Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Great Chicken Experiment WORKED!

When I moved last August, I downsized my flock from 35 8.  I was moving from 290 acres to a TENTH of an acre, and needed to start from scratch with my chicken fencing and accommodations.  I made the chicken tunnel (see photos below), gave them access to underneath my back deck, and then fenced in a far corner off of the deck for a small hen house.  Then came the tricky part...creating a basement winter shelter.  I knew I didn't want to keep them entirely outdoors in winter.  Although I have a water heater, I don't want it on constantly.  I also don't want to set up heat lights in the coop...too much of a fire hazard.  So my idea was to make a winter coop in the cellar.  Everyone who heard about my plans thought it was a horrible idea.  "It will smell!"  "It will be dirty!"  "Chickens don't live in the house!"  Well, I am pleased to say that after having them come in every night for the last 3 months, it's been perfect.  I clean the poop daily, and the girls go out at dawn.  At dusk, they line up and come right back in when I open their trap door.  It's awesome!  There's a thick bed of hay on the floor, and they have ladders and perches to get around on.  They go in and out thru the little trap door at the top (an old cellar window frame) that leads right into their tunnel.  I don't think that any visitor to the house would know I had chickens in the cellar unless I told them.  I'm quite pleased with this whole arrangement!

The grain feeder hangs from a chain, and they get fresh veggies every day as well.  In fact, they get almost all of my kitchen waste. 
The chicken tunnel is made out of metal piping from a plumbing supply store.  The corners were built with scraps of wood and translucent panels for light, so the girls can see where they're going.  The piping starts at their trap door into the cellar, and ends at the deck.

There's a door in case I need to access the trap door area from outside of the cellar. You can see the start of the tunnel, and the trap door is in the upper corner of the enclosure.

Their outdoor area is an otherwise neglected corner of the back yard,  They come into this section from under the deck, and have sunshine, fresh air, a perch, and a nice little doghouse to lay eggs in (or to stay dry in wet weather).  Come spring, I will train them to sleep in the doghouse at night again, instead of the cellar.