Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Prepared for Winter

Chicken keeping in the winter does require more planning.  How do you keep the water from freezing?  Do you heat the coop?  Do you provide artificial light to keep the hens laying?  How do you make sure that the coop has enough ventilation but no drafts?  What will you do to provide shelter from the wind and snow?

The water was the easy part.  We got a heated water bowl.  That works fairly well but the Ladies get tons of dirt into it and I need to refill at least once a day.  We'll be tweaking that for next winter.

 Do we heat the coop?   Big "No" for us.  I figure people have been raising chickens in New England long before electricity.  And I was careful to get cold hearty breeds.  They do have big down coats of their own anyway.   And for that matter, when was the last time you saw people providing the wild birds with a heater?  At least mine have a cozy coop.  And another big "No" for me on providing artificial light to keep them laying through the darker part of the year.  Again chickens did ok before electricity.  And who am I to argue with Mother Nature?  If she says the chickens need to slow down during the winter, then ok!  I'm not dependent on the eggs anyway.

Luna is no "chicken" when it comes to snow!

I admit the ventilation vs no drafts has been a bit confusing to me.  I asked someone on one of the web sites and got a lecture on Thermo Dynamics.  Still have no idea.  But I guess I just watch the Ladies and see how they fare.  It they make it through the winter with no frostbite on their combs I guess I'm doing ok.

The issue of providing shelter from wind, rain, and snow was more up my alley.  It took me a few attempts to get the plastic to not just tear off at the first big wind but we did it.  Unfortunately, I finally figured it out on the coldest day!  Ladies happy, Farmer Jenn not so much!  Then we got our first snow and my domed run top caved in.  Back to the drawing board.  It's fixed now - thanks to some 1/4 inch pvc.  And it only involved one wipe out by Farmer Jenn in the chicken run!

Here's to making it through our first winter with the Ladies!

The Chicken Chick

Friday, December 6, 2013

Cold Mornings

Ok, I'll be honest.  The one thing I have been dreading about having the Ladies is chicken chores in the winter.  It's one thing getting up and heading out to bring them water and food and let them out of the coop on a beautiful fall morning.  It's quite another thing when it's snowy and cold. 

It turns out it's not so bad.  It continues to be amazing to me how peaceful it is in the early morning.  It's quiet.  I never particularly notice the traffic noises from the main street just a house away.  But I definitely notice it's absence.  And it's still.  Even on the days that turn out to be blustery, the early morning is usually calm.  If I manage to get out there early enough I even get to see the sky brightening as the sun comes up over the mountain.  And just maybe I get treated to a pretty pink sky. 

I am truly not a morning person.  Maybe I should say, I never used to be a morning person.  Ever since those little chicks arrived and I would get up early to make sure they had all survived the night, I've been a bit of a convert.  I think maybe I just needed a chance to experience the natural peace of an early morning.  And a reason to realize that even in the cold - it's nice.

The Ladies clearly know the simply joy of a morning.  Granted they are probably just happy to be let out of the coop.  But joy is joy.  I open the coop and out they run.  Clucking and cooing.  Some go straight to whatever warm food I've brought them but one or two usually run right over to the side of the run to greet me.  And they don't shake two tail feathers at the cold or snow.  Sure the first snow startled them a bit.  They paraded up and down making alarmed noises and tasting the snow.  Now they're experienced big chickens and don't even notice the snow.

I'm still a little smarter than they are so I DO still notice the snow.  But so far it's ok.  Interestingly, I had also been dreading having to go out and shut them up for the night in the winter.  Mainly because I'm sort of in hibernation mode.  I like to be in my PJs earlier in the winter.  Well - the time change took care of that for me.  And apparently the Ladies like to be tucked in earlier too.  It all works out.

The Chicken Chick

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Playing Favorites

The Ladies have changed so much.  They look like "real chickens" now.  No more little fuzzy chicks.  The younger four are 14 weeks old.  And Lacy is 7 1/2 months.  Not only do they look different but their personalities are now pretty defined.  Are you as surprised as I am to hear they have personalities?  A chicken is a chicken right?  Wrong!

