Friday, February 11, 2011

The Big Henhouse

I've been meaning to write this story for a long time, but this week has been a hard one here.  No, we don't have the huge drifts of snow that so many of you are dealing with... but the temps have been brutal, and we are very, very tired.  We get up before daylight to care for the animals, and stumbling around in the cold and icy ground underneath our feet is very wearing.  I still have to be at the office at 8 AM, and did not quite make it several days this week, so I am hoping I am back on a better schedule starting Monday.  We come home to daylight now, which is a blessing, but it was still cold work keeping animals fed.  From Tuesday through Friday, the starlings devastated the henhouse, and drank every drop of water and ate every bit of feed.  At least today both henhouses were opened, and it got to the mid-thirties. 

Our big henhouse was a small building formerly used on this strawberry farm as a place for the people who came to u-pick, or the migrant workers who did the heavy picking, to park their kids while they picked.  It had a heater and an air conditioner and there is a closet in it, and we suspected at one time it was home to someone.  Directly before we moved here, there was a father and two teenage sons living on this place.  They worked on cars in the big workshop, which is esentially a barn with a cement floor.  The little 12 x 16 building used as our henhouse was a clubhouse for these teenagers.  The day we got the keys, and came straight here to look over our land... we found this "clubhouse" devastated, and there had clearly been a beer party of several days, the furniture had been left in it, overturned and soiled, hundreds of cans, burned cigarettes... do I have to go further?  We opened the door and discovered it, and I had a brief moment of tears, and then got red hot mad.  I called the real estate agent who called the listing agent, who appeared the next day with two boys who cleaned the place out, dragging the furniture to the road along with many, many sacks of trash.... where she had it picked up.  I should also interject here that they left the house in the same condition, and had to clean it out, too. 

Anyway, we had already bought two pairs of birds, because I jumped the gun.  These two pairs, a rooster and hen, one Buff Brahma bantam pair and one Japanese bantam pair, were boarded at a friend's.  I was eager to get them here.  Keith finished cleaning the building out, and began to build a pen for the birds.

This is what it looked like at first:
You can see that there is a side pophole, and a rear pophole, and ramps leading down into the yard.  The pasture had not been fenced yet, so the birds had to be kept in for a while. 
That's Fred and Wilma, the Japanese white/blacktail bantams, at the foot of the ramp.
On the left you can see the window with the air conditioner, just outside the fence.  Notice there is still grass in the henyard!
On the inside, there are two rooms.  One is the feed room, but holds the nursing cage which hangs on the wall and sits on high legs... and the old rabbit hutch where Little Bunny Foo Foo lived in winter... but is now used to isolate birds... and a large cabinet we bought at a farm sale, where Butch roosts.

And where Angel, Eagle, and Reddy are currently living with Butch.  You see the feed cans to the left, and the rabbit hutch ahead of them. Right now, Rosie lays an egg in the rabbit hutch daily for me, so long as I leave the door open so she can get into the dark side to lay.
As you see, the floor of the feed room is now layered with litter just like the coop side, as the little ones have been living in there since fall.  Once they are old enough, they will go into the coop with the others, and I can get my feed room back to some semblance of normal.  Reddy is already crossing over at the top of the dividing wall to join the other birds.  Butch is soon to lose his harem, I'm afraid. 

Here is the nursing cage... we have used this for everything from baby rabbits to baby chicks and their mamas.  Unfortunately, mice have chewed through the walls behind it, and it was into this very cage that the black snake came to get the five chicks in September. You can just see the steel wool in the upper right and left hand corners to try to keep anything else from coming into the cage.  In the new henhouse we will have another nursing cage, but it will be snake proof.  There is a warming light above this cage, and last winter, Butch slept on it all winter.  Now he is roosting on the cabinet, which holds medicines, feeders, waterers, and electrical cords. 

This is a picture of the first chicks born here at Calamity Acres.  The black hen hatched them underneath the platform you see on the right.  The reason it has "walls" around it is the fact that she set the eggs underneath it.  Now we see mice and snakes go under there.  Keith put the walls there so that no other hen could set there.  Notice the drywall is still white and does not have mouse holes in it.
Our goal, when we build the new henhouse this spring, is to try to make it as impervious to vermin and snakes as we can.  We don't mind a few snakes, but we have had as many as seven in the henhouse at the same time.  It gets a little tiresome, and frankly, I WANT some eggs this spring!
The unique thing about this henhouse is that we built a stall at the front of it for Beau to use when he was in the yard, and he used it regularly, either when it rained, or when he just wanted some shade.  He would not let Lacey in it, and she would stand patiently waiting for him to come out.  Now it is used for storage.  We have a large crate to use if we have to ever evacuate the big dogs, and are trying to find another, and it and some other odds and ends are kept there. 
This last picture shows the closet still in there, where the little bantams have been eating and almost living in this bad weather.  They will be so glad to get outside for the weekend.  Next week we are expecting good weather, too, and though we will have mud from the snow, we need the moisture, and maybe, just maybe, the starlings will move on.

I am sorry I only posted a few nights this week... I tried last night, posted for two minutes, and realized I had loaded the wrong video.  I spent 45 minutes trying to get the right one to load and finally gave up and went to bed. 
I'm going to link this with Verde Farms, for Farm Friend Friday.  Feel free to go on over to Verde Farm and look at all the other farms who have linked up today!


  1. Isn`t it terrible when critters get into your chicken coop? Ours is pretty tight at night but during the day we`ve had everything from opossums to hawks get in to kill chickens. And we have yet to find a way to keep mice out.

  2. I struggled with raccoons when I first moved to my farm, and lost a lot of chickens to them in one particularly vicious raid. Now I don't have much problems. The dogs and llama keep most bigger rodents away. We have an occasional rat want to take up residence, but not usually for too long. I always feed a million mice and sparrows, but I make sure there's more food out than they can all eat. The peafowl take care of some of the mice and smaller birds also. Hope your weather improves.

  3. I really enjoyed this post. I have no idea how things are run on a farm - loved the sneak peek. Although it sound soo tiring. You must love it though!

    Enjoy your weekend!

  4. Hey Lady--love this post...when I click on your thumbnail for FF Friday--it doesn’t take me to your blog--it takes me to the blogger sign in page. Do you want me to take it down and you re-link it so everyone can find this great post? I googled it to see where it came from so I could fix it. So glad you joined us. I know the struggles of critters and chickens--I can feel your pain.
    E-mail me at

    Happy Saturday friend,

  5. Sounds like a good use for the ol clubhouse. I know the birds will be glad to get some outside time.


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