As you may have seen on our facebook page, we’re thinking about getting chickens here on the farm. Well, really, we’re planning on getting chickens, but right now we’re in that lovely stage where we’re dreaming big about what our chicken operation could look like. There are a lot of possibilities, and we’re pretty excited about the benefits of raising chickens: beautiful animals on the farm, nutritious eggs to eat, highly efficient pest control, and an excellent, free, and natural source of fertilizer. We haven’t decided yet on what exact breeds we’ll be raising, or even if we’ll get chickens this year (keep your fingers crossed), but we’re moving forward with our plans for a coop, and the planning is pretty fun!
Here’s where we are thus far:
We have an old wooden trailer on the property, the kind you’d hitch to the back of a tractor for hayrides and such. Currently it’s just hanging out, and so our plan is to convert it into a chicken coop on wheels. You may be familiar with the Egg Mobiles or Chicken Tractors used by Joel Salatin at Polyface farm. Our setup will be somewhat similar, though our rotation of grazing animals will be significantly less complex since we’re only raising chickens! The idea though is that you can move the coop about the farm, allowing the chickens new grass to run in every couple of days. This keeps the grass healthy, distributes fertilizer (waste) evenly, and spreads out your pest managers across the farm.
We’re constrained by the size of the trailer as to how many chickens we host on our property, but fortunately the trailer is pretty spacious, so we’ll be able to have about 40 chickens. The birds need 2 to 3 square feet per chicken indoors, and the trailer’s about 144 sq ft.
We initially considered only raising hens on the farm since we know that roosters are noisy by nature and can be rather aggressive. We want the growers to be able to interact with the chickens comfortably, so having a potentially aggressive bird on the premises didn’t seem like the best idea. However, after we paid a visit to Poplar Springs, a local animal sanctuary that calls itself home to many a happy chicken, we learned that roosters are an important piece in the life of a healthy flock. Roosters, it turns out, are great watch dogs. They’re far more likely to be keeping an eye on the sky and the perimeter of the run and thus looking out for predators. And their natural noisiness, though perhaps irritating to the neighbors, acts as a highly audible distress signal to their human caretakers. When the rooster starts squawking in the afternoon, you know it’s time to run to the chicken coop!
We currently stockpiling building supplies for the coop, and are hoping to have a chicken coop raising day to get the structure on the ground. We’re doing this on a very tight budget, so if you have any building supplies that you’d like to get off your hands, or if you feeling like donating to the “chickie bank,” we’d greatly appreciate your support! We’re trying to do as much as we can with re-purposed materials, but we’re still going to need to purchase some basics, such as 2x4s, 1/2 inch hardware cloth, and pvc roofing. We have plans though to save on bedding costs, by cutting and drying our own grass on the farm to use as straw in the coop. We’ll see how that goes.