Wednesday, April 11, 2012

All Cooped Up

A few years ago, Nathan's parents bought some land in Southern Illinois, built a home, planted a huge garden, and started raising chickens and miniature cows. Obviously, this has been a lot of fun for me and Nathan, and whenever we visit them I have a great time feeding the chickens and collecting their eggs. They are coming to visit us in May, and they'll be bringing with them a very important package. Actually, make that seven to nine important packages.

Yes! We are getting chickens!

Nathan's mom has been breeding her own chicks for a few years and tells us she can time it so they will hatch within 24 hours of their arrival in Wilmington. I have my fingers crossed that this works out. I want the chicks to imprint on me, so that they will love me and trust me and think of me as their weird looking chicken mother.

Because the chicks are getting here in just over a month, we need to build a coop ASAP. I'm guessing the baby chicks won't need to stay in the coop immediately (we'll probably keep them cozy and safe inside while they are still tiny and adorable/vulnerable) but I want their new home to be ready for them when they are. We'll be building our own coop, because 1. it will be fun and 2. we can't afford to buy one. Naturally, I've been combing Pinterest for design ideas. Here are just some of the gorgeous coops that have had me drooling (I'm sure Nathan has other, more utilitarian ideas, but hopefully we'll be able to find a decent compromise): 

I love the color scheme and the mini white picket fence. We will definitely need an enclosed area like this one, because the lot behind ours is basically undeveloped wilderness. There is definitely an owl that lives back there (I hear him every night, which is awesome, and once I saw him fly over my head, at dusk, with a squirrel clutched in his talons. Less awesome.) 

This one makes me laugh. It kind of fits the mid-century modern look we've got going on with our decor, but it's not really practical. Still, isn't that the most stylish chicken you've ever seen?!

I actually like this one a lot. Closed in area for the chicks to peck around as they desire (free range, yet protected!) and the design is neat. Plus it would be easy to get inside and hug the chickens as needed. (I hear chickens need a lot of hugs. And if it turns out that I am just making that up, please don't correct me.) 

This one is simple and easy, but ours would have to be much larger. (We're planning on 5-6 chickens total - Nathan's mom is bringing more than that because when they're young, you can't tell who is a hen and who's a rooster.) I do like the mini-garden on the roof of the coop, though. It would be a nice spot to stick some herbs. 

Again - adorable, but not really practical. I am definitely getting a sign that says either EGGS or a bathroom sign that says LADIES. This is non-negotiable. Sorry, Nathan.

This design is actually a shared favorite - Nathan and I both love it.  It's simple, it doesn't take up a ton of space, it provides some shade for the chickens, and it's easy to open up from the top to collect eggs, clean the coop, and hug those chickens. This coop retails for $700 but I'm positive we could make something similar for much less. We just need to sit down and figure out how. Hopefully, that will be this weekend's project. Wish us luck - I have a feeling we'll need it.

Oh, and a side note: not every city allows it's citizens to keep chickens. Before we even moved to North Carolina, I used my librarian powers to find Wilmington's city ordinances relating to chickens, fingers crossed that my dreams would, in fact, be legal. This is what I found:

(a) It shall be unlawful for the owner or keeper of any chicken or tame or domestic fowl of whatever description to permit such an animal to be or run at large within the City.
(b) No person shall keep or maintain domestic fowl in the City unless the fowl will be on a tract of land or maintained as follows:
      (1) The tract shall consist of at least twenty thousand (20,000) square feet under single ownership or control;
     (2) Such fowl must be contained in a secure fenced enclosure at all times;
     (3) The enclosure shall have a minimum of ten square feet of area for each fowl;
     (4) No enclosure shall be erected or maintained within the front or side yard (as defined by the zoning ordinance), within twenty-five (25) feet of any property line or within one hundred (100) feet of another residence;
     (5) The enclosure shall be kept clean, sanitary and free from accumulations of excrement and objectionable odor; and
     (6) No more than twenty (20) such fowl shall be kept or maintained per acre. The number of fowl shall be proportionate to the acreage. There will be no discounting for chicks or other young fowl.
We can easily fulfill all of those requirements, and then some. Chickens, it's on!

(Links to all the coops in this post can be found on my Chicken Inspiration board on Pinterest. I tried to embed them from Pinterest but they looked wonky and trying to fix them took too much time.)