Category Archives: Chickens

Tragedy Strikes (Again)

It’s the sort of thing that anyone who owns chickens dreads—coming out and finding a bunch of feathers in the yard. I started walking the paths and discovered other patches of feathers, no birds except two: Patty and Third. Patty survived our first dog attack almost six years ago. Third was one of three of our youngest hens.

Patty Survivor, Patty

Up over the hill, I found more feathers. Then a portion of one chicken. Not much left except wings, a bit of a backbone, and a foot. Nearby I found Minion, badly mauled and near death. She couldn’t be saved.

A bit farther on I found the place where dogs or coyotes had dug under our fence to get into the yard. Also feathers from Flighty, a tough survivor from our second group of hens.

Further searching showed scattered patches of feathers but no other remains. No sign of the attacker or attackers, who must have gone back under the fence.

I piled stones and wood along the base of the fence to block off the spot where they dug under. Maybe it will keep them out.

I buried Minion and the remains of the other chicken, either Floppy or Paltry, no way to tell which. Along with Baldy and Flighty, they were gone.

I walked the property with Xander and Kate without discovering anything more.

I moved our dome coop closer to the house—though from feathers outside, whatever attacked had come right up behind the house. Patty and Third went inside, so I locked them safely away for now.

It’s sad. I’m sad. I haven’t been eating eggs since switching to a whole foods, plant-based diet, but I enjoy seeing the chickens. I feel bad that they died being chased, mauled, and devoured by a predator. Eventually, I want a better fence system around the property, both for privacy and security.

Not the way I planned on starting the day.

Geodesic Chicken Coop Completed

This afternoon I finished the project I’d wanted to finish last week – the geodesic chicken coop from Zip Tie Domes is finished!

Completed Coop
Completed Coop

Chicken Wire

After working on the dome the last time, I still needed to finish covering it. That meant getting the dome covered in chicken wire, adding a tarp, perches, hanging the food and water, and including the nest boxes.

It takes a while to add the chicken wire. The folks at Zip Tie Domes estimated something like three hours and recommended having help. That would have made it easier.

We opted to use a 2″ wire for the upper parts and 1″ for the lower. I worked on it a couple times and had the lower level done and part of the upper level covered. Today  I spent a couple more hours covering the rest and using zip-ties to fasten everything in place.

Finishing Touches

Next up was adding the perches, food, water, and nest boxes.

Natural Perches
Natural Perches
New hanging bucket with nipples
New hanging bucket with nipples
Nest boxes
Nest boxes

Last Details

I have a few other details still to add. Anchors, to make sure it doesn’t blow over, and handles so that it’s easier to move. The tarp I bought was larger and covers more of the dome so it’ll have to be unhooked along the bottom to reveal handles once they’re added.

After a few days to get used to the new coop we’ll start letting the chickens roam again. The coop will move around the property a few feet at a time. Maybe weekly, we’ll see. The main thing is just not leaving it in one place for too long.

Old Coop

The old shack/coop will eventually come down and be removed, but that’s a project for another time!

Geodesic Chicken Coop

Our current chicken coop is an old shed that has fallen to disrepair over the years. It was old when we moved in, and we fixed it up enough to house the chickens, but it really wasn’t the best solution.

One of our goals for this year was to get the chickens into new housing. For quite a while we looked at coop houses made out of livestock panels, and those had several features that we liked.

  • They can be moved. That’s important, even though we generally let the chickens roam most of the time, it would be nice not to have the coop always in one place. A light-weight coop that can be moved is a plus.
  • Inexpensive. The panel coops are relatively inexpensive to build, which is always nice feature, and one of the biggest issues with homesteading as the initial setup costs.
  • Roomy. We wanted a coop that could house more chickens, and something that we could stand up in.
  • Sanitary. We also wanted it to be easier to clean. Being able to move the coop helps with that, but wood also rots over time. THe panel coops typically use wood, but not much and it can be replaced.

The problem we ran into with the livestock panel approach was actually the livestock panels themselves. At 16 feet long and 50 inches wide, they don’t really fit in the VW beetle. Even my dad’s pickup truck, with an extended bed, isn’t big enough to haul livestock panels that will stick out at least 6 feet or more from the back of the truck. I had asked at the feed store how people transported panels, and they said with a long trailer, which makes perfect sense. We don’t have access right now to a truck and a long trailer. And it’d be a little overkill for a couple panels for one small coop anyway.

