Saturday, November 2, 2013

8 Weeks In

Just for reference, for my actual first post when I was having trouble with this particular spot, see:
It's been eight weeks since we closed on Possum Cottage. That first weekend was pretty much one big celebration with family, but since then we've buckled down and have worked hard to start making this place what we want it to be. We moved here with a list of goals, both housing and homesteading related, and both lists have been getting attention, as we also work at our old house to get ready to rent.
A few things we've been doing are pretty boring. Example, it appears we need to chlorinate our well, so we bought bleach. (whoopee.) Martin has been pinning up wire mesh to keep birds out of the garage because they come in and poo-poo all over his tools.
But there have been some fun and exciting developments too! We received a whole bag full of garlic to be planted, so we're hurrying to ready a small garden plot. The same friends who gave us the garlic generously gave us two bushel baskets of apples and an enormous box of winter squash. We're going to try the idea of burying drums as individual root cellars for these things and see how that works. BUT, the most thrilling development has been:

Two weeks ago, Martin woke up with a bee in his bonnet about getting chickens. He declared that that was THE DAY to ready the coop and get some chickens. Okay! We'll get chickens today!

We are lucky that previous residents of this place had already been keeping chickens and a coop was set up in a room connected to the garage. The room is about 8ft x 10ft and contained a few straw bales and some scrap wood and an old, mouse-infested bag of chicken feed, but the owners had taken the nesting boxes and while there were a few upper rafter, there didn't appear to be any roosts. Martin built a shelf and on it put four 5-gallon buckets. He filled them with straw bedding to be our nesting boxes (which, we found out, they would use as bathroom stalls and lay their eggs in nests they made on the floor.) Out of a dowel rod and fasteners, he supplied them with a roost. That morning I had searched Craigslist for chickens, but only found outdated ads from pretty distant locations. We talked about getting chicks because they had them for sale at the feed store. Martin liked the idea of raising chicks, I did not. With three little girls, two cats, a very small house, an iffy furnace and plenty of other responsibilities and whatnot, I did not want to mess with mothering a box full of cold baby chickens. It actually sounded kind of miserable. Once he had the coop pretty much finished later in the day, I checked again and there happened to be a new posting for 8 laying hens, right near our house!

And so, he took our big dog crate and paid $48 for a flock of two Araucanas, two Rhode Island Reds, two Golden Comets and two Wyandottes.
I love these silly birds. I told my sister, I don't have any emotional attachment to them as individuals (in other words, I'd have no problem chopping off their heads and letting them flavor my soup) but I love having them out there. They make these funny noises and Anja especially loves to visit them and check for eggs. The coop is right outside our kitchen door, which is good and bad. Good because they are right there all the time, keeping us company. Bad because... well, call me naïve, but I didn't realize quite HOW MUCH chickens poop. We had had every intention of raising these as completely free range birds. (after all, why not? We have no nearby neighbors to complain!) But within a few days, there was chicken poo EVERYWHERE. Not just that, but the dogs were messing with them, getting in their coop and eating their food and drinking their water, and scaring them often enough that they stayed close to the coop and weren't appearing to range very freely after all.

The solution came in the form of some of that cheap, wooden slatted snow fence. Because it will eventually be replaced with quality fencing, Martin took the time to secure permanent fence posts and stapled the snow fence to those. And I know it's just a cheap fix for now, but I think it's really cute. Now the chickens are out ALL THE TIME and we can get through the fence just by rolling it back at the corner. The poo has stayed contained to that side of the fence, the water and feed isn't mysteriously disappearing anymore, and everyone is living in harmony.

In the two weeks we've had them, we've gotten 23 eggs. Not bad, but we all agree... we need more hens!!


  1. Yay for chickens!! We have loved having them. Our kids also love collecting eggs and running around the yard with them. So glad for you.

  2. I've been thinking about you guys a lot lately as another city mouse-turned-country mouse family!! :)