Guest post by: Cam Mather
My latest project combines two of my interests. The first is to see things ‘repurposed’ that were otherwise not being used or were destined for the landfill. The second is that I like to see that my family members are comfortable and well looked after. All of our pets … dog, cats and chickens … are part of the family. As we approach another Canadian winter I was not looking forward to the chickens’ daytime activities.
Last year the polar vortex, which I believe was caused by the warming arctic screwing up the jet stream, dumped a pile of snow on us … all winter. It seemed like we got a new dumping every other day. The chickens do not like snow. Eventually they’ll go out in it, but some days they insist on staying inside the coop. Their little coop was great for sleeping, but its only source of light was the door, so it was pretty dark. And if the wind and blowing snow was coming from the wrong direction I was hesitant to leave the door open and let all of that blowing snow inside.
This year we re-purposed an old ice fishing hut into a new coop. There is a large door that allows us to get in to clean and gather the eggs. But during the winter I wanted to be able to keep the big door closed so I put a small trap ‘chicken’ door just big enough for the ladies to get in and out. So the coop has two doors. Do you know why a chicken coop has two doors? Because if it had 4 doors it would be a sedan. Awkward groan. Yes, that was an exceptionally funny joke.
I also put a window in it so that on the cold but sunny cold days the ladies will have lots of light and hopefully the sun will help to warm up the coop as well.
Last January my amazing neighbor Alyce was selling a farm. She was the source of our new coop which I blogged about here. At some point I had helped her and Ken to put up electric fencing around the property and so I knew there was a pickup truck cap out in the middle of a field. It was probably about 25 years old and it was one of those things you know is just going to rot or be dragged to a dump. So I asked Alyce if I could have it.
It took me about an hour last winter to dig it out and free it. Then I tried to drag it on a big plastic snowmobile sled, but I couldn’t balance it on my own. Plus, with so much snow, walking was really hard. So I convinced Alyce and her niece Amelia to help me to drag it. It was a real ordeal but the 3 of us managed to get it to the driveway where I could throw it on the back of the truck. It was my intention to turn it into a chicken sunroom eventually.
This fall I got a load of square bales from my neighbor Heidi. After the CSA was over I was taking the cap off the back of my pickup truck and I was about to unload it on to some pallets when I suddenly thought of a way to make use of it during the winter. So I took it over to the coop and unloaded it onto hay bales. Then I put the second cap next to it. And I’ve got to say, I’m pretty darn impressed with this sunroom set up!
The salvaged truck cap didn’t have a back window, but I fabricated one out of scrap lumber and a chunk of scrap plastic from an old greenhouse. It ain’t pretty, as none of my projects are, but it’s functional.
Chickens love dirt. They love to scratch in the dirt. They love to peck at the dirt. They dust bathe in the dirt. They just love dirt. I can’t imagine what it’s like for chickens in large barns kept in metal cages where they never get to do what is in their DNA … scratching in the dirt.
Last winter they didn’t get to see any dirt for months. This year, they’re going to have dirt all winter! And as you can see by the photo the sunrooms are really bright! And best of all they break the wind, which is so helpful to keep them warm. And the warmer they are and the more sunlight they get the happier they’ll be. I must admit, this means we get more eggs to sell. But I feel much better when I know my chickens get to enjoy themselves every day. In the sun, digging in the dirt.
If I were a chicken I’d want a big bright coop. Our chickens have that.
I’d want the straw to be cleaned regularly. Our chickens have that.
I’d want a varied diet that includes warm oatmeal and ripe bananas for breakfast. Yup, they get that too.
I’d want room to roam. Our chickens have that.
And I’d want a sunny, cozy place to scratch in the dirt. Done. Done. Done.
Life at Sunflower Farm is pretty darn great, even for the chickens.
For more stories about life at Sunflower Farm, visit www.cammather.com