Geodesic Designs

When the hoop house idea didn’t pan out, I started thinking about other sorts of materials. What about a hoop house made out of some sort of PVC pipe? I’d seen greenhouses done that way. Although most of the green houses weren’t designed to be portable in the sense that you could drag it to a new location. It might be portable since you can take them down on and rebuild them somewhere else, but that wasn’t really what I was looking for. Then I started thinking about geodesic structures, which have always fascinated me, but how would I do the hubs on the geodesic structure?

It raised the obvious question: had anyone else already solved all of those problems and built a geodesic chicken coop? A quick search online turned up the folks at Zip Tie Domes. Created by the Hurt family, Zip Tie Domes produces a variety of domes for livestock housing, including chickens, and designed to be used as greenhouses.

This looked like the exact sort of thing I had been thinking about. Lightweight, easy to move, and still somewhat within the price range that I had in mind for the project. After talking it over we decided to go ahead and order their small 10 foot dome chicken coop kit.

Assembly part one

The dome kit (poultry edition), came in two large boxes weighing 51 pounds and 41 pounds. Inside were the materials to construct the dome itself. That’s all the PVC struts, the patented hubs, handles, door struts, and of course, zip ties. They also provided a copy of the manuals that are also available on the website.

After unpacking boxes and removing the wire that bound all the struts together in a role, I started to work on building the dome. The process of building the dome is pretty simple. It really doesn’t require much in the way of building skill. Anyone who can follow simple directions shouldn’t have any problem. The basic construction method used is to insert the PVC struts into the hub and attach it to the center ring with zip ties. That gets repeated over and over again.

Laying Out Struts
Laying Out Struts

 

First Tier Raised and Inspected
First Tier Raised and Inspected

 

Second Tier Rising
Second Tier Rising

 

Second Tier Raised
Second Tier Raised

 

Completed Dome
Completed Dome

Next steps

It took maybe about two hours to put the dome together. About the time that they had estimated on their website. With a larger dome I would’ve needed a ladder to reach the upper levels, but in the 10 foot dome the top is easily within reach. High enough to stand up at the center. The dome kit comes with two struts to form a diamond-shaped door on one side (by removing one strut from the top of the first tier). With the dome complete the next step will be finishing it off.

After building the dome it will get covered with chicken wire, a large tarp, and I will add the door. The kit also comes with a number of PVC handles to attach to the framework, to make it easier to move the coop. It also needs to be anchored against wind which could potentially blow the coop over. The folks at Zip Tie Domes use bungee cords and cinder blocks that anchor the dome. I picked up a swingset anchor kit, which has four screw into the ground anchors that attach to a chain which is bolted to a metal band that can be fastened around the struts. The ground anchors may provide a more secure mounting, but might not be as easy to move as the concrete blocks. Depending on how much we move it, we may find that the anchors don’t exactly work as we want. We’ll see. Along with the new digs and I picked up a couple I high-sided litter boxes to use as nest boxes, and a new water bucket with nipples to provide clean water. It’ll be suspended from the dome structure, as will their food and roosts.

I’ll post again when we get the next phase of the project done and get the chickens moved into their new home.

Cleaning Up

The septic has been covered again with screened topsoil this time so it won’t be full of rocks the next time it has to be dug up. The rocky soil removed will get used elsewhere to fill in holes and level off areas where it won’t matter. Today we also took a truck-load of trash from the pile off to the dump. Until my folks moved nearby we hadn’t had access to a truck to help get rid of all of the trash we’ve gathered here on the property. There’s still more to be removed, but we’ve made a start at cleaning it up at least.

We’re also working on figuring new coop plans for the chickens.

Warmer Weather

Freezing this morning, but with clear skies the temperature rapidly shot up. We took advantage of the warm weather to get outside and work on some projects that we’ve been talking about.

Mainly, I ran to the store to buy lumber and soil and compost to create our first raised bed. After not having much luck with the garden over the past few years we thought we’d try something different.

