Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Ladies' Night Out!

Inside of the coop
Inside of the girls' new coop. Fortunately it met with their immediate approval. I'm sure glad I ran those paint swatches by them first.

The coop is almost complete - just need to install the drip edge on the 3/4" plywood roof, then attach the PVC framework that the Suntop (wavy PVC) roof will attach to, and attach the roof to the coop, and then the Suntop. Latches were installed on the Housekeeper's entrance and the chain and hooks are ready to be installed on the hinged ventilation window up front. Painting is complete, perches are installed, and when that roof is done we're calling it a day.

Today I got a very inexpensive 24" piece of 4" PVC that I plan to make into a nipple-style hanging waterer, using gerbil waterer-type nipples I found on eBay. A test run with an empty laundry soap jug showed that the nipples work well, and we should be able to fit about a gallon of water in there. I got a couple of nipples, and plan to rig up something else for outside in the run, like an even larger container with PVC pipe coming out the bottom, and nipples attached to that.

Tonight is the girls' first night out in their coop, and I'm a nervous mom. I was so ready for them to graduate, and so very tired of the dust they make in the house. Then there was the poop. It's going to be 40 out there tonight, but I've got a light for heat and the roof is temporarily in place, and presumably they are more or less fully feathered out at about 5 weeks. They are safe, behind chain link and hardware cloth, but I do worry about the cold. Hopefully they'll snuggle together under the light and keep each other's little chicken spirits up by telling happy stories about the time they spent in our kitchen.

Meanwhile (to get my mind off this), it seems that there are a lot of hidden benefits to keeping laying hens. There's the health aspects, particularly those that show that the eggs raised this way are astonishingly more healthy for you than those you get from the store. 4-6 times more Vitamin D? 1/3 less cholesterol? I'm sold. And then there are the esoteric benefits, the "feel good factor" that comes from interacting with animals, and being closer to the earth, and spending more time outdoors.

But there are other benefits, I've learned. Like the fact that chicken feathers (the ones that fall out) can be used to make all kinds of useful things like circuit boards and petroleum-free plastic. The girls have largely been retaining their newly grown plumage so far, but as they grow I'm sure there will be some falling out. While in all seriousness this is not a perk for our small home operation, imagine what this might mean for larger ones? Being able to sell the waste products from your production operation is a huge deal.

Now here's a rough financial breakdown. The bottom line up front is that this is not likely to save much grocery money!
It will "only" take us 2 years to break even on our investment in the girls and their new condo once they start laying. Assuming eggs are about $3 a dozen, and assuming that our modest flock of 3 will produce 2.5 eggs per day. And their laying days are another 5 months or so away, which is another heap o' chicken food I didn't factor into the mix. It's a good thing we recycled lots of scrap lumber from around home, or we'd be in for a lot more in this adventure.

Tomorrow I'll share a picture of the cuuuutest little ramp I built today. It was hardly necessary for practical reasons since the coop is only about a foot off the ground, but totally necessary for the aesthetic. Wait until you see it.


Bobbie Pene said...

Interesting figures. I guess it would be even more economical if you had more hens and sold the eggs. What is the egg laying span of a hen and what is their life span?

Sally Anderson said...

This has been so interesting and fun to read about. The one thing you didn't mention that I'm sure will be true is that you'll have the best tasting eggs ever! So fresh. Yum.

Patty said...

Bobbie, from what I read their average life span is about 8 years, but they are most productive (laying) in the first 4. We're just in it for the fun, health, and eggs for our small family.

Erica Lea said...

Hey, don't forget that aged chicken poop is great compost! Maybe that can offset some of your costs, too. Looks like it's a very nice coop. I loved it when we had hens, and still miss those yummy fresh eggs.

Patty said...

Erica, you're right - that's a benefit I overlooked. I am indeed a composter, and have a very active worm bin, so poop's the word around here for sure. :-)


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