Monday, November 26, 2012

Happy Two Months Teenage Chickens

The chickens are happily foraging our kitchen scraps in their new run and I even saw evidence that they are roosting at night! (Aka poop on the roost.) Despite the now 3 month wait until they start laying, they are highly entertaining and earning their keep with their hilarious antics. Exhibit A: I looked outside this morning to see Woodstock INSIDE the feeder!! On further inspection, I realized that Vivian was in there with her! (no surprise there). Super funny, and a que that prompted Dan and myself to visit the feed and tack store to pick some more food!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Coop Building Phase III

Phase III:  The run, the amenities, and everything else. 

We added shingles to weather-proof the coop.  Then Dan and Scott dug trenches around the frame of the run, installed the posts, and added the hardcloth.  We ended up using hardcloth on the bottom and a plastic version of chicken wire on the roof to save money. We extended the hardcloth under the bottom of the coop so that the chickens could forage underneath the coop too.  We attached the two nesting boxes and a thief door, and a spring-loaded hook and eye latch.  We added two roosting poles inside the coop perpendicular from each other, one about a foot off of the floor and one about three feet off the floor. The ramp was given wooden slats to prevent the chickens sliding down from the ramp.  Finally, we add the straw as litter in the run, coffee chaff and pine shavings as litter in the coop, and the door and latch.  And (finally!) their new home is complete!

Dan and Scott installing shingles

The posts for the run after Dan and Scott spent the morning digging out a trench

Eddy thinks we are building a dog house!

Nesting box

Thief Door

Finished Product! 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Coop Building Phase II

Phase II - Skin the walls, add the roof, and cut holes for the door, ramp, and nesting boxes. Not much excitement here, just had to put the work in.  

Also, notice the sweatband Dan is rocking in these photos. We won that as a prize for being trivia night CHAMPIONS at Eagle Rock Brewery. (I couldn't resist mentioning it here, it was my first trivia night victory ever - so exciting!)

*Disclaimer - these pictures really make it seem like Dan did all the work.  While he is wonderful and happily donated his newly discovered handyman skills, I also helped construct this little chicken mansion. (Does bringing cold beers count? I kid... I give back rubs too).  


Adding the Wall Frames

Mounting the Wall Frames

Cutting the Wall Skins

Adding the Slanted Roof

We cut two 12x12 inch holes in the back for the nesting/thief box

All the skins are up. 

Final touch this day was the ramp! The chickens will use this to greet the morning and to go home at night to roost. So excited about this amenity.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Coop Building Phase I

Sure, you could buy your coop online and have it assembled faster than an IKEA project, or you can DIY.  I chose the latter - cheaper, more tailored to your specific space, customized to your specific needs, and just hipper. So...

Phase 1:  The foundation. I honestly didn't think this step mattered much, but my designer and architect of the coop, my engineer twin brother Scott, thought otherwise.  Apparently everything needed to be "level" and "bolted down." Seems easy enough right? My oldest sister Sherry will tell you otherwise! (It takes a village to raise chickens...).  She spent her sweat, muscles, and probably some tears trying to level-out the slanted side yard comprised of rock-hard soil.  She also suffered through many cat-calls at the local Home Depot.  But eventually, we leveled off the ground, set our cinder blocks in place, bolted our 4x4 foundation beams to those blocks, and we had a foundation. 

The second piece of this phase was building the floor.  This involved reading Scott's highly detailed blueprints (yes, these were multi-page blueprints with detailed measurements, diagrams, and photographs.  Think HGTV). While the designs required some translations for the average lay person, for example,
how to "mount" the frame (this was cleared up with a quick phone call to dear old Dad - again, it takes a village), the designs were otherwise flawless and we set to work.  We attached a piece of plywood to the frame of the floor, secured the base to the foundation, and then laid the cheapest vinyl flooring we could find at the Depot.  I chose vinyl flooring because it will make my bi-annual cleaning of the coop much easier.

Phase I Complete!

Drilling the cement blocs

Building the floor frame

Mounting plywood to the floor frame

Attaching the floor frame to the foundation, and spreading glue

Laying the vinyl floor

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Ladies Move To The Hen House

While Dan and I were away last weekend celebrating his birthday in Santa Barbara, Scott finished the final touches on the coop and run (nesting box roof, door to the run, and covering some holes with hard cloth).  So, on the chicken's 6th week-old birthday, we decided to move the chickens outside to their newly finished coop. The weather was forecasted to drop to around 50 degrees, and I was confidant that the fully feathered chicks could handle it. We blocked their coop door so that they wouldn't wander into the cold at night without being able to find their way back. In doing so, we created conditions similar to their brooder box but just a little bigger. It was a bit stressful worrying whether the coop would adequately protect the chickens from local predators such as racoons, but all 4 were happily accounted for in the morning!

