Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Farm Fresh Eggs!

Our place has been home to chickens for many years.  Probably more years than any other animal.  When we first bought our acreage in 1999, we had no outbuildings.  Gradually my husband built all of our sheds and barns with his own hands - using many recycled materials.  The chicken coop was no exception.  

Previous owners left us a concrete pad.  It was a small rectangle shape probably used underneath a dog kennel.  My husband looked at it and decided to turn it into a chicken coop.  He extended the concrete pad and built a beautiful chicken coop on top of it.  

If you couldn't see the outdoor chicken run, you may mistake the chicken coop for a garden shed or kid's play house.  It is framed with 2X4 construction, has insulation in the walls, vinyl siding (removed from Grandma's house), a window (removed from our house), and roofing, and ventilation under the eaves. 
Our Chicken Coop

 In the picture to the left, you can see many of these features, plus our less than ideal electrical set up to run our electric fence charger and water tank heaters...  We lost one batch of chickens to a dog breaking through the screened window.  The window is now covered in a chicken wire frame that seems to work and hold up well.  It is hard to see in the picture, but we also had to screen our under eave venting to keep out small birds.  Every few years, the birds discover a hole in the screening and 20 or more small birds will be inside the coop eating the chicken food.  We shoo them out and repair the screening.

A Young Chicken Catching a Ride
Our chickens seem to do well inside the coop even during cold winter temperatures.  We are also particular about our breed selection.  We like Orpingtons, Wyandottes, Rhode Island Reds (or whites), Americaunas (actually Easter Eggers since they don't meet all the breed characteristics), and Barred Rocks (Plymouth Rock). These breeds don't seem to mind the colder temperatures.

We use supplemental light during the winter months to give our hens the recommended 14 hours of daylight.  A great way to provide this is by using a outdoor Christmas light timer.  They are programmed to come on at dusk for the number of hours you determine by turning the dial.  We check day length online and adjust the timer as needed every few weeks.

Statistically, most egg laying is completed for the day by 10am.  Around lunchtime or early afternoon we let the chickens out of their pen and attached chicken run to free range.  They put themselves back into the coop once darkness falls.  We close them in for the night around 8-9pm to keep them safe from predators.
Our Farm Fresh Eggs
The end result is happy chickens and lots of eggs!  We collect our eggs once a day (more often in colder temperatures).  One of our youngest son's chores is to gather the chicken eggs.  I wash and sort the eggs.  Our oldest son will candle any questionable eggs for me using a dark room and led flashlight.  This is by far his favorite chore!  Then after the eggs dry I will package them into egg cartons for sale.  Currently, you can purchase our farm fresh eggs at the Main Market Coop in downtown Spokane.  We deliver eggs to the coop on Tuesday afternoons and I hear they sell out fast!

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