"Self-sufficiency does not mean 'going back' to the acceptance of a lower standard of living. On the contrary, it is the striving for a higher standard of living, for food that is organically grown and good, for the good life in pleasant surroundings... and for the satisfaction that comes from doing difficult and intricate jobs well and successfully." John Seymour ~ Self Sufficiency 2003

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Anniversary gift

Firstly, thanks to everyone for their good wishes on my last posting.  It was a wonderful relaxing day (in front of the Rosie) - with snow falling on the higher mountains in the Eastern Cape & Lesotho.  Sadly, not on our mountains though...

The 31st was Tweedle Dee's due date.

But, nary a peep was heard, not chick was spotted.

I feared that her three week semi-starvation was all in vain.  Was Tweedle Dum not up to the task?

I felt so bad for her...
An anniversary gift from Tweedle Dee - the
sight of a baby chick :)
However, the afternoon of our anniversary I went out to check on her progress, and what did I spy peeping out from next to her?

A baby chick :D

What excitement.  S'truth!  You'd have thought RMan and I had won the lottery lol

Such proud "parents" bwahaha.  T'was the easiest childbirith ever!

In anticipation of the arrival of a chick (or two) I had been voraciously reading up on all aspects of making Tweedle Dee's first experience of motherhood as "perfect" and as comfortable as possible.

Most sites advised keeping the hen and baby chicks apart from the rooster.
The chicken coop we made out of
the frame from the water container
That was a problem as we only had one coop - the one we made from the water container frame.  Knowing that trying to source another frame in a short space of time was not feasible I racked my brains as to what we could do.

I even resorted to googling buying a new chicken coop, or small garden shed...

Until I had a brainwave.

I sent the local tile shop an e-mail, asking them if they had any pallets for sale.  I knew that tiles were delivered to them on pallets, and wondered if they had to return them to the supplier, or whether they kept them?

Sure enough they e-mailed back giving me the name of someone to call / speak to the next time we were in the area.

RMan, in anticipation of woodworking chores ahead, is not always keen on "quickly stopping to see if they have anything suitable" but I managed to get him to drop in.

They had pallets which were very solid, and had to be returned to the suppliers.  But, then they also had these:
Scrap pallets - with our name on them :)
 Any idea's what we could do with all those
outdated bathroom fittings - they're due to be
smashed shortly - because the new loo seats
don't match / fit.  What a waste!
Less study pallets, but they would certainly do the job.

Five were loaded in our trailer.

George, the carpenter from "The Wood Shop" had offered us some old nesting boxes which he could no longer use because the otters in the nearby river, kept eating his chickens.

Those got loaded into the trailer at the same time.

Offloading everything at home we got to work.
The new pallet chicken coop in the making
The pallets got stripped and the wooden slats were moved closer together to make walls.
We added one of the two nesting boxes to the one
side of the coop.
 One of the two sets of nesting boxes was added to the one side.
Collecting eggs from here in future is going to
be a breeze :)
A door was added...

Apart from the roof, the entire structure was covered in chicken wire - even the floor - so that if any otters fancied digging underneath they would find their way blocked. 

We placed the new coop next to the old one, and covered both of the roofs with a piece of IBR sheeting (corrugated roofing), and a double layer of shadecloth - to prevent the coop from becoming an oven in the hottest time of the day / year.
"His" and "Hers" chicken coops lol
Tweedle Dums is on the  right,
and Tweedle Dee and the chicks pallet
coop is on the left.
Literally, as we finished that coop, Tweedle Dee became a mama.  Of 4 chicks (clever Tweedle Dee - and Tweedle Dum lol:D

And, watching them, the chicks started clambering all over the quaddie tyre nest.

They wouldn't stay in there long.

I was concerned that they would get out of the nest and fall 2 - 2.5 feet to the floor.  Would they survive?  I doubted it.

Plus, when Tweedle Dum came near Mama hen rose up menacingly with wings widely spread.

Definitely time to move them. 

But - how do we transfer her and the chicks to the new coop?
How to move this bulky nest to the new coop?

Three days after we had spotted the first chick, 4 chicks were toddling round the nest, I said to RMan that it was time - we couldn't wait for the other two eggs to hatch / not hatch.

He carefully picked up the tyre and base and tried to manoeuvre them out of the frame coop and into the new pallet one.

Naturally, the chicks leapt out of the nest - together with mama.  Now they were running round the frame coop.

Oh, how to catch a chick.  Not bloody easy, is it, but, bless RMan, he did it.

Transferring all of the chicks (and the two remaining eggs) to the new coop, all that was needed was for Mama to now locate them but their frantic chirps.

Finally, they were are securely ensconced within their new dwelling.
We have fenced off the area outside the coop
so that Mama and the chicks have access to outside
without fear of Tweedle Dum interferring
Mama wasn't interested in the last two eggs, so they ended up being sacrificed for the good of the 4 chicks.
Clever Tweedle Dee - teaching the chicks
to scratch for their food
The first couple of days the chicks couldn't make it out of the coop - the lip under the door was too high.  Strategically placed bricks soon sorted that out.
Tweedle Dee is forever going inside and out of the
pallet coop - I reckon she love it :)
Tweedle Dee has been amazing - I am blown away by her mothering instinct!!