From the moment I took the chicks out of the mailing box, Luna was dominant chick.  We thought she was a wild woman.  And was she bossy!   As they got bigger she soon became the tamest.  Always jumping up on my hand to get an "elevator" ride out of the brooder.  Maybe it's just that she's the smartest.... or laziest.  Once The Ladies moved out to the coop, Luna was clearly Head Chick.  Always the first to try new things, always getting the prime roosting spot, and first one out of the run for free-range play time.  Luna is my favorite.  Shhhh!   Don't tell the others.  I know I'm not supposed to play favorites.  But she's always the first to great me.  She likes to pop into the coop to inspect my housekeeping work in the morning.  And she is constantly photo bombing the others.  She just makes me laugh.

Luna saying Good Morning while I scoop the coop
Luna photo-bombing Hedwig's Good-bye photo
When they were little chicks, I thought JiJi was going to be Second in Command.  Boy was I wrong!  Maybe I was assuming size equals position and Jiji was definitely the fastest growing of the Babies.   It turns out that JiJi is the meekest and mellowest of the Ladies.  I suspect she has a strong nurturing side as she was the one to take Bella and Hedwig "under her wing" when we introduced them.  And she was just a few days older than they were so she didn't have big wings at the time.  But she always snuggled up with the other two and they seemed to need that.  I remember watching her trying to sleep next to a very restless Hedwig. JiJi finally stretched her neck over Hedwig and Hedwig fell fast asleep.  JiJi is the hardest to catch and doesn't particularly like to be held (except when I rescued her from quarantine with Lacy.  Then she was happy to cuddle).  She has a voice but doesn't use it a lot.  When she does, it is quiet and sweet.  You get the impression that in a group of woman - she'd be the one everyone counts on to be kind.   A little JiJi quirk - she is always the last one off the perch in the morning.   Sleepyhead!  Hmm.  So maybe JiJi is my favorite.

JiJi adheres to the premise of "safety in numbers"

And then there is Ebony.  She is a spunky little thing.  She's by far the smallest of the Ladies.  But she is Luna's right wing - even now that Luna has been demoted.  Ebony is second to do everything.  She would have made a good rooster.  She is The Guardian!  She's always checking out every new sound.  It's pretty common to see all the other Ladies scratching around in the dirt and Ebony standing at attention.  She kind of reminds me of a Meerkat on guard duty.  She's also the bravest about people.  She is the easiest to catch and seems quite happy to be held.  And she was no "chicken" when it came to welcoming Lacy to the flock.  When Lacy was busy putting all the others in their places, Ebony quietly stood her ground.  She's the only Lady whose voice hasn't dropped.  While the others have deep "bwok"s, Ebony still says something closer to "Bweep".  I think she is by far the friendliest.  Whenever I go visit the Ladies, Ebony is right at the run door to greet me and see if it is time for free-range time.  Oh and she has also picked up some photo bombing skills form Luna.  She and Luna play comedian to JiJi's straight man routine.  Ok so she might be my favorite. 

Ebony The Guardian when still just a chick

Bella is a Big Chicken.  And I mean that in two ways.  She is large and a scaredy cat.  She's the first to run for the coop at the slightest cause.   I suspect she is the one that usually starts the rest of the flock running.  She's always the last to try new foods.  After all, she needs to wait for a little while to make sure Ebony doesn't keel over after being the official taste tester.  She is one of the first out of the coop to see me in the morning - but she maintains a safe distance.  She has a funny running dance move.  We have named it the Bella Dance.  Stick your neck out long and low, snake it side to side and run while wiggling your fuzzy butt.  That's the Bella Dance.  Someday maybe I'll get it on video but first I have to figure out what causes it.   The funniest thing about Bella is she NEVER stops talking.   NEVER.  Thank goodness she is quiet.  But she has this funny deep growly voice.  Bella has been the hardest to get to know but now that I do - she could be my favorite.

