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What are you building? A playhouse, doghouse…A chicken what????

Our Chicken Coop out at the farm. Built from old shipping crates and pallets

The framing of the coop in our driveway

The framing of the coop in our driveway

The Coop at the farm with the framing for their outdoor run in place.

The Coop at the farm with the framing for their outdoor run in place.

So, how do you get eggs when you don’t have a rooster? Seems like a dumb question now, but a sincere question I had a few years back. Chickens were a subject that I knew very little about.

The only thing I knew was that when I was growing up, a girl down the street had chickens and when we entered the coop we had to avoid the rooster, or we would come out with very sore (and sometimes bloody) ankles.

Jim and I both wanted to have our own chickens….not only for the novelty of being able to have farm fresh brown eggs, but also as somewhat of a financial incentive with 4 teenage children that like to eat breakfast.   So after weeks of internet and local research, we decided that we were ready to tackle the challenge of raising our own chicks.

We decided to ‘order’ 25 chickens from a hatchery in Ohio and anticipated that we would have 25 new family members by the middle of March.  We then set about building a small wooden brooder  in anticipation of “expecting” our little ones any day. Well, the middle the March arrived, with no word of the ‘adoption’ day.  As an excited ‘new’ mother, we called the hatchery only to find out that our pullets were on back order. Hmmmmmm….not the baby shower that I expected.    Time was getting away from us…..we had to do something.   Back to plan A….so we headed to the local farm store to purchase our pullets.  (Pullets are those chicks that they can ‘guarantee’ are females).  Time to head out and pick out what we would end up calling “The Girls”.

The coop in year 2 with a heavy winter blanket of snow - and a new paint job

The coop in year 2 with a heavy winter blanket of snow – and a new paint job

We quickly picked out 10 chicks in a cardboard container and headed home.  After getting them settled in their new home, we sat for hours watching them under their warming lamp.  We had to introduced our Black Lab ‘Jazzy’ to the newest members of the family….interesting to say the least.   (we had to reassure her that the chirping noise wasn’t the same noise she found in the squeakers of her toys). And then – after all of the excitement died down…we realized we needed to build their permanent home.  And construction then began on ‘The Coop’.

Jazzy checking out the new chicks...

Jazzy checking out the new chicks…

Now remember, we don’t live on ‘The Farm’.  We live in a pretty typical suburban neighborhood with neighbors within throwing distance from us. We also have frequent walkers that pass by the house and always give a friendly wave hello.

So when we decided to build what we now call “The Coop”, we had to do so in our driveway where we had the modern convenience of electricity. Using reclaimed shipping crate and pallet wood, we built the chicken coop primarily out of recycled materials.  After week one, we not only had a frame to our structure, but a pretty significant start to the future home of the chickens.

Farm Fresh Eggs

Farm Fresh Eggs

Spring was in full force at this time, and after the snowy, cold winter, several couples in the neighborhood had decided to take up walking as a form of exercise.  Each day we would hear general comments from them such as,  “looking good”, and “keep up the good work”.    It wasn’t until the actual outside structure was built that we started getting more curious looks and the occasional question like: “Ok, you have to settle the bet, are you building a playhouse or a dog house?”.  To much of their surprise, we would laugh and tell them that it was actually a chicken coop – followed by a quick clarification of: “Don’t worry, it’s not staying in the driveway, we are moving it out to the farm”.

We live in a small enough community where the head football coach of our small high school lives just up the street.  Without hesitation, one day at school he approached one of our boys and commented, “Son, you are going to have the most elaborate dog house on the block”.  To the horror of our son, he shyly admitted to Coach that it wasn’t a doghouse at all, but a chicken coop in progress.   Guess there are worse things a teenage boy could endure:).