Sunday, August 7, 2011

Chicks in the Woods...boc...boc...boc

this side  will have the aviary
 I have been looking at this building for all of my life....that's a pretty long time.  My grandfather built this 10'X12' hen house some time in the 1920's.  It occurred to me  that it was time to turn this old hen house that had been used for storage for 50 years, back into a hen house.
The original 1920's hen house
As you can see,  I doubt that there was one 90 degree angle in the whole structure.
I knew this was going to be a huge project as there were parts of this old hen house that were rotten to the core.   I removed the dry rot,  and replaced parts of the walls with some  7/8" plywood that I found lying around, and insulation, to keep the baby chicks warm and cozy.

 This is only part of the rot.....When I emptied the shed from all the "stuff"  I found squirrel nests in cupboards, photos from the 20's, no trespassing signs, nail barrels, the original nesting boxes, (those will be used in my art studio as cubbies for paint etc), cans of paint, iron spoke wheels, lots of garden tools that were very OLD and much more.  After it was emptied, rot taken care of, plywood and insulation in place, I divided the inside of the building into two for the storage of food, tools and anything that has to do with chickens, the other side for the roosts, nesting boxes, and general living space.

Then added an aviary to the outside for a play ground. Of course I couldn't end it there, I just had to put something in for the hens to play with.....Thus an old Victorian bath tub that was in my veggie garden, found its way into the aviary.  I filled it with dirt and topped it off with a bag of sand, and called it:
"The Victorian Sand Spa"
 The time is finally here.  The baby chicks have arrived.  I have wanted to add a flock of chickens to Bell Hallow since I first hung my shingle.  8 Little Bantam chicks arrived at the Ben Lomond post office on June 22, 2011. 

With the coop still not totally buttoned up, I brought them home and they landed in a rubber horse trough that I placed in the Victorian Bath tub.  Yep, something about these Victorian bath tubs.  They loved it.  The heat lamp kept them snuggly warm, and because they were in  a place that is visited often during the day, they got used to my presence very quickly. 

Upon arrival, I noticed that there was one baby chick that was so tiny that my friend Robin said, “Look, she is so dinky.”  Thus “Dinky” became her name.  She was having a hard time of this new world.  When I noticed that her whole gullet was off center, she started to do some weird things.  This tiny little thing pulled on one wing tip, pulling it so far up and over her head that she fell backwards, landing on her back, with both feet in the air, wings spread out as if to steady  herself, looking around in a daze as if to say, “Where the hell am I?”  With that, a couple of other baby chicks just hopped on her belly and hopped off again.  Feeling this, she scrambled, rolled and finally found her footing.  THEN she proceeded to do the same thing with the other wing.  AND the other baby chicks found that her tummy was a great jumping off point, so they did it again.  Oh my!  The whole event happened over and over during different times of the day.  I’ll be dog gone, that gullet finally snapped into place.  Now there is a smart little bird. 
MEANWHILE down at the “The Hen Taj” we started working furiously to get everything set up for the new bantam flock.  We caged in the aviary and coop, tacked the wire mesh to the frame with wood screws and washers.          

The mesh rolled out from the structure for about two feet and I stacked chunked concrete around the edges so that animals couldn't dig under it.  (They tend to go straight to the vertical obstacle and dig.  This concept surrounds the entire aviary.  I plan to plant it with grasses and sunflowers etc that the hens will like to eat.  Just cut and serve.  It's their growing ground.  Just reseed when needed. Next summer this will be filled with sun flowers for seeds/food for the hens.

The other thing I am doing is using old square plastic milk crates inside the aviary, turning them so I can sit on them while enjoying the hens, seeding the area I sit on, and when that group of seeds matures, move the crates and do it again.  Bringing the garden to them so to speak rather than bringing them to the garden.  With all the predators I have in the area, I am not feeling so safe as to let them out of the aviary yet.
How is this for a raccoon proof door?  With keys and all.   I wonder if they have the smarts to take the key and unlock the lock?????
The chicks didn't stay in the Victorian tub for long, only about 4 weeks, and then they had to be moved into "The Hen Taj (as it became dubbed) as a couple of baby chicks were trying to fly out of the tub.  Not good.  So off to "The Hen Taj" they went.....

Here are the steps going from the coop to the aviary.
The "grounds" of the aviary are terraced using dry stacked concrete chunks.  There is a hose for fresh water, and the dirt is covered with hay.  

I have ordered nesting boxes from the Amish which should be arriving this week.   I am in the process of building their roost from an old WWII collapsible camp table, and a log resting on top.  Screwing the first set of legs and their iron pieces to the wall, and the next set screwed to the first set of legs.  Place the log across for their roosting spots.  It looks funky, but does well with the rest of the decor.  More to come........