Woodstock was the first to go into the brooder box from their mailing box, so it was only appropriate that she was the first in the coop.

Woodstock moving over

Vivian taking the plunge.

Dan insisted on moving Duchess into the coop himself.

All four chickens happily exploring away!

Charlotte's first perch!

Hipster Coffee becomes Hip Chick Litter

I'll admit it, I am obsessed with over-priced coffee served by snooty hipsters in hats that were in style over 50 years ago.  I can't help it, it is just so good. I don't care that it sometimes takes over ten minutes to serve me the perfect cup of necessity.  (I sometimes care).  And I don't care that it sometimes costs over $5 a cup.  (I really should care).  This little moment of pleasure is an intoxicating break in my otherwise corporate-focused existence. 

So when I received an update for the LA Urban Chicken Enthusiasts meetup group that a "roaster" in Glassel Park was giving away free Coffee grinds, chaff, and burlap bags, my heart skipped a gazillion beats.  For multiple reasons.  Again, I live in the hippest neighborhood in America, at least according to some ratings, and nothing is hipper than (1) participating in an upcycling program (2) with a local (3) roaster (4) for a coffee "label" (5) that is served by hipsters (6) in hipster hats.  Since I'm raising hip chicks, I knew this was fate. 

For those of you who are Intelligentsia fiends, by now you have guessed the roaster.  Now, as a self-proclaimed coffee snob, I'm not the world's biggest fan of Intelleigentsia Coffee.  I must disclose, however, that when Dan and I were looking for houses and saw the MLS listing for our place claiming it was "walking distance to Intelligentsia Coffee," we immediately booked a viewing.  (Probably not the best way to search for your first home, but hey, it worked for us).  And in full disclosure, I do the one block walk to Intelligentsia almost daily.  (I'm actually drinking a cup as I write this blog - shameless, I know). So I clearly have a positive affinity for the hipster coffee brand, and because Dan loves all things free and cheap, I called my even-more-coffee-obsessed friend Pat and headed over to Glassel Park.

It turns out that coffee chaff is light and fluffy and works well for chicken litter.  I had previously been using pine shavings, but the chaff works in the coop because their food and water are kept seperate in the run and won't suffer from chaff debris. And the best part is that the whole coop will smell like coffee, or at least at first . . .

Upon arriving in Glassel Park, we were greeted by Juliet, who posted the advertisement and who, oddly, my friend Pat knew from a DC coffee shop 5 years ago. (I told you he was more obsessed).  She offerred us unlimited amounts of coffee chaff and burlap bags, and we gladly divulged.  She also gave me her contact info for when I run out of chaff, and so began a "formalized" local-coffee-roaster-to-urban-chicken-farmer upcycling program.

Intelligentsia Roastery in Glassel Park

The MINI stuffed full with free swag

Coffee Chaff for the chicks and Burlap Bags for me

Friday, November 2, 2012

What happens when a lawyer owns chickens...

and also sometimes works from home? She gets this question while on a case strategy conference call:  "Does somebody have birds in the background? I keep hearing a chirping noise..."  Whoops.  Insert mute button and silence on my end to follow.  No, I did not respond "Yes, I have teen chickens right next to me." Lets blame this one of AT&T's faulty cell phone reception?

It was too ironic not to share...

Monday, October 29, 2012

Happy One Month Baby (not so baby) Chicks!

As a special birthday treat, the chicks got their first taste of non-chicken feed. I cut up some beet greens we weren't using and placed them in the brooder. As you can see from the pic below, the sight of alien food terrified them! (Or maybe that was because Eddy was standing next to me...). In any event, they curiously and slowly started peeking at the greens, but mostly just scoffed at them and fake sneezed. Just when I was about to think creatively about sneaking veggies into their diet (insert google searches about feeding children veggies), I returned to find the bowl empty. Birthday success!

Friday, October 19, 2012

More bad news for the Dodgers 2012 Season

There are not any baby Dodger chickens living in Silver Lake, or at least on our corner of Manzanita street (no wonder their season ended so badly). That's right, we do NOT have a Blue Ameraucana.  How did this come to be?

