Another piece of the farmstead has fallen into place with the arrival of our hens. We had a coop, but I was having a hard time finding chicks because of the pandemic. Being new to this I assumed that was the way I had to go. Not so! I put out a query on our community google group, and got several great suggestions (there are many, many chicken owners in La Honda).
Since we are getting a late start and had no particular attachment to the "babies under lights" phase of chicken parenthood, we were glad to be reminded that ready-for-the-coop pullets (teenage chickens) was an option. So we could actually be chicken parents by Solstice weekend!
First, we needed to get the coop ready. I leveled the area and put down a double layer of greenhouse barrier and several inches of gravel. Getting everything level, square and solid is tricky, as the whole coop structure is rather flexible, but so far this is working well.
Before getting our girls we visited Peninsula Feed Store in Redwood City to get a waterer, a feeder, feed and bedding. They were super nice and very knowledgeable, and helped us find exactly what we needed.
So, FINALLY we could go get the chickens! We decided to, once again, shop "hyper local" and get our pullets from Twisted Fields Farm in nearby San Gregorio.
Twisted Fields has been in operation since 2016, and is in the process of revitalizing a small gem of a farm, tucked in one of the coastal redwood valleys we can see from our porch. They sell organic eggs and goat-milk products to local stores, and their chicken/goat yard is enormous. It also has the most charming pair of guard dogs!
We had our pick from a large flock of youngsters; we just waded in and let chance decide who would be the lucky new residents at Uphill House. Then, after chatting with the owners and grazing on fresh strawberries, we took four chickens and a carton of wild plums back up the hill.
The girls did NOT think much of the car ride.
That being established, this is what I chose: a sturdy, black plastic version of classic chicken wire, 3' tall, and 4' steel u-posts. And I am VERY pleased with the choice. Since I'm building this myself, I'm using the strongest AND most economical materials I can find. Total cost for 50 feet of fence was $128. I'll be building 3 simple gates, including a double one here.
Oh, and you can also dig on my no-waste PVC pipe feeder and waterer from Rugged Ranch. Even thought I still put some feed in their floor dish, it's nice to know they have a steady, clean supply at all times. They were kind of a pain to install, but once in they seem rock solid.
I was pleased at how quickly it came together. I had worried that the rock-hard ground would make setting the posts difficult, but a system of small starter holes filled with water worked like a dream, and I was able to set all 14 with a rubber mallet and live to tell about it. The fence posts, with their built-in hooks were great - I could assemble the whole thing before committing to a single zip-tie.
By early afternoon the perimeter was secured, one gate was in place, and I used that old stake truck panel I found to make a shelter, propping it up with cinderblocks. It was time to let the girls check it out!
Gracie, who started as a fearful peeper is the one who is doing much of the bullying around here; the pecking order is being established. Hopefully they will work things out, now that they have more space.
I never knew dust baths were such a thing for chickens, but they are having a great time. Making space for creatures that works well for their needs is so satisfying.
That's it for now. I need to go finish the gates. As always, thanks for following along. We've accomplished much since April, time to let it all settle in. Now more than ever it is important to care for self and others, stay centered, and observe with a clear eye. While looking for just the right way add some light.