My dream coop is finished! And it far exceeds my dreams… of course, because my Dad built it! We made a few finishing touches the last couple of days, but it was close enough to move Alberta and Frances in on Friday night. As much time as they’ve been hanging out in there during the building process, I think they were a bit surprised to have a sleep over. I was curious where they would sleep, since they haven’t been roosting to sleep yet inside, just cuddled up in a corner, so I assumed they would do the same in the coop. I purposely didn’t put any pine shavings in the nesting boxes yet, so they wouldn’t get into the habit of sleeping in those. I went out to check on them when it got dark, and they were curled up in the corner by the front door. They were a little freaked out, so I cuddled them a bit and sang them a song, which seemed to settle them down. I’m sure the many night noises were disturbing, and they were probably visited by curious cats peeking in. My husband also spotted a whole family of raccoons strolling through in the middle of the night, but he said they seemed more interested in Gloria’s little coop. (poor Gloria! But at least she is used to their visits).
Without further ado…. here are photos of the finished coop (& courtyard):
And from the front with my other silly kids:
From the side, with all the girls (I had to bribe them with corn to get them all in the photo):
And here’s how it will look wide open on our favorite pleasant free-ranging days:
I thought it needed some decoration, to give it a bit of chicken personality, and to match the white paint on the window. I was thinking of little chickens, but when I told my husband about it, he said (jokingly, I think) “Why not a dragon?” I laughed, but after trying my sketches in paint on wood and not being happy with them, I started playing with the paint the way it seemed to want to be applied on the wood, and my chicken became very dragon-like. So now we have 3 guardian chicken-dragon sigils on the doors and windows. May they scare away away all predators of evil intent! Long live House Fluffy! (named after our sweet pullet that got killed by a raccoon, and the reason we’ve become so vigilant about predator proofing.)
Closeups of the chicken dragons:
Mae wanted to try painting on wood also… of course the local art critics had to look on:
The kids tried the coop out first by eating dinner in there. Mae thought it would be fun to have a sleepover with the chickens sometime… until she laid down and looked up to see what was right over her head… maybe not. :-)
The next morning, the little girls hopped up on their roosts to have a look around:
Yes, Alberta, you can get up now!
Gloria didn’t mind hopping up there for a bit when there was food to tempt her:
Hanging Feeders at last! No more poop in the water! (I hope.)
Lots of lovely dirt to scratch around and bathe in (come on up and join the party, worms!)
Extra clips on the closed latches (simple, but effective) also double as a way to keep the door open while free-ranging.
The ramp, with the door closed. (the handle matches the slide-in coop window) We thought about installing a pulley system for this door, as in the original design, but it will probably remain open most of the time, so we didn’t bother with it. It just slides up, and we put in a pin to hold it there. The ramp and the coop floor are both made from boards that my Dad made himself from hemlock trees on his property. (cool, huh?)
Now, our biggest challenge ahead of us will be how to move Gloria in. I’m fine with them living separately right now, at least for the next few weeks as the little girls finish their growing up. I don’t want them to free-range unattended during the day as they are still small enough to be stalked by cats, and Gloria needs to have access to her nesting box. But the bigger issue is that Frances and Alberta are still incredibly scared of Gloria, and freak out whenever she gets close. They have good reason to be, since she can act totally nonchalant most of the time, then “attack” them out of nowhere. I’m trying to understand her perspective. I don’t think she means to hurt them, and mostly I think she wants to just hang out with them (besides making sure they don’t receive better treats). But she is a bit of a tyrant, perhaps because they are smaller, and they still seem like intruders, only coming into the yard periodically. I’m hoping that as they reach their full size, and start free-ranging all day with her, this dynamic will change, but what if it doesn’t? I keep trying to tell her that all of this effort and intrusion started as a gift to her… so she can have friends and a nicer place to live, but I don’t think she believes me.
If things don’t change naturally, is there a point when I should just move her over there during the night, and close up the other coop? I shudder to think of doing that right now, the little ones might have a heart attack. Are they ever going to feel less threatened by her? Any advice about this transition is welcome. :-)