Continuing on with our theme of utilizing recycled materials for our chicken coop, I set out to make the chicken run out of as many recycled materials as possible. Of course, this means that things aren’t perfectly square or “just so”. Ultimately, the main goal is making sure the chickens are safe and happy.
Like the coop, I used pallets for the gate to the chicken area and then to make a split door to the chicken run. I liked the idea of being able open up the bottom on the door separately from the top of the door. I purchased hinges, latches, and the welded wire for the door and gate, but everything else was free. It just took a little work to tear apart the pallets and put them together to make the gate and door. The posts for the door were given to me by a neighbor. They are warped, so it made hanging the door a little tricky. It’s not perfect, but it works. 🙂
The run itself is enclosed by some used chain link fence that I picked up locally. It even has the privacy slats which help provide extra protection and shade depending on the time of day. I added a tree stump, some branches, and a couple of bushes to provide some shade and roost areas.
Since the coop and chicken run are in our fenced in backyard, I wasn’t worry about predators going over the chicken run fence. I did, however, need to take precautions against birds of prey as we have a variety of birds that would like to pick off the chicks. I purchased some inexpensive bird netting from the dollar store to cover the run. Eventually, I’ll probably need to cover at least part of the run with a tarp to provide more shade in the summer, but this is working for now. It’s held up well to some fierce sand and wind storms already.
I decided to place the nesting box outside of the coop to give them more space inside of the coop. We’ll see how this works. If needed, I can always change it up. I’m really just making things up as we go along, and so far, it’s working out okay. I’m following the lead of the chickens. They can’t free-range due to predators and our dogs, so I’m just trying to make their run and coop as comfortable as possible. So far, it’s meeting their needs, and they’re happy. I’m sure I’ll make some changes here and there as we go along, but at least the initial set up is now done.
The quest for the perfect hard boiled egg… When we lived at sea level or lower altitudes, hard boiled eggs weren’t that difficult to make. I used the same techniques that my mom used, and I ended up with yummy hard boiled eggs. It wasn’t until we moved to a high altitude area that I realized how high elevation changed everything when it came to baking and cooking – including hard boiled eggs.
I tried a variety of techniques to achieve good hard boiled eggs, and the results were okay. What I didn’t like is that the results weren’t consistent each and every time. I
wanted needed a technique that would produce great hard boiled eggs every time. I tried different times, ice bath cooling, no ice bath cooling, room temp eggs, fridge temp eggs… and numerous combinations of those things until I came up with this one that I now use.
Previously, I brought eggs to a hard boil and then turned off the stove. I timed the cooking time and then plunged them into an icy bath. That technique needed to change, so this is what I came up with that works for me. I read about steaming eggs and thought it was a bit odd, but I was up for the challenge to see if it would work for me.
You’ll want to set your eggs out and allow them to come to room temperature before you start the cooking process. Once they are at room temperature, you can them place them in your steamer. You’ll want the eggs to be in a single layer, so adjust the size of your pan/pot according to your cooking needs.
Now, you’ll bring the water up to a heavy boil. Once the water is boiling, you’ll place the steamer over the boiling water to begin the steaming process. Set the timer for 15 minutes. You might need to play with the time a little depending on your altitude as I found that the time can vary slightly between altitudes in areas classified as high altitude.
When the timer goes off, remove the eggs from the steamer and place them in ice water. You’re going to allow the eggs to come to a temperature where they are comfortable to handle before removing them from the water. As soon as they’re out of the water, you’ll put them in the fridge to cool completely before attempting to peel them.
Now, you can peel the beautiful hard boiled eggs and eat them as is or turn them into deviled eggs, egg salad, or even toss them in a salad. I liked to keep hard boiled eggs in the fridge pretty much all the time as they make a great snack or addition to a meal. D likes me to add them to his lunch as they work well for a quick pick-me-up during the day.
