When we built the original coop, we only had a few Buff Orpington hens. Although the coop itself could accommodate more chickens, the run, despite being generous in size, seemed just about right for a half dozen hens.
After we moved the older hens out to the ark in the gardens this spring, this year’s chicks moved into the larger coop. We knew though, that the run would need to be expanded to accommodate our new additions.
While the pullets are still small, they’re spending most of their time in the run during the day. As they get larger though, we’ll start ranging them outside. However, at the moment our resident Red-tailed hawks, Cooper’s hawks, and ravens seem a little too interested in our twelve week-old brood. Even as adults, as we did with our previous hens, if we’re not here to keep an eye on the flock, they will be in the run during the day for their own protection.
Our pullets recently had their first encounter with one of the bobcats that like to wander through the yard. They’d never seen a bobcat before. He surprised them, by popping up along side the run around 5 PM in the afternoon, and our first clue something was amiss, was an explosion of feathers and dust, along with audibly hysterical chickens in the yard. Nobody was significantly injured, but if they weren’t in the run, it’s very likely someone would have become the early-bird special for the evening. There were a few bloodied beaks that resulted from too many pullets dashing for the coop door at once, but the injuries were minor, and could have been much much worse.
This photo is a couple of years old now, but this is exactly why we don’t leave our chickens out unattended!
Bob can easily take down a chicken. So, to give the girls more space, and still keep them safe from our predators, we’ve now tripled the size of the original run by building an extension to the side.
We elected to make the extension shorter than the main run so as not to turn the original run into a dark and gloomy cave. The extension has a solid roof, but was attached to the main run so as to create a clerestory of sorts, still allowing light through to the original run.
Although we shingled the main roof, we elected to use a sheet metal roof for the extension. As it’s closer to the ground, and we’ve watched bobcats try to climb the run walls in the past, we decided to go with a slick surfaced roof for the extension to discourage animals from climbing up there. We’ll see how well that works for us over time.
We still need to add the sand base to the extension this weekend, but as our rapidly growing chickens were getting quite anxious for more elbow room, we’ve given them access now that the actual structure is complete. Now they have plenty of room to flap, hop, jump, and run around as much as they like.
Interestingly, even though they now have more shade on warm days due to the solid roof of the extension, they still really prefer to be under the coop when it’s hot. It’s also the first place they retreat to when something scares them, as you’ll see in part of the video below.
I was intending this week’s video to show how roomy the new run is. However, as you’ll tell from the first 10 seconds of this clip, filming inside the run is a bit of a challenge! Remember last week when I said they peck lenses? Add in a small red light on a video camera, and…well you’ll see for yourself…
Is it me, or were the girls laughing after they knocked the camera over?
Fowl Friday wouldn’t be complete without a note or two about Frodo. With the run extension in place, we’re really anxious to get Frodo turned back out into the coop. He’s only made a smidge of progress on filling in his bald spot in the past week…but it’s progress nonetheless. On the upside, all the extra attention he’s getting is turning him into quite a sweet little chap.
Anticipating Frodo’s imminent return to the flock, we’ve moved our temporary chicken tractor directly along side the new run extension. Frodo, and his friend, who now seems to have acquired the name Sam (of course, who else would Frodo’s friend be), both spend their days in the tractor where all of the pullets can see them. This allows them to re-familiarize themselves with each other, but still protects Frodo’s skin from our persistently pecking pullets.
The next step will be sneaking these two back into the coop one night, after everyone has roosted for the evening. That though, is likely still a few days away.
Next Fowl Friday, we’ll update you on the progress of our turkeys, who are growing faster than our weeds! Meanwhile, with poultry construction projects completed, it’s time to get back in the garden!