just another sunday in the chicken coop

img_7335About a month ago, our chickens came home from their temporary location.  We decided to put the coop within the garden so that they can help us with insect control and composting and more importantly, to keep the dog away from their droppings-we won’t discuss her disgusting taste in snacks…

Although they are fairly safe in the garden since it is fenced in, hawks are still a threat and we knew we would have to spend some time building a large pen and tunnels.  Neither of us is particularly handy in a construction manner, but despite this, we were able to build the structures from PVC pipe, poultry netting, 2×3 wire fencing, lawn staples and cable ties.

img_7336The garden itself is approximately 38 feet wide by 94 feet long, which makes it about 3500 square feet.  That gave us plenty of room for the coop and pen as well as the tunnels.  The first thing I did out there was dedicate an area for composting and it is just behind the wheel barrow.

While we worked on things, the chickens explored the entire garden.  After being confined to the coop for two months, they wandered all over, pecking and scratching and searching for bugs.

 

They also discovered my compost pile.  Those feet move fast-they scattered the compost all over and after raking it back in place half a dozen times, we had to build a barricade.

img_7367It took us an entire weekend to paint the PVC, build the hoop frame and cover it with the poultry netting.  Knowing that we can leave them outside during the day without worrying about hawks.  The large pen has another purpose; we will store leaves in there and the chickens will help us compost them.  They constantly dig in the leaves which helps break them up and because the leave droppings as they go, the nitrogen in them will also help with the composting process.  It takes at least six months to break them down so we will have to be patient.

img_7385The hoops are attached to the coop so that we can leave their door open to give them access to the pen.

img_7369If the chickens are going to help with insect control in the garden, they need to be able to walk through it but unfortunately, they could run into hawks and more importantly, they would make a mess of the beds.  The  solution; tunnels.  We built them in Williamsburg so that they would have more space to roam and when we moved, we took them apart and moved them with us.

img_7375Starting at the far end of the pen, we are running the tunnels down the fence line and around the exterior edge of the garden.  We may still let them out into the garden occasionally but not with out supervision.

img_7371We attached the fence hoops to the wire fencing with cable ties.

img_7373To keep them in place on the ground, we used lawn staples.

It didn’t take them long to figure it out-they spent the afternoon in the tunnels eating as much of the green grass and weeds as they could find.

3 thoughts on “just another sunday in the chicken coop

  1. This looks like a great setup (but also a lot of work!). Kudos! Our five chickens have a dedicated run, access to an enclosed compost pile and a coop where they are shut up at night. We let them in the garden only when we’re nearby to make sure they don’t eat it all! We’ve been thinking of hoops and tunnels; good to see how you use them. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on chickens and compost. Having the compost bin in their run has changed what we compost — no egg shells now, no paper and no pits. It feels strange to throw those items in the trash now, but we have to think about what the hens will eat….

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    1. Hi Christina. We have experimented with composting and chickens and have dedicated the pen to yard waste; leaves, clippings and the like. It takes a long time to break down but also gives them something to dig in because it also gives insects and worms a place to live and in the end, it is a great addition to our composting system. As for the rest of the stuff, the food waste including eggshells and pits, we compost that separately with the litter from the coop. We will add small amounts of those leaves to our compost pile as we go so we have a good balance of green and brown material to break down. Because there are some things in there they shouldn’t eat, we do our best to keep them out of it but honestly, we restrict them from the piles because they scatter them all over in their search for insects! The addition of the manure and litter does get it a lot hotter and we can generally turn a pile and get it into the garden in about 6 months.

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