Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Chickens and the neverending coop - part 1

As alluded to in our previous post, we have joined the world of chicken ownership! It's been quite a journey already!

We'd been bouncing around the idea at least since going on the Raleigh "Tour D'Coop" chicken coop tour back in May, if not before. Raleigh has a head start on chicken coops since it's been legal there for quite a few years, so there are some really impressive and well-established coops on that tour. In Durham, chickens have only been permitted for the last three and a half years, but permitted they are nonetheless. We checked our homeowners' association (HOA) bylaws and found that they also permit chickens, so we decided to go ahead with it!

Knowing that we'd have to get our HOA architectural review committee (ARC) to approve the coop design and construction, we planned to have a coop professionally built for us by a local builder specializing in coops (whose work we'd seen on the tour) rather than attempting to build it ourselves. That way we could be confident that we and the HOA ARC would be satisfied with the end result.

We made plans for the builder to deliver our coop in late October or early November. That plan in place, we couldn't wait any longer to become chicken owners (and the chick-hatching season was rapidly coming to a close) so in early October we acquired four newly hatched chicks - an Ameraucana (or "Easter Egger"), a Buff Orpington, and two Barred Plymouth Rocks. At just a day or two old, they were some very cute balls of fuzz!

With fall coming to a close, they'd need to live inside for about six weeks before they would be big enough and hardy enough to stay outside overnight. So we built an incubator from a couple of old moving boxes, a heat lamp, and a window screen (as a lid for the incubator, once they began learning to fly). We kept it in our bathroom, as that was one of the few rooms of the house that could reliably prevent unsupervised access by both Eliza and Pasha. We did introduce both kiddo and dog to the chicks under supervised conditions, both to get them used to the birds and get the birds used to them.

We submitted our proposal for the coop's design and location to the ARC. One of our neighbors had concerns about the location of the coop so we went to the committee meeting in person to explain our reasoning and address any concerns. It became clear that while the HOA bylaws permitted coops, the ARC had not yet approved any coops in our neighborhood - yikes! It was an intense session of questions and answers, and we left the meeting unsure as to its likely outcome, but a few days later we got a conditional approval from the ARC - hooray! They just wanted a few clarifications and details, which we provided.

Then the delay started. It was early November and we had no coop yet. The builder's delivery timeframe now changed from early November to after Thanksgiving, and we began to worry. What would we do with the chickens over the holiday? What if the delay continued and we found ourselves with full-grown chickens in the house but no coop?

Month-old chicks with Eliza - everyone growing fast!

My parents were in town visiting us for a long weekend when we got this news and shared our concern. We looked at the pictures the builder had sent us, and my father was confident that the four of us could build a very similar-looking coop in a matter of days for much less money than the builder was asking. Given the ongoing uncertainty, we decided to go with this new idea - we canceled our order with the builder, spent an evening sketching up some plans and materials lists, and the next morning, headed to Home Depot.

Several hours later, we returned home with a pickup-truck-load of supplies and got to work framing in the run and coop. Construction got off to a good start, but we soon hit our first snags and had to start making changes to accommodate unforeseen issues, such as changing the roof design to reduce the overall height and adding additional bracing to make the frame more sturdy. Still, it was coming together, but slowly.

A day and a half later, my parents had to leave to return home to Georgia, but sadly the chicken coop was nowhere near done yet. The 2x4 framing was mostly done, and the metal roof was halfway attached, but there was plenty more framing and roofing to finish, not to mention siding, paint, and chicken wire. Uh oh...

The coop wasn't quite this far done yet - this picture is from a week later

To be continued...