Saturday, 17 March 2012
The Great Chicken Adventure
Visiting my grandparent's house always entailed letting the hens out of the coop in the morning and hunting among the nest boxes for warm, freshly laid eggs. I can still smell that coop and picture the old dilapidated piano left inside for the hens to roost on. Their gentle clucking is one of those sounds that instantly reminds me of the comfort and safety of weekends on the farm.
Decades of urban living later and I'm back to where I started - in the country. It's not the country of my birth but the Isle of Man is certainly becoming home to both me and my city-born husband. It's been a funny and sometimes mind-opening experience introducing him to all things country; from growing vegetables to having pets to the hard graft of shoveling manure and building practical things from wood. You really take the home education of your childhood for granted until you meet someone from a completely different background. He takes it in his stride though and is keen to learn more, especially when it comes to building things. He even thinks he's going to take over my garden shed and turn it into his private workshop - fat chance!
So over the last year we've been discussing a number of projects and one of them has been the idea of keeping a few hens in the garden. For me, chickens are both a practical and emotional venture - and the first step to our dream of raising more farm animals in the future. We'll eat the free-range eggs they lay and use the manure they produce in our garden. But their presence will also be a piece of a puzzle I'm trying to put back together - happy childhood memories that I want our own children to have one day.
We finally took the first step to our chicken project this week when we ordered a small chicken coop off the internet. We'd have bought it locally but couldn't find anything really appropriate for our needs. Our plan is that when we eventually upgrade to a larger structure that my husband's woodworking skills will be up to building one himself.
In any case, our little wooden hen house from Amazon.co.uk will be perfect for the three hens we hope to adopt this spring. It has two nest boxes which are accessible from outside the coop, built-in roosts, a small ventilation panel, a floor that slides out for easy cleaning and both back access and front ramp doors that can be closed in the evenings. It will arrive flat-pack in the next few days and so we hope to have it erected by this time next week.
The house and fenced-in run will be set-up on a bit of spare land next to the shed in our back garden. It has been a bit of unused land filled with rubble left over from the builders and nettles and ivy which creep in from the hedge. We've cleaned it out and leveled the surface quite a bit and are confident that it's more than enough room for three hens. In fact, we're planning on closing off one half of it at a time so that grass will be able to grow for the hens to peck at. I've seen a similar system used for grazing cattle and think it'll work well with a chicken run as well. This place is also really practical since it's just below my raised beds. I easily can toss in bits of extra greens and slugs that I find lurking among my crops.
It doesn't look like much now but it will come together soon - I'll post up some more pictures with our progress as things develop.
I hope you have a lovely weekend