Shades of Ireland

Friday, February 25, 2011

Hen House Quest

I have kept chickens for most of my life. Starting with a 4-H project in the 5th grade. I took a break from poultry keeping while in was in college. Dorm life and apartment living are not really suited for poultry yards......

After Neil and I were married and moved to Stillwater, Ok for him to go to graduate school, we rented a small farm. As soon as we could, we got chickens and we have had them ever since. All these years, I have been in search of the "perfect" hen house. I haven't found it yet.

I found this pen on craigslist in Tulsa. I just happened to be going down there and bought it while I was there. Loaded it in the truck and part of it hung off of the back. I flagged it and proceeded home. By the time I got out of town, I was a nervous wreck because it seemed like HUNDREDS of idiots tried to impale their tiny sports cars on the run for this chicken tractor. It was the worst money I have ever spent.

This is not the run that came with it. We built this one as an attempt to salvage something of this mistake and make it work. We have made several modification attempts on this monstrosity.

None of them have worked and it is still too heavy to move, poorly designed and even the chickens don't like it and it has so many places for them to escape that it usually sits empty. I have a friend who refuses to believe that it is really this bad. The next time she visits, it is going home with her----- minus the run.

This is an "Ark" designed portable hen house that I built from plans from Mother Earth News magazine. It was prettier when I built it 8 years ago.....I have certainly gotten my money's worth out of it but I wouldn't do it again. The run on the front of it was not part of the design. It wasn't supposed to have a run.... I just didn't think that the small space under the house part was enough space. I really am a free range kinda gal but chickens are really hard on the garden and landscaping. Plus ours seem to think that should roost on the front porch and come in the garage on cold days......This run is what was on the red monster from Tulsa..... It has long handles (that you can't see for the weeds) for moving it. Those are what was hanging out of the truck.

This henhouse was obviously designed by someone who never raised a chicken. It was a better theory than actual working model. I do use it for bantams and it fits on a raised bed if I decide to do some chicken enhanced composting.

The most memorable portable chicken coop that I ever built, I do not have a picture of. It didn't last a year. I bought one of those English books with lovely plans for small enclosures. I am a big fan of John Seymore and his English style of smallholding self sufficiency. I had visions of the perfect moveable coop with my hens happily scratching about......Egg gathering and clean up being hardly a chore... It didn't take long for that air castle to disappear.  All the measurements were metric but that didn't slow me down. The problem was that it, too, was a "theory henhouse" designed by someone who never ACTUALLY built the dang thing. I built it in the front yard and of course several people came to visit while I was trying to get it done. It took 4 days to build. We named it the "Purgatory Pen" because I cussed so much building it that the kids were sure that I was going to hell.  It never failed, when I blew my top and had a "moment", someone would drive up and get to see me in all my glory pitching a fit..... After it was built, it was so cumbersome and hard to use, I dismantled it after a year. It came apart much easier than it went together. I enjoyed demolishing it much more than construction.

This is another little one that I built to fit in a raised bed. I still don't think that there is enough room but it works pretty well for a pair or trio of bantams. The wheels are a total failure and need to be bigger. Otherwise, I have been pretty pleased with it. I built 2 of them.

Have I ever told you what wonderful freinds I have???? These next two henhouses were gifts from a friend who was moving.

This little jewel is portable-- barely. It is HEAVY but it can be moved with the 4-Wheeler. I usually have a run attached to the front because....... I hate to cage my girls. I think it is just totally unchicken-like for them to not touch the ground. It is suitable for 3-4 hens.

This is a one of those things that I just hate to give up on...... it is only moveable with the truck. We have moved it with the 4-wheeler but it was a strain. The run attached to the house doesn't have a wire floor but...... it is just so SMALL of an area. I ,of course made and attached this run. The nesting and roosting area is very poorly arranged and I plan on fixing that this summer. It is made for less than 10 hens. I have 17 and a rooster. If you will notice in this picture, they are all begging me to turn them loose...... It is only the fact that they love to scratch in my strawberry patch that is keeping them confined......

Neil and I have picked out a spot convienently located between the house and the barn to make a Chicken Complex. That way, on my way to and from the barn, I can let them out or shut them up... depending on the time of day. I will still use the smaller hen houses for Adam's bantams and the larger one for raising replacement pullets. The neat part about all of this is that after all these years of making portable pens, I don't HAVE to do that now. This is MY farm and I plan on staying. I can build it any way I please, anywhere I please. Holy cow!! The options are making me dizzy just thinking about it..... Now, I have to figure out what kind of henhouse we are going to build..... soon.

I've been looking on the internet and just can't seem to find it. Guess I will have to get out the graph paper and plan my own...... Good job for these rainy cool days with a house full of sick kids.

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