I’ve taken a different approach to taking care of our baby chicks as I quickly realized that I didn’t like the traditional method of care. We started the first 6 chicks in a more traditional brooding box with heat lamp, but I just didn’t like the heat lamp. It was on 24/7. The chicks never really seemed to settle down. (I know I would have a hard time sleeping well if a heat light was on me 24/7.)
The following week, when we brought the next 6 chicks home, we had just finished up the coop. We decided that we were going to throw the traditional brooding box to the wind and move the chicks out to the coop. For the first couple of nights, we had the heat lamp on in the coop as I didn’t have an alternative idea in mind yet.
I started looking for alternative ideas for raising chicks when you didn’t have a broody hen. I found the EcoGlow Brooder (affiliate link) on Amazon which got me thinking that there may be a way to do this that was a little more natural feeling to the chicks. (We’re all about cozy around here.)
I stumbled across the idea of using a heating pad to keep the chicks warm. There were a variety of different ways of accomplishing the task, but the basic idea was to create a cave using some sort of metal, a heating pad, and a towel/blanket. Once again, I wanted to keep the cost down as much as possible, so I looked around to see what I had available.
I already knew that I would be purchasing a heating pad as I needed one that didn’t have the auto-off feature. It needed to stay on until I turned it off. I liked the idea of having multiple heating options, so I went with the Sunbeam Xpressheat Large 12’x15′ Heating Pad (affiliate link) which is a digital heating pad with 6 different settings. (There is also a Sunbeam Xpressheat X-Large 12’x24′ Heating Pad (affiliate link) if you need a larger space for more chicks.)
I was able to find a wire under shelf basket (affiliate link) that was the right size for my project. (You could also bend welded wire or use a cookie cooling sheet.) I then found a small fleece baby blanket that I had picked up a few years back at the dollar store for the guinea pigs. With those 2 items and the purchased heating pad, I was ready to put together my little heating pad mama hen. I bent the slides to create a higher opening in the front. The slides became the bottom of the cave while the bottom the of the basket became to top of the “cave”. I placed the heating pad on top and over the sides of the basket, and then wrapped the basket and heating pad in the blanket making sure to drape some of the blanket over the front opening.
I started the heating pad at 6 and have gradually decreased it according to the needs of the chicks. The smaller chicks like to go toward the back where it’s warmer while the larger chicks are towards the front. They tend to self regulate, and they only spend as much time in the heating cave as is necessary. They like to run around and explore a lot. They will also hop on top of the cave, so you’ll need to readjust things now and again. They can also get warmth from the top of the “cave” when they don’t need the full warmth of being in the “cave”. The first night, I placed the youngest chicks inside and within a few minutes, they were all snuggled inside. The second night, I tucked a couple of the youngest chicks in and the rest followed. By the third night, they put themselves to bed for the night.
I’ve noticed that the chicks that were pretty much started with this method have feathered out much quicker than our first batch of chicks that spent a week+ under the heat lamp. They are all happy and healthy. I like that we don’t have to use the heat lamp. The chicks put themselves to bed at night and sleep soundly at night. They get up with the sun in the morning. In other words, they have a more normal sleep cycle with this method.
The door was a bit interesting to get hung properly, but thanks to some assistance from D, I got it done. I probably went with a little overkill on the size of the hinges, but I liked the way it looked on the door. 😉 I went with a simple gate latch. We secure it with a small carabiner clip as an added security measure.
The one front panel has a window covered with chicken wire. (If it wasn’t in an enclosed backyard, I would have used hardware cloth instead. It keeps the dogs from getting in and the chickens from getting out. I then used old cabinet hinges to and some pallet wood to create a door for the window which is secured with a latch. The other front panel has another window with the same set-up. Right below the window is a chicken door that is also the ramp when folded down. It is also secured with a simple latch.
I wasn’t sure how I wanted to handle the roof, so D and I decided to go with something simple. It’s a basic flat roof as the coop is under a covered porch, and we don’t get much rain. We just used a couple of sheets of plywood. Because we wanted easy access to the coop, we hinged the roof where the door opens which allows us to walk into the coop. We put a nice large gate handle on it and secured it with a bolt gate latch.