Firstly, when she was sitting on the eggs, she only got off them for about 10 minutes every 3 days.  Every THREE days?!  I kid you not.  Her comb went almost colourless, and her feathers lost their lustre.

What dedication!

Now they are hatched, she does not let them out of her sight for a second.  When chick feed is sprinkled on the ground, she rushes up and "pretends" to peck at it.  Naturally, the chicks follow suit.

When she is happy that they are all eating, I then scatter her normal chicken feed down, and she then proceeds to fill her stomach.

And - whoa!  Have you ever given your baby chicks ( and Mama of course) some cottage cheese?  They absolutely love it - the baby chicks grab a mouthful and rush away to the corner to eat it - so that no-one can steal it from them.  They have even swiped Mama's mouthful straight out of her beak!

At bedtime, it used to be a chore to get Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum into the coop.  Food had to bribe them inside each and every time.
Bed time - everyone safely ensconced in
their bed 
With the new coop, in the late afternoon Mama toddles inside when she's ready, settles down in the nesting box, with the baby chicks rushing to join her as fast as they can.

All I have to do is close and lock the door behind them.

The new coop is a brilliant success - everyone is happy, and have accepted it as their new home.

What did it costs us?

A pair of hinges and a dead bolt for the door, a packet of screws, 10 mtrs of chicken wire - and some of our time.  The IBR roofing and the shadecloth we had already.

And the wood shavings - well, it's nice to have a friendly carpenter in town - he's only too happy to get rid of his waste :)

What about Tweedle Dum?  He has settled down into his coop on his own - well, the rest of his family is right next door, aren't they?!  He probably enjoys having the entire roost to himself, if the truth be told...

I have a sneaky suspicion that one of the chicks is a rooster - it has a dark "line" on it's head, and it's wings have dark markings which the others don't have.  So, for a period, Tweedle Dum may have company - until the "spare" rooster is ready for the pot.


DFW said...

Happy Anniversary! Love the new coop & the new chicks.

Dani said...

Dallas - Thanks, my friend. The coop rocks lol

Mum said...

Congratulations on your new family.

Dani said...

Bwahahahah - thanks Mum ;)

Vicki said...

I love your solution of the problem of a new coop. Too many of us just go out and buy state-of-the-art expensive solutions rather than figuring out ways to do what is needed without spending a truck load of money. Congrats on the new chicks. Wonderful!

And a belated Happy Anniversary! That one snuck past my radar.

1st Man said...

Congratulations, it's girls! And maybe a boy, LOL! Your coop solution is brilliant, I love thinking outside the box like that. Happy day!!

Dawn McHugh said...

What a wonderful gift, and a wonderful coop, chooks dont need fancy housing I have know people spend £800 on a coop decide they dont like not the chooks, and go and spend another fortune on having the right look, yours looks just the business :-)

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful anniversary gift, new life, and fantastic that you were able to cobble together such a wonderful coop out of virtually nothing.

Dani said...

Vicki - I battled with buying new when old can be successfully re-purposed. We both very happy with the way the coop turned out. I'll have to add some (cold) wind protection on the northern / north western side for winter though.

Dani said...

1st Man - Bwahahaha!

Thanks - it's not as pretty as your barns, but it'll certainly do the trick :)

Dani said...

Dawn - £800 translates to +/- ZAR 19 000.00 That's hectic! Yeah, this one will do, and, what's more important, Tweedle Dee likes it :)

Dani said...

giggletreedesign - I'm just grateful that RMan and I were up to the task ;)

Bill said...

New chicks are so cute! And I enjoy watching how a mother hen cares for and teaches them. Great use of materials and a nice-looking coop!

Chickpea said...

Happy Anniversary and what a great post. Such cute little chicks and love the coop

Harry Flashman said...

You've done a wonderful job of taking care of your chicks. A word of warning, the biggest loss I have in chicks is due to other hens killing them, and to snakes getting the babies. Mine are free range so I have much less control than you do. I actually have a hen with three chicks right now, way out of the season. I put a box out for them under some brush and the mom is taking them in there at night.

Harry Flashman said...

I forgot to say "Happy Anniversary."

Dani said...

Bill - They are the cutest things ever :) As fussy as a monther hen is 100% accurate.

Thanks, Bill ;)

Dani said...

Chickpea - Thanks. Yeah, we're happy - it turned out well - much better than the "frame" one. We may need to make another pallet one... ;)

Dani said...

Harry - Thanks for the warning - I'll keep my eyes open. Strange your hen has chicks - I heard they stop laying in early winter, so am also surprised to hear you have chicks so late. Hope they survive the cold weather...

Dani said...

Thanks Harry :)

Tania said...

Happy Anniversary and CONGRATULATIONS on your new chickies. They look very happy and healthy :)


Dani said...

Tania - Yep, they're growing amazingly fast - and are a source of wonder for RMan and I. Such townies, aren't we :)