coop design

Knowing our hatching eggs would arrive at the end of April, hatching out in May, and ready for their coop end of June, in the winter I began searching for plans for a chicken coop. Searching and searching. In conversation with my father, who designed and built the family home, renovating it from a 1950′s house, I soon decided to draw up my own. You probably knew I would do that before I did, didn’t you?

coop-front-and-back-drawing

I based my design on images of old coops and Arts & Crafts houses. As long as I’m learning to design and build something, I might as well get my nose into how simple buildings are actually constructed, actually designed. Yes? I read a lot and I talked with my father even more. Good to have an experienced mentor on the other end of the phone when setting out into entirely new territory, though a consulting engineer may be overdoing it.

coop-side-drawing

While typical construction would use studs (vertical wall members) at 16″ on center, I designed mine at 2′ on center instead, as it is just a wee thing. I set out to make a square coop, but realised I needed a lot more space for nearly a dozen chickens, so I scaled the whole thing up and pulled it out long like this, working back and forth between paper and a 3D drawing program. Somehow the paper clarifies everything for me, and the act of drawing with pencils and drafting instruments is a grounded sort of pleasure. Considerations for ventilation, enough depth to contain deep litter, adequate space for roosting, external nesting boxes, security from mink, hawks, raccoons and rats, good natural light, and simplicity of construction for a total amateur – these are the thing I have been thinking through.

coop-floor-drawing

I planned to frame this all up, joists and rafters and plates and lintels, but then I veered off in a different direction to make the same thing. Not unlike my parents, renovating an old house to make a new one, I decided to build with almost exclusively with found and reclaimed materials. I’ll show you my process of designing a building to meet the needs of a flock very soon – though I confess I am so busy with carpentry and the ten three-week-old chickens in my kitchen, I haven’t much time to write just now!

newly hatched chicks

Everyone gathered round the incubator to watch the hatch.
observers

Around the 21st day of incubating, the pipping began. Having spent a lifetime with eggs that do not move or cheep, an egg that does is transfixing!

zipping-egg

From pipping, the chicks began to zip – to peck holes all round the flatter end of the egg, and to push with strong little feet. Some took hours; others were so quick we missed their hatch entirely!

hatching-chick

We were amazed at how they begin so delicate, so awkward, yet they get control of their movements so rapidly. One can read about this, be told about it, see pictures, videos, but witnessing it is entirely different.

hatched-chick

Little darlings. They liked to lie over the other eggs, and often bowled them right over, peeping away.

One little chick pipped, but never progressed further. This is one of those heartbreaks of life. Quite a number of the eggs weren’t fertile or were possibly so addled in the post that they had never begun to develop – we saw this when candling. The moment when you truly understand the meaning of not counting your chickens before they are hatched! Yet another did hatch, but had not yet absorbed its yolk sac and needed lots of time in an incubator. I found this process incredibly emotional, precarious somehow, and intensely joyful, not unlike my own children’s births. Responsibility for life is an enormous thing!

brooder-chicks

Within twenty-four hours, we had a flock of ten tiny chicks, cuddled under the heat lamp in the brooder, sleeping intermittently like any newborn. We gently dipped each tiny beak into water as we moved them from incubator to brooder; after that they know to drink.

fluffy-chick

In just a little while they have fluffed up into such beauties, such characters. After a day or so they’re eating, and drinking, and doing all their entertaining chicken things. We are smitten.

a hatching egg movie

Watching our incubating eggs pipping, then zipping, then hatching, was such an extraordinary thing. I thought you might like to see a time-lapse of our firstborn chick.

Sped up, the rhythm is quite amazing, we didn’t notice this at the time. From pipping it took the chick about twenty minutes to peck round in a circle at the round end of the egg. This pretty blue egg is from an Easter Egger hen paired with an Ameraucana rooster.

hatchedegg

More about hatching out our little flock here.

pipping eggs

On the eighteenth day of incubating the chicken eggs, we moved thirty-one pretty eggs out of the egg-turner and on to the floor of the incubator.
out-of-the-egg-turner

We filled the second trough with warm water to keep them nice and humid.

candling-day-19

With such anticipation we candled a couple of the eggs once more. When we turned a pale one around we could see movement inside. Such awe.

pipping

Late in the afternoon of the 20th day, today, we saw a tiny crack on a pale green egg, and watched in disbelief to see it shuffle. Then – peeping! The sweetest sound. A couple of blue eggs are pipping, a crack appearing, lots of rocking. Neighbours visit and call to inquire, we are all of us impatient parents. We will find it hard to sleep tonight.

Do follow me on instagram, or check in on appleturnover’s page to see more! I’ve been out on the deck with my handsaw and speed square – I shall tell you all about the coop as soon as I can tear my eyes away from the eggs.

See the hatch here!

candling eggs

On the eleventh day of incubation, we candled a couple of the chicken eggs.

candling-eggs

Shining a bright light behind the warm little egg, you can just make out a mass in the middle of it, and veining lines all around. Such an insight for the children, such excitement, and talk of their own growth when they were so tiny themselves, but a heartbeat and a flutter. Just a few more days of watching the eggs tipping in their turner inside the incubator, and then we’ll remove the egg turner and watch for more signs of life. I’m working on the chicken coop, and will show you my process next. Come back soon!