Tag Archives: coops

humble pie

Oh, Friends.

I stand before you a broken woman.  Innocent, no more. The days of blissful Farm-Maiden-ness… well, they are long gone.  I spent better (?) part of 7 hours on Saturday mucking out, hosing down, spraying with vinegar, and whitewashing the inside of the coop to rid our farm of mites and lice and other things we shall never speak of. My boots, which work on a regular basis, had never seen the likes of our Saturday.  They are officially broken-in.  No fashion wellies on this farm.  You gotta pull your weight.

Now, to be fair: it’s not the chickens’ fault.  They’re birds. Birds get bugs.  All the nice people in all the farm stores and internet farm forums said the same thing: birds get bugs.  I just thought… I hoped… I pretended… that two people who love each other and have the best intentions of keeping their animals happy would NEVER have bugs in their chicken coop.  Apparently, it takes a little more effort than that.  Well played, Nature.  Well played.

The coop- the big house– has been in action since 2008. I read that post and I laugh.  I roll on the floor and cackle.  “But they are so easy and so funny.”  Blah. blah. BLAH.  I’ve always gathered eggs daily and freshened hay accordingly.   It’s not always pretty- rain makes mud, raccoons ravage, winter is long and stale- but you clean as you go and life goes on.  Amazingly, it 4 years for any buggy creature to realize there was a nirvana within the walls… hay, feed, feathers, a little mud, and the occasional broken egg.  Add in Michigan’s recent summer of 100° days and you’ve got a perfect storm for a crawly explosion.  Good intentions, be damned.

While the coop (and water and feed and nesting boxes) gets cleaned out regularly, this was the first time it received a Deep Clean.  After clearing out the feed bins and tools, I brushed, scraped, and pitch-forked all the bedding out of every crevice and corner.  Then I sprayed it down with regular ol’ water from top to bottom.  This cleared out all the cobwebs and dust that had moved in with the ladies over the years.  Messy.  By this time, I was soaked and nasty and completely emotionally defeated.  Also, I gagged a little bit.  There may have been a few tears.  I used 100% vinegar and a backpack sprayer (similar to this one) to disinfect the coop before whitewashing. I used this recipe (Mother Earth News has one, too) for my whitewash:

1 gallon water
1 lb. salt or 2 cups
5 lbs. HYDRATED lime (white and fine like talcum power)
-mix in a 5 gallon bucket little by little (aim for pancake batter consistency)

Whitewashing brightens everything up inside small, dark barn spaces and has a little antibacterial action going for it, too.  It’s also much cheaper than paint.  I also painted the bottom of our apple tree saplings to help keep the sun and bugs at bay.

Everything I know, I learned.  The hard way.  So, lest you think I am SuperWoman living a dream out here in the country where the stars are bright and the moon is high… well, I am. But it’s not always local beef  and free-range bliss.

Because birds get bugs.

And I, I am a better farmer for it.

Surely, you’ve had some humble pie in your lifetime as well, Friend?  Lay it on me.


and the adventure begins

Regular Monday/Thursday postings are on a little break for awhile, but I wanted to pop in and let you know that the 55 Freedom Ranger chicks for our first Old School class arrived this morning!

At 5:45am.  Yes, ma’am.

They arrive by priority mail (naturally) in a ventilated cardboard box.  Chicks can survive for 2 days without food or water, thanks to the super-duper eggshell they are born in.  Eggs are amazing.  This allows them to be shipped pretty much anywhere.  These chicks were born Wednesday at 9am and were sitting at the post office bright and early this morning.

We chose Freedom Rangers (awesome name) from Pennsylvania. (website HERE)  They’ll grow with us for 10 weeks and then they’ll become, sigh, food.  That’s it.  Ten weeks.  These birds grow crazy fast.  We outfitted the mini-coop with a sliding plexi-glass window/door that allows for easy viewing.  In 3 weeks, the chicks will be allowed to graze outside and then return to the coop for bed. 

So, come on out and visit!  They’ll be here until Saturday, September 24th.   Bring your own chair because it doesn’t look like these kiddos are moving any time soon!



new digs

Curt returned from a business trip to Birmingham last night… we are fortunate to know some really incredible people down South, and we are so blessed to say they are all unharmed.  Everyone has such remarkable stories.  No one in the area has gone untouched- either physically or emotionally- from the fury that tore through last week.  If you have the means, may I recommend donating to the American Red Cross?  Growing up in a military family, the ARC was our emergency connection to home, and it will always stand for help and rescue in my book.

• • • • • • •

the mini-coop

I’d like to show you the new digs for our little peeps… finished and relocated on Sunday.  The mini-coop was designed and built entirely by Curt.  I believe I asked for “a box that opens.” I love my husband.

