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  • Writer's pictureSofias Country Gardens

Building a chicken coop

Keeping summer chicken has been a great joy for me for many years, and this year I decided to take it one step further and keep chicken all year round. It's not a very far fetched project, considering I'm unlikely to travel anytime soon, but being me it became more of a thing as I can't help but do things thoroughly. (I mean, why do something and not go all in?!) First in line was to build a solid winter chicken coop, as the old Wendy-house they have used in summer would see them freeze to death come November...

As often is the case on old farms there are plenty of unused old farm buildings and sheds dotted around the property. Yet I didn't want to use the old cow-shed as it is very low in the ceiling and I dreamed of a light and airy chicken coop, with windows and light and heating for when it gets really cold outside. In a corner of the yard lies the old wood shed, a large building that appart from wood also houses a tractor and the lawn mower. However, mostly it housed an assortment of stuff. ("Stuff", I tell you, is like bacteria and just appears to be growing and appearing in the oddest places as soon as you turn your back.) "This will be perfect for a chicken coop!" I thought, completely disregarding the weeks of work it took to insulate the walls and lay a new floor with insulation under new concrete.

Meanwhile we hatched firstly nine Blue Arancuna chicks, and then a further four Marans and seven Wyandotte. As tiny chicks I kept them in an old guinea pig cage together with my two quails Viiri and Lumi, but soon enough they became teenagers and moved to bigger housing. After a month that too became small, but by then their permanent home was luckily ready for them to run around in. I think Viiri and Lumi were almost relieved to be on their own again, as chicken are frightfully mean to smaller birds and the chicks had already started to pick the feathers of Viiris back.

I love using reclaimed material for my garden projects and as there was lots of "stuff" to be cleared out from the shed I simply reused what I found to make nesting boxes and roosting perches. The roosting perches are made out of an old ladder, a climbing ladder and some old hay poles. One of the nesting boxes is made of a cupboard where I just added shelves, and the other is made out of two old wooden crates. What is lovely about reclaiming material is the history - one ladder to the roosting box is made out of an old wooden tool shank made by Kurt Lindgren who lived on the farm in 1949.

Keeping chicken is actually super easy. I go to check on them first thing in the morning (after coffee, obviously) just because it is such fun. I turn on the lights, open the door to their outside run and air the coop while I change the water and top up the feed. Presently it is only the quails that produce eggs, but in a few months I shall be picking a plenty of fresh eggs too. The ratio of hens to cockrels seems quite good, but I think I have a few too many roosters to keep forever. There are two Blue Arancuna that I know are both roosters, but amongst the rest the chicks are as yet so young it's hard to tell. So as not get too attached to any individual that may end up in the pot in spring I call all the chicks I suspect to be cocks Trump and Putin. Some days I clean out from underneath the roosting perches, and every ten days or two weeks I change the sawdust. (As a gardener this is so thrilling to get such good stuff for my garden that I suspect I am over zealous in keeping the coop clean.) Then in the evening my Godfather Ente closes the outdoor hatch and turns of the lights as he takes Båtsman for his evening walks.

Presently the weather is so horrible that the chicken don't venture further out than the threshold, but soon we reach winter equinox and then the light starts to return. I wish you all a great week!

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