Bella maintaining a safe distance from the camera
 Definitely the fuzziest butt

Last but definitely not least is Lacy.  I think of her as The Boss Lady.  While she was in quarantine she was a love.  Always cooing at me.  Not that she's mean with the other Ladies but she is definitely in charge.  She successfully dethroned Luna but now that her position is clear she's settled into the role pretty calmly.  But don't mess with her before she lays her egg of the day.  She gets crabby!  I suspect she's a bit of a diva.  She loves a good dust bath and day in the garden.  As Boss Lady, Lacy gets to eat first, decide where the others fit on the perch, and dictate who stands where.  When she wants to.  And if she doesn't feel like dictating at that moment, then they are free to do their own thing.  Yup sounds more and more like a diva.  Even so, the rest of the Ladies all seem to respect her.  I guess even chickens need to have a leader.  And I for one kind of like the diva part of her.   I've had the least time with Lacy but she coos at me and gives me eggs!  Definitely in the running for favorite.

Lacy's Garden Spa Day
The Chicken Chick

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Peaceable Kingdom

This morning I was out doing Chicken Chores.  Although it was quite chilly I was taking a minute to watch the Ladies, and I was struck by the fact that we have successfully transitioned Lacy into the flock.  All is peaceful!

It's been just a little over a week since bringing Lacy out of quarantine and pretty much just plunking her into the run with the other Ladies.  I didn't follow any of the many recommendations that I got about the best way to introduce a new flock member.  I started to but then ended up going with my gut.  I think I got lucky!  My theory was always that even though Lacy was older and bigger she would be out numbered by the other 4.  That kind of worked.  It certainly wasn't without some pecking and feather plucking and squawking but they worked it out quickly enough.  And today I have a peaceful little flock!

To back up...  Lacy did really well in quarantine.  We had her in a large dog crate in the garage with a little box to nest in, a tarp to provide some privacy during nesting, and a perch.  She made herself quite at home.  They say that since transitions are generally stressful for chickens, it often causes a disruption in egg laying.  Not for Lacy!   She is a very regular layer.  In fact, she lays more eggs per week (6) than the predicted average for her breed (4-5). 

I have to say part of me enjoyed the quarantine piece a bit.  Don't get me wrong - I felt bad that she was stuck in there during some beautiful fall weather.  But quarantine allowed us to get to know Lacy.  I had been a little worried that by getting a 6 month old pullet (a girl chicken less than 1 year old), that she might be afraid of us.  Not Lacy!   She seemed to love the one on one attention.  She talked to us whenever we came out to the garage.  I didn't even know chickens could make those noises.  She really didn't cluck.  It was more cooing and booping.  And sometimes if she was feeling lonely she'd make quite the ruckus.  I know it was because she was wanting attention because as soon as one of us would go out and say "Hi" she'd quiet down.  We also tried to keep her happy by sometimes taking her to the garden at the other end of the house for garden and dust bath time.

Some of the things we discovered about Lacy?  She likes people.  She's very gentle.  She occasionally would peck at one of us but very softly - not like the other Ladies who haven't quite mastered gentle pecks!  Often when I would clean out the crate she would sit on her perch and gently pick at my hair.  Grooming me???  I usually do morning chores before my shower so I probably did need some grooming!  She's also messy!!!   Admittedly she was eating out of a chick feeder while in quarantine but she was constantly throwing food all over the place. It's ok though since she makes up for it by being a great layer!

My favorite thing about Lacy is her range of sounds.  Until we moved her outside with the other Ladies, I thought she had the sweetest voice.  Apparently that is a voice she reserves for her people!

When it was time to bring Lacy out of quarantine we followed one of the recommendations and brought one of the other Ladies in to live with Lacy for a bit.  The idea being that they would bond and then it would be easier to introduce Lacy to the others.  So in came JiJi.  Bad choice.  JiJi is too mellow and passive and was just terrified.  Lacy growled and pecked and refused to let JiJi eat or drink.  I think this method is generally sound but I picked the wrong Lady to bring in.  I think the dog crate is also too small for this method.  And I might just not have the heart for it! 

