Wednesday 1 August 2012

Chicken Run

Here is a completed project that's been a long time coming.
When the chicken coop was originally built, there was supposed to be an outdoor run attached to the north side of the building.
I was lucky to get the main structure up before that winter,
let alone get the addition put up too.
That was several years ago,
and it has always been my intention to finish the job.
There never seemed to be the time, nor any pressing reason to get it up.

Now we have well over one-hundred chickens.
I believe there are probably almost one-hundred and fifty.
That has always been my goal, but we have never had the means to do it until this year.
Of course everything has been easy going so far,
but the birds are getting bigger and will quickly outgrow the space they have now.
They are not quite big enough to allow outside,
so it was time to get this outdoor run ready to accommodate some chicks.

I've actually had the roof up for a few weeks now,
but it has taken some time to get to putting the wire mesh on and build a door.
I didn't go crazy preparing the ground so the only straight line is the roof.
The mesh follows the ground contour and that proved to be a tricky task.
It took longer than I'd hoped to install the barriers on all sides.

The chicks are busy and curious and many of them watched me work for the duration.
I have some new favourites now because of that.
They are eager to get outside.
Not desperate; there is yet enough room for them.
But chickens are outgoing and inquisitive; they'll be very excited to explore some fresh ground.
Tomorrow morning I will let them into the new run.
It just needs a few finishing touches to make it chick-safe.
There will still be some special additions to make the run cozy and fun.
There's no reason why they can't spend the night out there,
so I'll put some roosts up.
They're also ready for a bigger feeder, so that will be set up too.

I have no real experience with conventional chicken housing.
By all accounts,
chickens are housed in much tighter quarters than they ought to be.
There are formulas to go by that make ratio suggestions of chickens per square foot.
In real life, I have found those numbers to fall directly on the line between good care and abuse.
And though we may push the limits, we also know that pushing too hard means problems.
Many overcrowding problems are dealt with barbarically in the factory farming sector.
We prefer to strike a balance between efficient production,
and ethical treatment of our birds.
I have no problem at all showing our chickens and their housing to even the staunchest of animal rights activists.

It's great to complete a project that you know will give results year after year.
Once a structure like this is up, it continues to serve it's purpose.
However, the woodshed is still occupied by chickens.
And the barn holds our layers.
Though they work well, both are supposed to be temporary housing.
There is at least one more chicken building to go up before we expand any further.
A proper layer coop is in the works.
I only hope it doesn't take as long as this new outdoor run has.

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