Urban Chickens: The Coop

It has been a crazy couple of months with these chickens.

Once they were fully-feathered (around 5 weeks) and the weather started to get nicer, we introduced them to their coop and put them outside.

Building the Coop

Being the newbies that we are, we bought a coop online, opting for a chicken tractor, a smaller coop that has wheels so it can move around the yard. Chicken poop is especially great fertilizer for your grass and garden, but chickens themselves are also great because they love to eat the weeks and bugs.

While building the coop, we noticed that it was a little weak and there were things we didn't like about it. For example, it had no bottom. That wouldn't be a problem, except that not having a bottom makes it easier for predators to get in.

Brandon took some wire fencing and stapled it to the bottom, the idea being that nothing could dig its way in. As I had mentioned before, the coop materials were pretty weak, so it took a lot of creativity and repairing in order to get that fencing to stay without the staples breaking the wood.

And then there were the latches: they were kind of like this:

At the time that we were installing them, both Brandon and I commented on how they were pretty weak and made mental notes to replace them at a later time.

The wheels were another issue. The chicken tractor model that we bought came with wheels that were too small to make moving the tractor around easy...which was the whole point.

One feature that I absolutely loved was the removable tray. It's metal and just pulls right out, which makes cleaning the coop a breeze. The nesting boxes (which is where they lay their eggs) also had their own little roof that opened up, making accessing the eggs easier.

Please note: They haven't actually laid any yet since they're so young.

The Coop in Action

Once we got the chickens in the coop at had it outside, it was great. They were pretty self-sustaining at that point. Just making sure their food and water was always full was just about the only job I had, aside from cleaning the coop.

They seemed happy and healthy, pecking around during the day and as soon as it was dusk, would go right back into their coop for bedtime, like clockwork.

Moving the coop around the yard was initially more difficult than we would have liked. This was primarily because the structure of the coop was too weak for us to hang their waterer, so we had to keep in on the ground, which meant getting it out and moving it every time we wanted to move the coop.

Other than that, no major issues.

Then, Disaster Struck

Reflecting back on this, it's one of those moments where I blame myself for being lazy and not just doing the right thing the first time.

Brandon and I, when we first got chickens, had planned on building our own coop. Since time is always an issue, we did the lazy thing and bought one online that we would just assemble ourselves.

I talked earlier about some of the concerns we had with the coop (it was weak, the wheels, no floor, the latches) and how we made mental notes to fix those issues later.

You never think anything bad is going to happen, until it does...

One Sunday morning at about 5:45 (the sun was up already), Brandon and I heard this frantic squawking from our chickens. I ran over to our bedroom window and looked outside to see a fox chasing my poor chickens all over the yard. The door to the coop was wide open....fox figured out the latch.

Not only did the fox kill 2 of my 5 chickens (we thought it was 3, but I'll explain that later), but it wouldn't leave the yard. For hours after it kept coming back. And I've continued to see it in our yard several times since.

We have a 6 foot fence and I had read online that foxes can't usually jump such tall fences. Let me tell you, they can. Easily.

Short Rant

I had seen these foxes in the neighborhood a few weeks before, living in the backyard of a house across the street. Now, living in Colorado, animal control really isn't going to do anything about it. Living in this state means living with the wildlife. Fine. Here's where I need to rant:

The foxes den up and live in our neighborhood because people allow them to. Animal Control and the Division of Wildlife HIGHLY discourage allowing foxes to den up at your house. Even worse than that, the animal control officer I spoke to said people around the neighborhood have been feeding them, rendering them unafraid of people and with no incentive to leave.

So these foxes never really have to learn to hunt for themselves, and they're running around the street, where they sometimes get hit by cars.

I had posted about the foxes on Nextdoor.com and MANY of my neighbors talked about how cute they are, how they're harmless, how they'll just walk right up to their doors and it's adorable.

I am here to tell you: FOXES ARE WILD ANIMALS AND THEY'RE SNEAKY AND CONNIVING AND OH BY THE WAY....THEY'RE CARNIVORES. So yes, they ate some of my chickens, fine. But I would have been devastated had it been one of my dogs. But they're not cute. And they're not pets. And they shouldn't feel comfortable living in a suburban neighborhood.

Last part of my rant...

Please spare me the lecture about how we took away their home and need to accommodate them...which one of my neighbors told me.

These foxes were a year old. My neighborhood was built 60 years ago. If they want to live in the field 1/4 mile from my house, that's fine! But not in someone's backyard while being fed roast beef by the neighbors.

Next Steps

Having learned our lesson at the expense of two of our chickens, Brandon built a custom coop like we planned on doing from the beginning. He took extra precautions to ensure it is predator-proof, the most important of which was burying wire 36 inches out from the coop's run in every direction to prevent digging. Stronger latches, more stable structure.

So now our survivors are back to living their happy chicken lives.

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