Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Spring is coming!

I can tell because the driveway is almost clear of ice on the actual driving surface, and the average level of snow is a little below knee deep rather than a little above knee deep. It is warm and pleasant outside by comparison, and the mist is epic. Obviously with the indicators of spring's impending arrival we are excited about a whole bunch of things, and our minds are whirling with how to most efficiently handle everything we need to do while still both working full time plus.

As you can see Above Halley and Comet are doing well, and growing quickly. Their personalities have differentiated quite a lot with one being very friendly, and the other a bit skittish.  We will be breeding them in  a bit over a month after this first litter of the season comes. Speaking of that, Dawn is rotund and continuing to work on her nest. She started pulling fur today, again, early. She just does that. On the other hand, Twilight hasn't started doing anything in regards to a nest. I'm going to put some cardboard down for her tomorrow so there is a good place to build at least, but I am not certain she knows what to do exactly since this will be her first go around. Hopefully by seeing Dawn being a good mother just across the way she will be able to learn from that. It also helps that she comes from good lines.

So in this time of whirling thoughts and preparation concepts, the Lady of the House had an idea. As you may gather from the photo Left and Below, it involves the mostly under used garage. Now, the upstairs is thoroughly used by the Studio for the Lady of the House which is, while not perfect yet, functional. The downstairs right now is holding stuff. Mostly stuff we had put there to move up to the studio, and stuff that belongs to our former housemate that she hasn't been able to move out yet. There's also stuff we shouldn't have bothered moving and should throw away, and will when we can afford a dumpster. All of that said, you may have noticed that that area isn't used as a garage. Now as we clear things out we Can now use it as a garage, but there's still an awful lot of space. I'd been thinking "What an awesome place to use for a woodworking/building things in general shop." And it certainly would be good for that, but as I said, the Lady of the House had an idea that may change how we use that space.
 What if we built the chicken coop inside the garage?

Simple question, but there's a lot to it that makes it brilliant.

1: There are a lot of predators in the area, and for the most part the danger with them would be if they got in to the coop. Obviously them running down chickens outside would be bad as well, but securing the coop is a major concern. Inside the garage would be very secure since it's a solid structure that animals for the most part avoid due to how much we use it.

2: No less major of a concern is that building the coop is expensive for us. $500 in materials is just barely at the limits of what we might be able to scrape together, and even with building with pallets if that's the route we'd gone, we would need to spend at least that between drainage, foundation materials, and roofing.  If we build it in the back right corner it would cut our materials by %50 or so, negate the need for foundations at all, negate the roof, and make the space taller.

3: I could work with pallets almost exclusively, and free is king right now. I'd need around 15 pallets, maybe a few more depending on the exact design I worked out. Not too many though all things considered. I think I actually have that many around at the moment which would make it easy to do.

4: We wouldn't have to shovel an additional path to get to the chicken coop. This may sound frivolous, but seriously, I'm doing more than enough shoveling right now to keep me busy, tired, and sore. Adding an additional 50 - 100 feet to my shoveling requirements wouldn't be nothing. We already shovel to the garage so the Lady of the House can get to her studio. In the same basic thing, we'd be seeing the chickens regularly on our normal path of life, which would make us more likely to notice something wrong than if it's off over there where we don't go except for animal care.

Now there are problems with it obviously. Some of them are potentially serious, but I think design wise I have or can fix all of them.

1: Humidity. The garage has been very humid in the past, and tends to be at least modestly humid no matter what due to its location. You don't want it humid in a chicken coop. How would I cope with that design wise? I'd pull out the windows in the coop area, and cover them with hardware cloth to keep predators out. By having those openings up high to help get the humid air out, and the inside walls mostly open due to pallet building it'll have good ventilation.

2: But then wouldn't there be a draft that could chill the chickens in the winter? Well, maybe, but because it is situated in the garage I don't think it would be a concern. Especially if I situate the roosting perches on the solid walls so the air flow isn't going right over the chickens. Beyond that I can also, if I find there is too much air movement, make the inside walls mostly solid with vents on the bottom only.

3: By keeping the bottom of the garage mostly open, won't that make heating the studio above harder. Yes and no. 1: Heat rises, cold sinks. 2: We really need to put solid insulation in between the joists anyhow which will do nothing to the chickens but will make the studio warmer.

While it isn't a perfect situation necessarily, with our budget and the specific set up, it could be amazing. This is something I will update as I get to think on it more, design more, and figure things out!


  1. That is a brilliant idea (though I have to ask where you keep the car/snowblower). Personally, I would be most concerned about the smell. Some of the animal facilities I've worked in had a serious smell problem, even though they were pretty good about cleaning. The ammonia just seeps into the walls.

    Have you considered sealing the cement/concrete floor and walls? We did that in our garage to make it easier to clean and keep a little bit of the humidity out. I wouldn't think it would be toxic (we put it on with a mop) after it dries, but you'd have to check.

    Yay for cheap!

    1. Hmmm, good thought. I remember trying to clean the concrete floors at Boot Camp that were un sealed, and it being a Sisyphean task since it wasn't ever really clean. I'll look in to that. The smell was something I was figuring would be mostly ameliorated by having good ventilation and a reasonable number of chickens per square foot. That said if the walls are impermeable to yuck, or at least mostly so it would make it that much better. Thanks for the idea.

    2. I'm of two minds, one is that the idea has some fantastic merits in terms of convenience. The other is the instinctual "but what about all the poop in your home space?" reaction.

      I will second the concern about smell, concrete tends to act fantastically as a sponge for scents, particularly those from bodily fluids (think of a basement that reeks of cat urine when no cats have been in the house for years). I will also like to put out for consideration the increased attraction and access for small critters to infiltrate your home due to the nice warm food source that you would be creating in the chicken space (at least if you do any feeding inside the coop, which I suppose is optional).

    3. As a note, it's not actually in or near our home. It's a good 50 yards away on a separate foundation. The small critters are a concern out there, but mostly for the chickens. I suspect that simply distributing some of the pet rat poop around the perimeter of the garage will probably minimize or eliminate the vermin problem.

      I'm definitely going to be looking in to finding a concrete sealer though. That said, unsealed concrete is noted as the "Ideal surface" for keeping chickens on since they do have 6-8" deep of litter. *shrugs* We shall see with research.