My friend Jimmy and I have been thinking about a number of different chicken coop designs lately. Most sparked by the fact that our wives and us have been looking at buying more chickens. Both of our flocks have been growing and we of course need the added space to house them. Raising chickens free range has been a challenge in that we both have lost quite a number due to predators. Mostly of the flying variety but I suspect a few may have been eaten by weasels, skunks, or another similar type animal. This is very disturbing since for the first few months this wasn’t much of an issue. My guess would be the warm weather has made them more prevalent. Probably since their numbers have increased coming out of the mating season. Which leads me to the chicken coops.
I have been considering my obligation to my birds of late. Not something many people I suspect think much about but given I have read some really great books by some intensely dedicated homesteaders, something I have been introduced to. If you really think about it, I have become there caretaker. My responsibility, in buying them and spurring the demand for them to be incubated in the first place, is to take make sure I consider not only my desire for what I can get from them but what is best for them. I need to consider that if they could talk to me, would they say that they would rather be more safe than have 16 hours of free range time? I don’t particularly like that train of thought so having them cooped up all day isn’t exactly the best solution either. So in consideration of those things, I have come to the belief that what I need to do is build them a large aviary. One large enough to provide them adequate space to be outside for as long as they want and when night comes go in the coop. In this way most of the free range experience will still be there, but they can’t wander off to an area where a predator can get them. Now when I say free range I mean something completely different than what the farming industry considers free range. My definition is that they have the freedom to go where they want for as long as they want.
My goal is obviously to get meat and eggs from our chickens, and do it in an economical way. Having 20% of your flock lost every few months simply is not smart. I will start the construction of my aviary within the next few weeks. It has become a bigger need since we just bought another 30 more recently, though they were day old chicks and have a few weeks before they can be let out anyway. I will need to, in my next post, discuss some of the coop designs and other ideas since I never really go to it here.