Barnyard Chickens

After losing our third chicken in a two and a half to three month time period to a predator during daylight hours we knew we had a major decision on our hands.  Somehow we had to restrict the girls free ranging to a limited area.  The predator was consistent in its attacks –  coming up from the ditch/creek in the same general area, grabbing a chicken and taking it back down the same way it came up.  How did we know this without ever witnessing it?  A trail of feathers was left behind.

We tossed the idea around of putting up a fence around the existing coop and creating a run for them.  That would cost us a lot of money and a lot of sweat equity.  The sweat equity would’ve been fine but we did not want to go in debt to purchase fencing nor did we want half the yard fenced off so we needed another plan.

We walked down to the barn and that’s when we made the decision to house the chickens in the barn.  They would have protection from the elements and full use of the paddock as a run where they would still be able to dig, scratch, play and free range a bit but have the added protection of a fence.  Now we know this is not fool-proof from predators such as hawks but we’re hoping this solution will deter any four-footed predator from attacking.

Our first thought was to use one of the larger stalls at the end of the barn.

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As you can see, this room needed a lot of work.  It was the stall we originally chose to store our reclaimed wood and other paraphernalia in.

We began by relocating the wood.

Once that was done we began the assessment of what all needed to be done before it was safe from night time predators.  whew, the list was quickly becoming long… a roof of some sort was needed, blocks or rocks around the base, chicken wire on the sides… yikes!

So after taking a short break and assessing the situation again we chose a different location but still in the barn.

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Facing the barn, this room is on the left at the front of the barn and had a ramp in it to load and offload animals.

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It also had a metal roof over it and sturdy goat fencing above the three quarter wall and the other three sides are wood.  It seemed like a much better and more immediate solution.

It also had lots of cobwebs…

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and even a dead chicken (not one of ours) was found under the ramp.  Don’t look at the following photo too close or you’ll see it :(.

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But before any work began in this room we relocated a gate from the center of the barn to the front of the barn.

The older girls love to be around us when we’re working so since they were already in the barn we simply closed the gate thinking it would be somewhat easier on us when it came time to relocate the girls come evening.  phffft, were we wrong!

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Now that we had the gate in place and the ramp removed it was time to add some roosts…

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While CountryBoy reworked the ramp door I started removing the chicken wire behind the windows.  They served no purpose since the windows were there and just collected cobwebs and encouraged wasps to build nests in between the two.  I’m thinking the windows were added after the chicken wire.  I also started cleaning the paint off the windows.

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After I finished that it was time to bring the feed and feeders over and get them hung…

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There was already a box in one of the corners.  The girls that hadn’t already laid an egg decided it looked like a good nest box.  So, I added some hay to it and, lo and behold, we got a couple of eggs in there shortly after…

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We really wanted to have the nest boxes in the center of the barn so CountryBoy hung the cabinet that was in our bathroom out there and put some hay in it but the girls didn’t like that idea.  They would jump up, check it out but then go back to the box in the corner and go to fussing if another girl was already in there.

So, today, he cut the cabinet in half, added some sides and hung them in the new coop.  We’ll see if they approve.

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Throughout the day, yesterday, I managed to grab a few of the young’uns and take them to their new digs.  They were happy to find those feeders!

Each time I was able to grab a chicken I was thinking, ‘yay, one less chicken to relocate come evening’.  Boy, was I WRONG!

Come evening, all those chickens knew was that they needed to get back to the coop before nightfall.  What a ruckus!  They started jumping over the gate (even though we added wire well above the top of the gate), squeezing under and through the sides of the gate and generally just freaking out!

What started out as only needing to relocate six chickens ended up being more like a bakers dozen.  I would be carrying a chicken or two from the old coop to the new and another chicken was passing me on the road headed the opposite way.  sigh.  What a fiasco!

CountryBoy ended up snatching them up at the gate and putting them in the coop then shutting the door each time while I went back and forth from the old coop to the new coop carrying chickens.  After several trips we finally had all 24 of them in the new coop and they were vying for their spot on the roosts.  whew!

Needless to say, we were thoroughly exhausted by then!

Today, we did a few more things to the new coop and added their light.  We’re hoping that it will draw them into the coop making for a smoother night.  We also plan on sitting in front of the gate to ward off any escapees.  We’ll probably have to do this for a few nights until they get used to where they are supposed to go at night.

Thankfully, they seem to be very content today.  They’ve spent a lot of time in the barn checking out all the stalls and some have even ventured into the paddock.

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Our beautiful Buff Cochin, aka Fuzzy Foot, spent a little time this morning on the roost.  I think she was picking her spot for the night!

barnyard chickens Fuzzy Foot

Overall, I’m pleased with the solution we came up with.  Not only did it save us a lot of money but we were also able to get the girls a little more protected much quicker and they still have lots of room to roam around yet be protected by the elements.  It’s also a little bit cooler in the barn which is great during the summer and it is well ventilated for the winter months.

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Not only that, there is now LIFE in the barn!  I’m thrilled about that!  After we finished up today we sat on the front porch facing the barn and I said to CountryBoy that I thought the barn looked like it was standing straighter.  He looked and said he agreed.  Buildings, and even barns, seem to know if they’re abandoned or not.  Don’t ya think?

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While I do miss seeing the chickens running all over the place it will be nice to NOT have chicken poop all over the yard, heehee.  I also have more peace of mind knowing they’re a tad bit safer and, I’m thrilled that there is life in the barn now!  Yay for barnyard chickens!

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