This week we’ve been shuffling chickens around the farm, doing the chicken dance.  The chicks are now 7 weeks old, and ready to move outside!

Just 7 weeks ago, they were this small!

Before we could move the chicks, we first had to relocate the older hens.  The past couple of weeks we’ve been working on a portable chicken ark to be installed in the gardens.

Our new portable poultry ark has been installed in the gardens

The ark is light enough for two people to move the pen around the gardens and orchard, but designed to be secure enough as a permanent structure.  Last week we had the core construction finished, and this week we added some of the refinements.  Raccoon proof spring latches on the doors, a comfy nest box, a roost pole for the girls to sleep at night, and we fitted the ramp with a pulley and rope so we can close the ramp from outside.  This means the girls can be closed in upstairs at night to make them more secure.

The upstairs accommodations feature a nest box

and a lovely spot to roost

Not exactly 'Fine Woodworking', but good enough for chickens

Oh, the rooster decoration was my feeble attempt at being crafty with a scrap piece of plywood.  Don’t laugh…the jigsaw and I aren’t on the best of terms most days.

The ramp can be closed up at night, to secure the hens in the roost

The hens really seem to enjoy their new home, and yesterday they had a chance to wander around the main gardens.  Of course, one hen immediately jumped squarely in the middle of the bed with the tomatoes…but at least she has good taste.

The hinged door on the run gives the hens easy access to the gardens

Our plan is to allow the hens to just roam most days, as the gardens are fenced, so this coop will mostly be used at night.

With the hens moved out of the old coop, it was time to tear it apart for a thorough cleaning, which was an all-day affair.  The roosting racks were pulled out, walls, floors and ceilings scrubbed.  The sandpit under the coop, and the dirt in the run, was removed, and replaced with fresh free-draining sand.

A sparkling clean coop, and fresh new sand, awaits the chicks

As our mystery chick from the hatchery is a feather-footed variety, it’s especially important to assure that the soil drains well.

This morning, once the fog burned off, we put all of the chicks in the coop, and closed the door.  We left them alone for an hour or so why they explored and got used to their new surroundings.

Once everyone was settled in, it was time to open the door to the run.

It took a while for everyone to venture out of the coop. The Delawares and Buff Orpingtons were the first out.

The Delawares and Buff Orpingtons were first to peek out

The remaining Partridge Plymouth Rocks, Black Australorps and Golden Laced Wyandottes were a little more wary.

"Oh, I don't know...maybe I'll go...if you go first"

Eventually though everyone made it outside, and soon after, as you’ll hear in the video, a Stellar’s Jay decided to be a wise-guy, and mimic a hawk screeching.  That certainly got the chicks attention!

Did you see the shots toward the end of ‘Frodo’s’ feet?  In the past couple of weeks the feathers on this chick’s feet have grown significantly!

Still scraggy looking, but look at those feet!

At only 7 weeks old, these chicks still have a lot of growing to do, and until then, they are quite well flighted, so for now they’ll spend most of their outside time either in the run, or in a portable chicken tractor.  Over the next couple of weeks we’ll add the extension to the run.  With more pullets this time, we’re going to double the run space so they have more room to run around.

Seven weeks old, but still a lot of growing to do

We’ll continue to update on the chicks over the next few weeks.  Hopefully by then the rest of mystery chick ‘Frodo’s’ feathers will materialize, and we should start to see more pattern on the Wyandottes and Plymouth Rocks too.