Decentralization is the key to divorcing ourselves from the centralized corporate-government Octopus that has wrapped its tentacles around our lives – and our throats. The more we can do for ourselves, the less the Octopus can make us do.
Like wear a “mask.” Or get a Shot.
It’s why I’ve gotten into raising chickens and ducks, the self-perpetuating food source. A small flock of 6-12 birds can provide enough protein – in the form of eggs – to keep you well-fed in the event you can’t buy eggs (or other forms of protein) at the store, without wearing a Lie Rag or (perhaps soon) showing Proof of Jab. And unlike a carton of store-bought eggs, which are gone once eaten, your carton will refill itself on a daily basis. Probably you will end up giving away (or trading) the eggs you don’t eat.
If you have a rooster – or a drake (male duck) – you will also have self-replicating meat. Or birds to trade/sell. Fresh/farm-raised chicken commands top dollar and fresh/farm raised duck commands surreal dollars. How’s $40 per dressed bird sound? Not bad, if you raise/sell a half dozen extra every few months.
But you will need a coop – a secure place to keep the birds – which brings me to the subject of this article. I have built two so far over the past 15 years or so and am now embarked upon the third, which will benefit from the experience gained from the first two.
Unlike the last two, it will be attractive. And – I hope – far more functional.
It will be wide (eight feet) but not too deep (three feet on each side) with the front side being a pair of carriage doors that open outward and provide complete access to the interior of the coop, for both egg-collecting and cleaning purposes. The sides will be built on concrete footers – I’m getting ready to pour the concrete – for structural strength and to keep the wood off the dirt, which inevitably rots wood. It may become hard to get wood – as in siding – in the months and possibly years ahead. I want the siding I panel up to be sound for the next 20 years, at least.
The far wall will be lined with laying boxes for the hens stacked on one side, with the other side being a nesting area for the Muscovy ducks, which prefer to lay on the ground (on straw, I find). The chickens prefer to roost. But you should keep in mind the poop – which will drop from wherever they roost onto whatever is underneath. Hence – per the ’90s song – I like to keep them separated, laterally as well as vertically.
On the left wall, a small door for the birds to enter and exit the coop as they like. This opens to a secure run with wire fencing encompassing, to keep the birds from being eaten by raccoons and other predators and also to enable me to not have to get up early to let them out or sweat forgetting to lock them in come dusk. The “safe” run will open up to a larger run – also fenced, but not overhead – that is safe enough for supervised daytime activities.
The coop will be much easier to keep clean – a constant issue with chickens and ducks – than my last two coops, which were put together more like a structure for humans than for birds. I learned some valuable lessons. Among these, that coops are mostly for roosting and brooding. Unlike us, the birds prefer to be outside most of the time, so the space they need inside is less than we’d need. And the smaller space is not just easier to keep clean – especially with a set of wide-opening carriage-style doors at the front. It is also easier to keep it warm in the winter.
This is an important consideration if you intend to raise birds in a cold climate. Especially as regards chickens, which are quite heat tolerant but vulnerable to frostbite on their combs in the winter, which can kill them. A smaller space will be warmer, naturally – and if you do as I am doing and run electricity to the coop, it will cost you less to keep it warm artificially, via a small heat lamp.
Electricity in the shed is a thing you’ll want to have for more than just heat for the birds, too. As winter descends, so also early darkness and not being able to see – or having to using a flashlight to see – is a pain, especially when you are trying to collect eggs. Having an electrical outlet inside the coop will also make it easy to plug in brooder equipment, if you need to help the hens raise the next generation.
Another idea I picked up is to use PVC piping to rig up self-serving feeders and waterers – so you can fill up both say once a week as opposed to feeding and watering the birds every day. You can design these in almost any way that you like but the general idea is a vertical section with a cap on top and then an “L” on the bottom that distributes the food/water. In the case of water, you will probably need to rig a float system (as in a toilet or a carburetor) to maintain the water flow/level. A small electric heating element can keep everything from freezing that ought to flow.
The coop will have a metal roof with an alpine slope to slough off rain and snow. The entrance roof height will be about seven feet, tapering to about six at the back. Tall enough for walk-in access and not having to hunch over to get at the eggs in the boxes.
To make it pretty, there will be flower boxes on the side and a gated walkway and concrete pad entrance, with covered storage (under the eaves of the adjacent shed) for extra hay and such. I’ll have some videos and pics soon.
Once this gets done, it’ll be time to start on the greenhouse!
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