Yesterday I decided that my chicks had grown enough feathers, and were starting to grow their weird head pieces, that some person well versed in chicken knowledge should be able to discern their breed.   As I discussed before, this was no easy task for the novice lay person for three reasons:  (1) I didn't know whether I received a Black Cooper Maran or a Blue Splash Maran; (2) Easter Eggers, because they are a hybrid, can look like any chicken; and (3) Blue Ameraucana's can be blue, black or splashy white.  So after applying some logic and reasoning that I haven't used since taking the LSAT, I determined that the black bird had to be my barred Plymouth Rock (confirmed), and the all yellow/now white feathered bird (the blond bitch) had to be a Blue Splash Maran (confirmed).  But the other chicks didn't add up, especially because both were supposed to have slate colored feet and only one did.   

So, like any 21st century urban chicken owner would do, I emailed the online website that shipped my the chickens,  This morning I received the following response: 

FINALLY!  A "guess that breed" email that is easy!! (I had one where the lady had ordered 30 chicks from 3 different assortments, and sent pictures in before the chicks had any feathers!  I almost lost my marbles trying to guess them all!)

Anyway, here are my best guesses for your pretty little babies:
Rare Marans--(Blue Splash)
NOT a Blue Ameraucana--  Suspected Ancona==> Requesting RefundEaster Egger
Barred Plymouth Rock

I am sorry, you didn't get your Blue Ameraucana!  I checked the packing slip, and it shows the hatchery (thought they) sent a Blue Ameraucana...but it happens sometimes that the chicks jump in and out of the boxes and brooders.    Sneaky chickens.

I have noted the mistake in your order and requested a refund for the missing chick. Normally, you would see your refund in 7 to 10 business days.

My heart sank.  No Dodger blue eggs? Duchess, named after the Duke, will grow up so confused.  Even worse? Ancona's are WHITE EGG layers! She would have been immediately eliminated based on my calculating criteria for picking breeds.

There are some positives, though.  First, Ancona's are prolific egg layers, extremely efficient with their large eggs, and are early to start laying (as early as 20 weeks).  Second, mypetchicken is issuing a refund, which makes this a FREE chicken. (As they should, the blue ameraucana was $19, as opposed to the $2-4 price tag the other chicks touted, and is extremely hard to find).  Adding the first two points together, this chick is more bang for your buck.  I will need this point to convince Dan, the second cheapest guy I know (sorry Dad), that this chicken is still worthwhile even though she is no longer a Dodger. 

But the final positive is most important.  This chick "jump[ed] in and out of the boxes and brooders."  She is independent and makes her own adventure.  I can identify with that spirit, as can my best canine friend that lives with us.  And I believe that is exactly what she did.  As per my last post, she is the goofiest, craziest, was the first to fly, is the chick that sits on top of the feeder, and has so far been my favorite.  She wants to be here. Sneaky chicken...

And now all hope rests on the Easter Egger.  She will lay brown, pink, white, green, or blue.  Fingers crossed that we will get some color in our baskets of eggs!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Where Fuzz meets Feathers

If there was ever incentive to build the chicken coop, the chicks gave me sufficient reasons this week.  It is their way of telling me they are ready to move out of the house and onto their independent lives.  (Is this what it feels like when children leave for college?) As the chicks are going through their awkward stage of patches of feathers and fur, their little fuzz is floating all over the office.  They are also ambitious aviators now, and I often find them perched on top of the feeder or waterer (see pic below).  Biggest reason it is time for them to move outside? They are pooping everywhere, including on top of their waterer (more evidence of their flight), and even on my desk during socialization time (gross!).  They are chirping louder and more often, and are growing up so fast! (I wonder if my clients and colleagues on conference calls can here the chirping in the background...).  Anyway, it is time for the ladies to move outside, which means:  Chicken Coop building this weekend!

Here are their two-week old pics:

Duchess is starting to looks like a leopard!

Black Bird - once so exotic, now a pooping, patchy monster

This is my most adventurous, and also the poop culprit.  Her feathers make me think that maybe she is the Blue Splash Maran (Don't worry, I have an email out to to identify the chicks. Yes, they probably think I'm nuts.)

See her on top of the feeder!

And this is what she left me on the waterer!

The Blonde bitch is almost all white with feathers.  It looks like she will be gorgeous, but she is the most disgusting-looking right now!

Hey there cutie!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Happy 1 Week Old Baby Chicks!

What a difference a week makes! I left the chicks on Friday morning with their favorite Aunt Erika, and came home on Monday night to 4 awkward tweens.  Tails have arrived, feather details are coming in, chirps are getting louder, and the chicks seem to think that they can fly now... It is pretty hilarious watching them flap their wings.  Check out how big they haven't gotten:

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Introducing the Chicks....

Day 1 Headshots.

Easter Egger or Ameraucana (we can't tell yet!):

Blue Splash Maran:

Easter Egger or Ameraucana:

Barred Plymouth Rock: