News from the Coop

For about a year now we've had just a pair of chickens, one hen and one rooster. They free range in the front yard and barnyard and I enjoy being able to see them from the kitchen window and watch them during the day.

But the hen hides her nest and I often don't find it for several weeks. Once I do find it and take the eggs, she finds a new hiding place and I have to go hunting again. I hope I've figured out a remedy for this: not taking them all.

I've wanted more chickens for quite some time and I planned on getting some last spring. I want to brood them without a heat lamp so I waited for warmer weather, but I waited too long and didn't get them before the local hatchery closed for the season. This spring hubby's surgery kept me from ordering any.

A few weekends ago hubby walked into the farm store and discovered it was chick week. Perfect! He bought eight new chicks: four black sex link pullets (a pullet is a young female), two pullets of an unknown breed and two straight-run (unsexed) chicks that hubby thinks might be brown leghorns, at least that's what the sign said. We want a rooster, and chances are good that at least one of the straight run chicks will be a male.

They were tiny things, feather-weights without feathers. (And I didn't get any photos of them at the little fluffball stage!)

I found a lid-less plastic bin and put a layer of wood shavings in the bottom. I added a small piece of 1x6" lumber for the waterer to set on, so that the shavings wouldn't clog it up. At first I used two metal cat bowls, one for feed and one for water. I put small rocks in the water bowl so the chicks wouldn't drown. These bowls can't be tipped over, at least not by little feather-weights.

As I took each chick out of the box they came home in, I dipped its beak in the water in the cat bowl. A mama hen would show her babies where the water fountain is, but I am these chicks' mom, so it was up to me.

As soon as I could, I bought a new feeder and waterer; they hold so much more than the bowls did, so on days I am out of the house, the chicks have enough food and water. They come in such cute colors now, all I'd ever seen before had red bases, so I did not buy red this time and went for cheery yellow bases instead. You can buy a white plastic top for these, or use Mason jars.

Our unheated and uncooled mudroom has been the perfect place to raise chicks in the late summer. The temperature is just right, no heat lamp is needed. The chicks don't clump together to keep warm, and are always chirping happily. I have a piece of wire mesh over the top of the bin to keep chicks from flying out once they get their feathers.

They're big girls (and boy?) now, about a month old. They've hit the ugly stage, half-feathered and gawky. They moved out to the chicken coop on Monday. They're happily pecking and scratching the ground, and they have a bigger waterer now, a 3-gallon red-and-white one that doesn't run out or spill as easily as the little yellow-and-white one did.

We cut off a tree branch that hung down from the oak tree and rested on the roof; it probably made it easy for snakes to get on the coop roof and through the ventilation openings in the eaves. We'll get those openings screened off as soon as possible. We know we can't keep all snakes out, since the little coop door will be open to the chicken run in the daytime once the girls are grown up, but it would be nice to have fewer snakes especially while they're still chicks.

The chicken run needs new fencing, but the chicks aren't ready to go outside yet so we have some time to do that.

A reader kindly reminded me that golf balls in the nest boxes are good snake killers. The balls smell like the chickens and eggs, and a snake will eat one thinking it's an egg, but it can't digest the golf ball and will die.

I used to put golf balls in the nestboxes, but I didn't know at first that the balls were to kill snakes. I thought they were to show the chickens where to lay their eggs. Every so often one of my golf balls would disappear and I was perplexed, then one day it dawned on me that it had been eaten by a snake.

I've run out of golf balls, and I think I need to walk around the perimeter of the town's golf course and find a few more. It will be several months before these little babies start laying eggs, but I'm ok with baiting the nest boxes with golf balls in the meantime. The fewer snakes the better.

And just for fun, here's an infographic on chicken keeping from
plus a link to their post on building a DIY chicken coop:

This post has been shared at some of my favorite blog hops


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  1. New chicks are so much fun! I look forward to when I can have a flock once more. Also, I had no idea golf balls were for the snakes. It makes sense now that it has been said, but I was clueless before. :)

    1. I was clueless for a long time too, April. I hope you can have some chickens again soon.

  2. Just glancing at those pictures, I would say you have at least two, possibly three, roosters. All the ones with big legs and combs at that stage of growth are PROBABLY roosters.

    My first set of baby chicks is... 14 weeks today! We got our 'big hens' when they were already about 5 months old so we didn't get to see the early stages. Babies are so much fun!

    Fortunately, we have not had to deal with snakes in our yard so far. Other than garter snakes. Though I know we have king snakes around, because I saw a juvenile last summer that was eating a garter snake.

  3. Rebekah, I hope I have no more than two roosters. Straight run chicks run a high chance of being male, so I've just taken it for granted that those two will be roosters and if one turns out to be female, it's a plus. The others came out of the pullet boxes - I know that sexing chicks isn't 100% accurate, but I'm expecting them to be female. I did notice that several had large combs, and am just hoping that those are rose combs. Time will tell...

    Ugh, a snake eating a snake. ::shudder:: Hope you don't have to deal with any in the yard.

  4. Rebekah & Kathi: an accepted wisdom here is actually that you shouldn't kill a black snake. The reason being that while a bite from a black snake will make you sick, it probably won't kill you. However, black snakes have the appealing quality of eating brown snakes, whose bite probably WILL kill you. A friend of mine says black's will only eat juvenile browns rather than adults, but frankly that's still good enough for me!

  5. Stephen, you're right that black snakes are good snakes. We don't have brown snakes here but we do have copperheads and I'd be thrilled to find out that black snakes eat them - plus they do eat rodents and so on too. However, the snakes I killed this year were in the chicken coop eating eggs. If I see a black snake out and about, we go our separate ways; but if I find one eating eggs it has to go. They just come back when they have found a reliable food source like a nest of incubating duck eggs, unfortunately.

    I'm afraid that a snake would eat my chicks, so I don't want to make it easy for them to get into the chicken coop.

    I'm with you: a snake that eats other snakes - especially bad snakes - is an okay snake. But a six-foot-long black snake still creeps me out!

  6. Nice idea with the golf ball. Never thought of it and just had a nasty critter in our hen house last week.

    1. It's kind of creepy that a golf ball will disappear one day, so you know you have a snake but have never seen it.

  7. Oh, how I wish I could have chickens. If they were just a little quieter, I imagine I could escape the "eye" of the Home Owners Association! Thanks for sharing at the Weekend Blog Hop at My Flagstaff Home!


  8. Jennifer, yes, it's unfortunate that hens have an "egg song" when they lay an egg, otherwise you might be able to get away with it.

  9. So exciting! I didn't realize that folks further north starting raising chicks in the fall.
    I like having snakes in the garden too, but not if they're gonna eat the livestock! ;0D
    What an adorable graphic!
    Thanks for joining us at The Maple Hill Hop this week!

  10. By the time it gets cold here, my chicks should be fully feathered. Our first frost is usually around Oct. 31. Our winters are relatively mild. I really hate heat lamps and wanted to avoid using them!

  11. New chicks are always fun, thanks for sharing with Hearth and soul blog hop.

  12. Thank you for visiting, Swathi!

  13. You are this week's feature on the (mis)Adventures Mondays Blog Hop. Getting new little ones always brings a smile! Thanks for sharing. I look forward to see what you share this week.

  14. Thank you very much, Mindie!


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