On Friday (before the coop was finished because that is how we so often roll) we managed to bring home 15 buff orpingtons that were ‘on sale’ at the local feed store.  One dollar each.  These ladies were a bit older than the other chicks, and I think the store was hoping to reduce their stock a bit.  Sure. Why not?

Chickens live to be about 7 years old.  Not that I’d personally know that.  We’ve had so many, erm, non-Disney-esque incidents that I no longer blink when a few ladies don’t punch their time cards in the morning.  Fencing and shelter are simply no match for our regular relentless visitors of raccoon, opossum, fox, hawk, and neighbor dog.  Also, sometimes I forget to close their door at night.  Because I am a terrible person and my children have caused me to lose. my. brain.  In my defense, it was never my life dream to be a Chicken Lady.  We got our first batch of chickens by accident and it just kind of went from there. 

Initially, I has grand visions of my children sitting on the porch, hugging their favorite fluffy bird and reading it bedtime stories. Big heart laugh, glowing smile, sunshine all the time.  Our reality at TexasNorth is a bit more practical. No names, no leashes, no serious long-term attachment.  Easy come, easy go.

Despite what our history implies, we do very much love our birds.  They’re super fun to watch.  Their compost supplements our garden and they eat oodles of bugs.  Not to mention, their eggs are fantastic.

This will house chicks, present and future, until they get their license to be with the big girls.  The mini-coop addition measures 4 feet by 6 feet and has 3 roof sections that open.  There’s also a side door (not quite finished yet) that will eventually give them access to the great outdoors and allow me to clean ‘er out.  The wood is left over from the basement project, and the roofing is left over from the big coop. Mini will get some blue paint and stars soon to dress her up, but for now we’re just concentrating on survivial.   These ladies are about a month old.  They’ll start laying eggs around 6 months of age and will continue for about 2 years.

Lord willing.

Obviously, they could use your prayers.

We should have bought more birds.


building coop #1  •  building coop #2  •  our first chicks


One thing I’ve noticed about living out-of-town is the measures folks will go to in order to make it work.  If last Thursday’s post didn’t convince you, let me try again.

Back in the day, you lived with your family until you got married.  You moved into a modest home, often only one or two rooms, and started your own family.  As your spacial needs grew and the snow thawed, rooms were added to homes and chicken coops and barns to accommodate new members and machines that needed cover.  You didn’t move.  Families stayed on the same property for generations, for better or for worse.

It’s rare these days to see expansion.  We see upgrading– moving into a bigger home, buying a bigger shed, tearing down and starting over.  But, we rarely see additions anymore. They make us think of poverty, Grapes of Wrath, Materials and personal lack-of-know-how have rendered the addition impractical.  It’s simply cheaper to move. 

We’re not moving.

But, we will need more space.  Eventually, a living addition with a bedroom and garage will be added to The Shoebox.  We finished half the basement just before SuperKid arrived, giving Rylie a bedroom of her own and a living room with carpet GodblessAmerica.  The bigger addition will not be needed for a while, but we’re going to start practicing.

We’ll be adding on to the chicken coop to make room for little peeps this summer.  Baby chicks need their own space until they are bigger enough to run with the big girls.  The big girls, well… they’re a bit like high school girls, if you catch my drift.  A little clique-ish, a little mean to newcomers. They need their space.

The mini-coop will be small enough that it will be impossible for me to become entrapped within.  Phew!  It will be large enough to hold chicks for a couple of months, and it will connect to the enclosed chicken yard to allow for exercise when they’re up for it. Ry has requested a little peep-hole to check on the birdies without taking the roof off, and that is brilliant.  We’re going to keep that kid.

I am simply the visionary around here.  The Boy does the heavy lifting.  But, we make a good team. 

And, a good home.

What would you change about your house, if you could?  Push out the kitchen?  Add another bathroom?  Create a mudroom?


We got up before God was awake this morning to have breakfast with Kevin and Sarah, who are in town from Sacramento. It was lovely… except for my husband who was running around the house this morning saying, “Goooooooood morrrrrrning, Kate! Isn’t this FUN? It’s like we’re married! Isn’t fun to get up together? GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD MOR. NING. Good morning. Hey, Kate? Good morning.” I shot him and now he is dead. After breakfast, Ry and I hit the grocery store. It’s like 6 o’clock now, right? When can I go to bed?

Today, class, I would like to share with you the anatomy of a Chicken Coop. Fantastic, some of you are saying. But, look. This here is the start of a farm slash ranch and therefore you must deal with the farm-ness of it all. On the other hand, I know some of you actually really dig all the farm talk. It’s different from ‘normal life’ these days. This is for you.

Ok. The chickens have been living here. (to your left) This is the coop Curt and I (sike… jus’ the Boy) built in an afternoon, ‘member? It has worked perfectly for the past 2 years. Now that we have 25 chickens we plan to protect from fox and hawk, we figured it was time to make a little more permanent structure.