Chickens Investigate

Everybody was out today. Chickens, dogs, and the kid! It was fun in the sun today.

Raised Bed

End result? A raised bed. I wrapped a temporary fence around the whole thing to keep the chickens out!

Cluck cluck, Gobble gobble

Our neighbors (whose dogs killed our chickens) bought us some replacement chicks and when we were at the store picking them out we also picked up 4 turkey poults. They’re all in a brooder box in our living room. So far this time raising birds hasn’t been as messy. We’re using wood shavings instead of the pellet bedding we used last time. That stuff was so dusty!

Turkey poults.
McCoy checking out the birds.

We have 4 broad breasted white turkeys (I believe that’s what they were), 2 rhode island red pullets, 4 black star sex link pullets. Ren, one of our dog attack survivors is a rhode island red.  I was hoping the feed store would have some chicks that will lay blue or green eggs but they sell out of those super fast! We got the birds on May 7th and they’ve grown so much since them. The turkeys are much bigger than the chicks and they keep trying to fly. It’s fun watching them grow and listening to their chirps but I cannot wait to get them out of the house!

Garden Update

We’ve had such a cold and wet spring so our garden has gotten a late start. April 11th was one of our first nice days (that also coincided with Ryan’s days off!) and Xander and Ryan turned over the garden bed.

Digging in the garden.
Working hard.
Muddy toes!

The problem with doing catch up posts is things are out of order, when we were working in the garden we had the chickens close by hoping for worms and other tasty things. Now only 2 of them are still alive.

RIP: Aplets, Peaches, and Mariah looking for bugs.

The next week, April 17th, we had an even warmer day. Ryan got some seeds started in the garden while Xander helped find rocks.

Ryan and Poppy Seed
Oops, left the door open! 2 of the 5 shown survived the dog attack.
Xander found a rock!

After the planting that day we went for a walk, all of us.

Hens and Poppy Seed
Poppy Seed and McCoy
Ryan and Xander climbing a tree.
Chickens like climbing trees too!

Unfortunately warm days like that one have been few. Yesterday, Ryan said that some of the seeds he planted have started to sprout. Hopefully it will be sunny  or at least not raining this weekend and we’ll be able to get more seeds started. We also need to dig an area for the tomato plants that Ryan’s parents are bringing us at the end of May. Our garden news is up to date!

Sad and Angry

I was going to title this post Massacre or Tragedy but those seem over the top and Sad and Angry really is what I am feeling. I looked out the window this morning and saw weird things in the yard, at first I thought it was the wood shavings we use for bedding but they didn’t look right. Finally my brain figured it out…

Feathers, lots and lots of feathers. I ran outside and found different piles of feathers.

What I first noticed from the kitchen window.
More feathers.
This hen laid an egg while being attacked!

Then on the far side of the coop I found Peaches.

RIP Peaches

At the same time I found Peaches I also heard noises in the woods and saw the culprits.

The neighbors dogs aka Chicken Killers.

The house on the East side of us is empty most of the time, seems like the owner and his friends only show up on weekends or so. They just leave the dogs with food, no attention whatsoever. We feel really sorry for the dogs, or at least I did until they killed my chickens!

I tried to get the dogs out of our yard but they wouldn’t listen to me at all and they knocked Xander over (not being aggressive just super in your face friendly) and I just freaked out. Called Ryan pretty hysterical, he was on his way to a meeting (pulled over before answering the phone) and came home instead. He was able to hook a leash around the one dog and the other one followed. Then he walked the fence line and found where they had dug under and he filled it in and put rocks there. He buried Peaches and then had to get changed and go to another meeting.

While Ryan was dealing with the dogs and fence and burial, Xander and I were walking around looking for chickens– alive or dead. We found Patty!

Patty the leader of our coop!

I was able to catch Patty and later Ren and put them in the coop. No signs of any other chickens or corpses. Patty is walking around the chicken yard calling out mournful cries, it’s horrible! We’re hoping some of the other chickens are still alive and just hiding but obviously some of them must be dead (from the amount of feathers) and either eaten or dragged into the neighbors property.

I’m keeping our dogs on leash for the next few days. Don’t want them finding injured or dead chickens and getting bad ideas! This day SUCKS!