I made it through about 18 hours of JiJi toughing it out and then I couldn't stand it anymore.  So JiJi went back out to the coop and run with her flock.  And right behind her came Lacy.  We just plunked her in there.  Head Lady Luna came right over to defend her flock which worked for about 20 minutes.  But Luna is about 1/2 the size of Lacy.  Size and age usually gives a chicken a rightful claim to the top position in the pecking order.  So Lacy set about making it very clear to Luna that she was Top Bird.  Unlike in the dog crate, this worked in the run and coop.  The 4 younger Ladies had room to run for cover and Lacy couldn't chase all 4 at the same time.  Lacy took over bossing the others around.  She decided when they could come in the coop, when they could come out of the coop, when they could eat, and generally sent the message that when she wants to lay an egg - she wants QUIET.  But by that evening they were all snuggled up on the perch together for bedtime.

And it just improved from there.  Once Lacy set down the law, she backed off a bit.  Every once in a while she pecked or pulled a feather or gave the stink eye just to let them know she was still Boss Lady.  Now a week later, the Little Ladies no longer run from her.  They eat when they want to and go where they want to.  But they definitely respect the Boss Lady.  All in all I think Lacy has a pretty good management style.  Start off tough and be clear about the rules and then have some flexibility.  The chickens get it.   When there is structure, rules, and respect there is peace in the coop.

The Chicken Chick

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Gift of Simplicity

I think I should  have been a farmer.  Maybe not for my livelihood but maybe a hobby farmer.  When I started this chicken adventure I truly did not appreciate the joy I would get from this.


Last week we had so many beautiful days in the Berkshires.  One day I decided to take my sandwich out and have lunch with the Ladies.  The sun had not quite hit the run yet so I was looking forward to watching the chicken sunbathing start.  In the meantime, I brought them a few chunks of apples.  This was new to them so I was treated to a lengthy discussion about what these could possibly be.  Bella and JiJi - always the more cautious about new things were clucking in mild alarm.  Luna was peeping with interest - head cocked to get the best view of this new thing.  And Ebony was right there, ready to check everything out and let the others know.  She's always been the first to try new things.  Always alert but brave.  So Ebony tried the apple.   The others, then being convinced it was not a strange red monster, tucked right in and had some too.  Shortly after, the first rays hit the run and Ebony immediately collapsed into her sunbathing posture.  And I just sat quietly, simply watching. 

Jiji, Ebony, and Luna looking for new foods

There is something simple yet profound and satisfying about doing a good job and getting (relatively) immediate results.  Making good choices about what to feed the chicks and figuring out how to keep them warm and clean resulted in seeing them grow.  And fast!  With our new Lady - Lacy - it was easy to see that our efforts to make sure she was comfortable and happy (even though in quarantine) resulted in eggs.  So many things in our lives these days don't show us results so quickly.  It makes everything seem complicated but some of the best things are simple.  It's a nice thing to see results.

Lacy's first egg for us

And there is joy in the little chores.  As anyone knows me can tell you,  I am not a morning person.  Or at least I wasn't until we got the Ladies.  When they first arrived, I would get up early to make sure they had survived the night.  Then when that worry subsided, I found I was still getting up early.  Mind you I still need my coffee.  But then I'm throwing on some jeans and a sweatshirt to go get the Ladies started on their day.  No one could have convinced me how pleasant it is to stand there in the yard in the quiet of the morning.  See the moon still high in the brightening sky, watching the sun light up the morning clouds and hearing the Ladies scratching around.  The simplicity of the beginning of a new day.  It happens seven times a week, and until we had the Ladies - I had missed it.  Or at least hadn't slowed down enough to enjoy it.


Ok, so maybe cleaning out the coop isn't the most glamorous job, but I do love that as I take care of my "chambermaid" duties, Luna comes to greet me and to inspect my work.  It is a little harder to clean a coop with a beak in your face.  But simple and sweet all the same.

Good Morning Luna!

Last weekend I was feeling guilty about Lacy being stuck in quarantine in the garage during such beautiful fall weather.  We decided it would be safe for the rest of the flock if we took her out to the other side of the yard for some fresh air.  Again - I found joy in this simple thing.  Lacy was over the moon, scratching around in the garden and taking a dust bath.  Once I realized she was happy dust bathing and I didn't have to shepherd, I lay down on my stomach in the grass, soaking in the sun.  I can't remember when I last did that.  Boy did it feel good.  Such a simple thing.  Now we do it when ever we have time and it's nice enough.

