So. Chickens. They are happening.
Mr. Case has long yearned for chickens. He has had a thriving garden for several years, and this year he expanded it. The next logical step was livestock, and since we live in the city, we are pretty much limited to chickens. He checked with the city authorities last summer and was told that as far as chickens are concerned, the line between "pet" and "livestock" is pretty hazy, and that it really comes down to your neighbors.
So we asked our neighbors for the materials to build the chicken run.
No, really, we did. Our neighbors to the north had an old dog kennel that was attached to their detached garage. When they had a dog, it could go into the garage by way of a staircase that hooked up to a garage window. Their dog died a few years ago and the kennel just sat, rotting away, so The Professor approached them and asked if he could dismantle it and use it himself. They were more than happy for someone else to take care of it, so he and his dad tackled it one morning a couple of weeks ago. A few days later they rebuilt it next to our detached garage, where it essentially serves the same purpose as it did as a dog run, except now it's for chickens.
It runs a little beyond the width of our garage, underneath some great shade trees, which have since been trimmed a little.
The Professor and his dad made a ladder (walkway?) out of an old closet door that runs from their coop in the inside of the garage to the outside run.
Here's the walkway and little platform leading to the window from another angle:
On the side nearest the side door to the garage they built a gate. Apparently they only needed something like $10 in materials to build this whole thing because it just fit together so perfectly for our purposes.
(Note: If you have strong opinions on a roof, just keep them bottled up inside. He knows a roof, which would be really difficult for this particular run, might be a necessity later on, if predators start carrying off the birds in broad daylight. He considers this a test run. Just so you know, the birds only stay outside during the day. They are ushered into the coop at night and are separated from the outside world by a heavy door.)
On the inside is their coop, where they have a roost and a nesting box, for when they are laying eggs. Mr. Case built it entirely out of scrap materials, which is really pretty amazing, I think. Here is a straight-on view of the nesting box. To its left you see the door that covers the window. This opens and closes by means of a heavy pulley system. To the left of all that is the roosting area, where he has a couple of heavy limbs positioned for optimal roosting.
Last Thursday The Professor and the three big kids went to a local poultry farm and bought three Rhode Island Reds, one for each kid. These girls aren't laying yet, but should start producing this fall.
Oh, and their names? Amy, Feathery, and Robochicken. You're welcome.
So that's our next endeavor in suburban farming. I personally have no desire to do anything with these guys. I'll take their eggs, but my husband knows he is on his own for anything beyond that. I have willingly spent over $4 a dozen for cage free, vegetarian-fed eggs for several years, so I could take or leave chickens. But he was SO EXCITED for them and SO EXCITED that he finally got to realize his dream. Even when he built the dang run SO LARGE that it completely encased my entire stock of lily-of-the-valley, thus ensuring their future demise, I couldn't get mad. Even when he built the dang coop SO LARGE that there is no way we could ever fit our van in our already teeny garage, I couldn't deny him this.
Perhaps a good closing story to this post would be our daughter's attitudes toward the chickens. The day they were scheduled to pick them out, she was asking lots of questions, the last of which was this: "So when the chickens can't lay eggs anymore, can we kill them and eat their chicken meat?" When we answered in the affirmative, she yelled, "YAY!"
Amy, Feathery, and Robochicken, meet reality. Enjoy your stay. FOR NOW.