Sunday, April 3, 2011

Spring Cleaning: Chicken Pen

I clean out the hen house twice a year: spring and fall. 
When my son was in high school, I asked him to design me a hen house.  The back doors swing wide open for easy cleaning.

The nesting boxes are hinged for easy access when collecting eggs.

It looks like Little Red is busy doing just that.

When I open the gate, there is a mad chicken dash for freedom.  Looks like I caught one in mid-flight launching from a perch.

Some come out in formation.  The newer chickens are cautious.  No mad dash for them.

And then there are always the stragglers.

After that rush to get out, they sure don't go far (initially anyway).
This is what I clean out.  The shavings, hay and chicken poop compost a bit creating warmth for the hens in the winter. 

Sometimes I find an egg where it shouldn't be.  Sometimes its from a young confused hen; sometimes its an impatient one who doesn't want to wait her turn for the nesting boxes.

I dump the composty shaving mixture in here.  The chickens will scratch and spread it out. 

You can see the entries into the hen house from the chicken pen.

The chickens love sitting on these nice big roosts. 

The chicken pen is basically a big dog run with a roof.  Hawks, dogs and raccoons are the biggest chicken predators here.

Pilgrim, a Barred Rock, came in to do inspection when I finished cleaning out the old and put in the new shavings.

Would you like to meet the chickens?  Of course you would!  In order of seniority...  
This is Goldie, a Buff Orpington

She was one of our original chickens.   Goldie's about 5 years old.  She's very sweet and docile. 
Fuzzy Cheeks (Araucana) lays blue green eggs.  She's brave and can be aggressive.  We thought she was a rooster for awhile. 

Can you see her fuzzy cheeks?

Sunny (also Araucana) is very shy and independent.  She doesn't hang with the rest of the flock and is the last one into the coop at night.

 We like to keep our flock in the neighborhood of 10 chickens.  Its normal to lose one or two chickens every year.  They just die - from cold, from heat, from too many worms... who knows.  When we get down to five or six chickens, we add more.  So three years ago we added five (of which four remain):

Speckles (Speckled Sussex).  There are two of these - with the same name -

- because I really can't tell them apart.  Very friendly, curious chickens. 
Buttercup (Sicilian Buttercups).  So named because their combs are shaped like a buttercup.

They are a rare, endangered breed.  They don't lay a lot of eggs, just a couple per week and are our only chickens that lay white eggs.

And finally, the newbies.  These chickens are a year old.  We added them last spring.  The egg count was getting low between having old chickens and breeds that don't lay a lot so we went for the good layers and favorite breeds.  I had to have a Barred Rock (also pictured above doing inspection).  I think they are a beautiful chicken.

We bought 3 Rhode Island Reds.  We had one in our original flock and we missed Little Red.  Now we have eggs coming out of our ears.

Another Little Red.  Bright red comb means she's laying.  Less than beautiful plumage means her energy is going into eggs and not feathers.

We tried Gold Sex Links for the first time.  Good layers as well.

Another Little Red! 

A Gold Sex Link looking for worms on Oreo's grave. 
Camille's pine tree seemed to be a popular hang out.


  1. What a lovely flock you have. :) Taking notes on your chicken house design - adding chix to my farmette as soon as I am there full time.

    We only have dogs and raccoons to worry about here... coons have been known to grab chickens through the chicken wire - even when they can't eat them. When they do get hold of one, they often only eat the breast out. Your chicken house looks very secure. :)

  2. My husband and I have both been admiring your chicken house this morning. It gives us some ideas for making our own...maybe next year. Your son did a wonderful job designing it. Our neighbors have chickens and every so often we see coyotes running around at 5 am with a chicken in their mouth. :/ Coyotes are a big problem around here, but your design looks like Fort Knox for chickens!

  3. A great setup for the chickens...they are beautiful. Well designed digs! Last night at dinner we were talking about chicken coops.

  4. Thats some ol` hen hutch!(sorry) But it is good, whomsoever designed that! Should go into business!

  5. Wow-what a neat little introduction into the world of chickens! I know nothing about them but they sure are pretty!

    I've never had a desire to have chickens because they seem so fragile and your comment of losing 1 or 2 each year reconfirms my decision to stay far far away from the little cute feathered monsters. But I certainly can live vicariously through you :)

    Thanks for introducing the flock to us-they are beautiful!

  6. PS-oh! And that was a beautifully designed chicken house and pen by the way-I really like what your son came up with :)

  7. I LOVE your hen house and pen. Wow! Gorgeous! Your chickens are beautiful too. I love a varied flock. :) Also wanted to mention your "Barred Rocks" are actually Dominiques because they have rose combs. Barred Rocks have straight combs. :)

  8. I just love chickens! This is cool/fun post!


  9. I love it all! What a really nice coop you have. This is a lot like the one I'd like to build out where I'm working on my shade garden. I love your hens and getting to meet them all :)

  10. Great chicken house! I want an Arucana. We had one years ago and the kids really liked having a blue egg. Have a good weekend.

  11. What a cute flock of ladies! And a GREAT coop!!! :)

  12. your chickens and the chicken coop looks great! and i love that they are so protected from predetors!


  13. First, I love your coop and run. Your son did a great job designing it! I never thought of using a dog kennel for the run--but what a great idea-so sturdy. I also know my gang would love the big roosts you have. I would say you have a beautiful group of girls. I love the varieties and bet you get some great eggs. Great post :) Thanks for sharing with FFF!

  14. What a nice post! I love the introduction to the chickens and a lovely chicken house you have. I have dog panels for the run for mine but my house is not nearly as nice as yours.

  15. I loved seeing your chickens. We are at 1 year of getting our first chicks. I started with 15 day old chicks, one died shortly after I got them and I gave 2 to my middle daughter that had lost a couple of her hens to a neighborhood dog. So I had twelve and still have the same twelve. They seem to have done well through the winter but I do not think I will use a light to encourage laying this next winter. Half of them still have not grown their feathers back from their molting yet. If you visit my blog you can see a picture of our hen house in a post a couple of weeks back. Hubs designed and built it himself. I want a couple of Bantams but he keeps telling me it was built for 12 chickens. Brother.

  16. Your chickens are beautiful!

  17. That was fun to see your chicken pictures and descriptions. We just got 3 little chicks and 2 of them are varieties you have. Enjoyed seeing this. :-)


Thanks so much for commenting! I love the conversation.