Lacy supremely content in the garden

I think the thing that gives me the most joy is just watching the Ladies doing what Chickens just naturally do.  It seems closer to nature.  We have a dog and a cat, but they are much more domesticated and usually do what we have trained them to do.  Don't get me wrong, I know chickens are domesticated and not wild animals.  But the Ladies just do their chicken things.  Sure they come running if they think I have a treat but the rest is just instinct for them.  Whether it be scratching in the dirt and leaves, running for cover at a new sound, taking a dust bath, collapsing into a funny sunbathing heap as soon as the warm rays of the sun hit them, or working out their hierarchy with a few pecks and posturing - that's their thing.  I have nothing to do with it.  I didn't have to teach them this.  It's simple.  They've known how to do it since they were a few days old.  There's something very cool about that.
Chicks gotta sunbathe!
The Chicken Chick

Saturday, October 12, 2013

"You Big Chickens" (and other chicken and egg sayings)

The other day I was hanging out watching our four younger Ladies doing their thing.  They were scratching in the dirt and pecking at the remainder of some treats I had given them.  They are pretty chatty - always peep peep peeping.  But lately their voices are starting to change.  They sound like some adolescent boys with their voices cracking.  While I watched, one of the Ladies - I think it was Bella as she is noisier - said "Peep Peep Bok!"  At that all four - including the offender - bolted for the coop, terrified by that new noise.  My immediate reaction was laughter and to tell them they were a bunch of "Big Chickens!" which in turn made me laugh even harder.

Luna running for safety!
As I stood there waiting for the Ladies to settled down and venture back out I began thinking.  There are an amazing number of sayings that are related to chickens and eggs.  There's the obvious insult to someone's bravery.  Until we got the Ladies, I never realized how chicken Chickens really are.  But seeing as they are prey - I guess their fear serves them well.
Then there's "Don't count your chickens before they hatch."  Although we have never hatched eggs, from what I hear, it is definitely not a 100% success rate kind of enterprise.  We certainly did learn that even after they hatch, some don't make it.
JiJi, Luna, Ebony, and Rosey at arrival
"Don't put all your eggs in one basket." They do break easily - ask Emma.  She has been known to drop an egg on occasion. 
How about figuring out the "pecking order"?   I watch that on a daily basis.  The Ladies are always jostling for top bird position.  It was particularly noticeable when we still had Hedwig.  Luna is definitely top Lady right now, but Hedwig as a young rooster was always challenging this position.  It always involved some pecking.  It's kind of related to "ruling the roost".  Top bird gets choice spot on the roosts and therefore gets to rule!
JiJi, Ebony, and Luna on their first roost
Then there is "Playing chicken". You know - the game where you run at each other and see who "chickens out" first?  Apparently that really is a chicken game.  The Ladies love to play.   I see it most while they are working on the pecking order.  You know how it goes - if you chicken out first, you are NOT top bird!
And...  "Nesting behavior".  I remember before we adopted the Emma and Meghan, I definitely did some nesting.  It didn't look like what I see Lacy doing but I get it.  Lacy actually makes more of a mess - sitting in the nesting box and throwing shavings everywhere.  Me?  I was more focused on cleaning up!
Lacy's "nest" in the garden
I could go on and on.  There are a few that I think aren't very fair to my Ladies.  Bird brain.  Dumb cluck.  Bad egg.  In a Stew. Chicken Scratch.  Maybe the people that came up with those didn't have chickens.
The Chicken Chick

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Changes in the Coop

For several weeks we have suspected that we had an imposter in the Ladies' ranks.  Our little Hedwig was growing a comb and wattles faster than we considered Lady-like!  And demonstrating some decidedly unladylike behavior!  We really like Hedwig so it has been hard to acknowledge that we can't keep him.  We've waited a few weeks to see if his inner Lady would show itself...  No - it did not!

