Friday, February 17, 2012

Jacob's chickens

A few months ago a friend asked us if we wanted chickens. "We" didn't, but Jacob did. After much discussion and many promises on Jacob's part to be 100% responsible for the chickens, we finally agreed. The friend kept them for us until the middle of January, when they (the chickens, not the friends) moved into a converted doghouse on the balcony outside the boys' room. (This same balcony is also outside of the girls' room, but the doors to it aren't exactly accessible...) Jacob had made a new door for the doghouse and rigged up a heating light. Our friend Richard took a photo of the chickens shortly after they moved in.

Most of the wood for the house came from one of the two crates that we had our things shipped in to Cyprus three years ago. My brother had remodeled them into a clubhouse for the children, which has been played with intensely by all of them, so it was much to my surprise that the vote was unanimous to dismantle half of the clubhouse to get the wood. I know I have a photo somewhere of the whole clubhouse, but if I wait until I find it, I'll never get this blogpost finished, so here's a photo of the half that is left, with Lukas climbing down from the roof. The other crate was in front of this one and didn't have anything exciting, just one diamond-shaped window and a whole side off. The part left has a loft inside (so one is standing in the loft when looking through that round window) and just the one small door, so it's the best part of the clubhouse anyway.

Jacob really did do the work almost completely independently, so I never thought to take photos. It was finished on February 10th. If you look really closely, you can see ventilation openings around the top with wire stapled over them. I did about half of that stapling. That was my complete contribution. Here, the chicken house is already finished, and Jacob and Lukas are putting cardboard down inside it.

Jacob being Jacob.

This photo should be up with the other one of the clubhouse, but it's too much trouble to try to move it. It shows very well how big the door is--Elisabeth, 20 months, just barely has to duck to go through.

Jacob encouraging the chickens to come out. He did let them out on the balcony most days (which reminds me...I need to remind him to clean the balcony!!), so they weren't stuck in this little house all the time, and they're fairly tame.

No, I have no idea which chicken this is. Four of the chickens are: Meggie, Lady Cinnamon, Fun Roon-Gifford (named after the Van Roon-Gifford family, and called Rooney, for short), and Scramble. The fifth one is called Simon James Alexander Ragsdale by Jacob (Simon for short), Megan by Helen, and Chocolate Mousse by Katie. None of the chickens answer to any name anyway, so I suppose Chicken Number Five doesn't really mind.

The chickens in their new house.

On Saturday the 11th, I took pity on Jacob and spent about six hours helping him with the coop, fitting and stapling chicken wire. Jacob built every bit of the frame with wood salvaged from rubbish heaps, and built it entirely on his own, all I did was staple wire on. He built the door Sunday morning before he left for church, and when I got home from church (I went to a different, much shorter, service, but that's a different topic) I finished the wire on the front and above the door. The wire across two-thirds of the top, two-thirds of the front, the door and section above the door, and the ventilation areas on the house, was from a pile of rectangles of chicken wire found by the boys in the mountains last summer, probably from illegal trappers. Jacob would have done the whole coop with that, but here I took pity on myself and sent him to buy a few meters of complete wire for the top between the house and the fig tree and the third on the left, partly going around the fig tree. There was enough to use it down the right-hand side, as well.

Jacob had hung the door with hinges taken from a closet door Lukas had brought home from somewhere, but hadn't made a latch yet. I couldn't wait to release the chickens, though, so held the door closed like this:
On the house, you can faintly see "Jacob's" written in chalk. Lukas did that at some point.

This photo is taken from above, by the fig tree. Our house is on two levels, with a steep driveway down to the bottom level, so both levels are "ground floor". The chickens are next to the garage (which we don't use for the car) on the bottom level, and to take this photo I was standing at the street-level, near the entrance to the stairs up to the roof.

The chickens seem happy with their new home, now we're just waiting for eggs. Near the beginning of this project, Jacob asked if we'd pay for necessary supplies, and when I said, "Well...they're YOUR chickens, aren't they?" he answered back lightning-fast, "Okay, I'll pay, but then you have to buy the eggs." I re-thought that one, and yes, we've paid for the supplies. Which consisted of some wire, a box of screws, a box of staples, a water-thingie (Jacob was happy to use a yogurt pot, but when I saw one for three Euros at the warehouse where we bought the flour, I couldn't pass it up...), and food. If we had to pay for the labor, the chickens would never pay for themselves! However, we figure that once they start laying, they'll need maybe a month to pay us back on the actual cash-out-of-pocket. Jacob will keep track, and after that we'll re-negotiate.


  1. I hadn't intended to have chickens either, but the week before my cousin's wedding a few years ago, my uncle phoned up and said he had a mother and 4 chicks we could have when we went to the wedding. The reception was on the farm and before we went home, the best man kindly caught our chickens for us and put them in a box to bring home. Beyond the call of best-man duty, I thought, but he was very good at it.

  2. mom! Helen calls MEGGIE (not Simon) Megan!