Sustain

Our First Chicken Coop on Wheels

DSC_0016A few weeks ago, I mentioned that Roy had started building our latest chicken coop in the snow (photo below). This was obviously not ideal, and fortunately, we were able to get our chicken delivery (200 16-week-old pullets) postponed to the second week in April. Nevertheless, with so much to do around here (and seemingly so few nice days), Roy went to work last weekend and built the thing in about a day and half.

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We are excited because this is our first coop on wheels. Roy has now built 8 coops for us. The original one, built for our little flock of 8 ladies, was my favorite, because you could reach into the nest boxes to collect eggs from outside. (That design is in Fresh From the Farm, if you are considering getting a small flock of hens.) The next coop, for our first “big” group of 50 layers, was (is) pretty cool, too, because it has a divider with a storage area on one side. But when you start to build housing for 500 or more chickens, the coops have to get bigger and more efficient at the same time, so Roy’s coops have evolved. (Don’t worry, the 500 don’t all live in one coop!)

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This coop is what Roy calls his “super coop” design. It’s the biggest of our larger coops and the second one of this size he’s built. It houses 100 to 125 hens comfortably, with roost bars, nesting boxes, and hanging feeder–plus plenty of room for humans to navigate when collecting eggs.

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The chicken door on the front (photo above) has a door that easily slides up and open and is held in place by pegs. While the chicken door allows the chickens to go out to a protected, fenced grazing area, the human door on the back (photo below) opens outside of the fencing to allow us to easily get in and out to collect eggs or clean the coop without entering the chicken yard. (You can also shoo any birds in the coop out to the yard and shut the chicken door while you’re inside cleaning.)

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All of our older coops are stationery, raised up on blocks, so our chicken yards are created with permanent fence posts and deer fencing. Every summer, we open and close parts of the fencing to get the chickens on to fresh grass, but it’s awkward, as we can never entirely close the main chicken yard off or the chickens wouldn’t be able to access their coops.

But Roy lucked into snagging an old trailer frame not long ago and decided to build the latest coop on it, so that we can try moving this coop around every so often to different areas of the eight acres we have in the back now. That way the chickens will have fresh grass much more often, and we can use them to clear some planting areas! We’ll be investing in portable electric poultry fencing to create protected grazing areas .

After staining the coop and putting the hardware on, Roy took the coop for a test-spin with the truck, moving it part of the way (successfully-yay!) towards the back field.

9I was photographing the whole thing from behind, obviously!

DSC_0012Pretty cool. So far, so good!

When the new chickens arrive, we’ll keep them in the coop for a week or so to get familiar with their new home. Then they’ll head outside to enjoy their first fresh grass, weeds, bugs, and other delicacies. All good stuff for making delicious eggs. Bon apetit!

A Winter Farmers’ Market Book Signing, plus Family Time

Saturday morning early-early, we (Roy, Farmer, and I) saddled up the little red Honda and boarded the ferry (aka the icebreaker) and whooshed our way over to Woods Hole. We picked up Libby in Falmouth and drove up to Wayland, Massachusetts, just west of Boston, where I was scheduled to do a book signing event […]

So What’s It Really Like To Be a Chicken Farmer in a Blizzard (Or Any Day)?

The answer to that question—“So what’s it really like to be a chicken farmer in a blizzard?”—is, “Not as bad as being a chicken farmer the day after a blizzard.” At first, I thought to answer the question this way: “Not as bad as being a cow farmer,” because cows have to be milked twice […]

Garden and Fence Hopping on a Clear Blue January Day

One of the mildly annoying things about writing for magazines and books is that I can’t really reveal what I’m working on while I’m working on it, as that would, you know, spoil things. And I’ve never really been the spoiling type. My sister was the one who would find all the hidden Christmas presents […]

Keep Warm and Cook Something Delicious

Wherever you are, I’m sure you’re cold. If you’re in Minnesota, God bless you. Roy spent his elementary school years in Duluth and he has vivid memories of walking to school through snow banks much taller than he was. Martha’s Vineyard is downright tropical compared to that. Thought you might like to see our thermometers […]

The Year in Photos: Green Island Farm, 2014

January 2014′s best moment: Little Barney comes in from the cold February Paulie’s last stand. March Egg production picks up big-time in spring. Turning over the new veg field in the “back four.” April Onion and potato planting in the damp new days of spring. May And we’re off! Baby kale, Baby bok choy, radishes–and […]