Monday, January 21, 2013

Chickens at Last!

Regular readers of my blog know that I've been very busy with a group called "4 Chesapeake Hens." Together we got the laws changed in Chesapeake to allow up to six backyard laying hens in residential areas with certain restrictions. Here's a news account of our success. The change was proposed by Councilman Robert Ike and enacted on November 20, 2012.

My poor husband, Don, has been working his tail off ever since. He promised that if I got the law changed, he'd help put together a set-up to keep them. So he's been fencing off about 1/3 of our backyard to try to keep our predatory hound-dogs from killing the poor chickens. He put in a fence and then buried concrete beneath it. Then he started on the chicken coop, which he designed himself. He called it a prototype, figuring he'd make mistakes and want to make changes.

Front View of the new coop with the hanging feeder and waterer

We haven't been 100% happy with the new coop, but Don is already figuring out what to change and how to improve our next one. He's going to split the roof in such a way that we don't have to disturb the chickens at their roost if all we want to do is get in the pen for something. He plans to put in a door on one end and to paint the roof to help keep water out.

Side View of the Coop

Last night I went to a local farm and finally picked my girls up. They're pullets, hatched last spring by a farmer-friend who decided to downsize her flock this year. There are two Buff Orpingtons and a Delaware. Both breeds are "dual-purpose" heritage breeds known for calm temperaments and good laying. I am in love with the Delaware, who seems friendliest and boldest of the three. She'll already peck tidbits out from between my fingertips. The Orpingtons are terrified of me so far. I hope that changes!They don't have names yet, but they will once I've gotten to know their personalities a little better.

Two Buff Orpingtons on the left looking scared; the Delaware on the right looks cautious but curious!

They didn't eat well today and were afraid to come out of their coop, perhaps afraid of our dogs that were running around on their own portion of our backyard. Don and I turned the coop tonight so they can leave the coop without the dogs seeing them, so hopefully that will make them more comfortable. Friends tell me that it will take them a week or so to settle in. Tonight's supposed to turn cold, so I hope they're comfortable enough out there!

Another view of our new flock!
Nest Box from the outside. It has a separate lid that is lifted to easily check for eggs

View of the nest box from inside the coop. The golf ball is to help give the girls the idea of where to lay; hopefully soon!
Update for 1/24/2013: The girls are eating better and starting to act more at home. Hurray!

We are also getting used to incorporating them into our daily schedules. They are not a lot of work, but someone has to be up to feed and water them every morning, and one of us has to be sure to be around to close the coop up at dusk, since we do not have an automatic pop-hole opener. At least, not yet!


  1. Cute girls!

    They might be cold, that would keep them inside.

    That's an interesting nest box liner!

    You shouldn't have to shut the hen house door if the door leads to an enclosed area, unless you're worried about keeping the wind out (or if you have nighttime predators you're worried will get through your fence).

  2. Valerie, we have a woodsy portion of our yard, and oak and nut trees. It all harbors predators. We have raccoons and possums, at the minimum, and our neighbor caught a rat recently (right BEFORE we got our chickens!) so I'm not taking any chances by leaving the door open on the coop. They definitely move around more now that the weather is warming up a little, but they also seemed to need time to get used to us, the new digs, and the new sounds from our place, especially our barking dogs (who are separated from the girls by a fence as well as the protection of the chicken tractor).

    The nest box liners are a type recommended by Pat Foreman. Don found them online; they're quite inexpensive. They're easy to clean, don't harbor mites, and prevent the hen from scratching all the nesting materials out of the box, or reorganizing them in such a way that the egg lays on bare wood.