Hedwig 4 days

Hedwig 1 month
Hedwig - 2 Months

After consulting with the breeder, Michael, we decided to bring Hedwig back to his first home.  So after some last pictures of our boy, we headed off to Connecticut this morning.  And our decision was confirmed when Michael peeked in the cat carrier -  I mean chicken carrier - and said "Oh yeah!" without the slightest hesitation.

We saw Hedwig off to his new coop where he will be living with a bunch of other English Orpingtons about his same age.  I wish I had captured that reaction on film!   Michael put him in the coop with the others who gave him the hairy eyeball, and Hedwig's look was "Oh Dang, I am not the Big Bird In the Coop anymore!"

So although we've been prepared for the change, the coop seems a little empty without Hedwig puffing himself up and trying to stomp on the Ladies.  Luna never did put up with that though.  She even photo bombed one of his last pictures.  Doesn't his look just say "I just can't get no respect around here!"

I wonder if the Ladies miss him.

In true keeping with my newfound chicken addiction, as soon as we knew Hedwig was going back to his first flock, I had to find a new bird to fill the hole in our flock.  After much debate about whether to add another to the flock or stay at 4, and if we add then what age and breed, I soon found our new Lady.

Lacy is a 6 month old Silver Wyandotte.  While she doesn't add more color to the flock (Luna still provides the only splash of color but doesn't seem to mind that role!), Lacy sure adds some cool feather patterns.  I'm thrilled.  Once I caught the chicken bug and started thinking of my next flock which would be years down the line, I knew I wanted a Wyandotte.  They 're striking.  Lacy came from another backyard flock whose owners were downsizing for the winter.  She seems very sweet and pretty tame.  And she is already laying!!!!   Although she hasn't presented us with our first egg yet.  I guess the stress of the move might delay that.  Scott thinks she may have performance anxiety.  Which could be since Meghan keeps running in and asking "Is she making an egg?"  I think we'll have to work on the lingo!

This is a whole new chicken keeping lesson for us.  When you add a new chicken to the flock, there is a process.  First quarantine to make sure you are not introducing bad things into your flock, then let the old birds see the new bird and vice versa (without the ability to attack one another).  Then let them all share the space and work out the pecking order.  So Lacy is currently in quarantine in a big dog crate in our garage.  She seems happy.  We are trying to give her lots of company so she doesn't get too lonely.  She talks a lot.  A big change from the "Peep Peep Peep" of other Ladies.  Lacy is all about Bok Bok Bwok!  She has a quiet, sweet voice except when she gets her britches in a twist about something.  Then she gets a little raucous.

So quarantine underway - check.  Here's to hoping that introduction to the rest of The Ladies goes well in a few weeks.  But I'm sure that will be another story.

The Chicken Chick

Sunday, September 29, 2013

15 Lessons from Coop and Run Building

So just the other day I put the finishing touches on The Ladies' coop and run.  The rain, snow, sun cover went up on the 5 feet of run closest to the coop so even in inclement weather The Ladies can get some fresh air and stretch their legs.  And I won't need to shovel a section of the run for them.  It was a little bittersweet taking a step back and looking at the finished project.  I've loved working on it!   And of course it got me thinking of all the little (and some big) lessons I learned in the process.

"Finished" Coop and Run

1.  I LIKE building things!  Ok, so this wasn't so much of a lesson as it was a reminder.  But I really do like sawing and sanding and hammering.  Painting isn't my favorite but it sure looks nice when it's done.  It reminded me of shop class in Middle School and I loved that.  I had forgotten how much I like it.  And in fact I'd be pretty surprised if many people knew that about me. 

