I’ve been working for some time on a solution to predator-proof the open floor of The Garden Ark mobile chicken tractor. The challenge has been finding a way to secure the floor without closing it off completely or permanently. After all, you need the open floor for mobility, cleaning, and access to grazing. After much trial, I finally came up with an elegant solution (essentially a version of one of these turned upside down) then put it to the test. It works perfectly, and now I’m excited to share it. (more…)
Health and Safety
With extremely cold weather dipping into the U.S. this winter, I thought I’d share some detailed notes I got from a customer in Galesville, Upper Wisconsin. He’s taken several steps to winterize his Garden Coop and reports that his flock of seven has stayed active, healthy, and laying — even as the mercury dips to 20 below. Read on to see what he’s done. The rest of this post comes directly from Nate. . . (more…)
You’ve made it your New Year’s resolution to finally get chickens. Good for you. Chickens are low-maintenance pets that give so much in return. On top of the amazing compost, free entertainment, and fresh eggs right from your backyard, you’ll also gain the skills and confidence to tackle more projects down the line.
Here are 10 steps to help you stay focused so that your chicken keeping resolution becomes chicken keeping reality: (more…)
In this tutorial, I show you how to make a clean, efficient nipple waterer for your chicks using a push-in poultry nipple and a couple of easy-to-find items. If you’d rather not do this yourself, you can purchase one of our ready-to-use Brooder Bottles here.
I’m gonna miss hearing the “cheep, cheep, cheep. . . “ of baby chicks this spring. Our current backyard flock is still healthy and laying strong, so it could be another couple years before we get to raise another batch of chicks.
I’ll be ready for them, anyway.
The first time we raised chicks, we rigged up a large cardboard contraption as their brooder and kept them in the garage. It did the trick, and as new chicken owners we had a lot of excess energy to put into making it work. Daily cleanup was a process, and the final cleanup (dust everywhere) was even more involved.
This last go-round, we brooded them outside in the hen house of The Garden Ark, then graduated them to The Garden Coop hen house. That worked out really well, since keeping them outside also kept the dust outside.
But next time, the coops may still be occupied, so we’re gonna start them in one of these wire cage brooders that
we now offer at TheGardenCoop.com. [UPDATE: Please see our Buyer's Guide for brooder options, including getting this cage direct from the manufacturer.] Take a look.
How do you brood your backyard chicks? What’s worked and not worked for you? Leave a comment below and let us know!
If you frequent Coop Thoughts, chances are you caught this recent coop-building story by Morgan Emrich. I love his take on things, so I invited him to author a post about his experience keeping chickens. Here it is. . .
Kids, Meet Chickens
I would love to raise my kids on a farm. For a lot of reasons, that’s not going to happen. Like the majority of Americans I’m tethered to the city. But that doesn’t mean my children (9, 7, and 5 years old) can’t learn some of the lessons that farm kids take for granted.
Turns out a small flock of hens in the backyard can go a long way towards exposing children to things most city dwellers only get to read about in books. The concepts of natural cycles, environmental stewardship, biology, and our place in nature are no longer abstractions for my kids. Thanks to a small coop and a few chickens, these types of things have become concrete realities.
In particular, their feathered teachers have taught them five key lessons: (more…)
For the past few winters, I’ve wrapped our Garden Coop in plastic sheeting to keep driving rain and snow (mostly rain here in the Pacific Northwest) out of the run area.
I’d love to say I do this for artistic reasons, à la Christo, but it’s really all about practicality. Plastic film is inexpensive, easy to put up, and keeps your hens dry and happy. And in the spring, you can just take it down, roll it up, and store it out of the way.
There are other solutions, of course — sheet siding, acrylic panels, canvas, landscape fabric. Let me know in the comments what has worked for you. (more…)
For visitors to TheGardenCoop.com, I’ve arranged a discount from Portland’s own Timber Pro UV on their non-toxic wood treatments and stains.
In particular, their Internal Wood Stabilizer product is ideally suited for chicken coops like The Garden Coop and The Garden Ark, safely protecting exposed exterior softwoods from rot and moisture damage in a way that stain or paint alone cannot.
Learn more and get the Timber Pro UV discount code here.
Several months ago on the advice of a customer, I decided to make a DIY nipple waterer for our backyard chickens. Our birds were just chicks at the time, and keeping them supplied with fresh, clean water with their jar-and-saucer waterer was a frequent chore.
So I fashioned a simple waterer from a used plastic jug and a poultry nipple I bought online. The chicks took right to it, and the difference was remarkable.
No more spilled water. No more poopy water. No more worrying that their water had run dry.
When the flock graduated to the coop, their makeshift waterer went with them, and I started working on a more permanent solution for their larger space.
This is the last in a four-part series on getting your chickens and coop ready for the winter.
Once you’ve done everything else, you may find that you still want to provide extra warmth in your coop. We don’t heat the chicken coops in our yard, but many backyard chicken keepers in steady sub-freezing conditions have need for and success with artificial (electric) heat, through lamps, radiant heaters, and heated waterers.
Here are some tips I’ve gathered from customers and others who have used electric heat effectively (and be sure to read the comments section for more tips, cautions, and advice, particularly if you keep males as well as females): (more…)
This is the third in a four-part series on getting your chickens and coop ready for the winter.
Now we turn to the coop itself. In mild climates, chickens need only basic protection from the elements year round. If your coop keeps your hens dry and away from drafts, chances are you don’t need to make any special changes to it for the winter. If you expect temperatures to dip below freezing for a sustained time, you may want to take some added precautions to winterize your chicken coop: (more…)
This is the second in a four-part series on preparing your backyard chickens and coop for cold weather.
Most standard laying hens are quite cold hardy (check this handy breed chart). Just look at their names: Plymouth Rock, Rhode Island Red, New Hampshire Red. . . . These girls were bred to withstand cold climates well before the advent of electric heat. So how do they manage to withstand temperatures that send us scampering for the nearest cup of cocoa? (more…)
Whether it’s your first winter keeping chickens or your fiftieth, it’s helpful to have a checklist for preparing your backyard coop for the change of seasons. Of course, what’s on your list will depend on a lot of things including your particular climate, coop design, chicken breeds, routines, and more.
In this four-part series, I’ll share what has worked for us to get our backyard chickens and coops ready for the cold. I’ll also include several ideas offered by The Garden Coop Facebook community and others on how to keep your flock healthy all winter long. So here we go. . . (more…)
I’ve been looking into this recently, since one of our hens, a Welsummer, is passing the typical three-week window of broodiness. Here are three of the most common methods we’ve found for breaking a hen’s broody mood:
- Put the hen in a small cage with a wire bottom (at least 1″ square openings) and elevate it off the ground so that cool air can circulate underneath. Include food and water, of course. It may take a few days in solitary to do the trick.
- After dark, move the hen from her nesting box onto the perch with the rest of the flock, and block her access back into the nesting box for the night. It may take a few nights of doing this to see results.
- Dunk the hen in a bucket of cool water up to her neck. Some claim luck with this, others not.
All these methods have something to do with cooling down the temperature of the hen’s chest. There’s also always the option of finding someone with fertile eggs to hatch and letting your hen do the job. It’s worth noting too that some breeds (Buff Orpingtons, for instance) go broody more often than others.
From a coop design standpoint, this is where an extra nesting box can come in handy. When a hen is broody, she will not want to get out of her box. That leaves the others either searching for a new place to lay their eggs or — as we’ve seen with our flock — to climb into the box with the broody hen and lay their eggs there anyway.
Have you successfully broken a broody hen? How’d you do it? And if you couldn’t snap her out of it, what happened next? Leave a reply and let us know!