helped), but we were excited, and worked HARD for a couple weeks to knock it out.

Walls went up.

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Beer was drank.

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IT GOT COLD!!!

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The roof went on – we cantilevered it out over the end closest to the house to shelter the nest box area from the driving rain of the Salem area.

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Old rustic looking cedar fence (complete with Sureno graffiti) became the exterior siding…

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At this point, there was a somewhat large break in time between the work, the weather got cold, rainy and nasty. Our schedules got busy, we ended up getting distracted with front yard projects and a bunch of other stuff. When we got back after it, much less pictures were taken – it was just focus and get things done. We trimmed out the windows and door, and cut in the chicken door, and built the 3 nestboxes. (Each nestbox is 12 inches high at the shortest point x 14 inches wide x 16 inches deep –plenty of space.)

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It came to the point it was time to get the windows done. We had some old windows – but they were covered in old flaky lead paint and kind of falling apart. I decided I didn’t want to mess with getting all the lead paint off of them, and shoring them up for use, so we built our own out of our leftover rough cut. I’m very pleased with how they turned out.

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For the floor, we have relatively unique flooring. Pergo. Yes. You read that correctly, we dumpster dove at a local business in Salem that chucked a bunch of boxes of Pergo flooring, and we salvaged it. We managed to get enough to cover the 60 square feet, so we had an easily cleanable floor in the coop. (We are using sand and spot clean as we go, like a big old litterbox)

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We framed in the door, and put the remainder of the windows in. We had to add the flowerboxes as well… only the absolute necessities. 🙂

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With the primary shell in place – we paid our fees and had the coop inspected – passing with no problems. Then it was time to finish outfitting the coop (feeder and waterer), add the ladder roost (which clips in place on the ceiling when you want to clean under it) and the poultry netting around the windows, sand substrate in – and of course getting our girls from their surrogate parents.

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The girls (Lady Gray, Java, Bekah, Arugala and Chicken Nugget) moved in during the first part of May. They’re total mutts, so it’s hard to nail down exactly what they are, but one or two look like they’re crossed with jungle fowl, the rest maybe English Game, one’s got some Ameracauna, the rest maybe Barnvelder, they might even have some Silkie in em… who knows. If it walks like a chicken, clucks like a chicken… it’s a chicken. 🙂

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… and of course the fruits of our labors.

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We’ll get into more on the chickens as time goes on, I’m sure – but for now – we’re happy with where we are. We’re learning a lot in the process, and it’s really too soon to do a ‘Here’s what I would have done differently” analysis. For now, we’re getting eggs, the chickens are happy, the kids are happy, most importantly my fabulous wife is happy… therefore I’m happy. 🙂

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7 thoughts on “Our journey into the world of Chickens…

  1. Ben! This is spectacular! We’re on the verge of trying our hand at making our own coop. I had been wondering how you were getting away with keeping 5 chickens– I totally missed the last phase of Salem chicken keeping bureaucracy when I stopped reading the paper regularly. That is great news, and your coop is incredible! I love the flooring! What a find! Awesome, awesome work!

  2. I think that your coop is absolutely incredible! My family raised chickens all our life (till I growed up and moved out :)) and our coop never looked like that! Nice work! Really incredible. Chickens are super worth it, too. I just started a blog too, (my first entry was yesterday) I hope you will follow me! (It will get better I promise)

    Chicken love!
    (that means much love)

    Kerie

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