Ok, don’t laugh but this has been a childhood dream of mine – I want chickens.
Somewhere deep inside this city-born gal lurks a farmer. Maybe it was all those summers I spent on my uncle’s farm mucking out horse stalls or sitting on my grandma’s porch shelling peas that caused me to harbour this desire. I can’t say where the desire comes from but I do know that I’ve been the happiest I’ve ever been since moving out to the Lair.
This spring Lise and I decided to take a part of our yard and make it into a vegetable garden. Out of those plans, and with much research, we decided to raise composting worms (eisenia foetida) to use their castings as fertilizer in our garden.
We started with a couple of plastic totes and a few pounds of worms and now we have a 55 gallon barrel in our shed brimming with beautiful worms. We’re using the totes as incubators for the worm cocoons and baby worms and will be starting another 55 gallon barrel very soon. Our neighbours tease us and call us the worm farmers and ask when they can expect to see us taking the worms out for exercise.
We were a bit hesitant to tell the neighbours that we had worms (yuk, yuk) but when we told them about our little worm ranch, they smiled and said, “We’re zoned agricultural so you could have a cow in your yard if you wanted to.” At first I thought they were joking but when I dug up the tax bill and deciphered all the abbreviations on the page, sure enough, we ARE zoned agricultural. While a cow would provide all the manure we’d ever need to feed our worms, I think our neighbours would have something to say especially as soon as the wind blew a certain way. Anyway I started thinking – gee, maybe I could have those chickens I’ve always wanted.
Our property is more wide than it is deep so we don’t have much of a backyard. Having chickens would mean trying to figure out a way to keep them in a small space. Since we have more room to the front and side of the house, I thought I’d like to put them there. When Lise and I talked about that we discussed how chickens, if left in one place, can quickly turn a nice lawn into a not-so-nice lawn. So that meant we’d have to find some way to move the chickens around regularly.
The other thing we needed to consider was all of the feral cats in the area. Sure, we could nail a little coop together and let the chickens free-range in the fenced in portion of the yard but that idea seemed too much like tying a goat to a stake in the T-Rex paddock.
We’ve spent the last three weeks looking for solutions and finally decided we are going to build an ark. In North America this type of coop/run design is known as a “tractor” but in Britain, they call them “arks”.
We bought a set of plans from Catawba Convertible Coops upon which to base our design and then I saw The Henley and fell in love. So with graph paper and mechanical pencil in hand, Lise and I are going to design something that incorporates the features of both. We’re already arguing about the colour – she wants to paint it blue and I want to paint it barn-red with white trim so we may have some arm-wrestling to do.
The Harrow Fair is being held at the end of August and that’s where I’d like to find some hens, so I’d like to have our ark built before then. I’m not sure which breeds are available in our area but there are two breeds I’m particularly interested in: Ameraucanas and Barred Plymouth Rocks. I’ve already warned Lise that when we go to the fair I’ll be spending most of my time in the poultry barn chatting people up.
Meanwhile, I’ll be cutting up wood scraps trying to figure out if I can cut these angles with a protractor and circular saw or if I really need to rent a miter saw. If all goes well and we still have all ten digits in place, we could have next year’s spider problem solved and be eating our own eggs to boot.