The Chicken "Yard"

9 April 2017

The chicken yard has been built! As we mentioned before, it's against bylaw to let your hens free range in your backyard so we decided to build them a little yard where they could roam outside the enclosed run/coop.

We had a couple of options when it came to building it.  We ending up using cement footings instead of digging in fence posts. It went up way faster this way, plus if we ever want to move/make alterations to it, this will be much simpler to do. My Dad and Dave got the fence and gate put in within a weekend and we were going to just leave it as is. BUT. Then we noticed that Frida could jump/fly (chickens have the most awkward "flying" ever) on top of the 6.5 foot fence! I looked out the window one afternoon while doing dishes and saw her perched right on top there! Yikes! So this past weekend we added a chicken wire roof on top so we can prevent Frida from flying the coop. 

We also added some straw to the run part of the coop but the chickens ended up kicking it out into the whole yard area. They've pretty much eaten the whole section of lawn they have access to and I was getting concerned about how we would be able to keep the area somewhat clean from chicken poop. So, straw seemed like a good idea. Plus it adds to the whole farm feel which I'm definitely (unabashedly) loving. 

There is a small area above the gate that we couldn't really add chicken wire to, so I repurposed some wooden stars I had to hang there.  Hopefully the stars will deter Frida from ever trying to jump up there. I also "did the Natalie thing" (as Dave says) and found some hanging planters in my craft room to hang up on the outside to make it a little more pretty. I'm hoping to put some geraniums or something colourful in there once the weather levels out a bit. We had a large old wood ladder we picked up at the side of the road last year that Dave sawed down and we added that to the yard for the chickens to climb on. I also thrifted a small (kind of ugly) blackboard that I repainted and hung up for us to keep track of who laid how many eggs, but Iris just likes drawing on it. Ah well. Dave also scored some free blackberry/raspberry plants on Freecycle that we're going to plant along part of the chicken yard fence. Exciting stuff!


Now let's talk about the not-fun part. The cost! All the materials for the yard (wood, cement footings, chicken wire, gate, straw, hardware, etc.) came to about $500. Not cheap! 

The straw I found on Kijiji for $5 a small bale and the guy delivered it (and stacked it up so nicely against the house for me!) for an extra $15. I bought 4 bales for a total of $35. I think this will be enough to last us about a month or so. 

This stuff adds up! Start-up has been very expensive. We're so lucky to have received our coop for free because that would have been another really big expense. 

Maintaining the chickens (feed, pine shavings, oyster shell, grit, etc.) is fairly cheap, so we're still seeing all of this as a really great thing, even if it has been rather expensive to start up.

Dave: So far Nat has written everything here.  I just want to add a comment about the cost of chicken keeping.  As much as start-up for our chickens has been expensive (very expensive, if your only motivation is to get eggs), I have no regrets about this endeavour.  The whole experience, right from the beginning, has been so full of learning.  Learning about our city's bylaws (thanks to our neighbours for the extra push, lol), about construction (a more genuine thank you to Nat's Dad), the needs of chickens (the Kitchener Public Library has been a phenomenal resource), organic farming techniques (KPL again), and compost (KPL again!).  

Regarding our money, we are constantly faced with a decision on how to spend it.  Some people have $100/month cell phone bills, $100/month internet subscriptions, and/or $100/month television packages.  We are not those people (I know, we're the weird ones).  Instead, we have chickens, ha!  And we love them dearly.  So yes, there is a financial cost to keeping our chickens.  But our other life decisions (read: ultra frugality) make that cost possible to swallow - though it IS still a hard pill to take.  All the learning we've done and will continue to do as we tend to our flock of four is worth the spending to us.

Another thing... our family has been spending SO much time hanging out together with the chickens,  doing all the chicken things. This family time has really drawn us to homesteading, it's great! So far keeping our vegetable garden, starting up our composting system, and now keeping chickens has increased the Nunn Family Love-o-Meter exponentially.  In short, totally worth the $500 ;)

I really REALLY love having this chicken yard. All four hens gladly come out of the coop right away now in the morning and they all have space to do their own thing so we've seen a lot less bullying. Yay! 

(Shout out to my Dad for helping us out so much with this! We couldn't have done it without you!)

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