Posted by: Brett | December 27, 2009

Castle Chickenstein

On the path to self-sufficiency, the plan was always to start with chickens as from the reading I had done they were the easiest and most forgiving of the standard ‘barnyard animals’ (read: hardest to kill) then work our way up to things like goats then pigs, then for my crowning achievement, a massive herd of water-buffalo.  The chickens, approx. 25 Rhode Island Red females (I say approximately because they won’t stand still long enough to get an accurate head count), arrived in the mail on October 15 having just hatched. We set them up in “brooders” (plastic storage bins with sawdust, food, and water in the bottom and a heat lamp above them).

After about four weeks, they were starting to get a bit crowded so we needed a permanent home for the flock.  The ideal coop is relatively secure, no cracks or gaps that predators could get into and something with close proximity to the house, barn, and electric and water.  We chose a 11’x21’ wooden outbuilding that was empty.  Most people that I had read about built their own coops using reclaimed or scavenged materials.  The goal in building a chicken coop is to spend as little money as possible on it, at least that’s what the cool kids said on the web sites I researched ( 

So, in that we only had to buy the fencing wire, we succeeded there.  The location had a decent southern exposure for cutting windows into the building as the hens require a certain duration of sunlight to trigger and maintain their ‘laying status’ (approx. 18 hrs/day I think) and a decent area to be fenced in for a run.

We ran an extension cord out from the main barn to the coop to hang two heat lamps to provide supplemental heat, placed some wood shavings down, made a little pen with the chicken wire and placed their new feeders and waterers, they were happy to be out of their cramped brooders and able to run around a bit.

Now that they had a temporary home, I set to building their run.  Since metal fence posts are insanely expensive and we have an abundance of straight tree limbs, I decided to try out a ‘natural fence post’ method where you char the bottom 3 feet of fence post to be buried and it lasts a lot longer than if you’d just buried the fresh log.  Dig about a 3 ft. hole with the post pole digger, insert post, back fill and tamp dirt down with the handle end of a rake and a mallet or hammer (if industrious, water until moist and continue to compact soil around post).

With the run mostly fenced in, it was time to go ahead and cut the door. The circular saw was used to start the cut and the reciprocating saw to finish them.  The cut piece was retained, hinges were added and became the door, which is secured with a stick as a latch from the inside at night.  The chicks didn’t know how to use the ramps at first, we had to sprinkle feed on them to get them to walk on them.  Now, a month or so later, a few of them know how to use the ramps to get outside.  We’re hoping the others can learn by example cause when it’s sunny and not freezing they obviously prefer to be outside, they just can’t get it through their bird brains that ramps lead to happy-fun-times.

So that’s it on phase #1 of Castle Chickenstein. So far there have been no overt break-in attempts by any predators.  A week or so ago, it looked like there might have been one but we think it was just a deer that ran into the fence at night.

After repairing the fence there hasn’t been any other drama.

Sometime in the next few weeks, I’ll begin to make improvements to the coop and will post pics when done.



  1. Amazing. Totally amazing. Bravo.

  2. […] to Plowshares As we’ve mentioned here and there, we’ve been planning to do some farming on Brett’s mom’s land. The […]

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