Getting a chicken coop

We moved from an apartment into our rental house this June.  My friend Liz had a large backyard flock of about 50 chickens, and was looking to downsize her flock. We planned to take four of them, so the first step was to buy or build a coop to house them.

I quickly learned that pre-built coops are ridiculously expensive. At tractor supply, a cheap coop for four chickens is about $230.

http://www.tractorsupply.com/en/store/precision-extreme-cape-cod-chicken-coop-4-chicken-capacity

Even on Craigslist, the cost of a chicken coop isn’t usually much better. A comparably sized chicken coop still costs at least $200, unless you get a lucky deal. We decided to probably build our own, but I kept checking Craigslist daily in case I could get that lucky break.

Then one day, there was a post on Craigslist where someone was trying to give away a large doghouse. There were no dimensions posted, but the ad specified that it would take multiple guys to load it, and it featured two doggy doors for a large breed of dog. We called the owner within 15 minutes of the ad being posted, but she said that someone had already claimed it. Disappointed, I went back to planning out what materials I would need to build my own coop.

The next morning, the lady called us back and said that she’d had multiple no-shows, so we were next on her list of people who wanted it, and that if we wanted it, we’d have to hurry and be there quickly. So my husband David, roommate Ann and I borrowed Ann’s parents’ truck and headed out there. When we arrived, we quickly realized that the doghouse was a lot bigger and a lot heavier than we thought it would be. Later measurements showed it to be 6’4″ feet long by 4’3″ feet wide. Standard backyard chicken keeping advice is to have at least 4 square feet of floor space per standard sized chicken. That means our soon-to-be coop was big enough for 6 chickens!

It ended up taking about 5 strong men to barely be able to lift it and struggle their way to put it in the back of our truck. David tried to help, but it was difficult to be coordinated about it because the other men at the house only spoke Spanish.

We got the coop back to the house and drove the truck to the yard where we wanted it, but then were faced with the task of lowering it from the truck bed onto the ground. There was no way that David, Ann and I could do it by ourselves, so we got both of Ann’s parents to come, one of Ann’s friends, and one of David’s friends. Eventually we succeeded in getting the coop off the truck, but it was quite an ordeal, even for four men and three women.

So that’s how we ended up with a fantastic deal on our chicken coop. It still needed some work like a good coat of paint to protect it somewhat from the elements, more doors for the humans to collect eggs and get inside to clean it, and areas at the top for ventilation. But most of the work and materials had already been provided for us, for free!

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More on what was going on with all the digging, in the next post!

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Introduction

This blog will chronicle my adventures in seeking to grow some of my own food in a way that is kind to people, animals, and nature. My faith will play an integral role as I wrestle with how to accomplish these things.

Yah (the God of Judaism and Christianity) teaches us to give some of our excess to the less fortunate, and I would like this to be an integral part of what I do, both through directly giving away produce when I have abundance, and through teaching and inspiring others to try their own hand at gardening, foraging, and/or raising livestock.

 When you reap your harvest in your field, and have forgot a sheaf in the field, you shall not go again to get it: it shall be for the foreigner, for the fatherless, and for the widow; that Yehovah your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.  Deuteronomy 24:19

Yah also reminds us to treat our animals humanely. We should care about their suffering and do our best to minimize it. We should make sure that their life as a chicken, or a sheep, or a goat, or a cow, is worth living, with minimal pain and distress. We should treat them with mercy and compassion.

Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel. Proverbs 12:10

Learning about the misery that animals endure in factory farms led me to become vegan for eight years. I was never against eating eggs or dairy or meat, so long as animals were allowed to be animals, and treated mercifully. That’s why I planned to eventually seek out a local farm that I could trust to be ethical with how the animals were raised and slaughtered. By the time I was cooking for myself rather than eating in college dining halls, and my husband and I had a car, I was satisfied with my vegan diet. I ate well, and knew lots of healthy, tasty recipes. So I didn’t have the motivation to resume eating animal products as I had planned.

This past summer, we moved into a rental house with 11 acres of land. I am yearning to grow more and more of my own food, through a vegetable garden and also by finding a way to ethically raise my own animals. I don’t completely know where this desire to raise animals comes from. I know it’s partly because I love watching animals and taking care of them. I know I would like to show others that factory farmed animal products are not the only option.

All that said, I wrestle with finding the best practices for vegetable gardening and animal husbandry. I will never have all the answers, but I will find some of them by discussing them and trying to work through them.

I grew up in Kentucky on about 25 acres of land, and we had gardens, fruit trees, chickens, ducks, cattle, horses, and bees. But most of what we grew was during my early childhood, so I have very little practical experience. I am learning as I go.

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