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Barbara Pleasant: The Chicken House

 
Meet the Flock!
light brahma chicken

Snowflake, a Light Brahma, serves as flock leader. She rules gently and does a great job. She lays pinkish brown eggs.

 

black australorp chicken

Big Louise, a Black Australorp, runs with the wolves. More on her story later. She lays large brown eggs.

americauna chicken

Pumpkin, an Americauna, is curious and likes to be in the chicken house when I'm doing maintenance chores. She lays large light blue eggs.

black australorp chicken

Little Louise, the other Black Australorp, is a sweet and beautiful bird who lays a medium brown egg almost every day. She and Big Louise are by far the best foragers in the flock.

americauna chicken

Gumbo, an Americauna, keeps a low profile in the flock, but she was getting rowdy at night. A higher roosting bar made her feel more comfortable. She lays big blue eggs.

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Our beautiful new chicken house with attached chicken run..

Roger insisted on a concrete foundation, which was a bear to install! The slope was too steep to trust concrete block, so we built fort chicken on an earth-filled concrete pedestal.


The foundation and 8' x 8' shell of the chicken house.

Twenty years ago, Roger and carpenter David Brown built Roger's Cape Cod style house together. David returned to create the chicken house, intended to echo the style of the main house. This structure and attached chicken run are the main focal point in the view from our kitchen, dining area and deck.

  

The chicken house, almost finished. We had electrical outlets and lights installed throughout the interior and exterior, using a buried power line from the house.

Getting Chickens

Over the ridge in Stuart, VA, heritage poultry breeder Jay Gregory had a few young hens hatched in January of this year. Because they had been raised together, Jay thought a mixed flock of hens would form a harmonious group. After our five were netted and put in the cage in the back of my hatchback, Jay was left with breeding pairs Black Australorps, Americaunas, and Light Brahmas. Jay also raises Polish chickens, Buff Orpingtons, and lots of turkeys, guineas and pheasants.

October 2012

 

A couple of years ago when I shared dinner with Jenna Woginrich at the Mother Earth News Fair, she told me I was missin’ it by not having chickens. I knew! I know! But my life needed to simplify which it eventually did, and now we have chickens. This page is about where they live, a structure that has evolved over the past year to become a very deluxe chicken house with an enclosed chicken run.

 

 

We did not choose an easy site for construction, but went with the location that would work best for us. Envisioning twenty years of going out to gather eggs, we opted for the site that provided a level walk from the back door. When you live on a mountainside, a level walk on an icy winter morning can mean the difference between staying upright and falling down.

 

 

From the start, our goal was to provide secure housing for a core group of five or so laying hens, with space to raise some chicks should we so desire. We live in the middle of the woods, and friends nearby cannot let their chickens range because of coyotes and foxes, which have taken their hens in broad daylight. Predator proofing the structure and attached chicken run was therefore a high priority. We started with the 8’x8’ plan from Virginia Tech on Housing for Small Scale Poultry, and added a few features to make the structure and chicken run highly resistant to infiltration by anything bigger than a mouse. We also eliminated the plywood floor in favor of an earth floor we could manage as deep litter.

As the building took shape, it became clear that our gifted carpenter, David Brown, was building something more beautiful and alluring than we had imagined. Many revisions took place, as a truly multi-purpose building emerged –the core coop with decks on either side. The front deck would be kept open for chicken viewing and general enjoyment. The rear deck became a covered garden shed, with a wall to hide clutter from view.

The chicken run is enclosed with hardware cloth that is buried to deter critters that might dig their way in. The dogs also patrol the perimeter to help insure the safety of the flock.