After a particularly verbose email (in which I tried to make myself sound pleasant, and not pleading), I have received the green light from our landlady to get chickens this spring. She sent me a very quick email while she was out of town and used the phrase "No Problem" which made my giddy farm-girl heart leap. Of course I love to count my eggs before they are hatched. I'm sure I have to get the O-Kay from our neighbors before really pursuing my latest poultry plot, and while we have a good relationship with them, I do know that they are concerned with the possibility of my farming endeavors becoming a smelly nuisance.
Being particularly disgusted by strong smells and not adverse to hard work, I don't think this will be a problem at all. Mucking the ducks and the sheep is a simple task and I keep up with it well enough to keep smells down. The only time the ducks get smelly at all is when it's spring and their winter waste has seeped into the ground, and even then you can't smell it from more than twenty feet away.
Anyway, if you've followed this blog at all, you've probably picked up on the fact that I love to plan things. Prior to my landlady's decision I had started hazily planning how I would set things up if I could have chickens. The moment I read her response, those hazy plans snapped into clarity and I knew exactly how I was going to build the coop. Months ago, while pulling off some old corrugated metal siding on the barn I discovered a small poultry door that was built into the original structure. It was this discovery that led me to daydream about chickens in the first place. If you look in my first sketch, the little black square indicates where the cute little poultry door is. Obviously my multiple-point perspective skills have waned since graduating from college. Haha.
My plans are here on the right. I am going to create a long, narrow run for the chickens to go into during the day. The run will have a door in the end, probably around six feet tall, and the poultry door will have a ramp and door (or perhaps a hinged ramp that doubles as a door?). I'll also have several perches and probably an external nesting box in the run. Inside the barn I will fix up that end of the barn (it's currently a ridiculously disorganized storage area) and build a similar run to keep out the predators. The barn has amazing ventilation so it's perfect for poultry! Then, in addition to all of this, I plan to have one or two lightweight tractors so that the chickens can graze around the property but snugly contained in their movable grazing quarters so they aren't a nuisance to the neighbors. That pretty much takes care of the housing plans. I do have a vague idea in the back of my head for rotating veggie beds to graze the chickens on either weed seedlings or the bugs living on mature plants (can we say cucumber beetles!? mwahaha.)
Now that the housing plans are fairly complete, I get to think about breeds! Oh geez. Michigan has some spectacular rare heritage breeders. I've already contacted a woman about Copper Marans, which produce the most amazing and beautiful dark, dark brown eggs. I'm such a sucker for pretty colored eggs. I'll probably get Marans and Ameraucanas (Araucanas bred specifically to be killing-gene free) since they produce such uniquely colored eggs.
Then again, I also discovered there is a local breeder of Blue-laced Red Wyandottes and after seeing photographs of these amazingly beautiful birds I can't help but want to have some in my flock! I have no idea what breeds I'll end up with. There are so many beautiful birds out there that I can't even begin to decide here.
There's even a breed called Buckeye that is the only recognized breed that developed by a woman. In addition to that, Buckeyes are known for being amazing mousers, and supposedly they can rival any seasoned feline.
So many choices... Hmm... All I know is that I'm going to get heritage breeds, and by restricting myself to heritage breeds I'm really not cutting down my options much at all... haha, back to planning I go!