Being in construction, The Boy comes across a lot of lumber, barns, trusses, etc. that are on their way to the burn pile. This entire coop, save the foundation, is all reclaimed and recycled… from the floor to the studs to the roof. I love that boy. The siding is from an old oak barn and in covered in 100% lead paint, I am sure. It’s been scraped and there’s no paint on the inside, so we’re ok.

There’s an old kitchen window here, complete with screen, that will face South. This will let in lots of light in the winter and help keep the birdies laying those yummy brown eggs. That little rectangle there is just a little peeping window for me… maybe a little window box will live there one day. And, a butterfly bush.

I can stand up in this coop! Just inside the door will be a little storage area for food, potting materials, AND… 2 doors for grabbing eggs. Then, another door for entering Chicken-ville. It’s hard to tell here, but those two larger rectangles will be the back of 6 nests where the hens will lay. I’ll be able get the eggs from the storage side without gettin’ in their business. Very cool. And, see… there’s the little peeping window behind it? The inside dividing walls are not finished yet… just studs for now.

There will be two covered “yards”… plenty of room for chicks to play outside and scratch and drive the kittens nuts. There will be a roof to keep Mister Hawk away. Curt has made 2 doors that attach to pulleys in the storage area. so I can open a chicken yard without having to actually walk inside their area. Brilliant, that man. Seriously. This thing could pass a permit inspection.

There’s also a larger hole on the North side that will allow me to sweep out the coop. The shavings and hay and feathers and bird poo will go right out that hole and into a pile next to the garden. Genius. So, you’re looking at the North side of the coop here (to your left)… there’s a people door, then my sweeping-out-the-poo door, and then a chicken yard door around the corner. Yes? The roof is tin and makes a wonderful sound in a thunderstorm… like we’re having right now. It will match our porch roof coming later this summer.

And that’s really all it takes, folks. I never really planned on having chickensthe first batch was an accident, you know. But they are so easy and so funny. They keep visitors’ children busy for hours! And those eggs… oh, man. Even store-bought-organic-free-range-massaged-daily chicken eggs can’t touch the taste from ones outta yer backyard. They’re fantastic. So fantastic, in fact, that I’ve decided when Curt takes over the world, I’m going to buy you all one of these: click here. How awesome are those???

So, there you go. A chicken coop. Come on over… they’ll put on a show for you.
Happy weekend, folks. Y’all come back now, ya here?

And, no, Curt’s not dead. I love him so much.
After 9am.

Texas North: now 25 times the fun!

That’s right, folks. Things were getting a little boring around here, so we took matters into our own hands. Nothing says F.U.N. like chickens, eh? Oh my gosh. It still makes me laugh. I don’t understand how these things happen.

Well, maybe I do. Saturday, Curt, [brother] Mitch, [sister] Megan, and [brother-in-law] Billy competed in an Amazing Race-style adventure race at Camp Roger. Last year, the money went towards building a huge classroom tree house. This year, all money raised goes to scholarships for kids this summer. Good times, great people. One of the events this time around was called ‘Barnyard Wrangle’ and involved herding 25 chickens into a pen. I, of course, asked what was going to happen to the chickens when the day was over and was told they were going to be released… Camp Roger style… which means left for the coyotes. Well. I figured if they were going to get eaten, they might as well come to the Farm and enjoy a couple nights of free-range bliss first. Why not. Curt, bless his heart, went right along with it.

Everything I know about raising chickens I learned from reading this book as a child. I read it again to the whole family yesterday so we could all be on the same page. Saturday night and Sunday found us internet researching for all we were worth and building a coop out of old barn wood (and I say ‘we’ because I really really helped- seriously).

[updated for the skeptics/confused/worried that we’ve lost our optimistic minds: The coop easily fits all the birds. The base is made of 2 pallets and the side walls are 3 ft. high. Yes, the roof is hinged- on both sides. Yes, they have a roost. Yes, there is a ramp for them to walk up. Yes, we feed them…free-range means they get to wander with no fences. Their in-take goes down significantly during the summer when they wander, though, ’cause they’re chompin’ on worms and bugs. We’re only half idiots here, people.]

We plan to let them wander during the day and then coop them up at night to keep them safe. Our grass is going to grow like crazy. I’ve found 2 beautiful eggs and put them in the fridge. Abe is happy as a clam…randomly scaring the feathers off them and then rolling in their poo. Curt is really good at grabbing them by the ankles and throwing them out of his garage. My Lanta. It’s going to be a funny summer.

They all have names- obviously. They won’t tell us them yet, but I suspect that will come in time. At least, I hope they open up. I’d like for this to be a friendly sort of farm. Our nieces Hailey and Marli are absolutely smitten with them and have named the rooster Peter. I hope he’s ok with that.