summerizing the coop

Before I get to the coop, a quick update on my “Spring activity” journal.  I mentioned that pokeweed is an unwelcome visitor, difficult to extricate because of its long thick taproot.  In permaculture “the problem is the solution” and it occurred to me that the taproot, like that of comfrey was performing a valuable function mining minerals two or more feet below the surface.  But this seemed inadequate justification for its presence until I noticed that it, and it alone, has been attacked and eaten by insects, as yet unidentified.  So it is also serving the role of a trap crop and attracting these hungry feasters from my diverse array of vegetables which, so far, are unscathed.

the pokeweed invader is the banquet for hungry feasters

a few feet away the spinach, collard, chard, garlic et al. are unscathed

I also mentioned I was leaving the crimson clover to flower to provide succour for the bees and seed for next growing season.  Well the clover is maturing quickly and today the honey bees and bumblebees and others were busy at them, so my next honey harvesting will include some clover honey.

crimson clover in flower with bees in attendance

Now to the chicken coop.

I have 3 coops, two constructed on two sides (north and east) of the barn.  The east coop is well protected from the summer sun and would be good for summer quarters.  Last year, as winter approached, I built a new larger coop (building details elsewhere on this website) which was well exposed to the winter sun and, since there are no neighboring deciduous trees (yet) even better exposed to the summer sun.  I had considered moving the chicken to the east coop for the duration of the hot weather.  And then a development – Buffy, the Buff Orpington rooster, fixated on Lady Macbeth, his sister.  She is the only hen missing feathers on the back of her head and she is vociferous and will have not truck with him, when she can avoid him.  Which is difficult when they share the same coop and so to escape him she immediately goes to the roosting ledge when they are housed for the night and consequently misses the much anticipated evening meal.

Matters came to a head when she refused to enter the coop one evening and with me trying to coax her in and Buffy charging at her as soon as she crossed the threshold, she became vociferous and agitated, and the two males increasingly frustrated.  The upshot was she spent the night in the north coop with the two comets for companions.  This got me thinking about the wisdom of transferring them all to the east coop.  Their new coop has a partition, all that is missing is a door.  So rather than spring $80 for a gate from HD or Lowes, I constructed a simple door with left over lumber and chicken fencing and two $1.54 hinges from Walmart.

the aggrieved Lady Macbeth

new partition door for coop

So with the winter coop the designated summer home, next steps were to reduce the heat buildup.  It has four south facing windows and a window each on the east and west sides.  Two of the south facing windows and the east and west windows have been predator proofed (I hope)  with wire fencing material and are left open.  I found an old tarp (8ft by 10ft) with brown colored and silver sides and scrubbed the mud off the silver, soon to be sun facing side.  I cut it into 4 sections – two ‘5 by 5′ and two 5′ by 3’.  The two larger pieces were fitted over the two closed south facing windows and the two smaller pieces over the two open south facing windows.

new coop, south side, before sun covers

new coop after sun covers installed

More work remained.  I decided to install a powered attic exhaust fan.  Since in the afternoon and evening the air will be cooler on the east side, I installed the fan on the west facing wall of the coop.  I considered using a roof vent (i.e. one installed on the top of the roof)  which would have therefore been higher up and removed more of the hot air at the higher levels of the coop, but I was unsure where that air would be drawn from.  By installing the exhaust fan on the west side I can ensure that it pulls air from the east window and therefore the air will be moving across the two roosts which are located in between the east window and the installed vent fan.  To power the fan, I installed an exterior power outlet box on the barn wall closest to the coop and led a cable the 100 feet from the barn to the coop.

new power vent and insulation added to west side

power cable to the coop

Apart from the powered vent and the hinges, all the other items were recycled i.e. lying around unused.  As you can see from the ‘photo, I attached the cable to the top of the chicken paddock fencing and to surmount the gates, I bolted 2×4’s to the gate posts and raised the cable 8’ above the gate entrance.

My next venture, and a new one for me, will be to install solar panels on the barn roof and a battery bank and inverter in the barn and thus power the exhaust fan using the summer sun (as well as a powered timed coop door to let the flock out early in the mornings).  To return to an earlier theme, albeit crudely – in the problem (the summer sun) will be found the solution (solar energy powered fan).

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