I plan on using the deep liter method, so Munchkin helped me put in a nice layer of pine shavings. I made a low roost out of a sturdy tree branches. I wanted to keep the roost low at first as I didn’t know exactly what they needed. I quickly found out they were quick athletic. They not only were up on the roost immediately, but they were also walking all around on the inside ledge of the pallet. It was rather amusing. It didn’t take long before I decided to install the roost off the lower level of the coop.
Overall, I’m really pleased with the coop. It’s nice and comfy when it cold and/or windy. It has pretty good air circulation with the windows open. I may end up adding another window on the other side of the coop for cross ventilation, but I’ll see how they do as the weather gets warmer and they spend more time outside. I love that it’s very secure.
I can definitely see myself adding on to this coop. If you’re in a wet area, I would raise this up and create a run below the coop. I would also make sure the roof had a slant to it. It would be very easy to add additional “rooms” to the coop by adding on more pallet panels.
Next up… creating a good sized run for this crazy chicks.
Part 1 of the pallet coop build.
When D said I could have chickens, I got super excited and immediately started planning the coop. We looked at those small coops at the feed store, but I honestly couldn’t justify the expense given how small they were. The materials were also not the best quality. The convenience aspect was certainly a draw as I would have a coop with small run within a couple of hours, but I passed.
One thing that I really wanted with this chicken experience was too keep the cost down while still having a quality, secure coop. The coop also needs to be able to be taken down when we move, so it has to either be portable or easy to take apart. The coop was going in the enclosed backyard, so it would be safe from the coyotes, mountain lion, bobcat…, but it still needed to be predator proof due to our pups as they both have high prey drives.
Slowly, a plan came together in my head. Munchkin and I picked up 6 pallets from Home Depot. (Normally, the only give away 2 or 3 at a time, but the manager cleared giving me 6. I said I was fine with only 2 or 3 as it was a start, but they loaded all 6 into the truck. Yes!) I had some other pallets out back by the horses, so I knew that I had some back-ups if I needed them.
I decided that the coop would be roughly 8 feet long by 4 feet wide which, for our pallets, was 2 pallets across and 1 deep. Because the coop needed to be able to be taken down, I thought doing everything in sections would be the best way to go. Each pallet would be it’s own panel. Once all the panels were done, then I would assemble them. It took a little more work this way, but it ended up working for me.
The first step was taking apart the pallets. I used the sawzall as it was faster and more efficient than trying to pry off each board. Plus, prying meant more board breakage which I needed to avoid. Originally, I was just going to take the boards off the back and add those boards to the front to cover the gaps in the front boards, but I quickly decided that I wasn’t going to achieve what I wanted using this method. Plus, I saw that the boards on the front of the pallet didn’t always line up with the end of the support boards which would leave large gaps in the finished coop, so I made some adjustments to the plan.
The first step was making sure the end boards on the front lined up properly with the support board ends. Once those were secured in place and I removed the rest of the front boards, I filled in the empty space between the end boards with the boards that I had removed from the front and the back of the pallet. This created pallet panels that has solid fronts with some small gaps.
I ended up with 3 solid panels, 1 panel with a window and chicken door/ramp, 1 panel with a human door, and 1 panel with a window. I plan on integrating a nesting box in one of the solid panels, but that will come a little later in the game. Once I had the panels, the assembly began on our cement pad. (If this were going to be a long term project, I would have made this into a two-story project, but that’s not the case for us as we’ll probably only be at this location for another year or so.)
The panels are secured together with metal tie plates on the top and bottom. Because the pallets aren’t perfectly square, I didn’t completely secure them in place until we had squared up the entire coop as much as possible. We put a wood cross piece in the one corner as we needed a little more stability due to having the door in place. At this point, I chose not to put a floor in place, but it would be very easy to add a floor at a later date if I change my mind.