Ever since Mom was a little girl ( a very long time ago) she has wanted a “hen house”, so she could have the freshest possible eggs. She loves to watch the chickens, too… but it’s the thrill of totally fresh eggs that lights her up.
Before she joined Cindy (her daughter), and even later, she would drive a hundred miles or so to “Amish Country” in Ohio just to buy “Farm Fresh Brown Eggs”. Never mind she would buy several dozen at a time, only to dole them out very carefully. After all, it would be a while before making the trip again.
When everyone moved to Utah in 2005, and suddenly had plenty of land, her first request was for a “hen house”, where she could gather her own “Farm Fresh Brown Eggs”. It took about 18 months, and sheep came before lambs, but it did happen… We made her dream come true.
In March 2007, Bev designed the coop, and drew the plans. Fortunately, Bev had worked as a draftsman (woman), many years ago, and knows how to draw plans and estimate lumber and supplies
We found the ideal spot, not too far from the house, and in a place where we could expand a bit if necessary. Conveniently, there had been a building at that spot, so there was a concrete floor already poured. All we had to do was build the 8 x 8 coop over the concrete.
We’re not necessarily lazy, but have found that the less cutting we have to do, the faster things go together. So, the coop is 8 x 8 feet, and 8 feet at the top of the wall with a 1 foot rise to the peak of the roof. At 64 square feet, there is more than enough room for 30 or so chickens.
Shari researched chick sources, from the feed stores in Cedar City, to several online offerings. It speaking with the folks at the IFA store, she found where they bought their birds. They mentioned that they had very few losses, and the price seemed reasonable. Once home, it was a matter of looking them up… and voila! We had our chick supplier… Welp Hatchery.
Back to the coop construction, March around here is pretty unpredictable, but we didn’t really have much “local knowledge” yet. We began building, only to get chased into the house by strong winds blowing desert sand everywhere. What should have been a weekend project took a couple of months.
Finally it was time to order our chicks. We had to purchase at least 25, and with all the breeds we wanted (only available at 5 birds per breed), we ended up with a total of 40 birds. That included a number of cockerels, which would become dinner as soon as the first one crowed.
We ordered Buff Orpingtons, Black Austrolorps, Plymouth Barred Rock, White Rock, Silver and Golden Laced Wyandottes, and Rhode Island Reds. All were brown egg layers, and some could become broody. More about that later, too.
Early one Wednesday morning we got a call from the Post Office (about 15 miles away). They simply held the phone to the box and we heard “cheep, cheep, cheep”. Off to the PO! On arriving, we could hear them as soon as we opened the front door. The girls all exclaimed they’d never seen such healthy birds. Could we please have the hatchery name?
Once home, time for Mom to take care of her chicks. She lovingly held each one, and carefully dipped their beaks into a cup of sugar water. She talked to them, cooed to them, and was very excited. From the kitchen, the little chicks introduced to their new home, the coop, with their very own brooder.
We had constructed an area surrounded by 24 inch cardboard and plywood. They had a heat lamp which could be raised as necessary, their water, and little chick feeder, all on a deep bed of wood shavings. We built them a little house where they could huddle together if they got cold.
As they grew, we enlarged their area until they had the run of the coop. By June, they were ready to explore their “free range yard”. We had built a little door with a ramp. Setting the water fount out, they were encouraged to check out the yard. We build their yard about 30 x 25, fencing it with 48″ 1 x1 chicken wire. It’s set up so that we can also stretch sections of bird netting over the top to protect the chickens from predators.
By mid September, we collected our first dozen eggs. And then another dozen, and soon we had more than 10 dozen. What to do with all these eggs? Eggs for breakfast, that uses a dozen, but we only have “family breakfasts” on either Saturday or Sunday. Angel food cake? That takes care of better than a dozen egg whites (still have the yolks). Custard? Believe it or not, half the 2 of the 4 gals don’t care for custard.
Maybe we can sell eggs
That put Shari to work researching the Utah and Federal regulations relating to selling farm fresh eggs directly. She discovered in Utah we could sell more eggs than we’d ever raise, (3,000 doz) per year with any licenses. We were encouraged to purchase blank cartons and use our own label. Egg cartons are supposed to be “single use” and not be reused. If used, all identifying information is to be blacked out… farm name address, USDA bug, size, any sell by dates, etc. That makes for one ugly carton.
We chose to purchase our egg cartons and make our own labels. The label requirements said we had to put our farm name, address, phone number, the words “Ungraded” and “Keep Refrigerated” on them, with those words being predominant. Starting this year, we’re also required to add “safe handling” instructions. We’ll be stamping those instructions inside the top lid.
Incoming search terms:
- moms hen house
As our 2012 garden season has come to a close, it’s now time to concentrate on getting ready for winter. Around here, winter can arrive in a heartbeat.
The hay is all in place, over $7000 for the the 7 blocks this year. At that price, we bit the bullet and invested in a professional hay tarp. We had the hay all put into one place this year, since we have the tractor to move bales. We’re also installing gates at each access road.
So far, we’ve pretty much dismantled the gardens, except for some parsnips, beets, turnips, cauliflower and cabbage. We had a hard freeze on the 5th, and that pretty much took care of the garden.
We’re adding a “storage container” to our little farm. That will allow us to properly store our garden and farm tools someplace other than in “Mom’s garage”. That has meant clearing a large area of loose sand and tumbleweed, and moving stuff (including an old truck) so the big truck has enough room to make the correct turns, and back into the spot for the container.
The horses are all gone. We put down the one gal that had eye cancer, and then gave the other two to our neighbor’s grandson. He’s great with horses. The day he came to load them, it only took about an hour to get them into the trailer. Not bad, considering Dusty (the gelding) had only been trailered once (and he didn’t have pleasant memories, having been gelded, vaccinated, and hooves trimmed), and Dakota had never been in a horse trailer.
This past weekend, we put the ram in with the ewes, and the buck in with the nanny goats. In about 5 months, we should have lambs and kids popping out all over the place.
A month or so ago, we took our “old cow” to the butcher. She was 4 years old (had 8 teeth), and didn’t breed last year. After the younger heifer presented us with a beautiful heifer calf, the old gal was “excess inventory”. She’s in the freezer now, and the steaks and burger are absolutely awesome. Except for her poor confirmation, her meat would grade out at prime or better. We got 452# of meat, nearly a freezer full.
We also hatched 11 chicks in September and they (along with their mothers) have moved to the “grow-out pen”. Soon we’ll put their mothers back into the big coop, leaving the youngsters to grow. First one that crows is a Sunday dinner. Any others that crow will seal their fate, too.
Over the winter, watch for “farm tales”, stories about the Four Country Gals living their dreams. They’ll be here on the blog, so will still be doing more “re-arranging”.
That’s right… we’re really fair weather farmers. After all, we live on a desert, and the sun nearly always shines. Except for today… it’s raining on the Cedar City Farmer’s Market, but thanks to our canopy we will be there.
We’re bringing some new stuff… eggplant, potatoes, spearmint, leeks, rosemary.
Of course we’ll have Swiss Chard, turnips, beets, crookneck squash, onions (yellow, scallions, red), and great big bunches of Sweet Basil.
Are you ready to make some pesto? We’ve got you covered with extra large bunches of basil.
We’ll also have a limited supply of Mom’s Hen House Fresh Brown Eggs.
See you there!