We found the first egg from our chickens this weekend - a whole month ahead of schedule. It is beautiful, but should really be solid gold considering how much it cost. It didn't seem like a lot at the time, but when you add it up, it's a little scary.
We got the chickens in October last year for about $80. Over the last four months we've spent almost $500 on heat lamp fixtures, heat lamp bulbs, bedding material, chick and chicken feeders and waterers, organic food and a few toys. They spent the first couple of months inside, then we moved them outside in December. We were lucky to have a shed that worked great as a chicken house with just a few modifications, about $100 for wood and wire and flashing. It has a person door, windows for ventilation and insulation and Sheetrock. The problem was that they just kept growing and growing. The house is a good size, 5 square feet per bird, but they really needed more room.
We did a lot of research and planned a chicken run. With the predators here, it needed to be strong and secure. With posts and wire and mesh for the roof it was almost a $1,000. With all the other projects, it just had to wait. We finally started construction in November and got four corner posts in just as that freezing cold weather hit. By the time it warmed up enough to pour concrete again, our wonderful handyman, Sam, had hurt his back. Then other projects, like our new solar panels, took all our attention for a while.
I kept feeling so guilty about the chickens, so we started working on it again and I'm happy to announce we finished over Presidents' Day weekend. Strong fence posts to withstand the wind. Heavy gauge ranch wire to keep out coyotes and other critters. The flying predators were more of a challenge. We covered the run with a custom shade cloth we ordered from Silver State for $350. It's attractive and strong and should keep the hawks and owls outside while keeping the chickens inside. Plus it lets in enough sun during the winter while providing needed shade in the summer.
I think the only real danger left is our dog, Sophie. We love her, but she's a Lab. They've been bred for hundreds of years to catch birds so her instinct is to get into that pen. We've been training her, but clearly it is going to take time and we may have to extend our invisible dog fence around the pen. In the meantime, we created a wire mesh perimeter and buried it under rocks and dirt. So glad we did, because we came home the first day to find something had been digging under the gate, the one spot we didn't protect. Stop by for a tour sometime so we can show off our chicken palace.
Reach Karen Brier at RuhenstrothRamblings@yahoo.com, or 790-0072.