I have been possessed by a demented poultry breeder. At least, that's the only reason I can think of that my thoughts are occupied 75% of the time with chicken-related research and speculating. I've been wanting chickens in a casual sort of way for a few years, but this year I'm very, very serious. Or at least as serious as I can be when talking about converting a detached garage into a combination hen house and potting shed, with room to park the car as a definite afterthought.
Research so far has uncovered the following:
My breed of choice is the Australorp. Shiny black, a good layer, and–very important–extremely hardy and docile. These are not traits to overlook if you're a first-time chicken keeper who stands 5 feet tall. (Photo at left from ozbreeders.com)
Backyard Chickens, an unholy temple to the Gallus gallus. If you want to know anything about chickens, I guarantee the denizens there will have the answer. Many, many answers, as a matter of fact. In the last few days, I've learned about the deep litter method, the use of apple cider vinegar in chicken drinking water, and difference between grit and oyster shells. I have also spent some time perusing the various coop set-ups.
Various models for my garage hen house. Two fab examples are here and here. I especially love the chicken run that wraps around SeaChick's garage.
Dan is amenable to insane projects. My stepfather very kindly offered his help in designing and constructing my coop and run. He even volunteered his best friend's help. We will also be installing a pedestrian door to the garage, so I can get in and out without having to walk outside the fence and use the garage door opener.
It's hard to do an accurate measuring of potential run space if you can't feel your fingers. I took the tape measure out today; but it's about twenty degrees, so my results might best be described as fast and sloppy.
A rework of the butterfly border is in order, as it is located on the site the run will occupy. That means good-bye to two caryopteris shrubs (one was looking awfully peaked this summer anyway). Also, the the run is going to sit over the spot where two peony shrubs are now, so I've got to move them or lose them.
Chickens destroy any greenery they can get their beaks around, which leads to such genius ideas as this: the chicken moat. This guy fenced his vegetable garden with two parallel fences; the chickens patrol between the fences, eating all the grass that might try to encroach on the garden and any bugs dumb enough to head for the veggies.
I'm going to be a lot busier this winter than I thought. Not only do I need to redo the basement bathroom for my sister (I have contractors coming this week for estimates) and put in a new kitchen floor (I should have an estimate by tomorrow), but there's a lot of work to do before welcoming the ladies.
Come spring, it's omelets all around!