The Fancy Farm Barn
by Katrina Watson
I wanted to move to the country shortly after I had children. For some reason, I felt like it was calling my name. It seemed simpler. More appealing. My dream became stronger with each child. I used to joke that at least in the country, I could step outside to hear quiet. Little did I know, that was really true.
Once we moved to our dream house in the country, we began planning for our little farm. I knew we wanted chickens. They would be so much fun and provide hours of entertainment. I also wanted bunnies. Beyond these gateway animals, I wasn't sure what would be next. We first decided to purchase one of those chicken coop kits. After many hours of researching chicks and coops, we ordered the coop, bought the chicks and began raising the cutest little chicks around. After they were grown enough to live in the coop, we transferred them to their outside coop. As with any new decision, we learned a lot this first year. First, we learned that the snow drifts really high where we placed the coop. After a full winter of shoveling four foot high drifts from around the coop, I knew this plan would have to change. Second, we learned that if the manufacturer for the coop says that it holds 7-9 chickens what they really mean is that it holds 3. And lastly, we learned that there are some processes that can be put into place that can save a lot of time and effort.
After the winter faded, I began thinking about another plan for our chickens. We had already been building an outbuilding when I talked to my husband about considering if we could use a portion of the outbuilding for the chicken coop. After talking about it, we agreed that is was a good idea. So, we started with about 500 square feet of the outbuilding. We hired someone to put a wall up to split the garage part from the animal part. He also built in the frame for the chicken coop, the bunny area and another stall for future use. He placed chicken wire, interior doors (From Hobby Lobby) for the stalls and built a barn door for the third stall. After those minimal improvements, he painted the entire inside white for a clean look. The outbuilding already had a concrete floor and windows. Then we hired someone to put in exposed lighting to complete the look of the Fancy Farm Barn. He installed my ceiling lights that I had chosen including a rugged chandelier.
After all of the build-out was completed, I had the chance to decorate my new barn. There is a beautiful open area when you first walk in which I wanted to make welcoming with a bench and area rug. The theme was going to be very "farmhouse" with a touch of "fancy". I made drapes for the windows out of farm-patterned fabric and added fun wall art and furniture pieces. I didn't have any storage so I added two pieces that could also be used as storage. The chicken area has a beautiful windmill, roosting bars, nesting boxes, bench to sit on and a chicken swing, which I made. The bunny area has an extra large Kitty Mansion climber (which they adore and hop around on daily), picket fence climber, tree stump, multiple houses up high and down low and several toys including car, tunnel, barn with hay, etc. My very talented daughter made each chicken an apron. She found a pattern on the internet and made each apron different with beautiful fabric. The end result was so much fun and beautiful. The barn is still one of my favorite places. The Fancy Farm Barn was finally complete!
The following ideas are processes that I have added that make the experience of owning animals more fun and less work.
1) I installed an automatic chicken door in the chicken area that exits to the outdoor run (we cannot free-range due to the HOA of our area). This makes EVERYTHING easier. I set it for 6 am and it opens. I set the closing for dark and the chickens come in prior to darkness. This allows me to come and go as I please without being bound by a schedule.
2) I use a large 12 pound feeder so that I only need to add food every 3-4 days.
3) I use The Original Chicken Drinker and heater so that I fill the water only every 3-4 days. The water never freezes. Note: I also used this outdoors when I didn't have electricity. The outdoor extension cord worked fine.
4) I purchased two large rubber trash cans where I put the pine shavings and the trash. Then I purchased three dog food bins on wheels for the chicken scratch, chicken food and bunny food. All of these bins have wheels (to easily roll where I need them), closing lids (which keeps out critters) and homemade labels (so cute with old time farm pictures).
5) The attached run has sand, roosting bar, steps, bell, and Xylophone for fun. The chickens love their outdoor run and are always safe. The run also has a corrugated metal roof to protect from weather as well as a transparent corrugated plastic on one side to cut down on wind. The chickens can go outside everyday--even in the snow.
These processes have made chicken ownership much more fun and easy for us. Here are my daily barn duties:
1) Bring the chickens scratch and compost each morning to the run. I have a compost area squared off in the run so that the compost doesn't get all over the run.
2) Open the windows of the barn each day when it is decent outside.
3) Empty the poop tray found underneath the roosting bars in the coop. I use a shovel that I hang on the wall and I shovel the poop into a large rubber trash can with a 55 gallon trash bag in it. The can latches so the smell doesn't escape. I empty the can every two weeks or so and replace with new trash bag. I then replace any pine shavings that I shoveled up with new pine shavings. I use the large pine shavings. NOTE: I do not put any food on the floor of the coop including scratch. This cuts down on critters and smell. Also, I lined the bottom of the bunny area and the chicken area with a vinyl flooring from Home Depot. Then I place the pine shavings on top of that in the chicken coop and outdoor carpet on top of the vinyl in the bunny area. This way the moisture from the animals doesn't seep into the concrete.
4) I replace food and water for chickens every couple of days.
5) I use nesting pads for the nest boxes. These are amazing and only need to be turned upside down to remove any poop from the chickens. None of my chickens sleep in the boxes so they usually don't poop in the boxes.
6) I feed the bunnies every evening and fill their water. I also have a heated water-dripper for the bunnies.
7) I sweep the concrete floor every week in the open area and dust the furniture and decorative items every week. This is the worst of the cleaning because it gets super dusty due to the chickens.
This does it for my weekly chores. I still love having chickens and bunnies and adore them. We have not decided on any additional animals. We'll see. I do believe that animals make our lives better and more interesting and assist in teaching my children wonderful, real-life lessons. Regarding animals, my only motto is: If I am going to have animals, I will have the resources to care for them well. Too many animals is well, too many. So for now, my little farm (of sorts) is just perfect. I am so thankful for our Fancy Farm Barn!