Adjusting one of the locks

2.  It's important to have vision!  As soon as I knew that our friends would be giving us their old dog house/coop, the wheels began turning.  In my mind's eye I saw the coop with an added nesting box, painted red, oriented a certain way, right off the corner of the garage with a run going back along the side of the garage.  I saw the run being about 3 feet high with a flat "top" of fencing.  Then to provide some shelter from rain, snow, and sun I pictured a removable wooden peaked roof similar to what people in New England use to protect their shrubs from heavy snow fall.  That was my vision - and it was very clear.
Coop before it was hit by "The Vision"
Mid Revising of the Coop

3.  You must trust your vision! There was much discussion at our house about coop paint color.  The girls voted purple.   Not!   Scott just looked skeptical when I said Barn Red with White trim.  But we stuck to my vision.  Then when it came to me painting the trim white, again some raised eyebrows.  But I stuck with it.  And it matched my vision exactly!!!  

First part of "The Vision" becomes real.

4.  Be able to change your vision!   I don't mean toss it out totally.  It was my vision for a reason.  But sometimes the vision doesn't take into account some other important factors.  Like whether you will end up crippled.  My vision was of a run with a flat roof at 3 feet.   That was until we got the sides of the run up and I realized that while I am short, I am a good deal taller than 3 feet.  And if I was going to need to get in that run at all, without crippling myself, we were going to have to adjust the vision (and the construction) to allow me in there.  And so the vision shifted to include an arched roof to the run.  My back is thankful!

Completed Run with Arched Roof

5.  Measure twice, Cut once.  I think I learned this lesson repeatedly in this project.  And it's something I knew anyway.  But sometimes you get cocky....  Repeat after me, measure twice, cut once! 

6.  There are many types of fencing.   And now I can tell you the difference between welded wire, hardware cloth, and chicken wire.  Not sure when that will come in handy but I know it now!   Interesting factoid - Chicken Wire is for keeping poultry in not for keeping other things out.  Hence the need for multiple types of fencing.

7.  Wire fencing is sharp!  I'm going to have some nice scars to remember the run building piece of this project.  And just as one heals up, I somehow manage to cut myself somewhere else. 

8.  When you don't have a true work bench, you can make one out of almost anything.  For instance, two folding chairs works quite well.  And for a vice to hold the wood as you saw, the butt of a 10 or 12 year old is perfect!

9.  If you have a good power drill/screwdriver (preferably a rechargeable battery one), you are a lucky lady.  Mine is my favorite tool.  I had misplaced it sometime before construction began.  All plans went on hold until we found it.  I could probably have done this without a great saw but The Ladies would still be coop-less if I didn't have a power screwdriver.

10.  Bungee Cords are the Bomb!   Let's see I've used them to hold up the doors while I painted, attach a temporary rain cover to the run, hang water bottles on the run fence, and hold up the rolled side piece of the cover. 

11.  Zip Ties are even better than Bungees.  And more fun!  All our run fencing is attached with zip ties.  They are quick, easy, cheap, come in all sorts of strengths and colors, and are easily replaceable (once you get the old one off - which is not easy, nor should it be).  And if we ever have the need for handcuffs.....

12.  Always get more fasteners than you think you need.  This includes every type of fastener.  I have had to make restocking trips to Home Depot for screws, zip ties, hinges, hook and eyes and slide bolts.  I always think I get a good count first but then I find that in the case of locking down the coop for predator proofing, more is better.

13.  Grommetting (is that a word?) is fun!   And easy.  When my friend Kristie agreed to help me with the waterproof fabric cover, I made her promise to show me how to put in grommets.  She's a whiz with all things fabric related so I expected she'd show me and I'd only sort of get it.  But voila, I am now a grommetting professional.  If you need any grommets, I'm your girl!  Now I spend my time trying to think up another project that might require grommets.

14.  Burying the welded wire fencing to help deter predators is HARD work.  There's rocks in this New England soil, you know!  In order to prevent dehydration and heat exhaustion, this job should not be undertaken on a hot sunny afternoon, no matter how excited you are about getting it done.

15.  And lastly....   I have discovered that this is a job that will never be done.  As I type I am already thinking about other things the Ladies will need.  Won't they want an outdoor perch that is closer to the coop so they don't have to hike out from under the snow cover into 3 feet of snow to get to a perch where they can dry their cold feet?  Come spring won't they want new grass to much on?  And they've already eaten it down to the roots, so they'll need a grazing frame.  I wonder what they will want next.
 The Chicken Chick