Archive for the ‘Eglu’ Category

New Digs

January 10, 2010

The three chicks are excited. I’m finally going to start writing about them again. They love being the center of attention. They felt rather left out this fall when life got too busy for me to continue this blog. Not that I really forgot about them. In fact, one of the things that kept me so busy was I was on deadline to finish my new cookbook Chicken and Eggs for Chronicle Publishing, a book that will include stories about the girls plus recipes inspired by them. More about the book in subsequent posts. In addition to writing, cooking and editing recipes for the book, I did a cross country tour teaching baking classes in ten cities plus my regular work for the Cooking Club magazine. So, it was a hold-your-breath-and-try-to-get-it-all-done few months, and something had to give.

In spite of their complaining, the girls fared well during this time. Marty, the former “Chickens? No way!” guy took care of them. Although he probably wouldn’t admit it, he now fusses over the chicks almost as much as I do. The big news is that the chicks moved into a new coop right before the holidays. Marty oversaw the construction of the coop while I was away plus built a weatherproof run for them.


The Prebuilt Walls Went up Quickly


Almost Done


The New Pleasure Palace


Inside the New Run

The 6×6′ space is super-insulated from top to bottom, has infrared heaters, electricity, three huge windows and lots of space. The floor and 3/4 of the way up the walls are lined with FRP material, fiberglass-reinforced plastic, also called glassboard, the type of material used in bathrooms and shower stalls, making it waterproof and extremely easy to clean (my biggest concern after being spoiled by the Eglu). I have removable plastic bins under the roosting bars for easy daily removal of droppings and the chicks have enough room to actually move around and stretch their wings.


Girls with Temporary Roost
(This spring they’ll get a more permanent roost.)

The girls are in heaven. Want proof? They laid 15 eggs last week! That’s right, in January when the weather was a frigid -15ºF at night and 0ºF for a daytime high! Plus, they haven’t had to spend a night inside the house with us yet (maybe that should read that we haven’t had to spend a night inside the house with them). We’re all thrilled.


Results from the New Coop

Their smaller Eglu coop, which I still love, will continue to be used. We plan to take it to our lake cabin and use it as their summer home so they can accompany us to the lake when we go for several days. Crazy? Hey, we take our cats with us so why not the chickens too? Of course, now that they’ve moved up to the Pleasure Palace, who knows if they’ll be willing to rough it at the lake.

Parade of Coops!

September 16, 2008

The Twin Cities had its first very own Parade of Coops! this weekend. It’s the perfect alternative to the parade of McMansions that takes place this time of year. It was a huge success in spite of the gloomy rainy weather. I had to miss it due to a prior commitment but I sent a proxy who scooped out the latest on the backyard chicken revolution.

The Minneapolis-St. Paul area has a vibrant arts and creative community along with an established grassroots movement of eating local through farmer’s markets, co-ops and community supported agriculture programs. The Parade of Coops! showcased our area at its best with backyard eggs, home gardens and creatively designed coops.

The first coop hosted at least 200 people during the first hour alone. Chicken fanciers, those who already had coops and those interested in getting started surrounded Stephen and Stephanie’s new coop. The large red coop was a hit but their 7 hens seemed oblivious to the fuss. The coop is built off the ground with a large hinged front opening reminiscent of an old-fashioned root beer stand. In spite of having over half a dozen hens and a few problems along the way with mice and even lice (the chickens), they’d love to double their flock if they had the room.

The second stop on the tour was a coop built from the “Playhouse” design by Isthmus Handyman of Madison, Wisconsin. Unfortunately, due to a malfunction, the photos didn’t turn out for the next two stops but catch the link to check out this great coop (http://www.isthmushandyman.com). A perfect design for the backyard, it’s been tested in cold weather but also works for those in the warmer climes.

We didn’t make it to the coop Peat, the organizer of the tour, and his neighbor’s share. But we visited it last year after his class on City Chickens. It’s a quaint coop that houses their menagerie of chickens, ducks and geese. Their run is an interesting combination of two large dog kennels providing a large open walk-in space that’s secure on all four sides.

Audrey’s charming coop in St. Paul was the last stop on our limited portion of the tour before the downpour started and we apologize that the great photos we took didn’t turn out. They normally keep 3 hens and are on their second year. Unfortunately, they’ve had a patch of bad luck. Last year one of their birds died and just last week one of their girls disappeared (literally into thin air)! A hawk is suspected. I guess we’ve been lucky—no near misses or large problems—yet. Perhaps the large oak trees in our backyard provide cover from flying predators.

In a discussion of chicken coops Audrey’s theory that “small is better” is the perfect justification for backyard chicks. Her view, with winter on the way, is chickens huddle closer together in small coops and the combined body heat helps keep the flock warm. Her flock has never suffered the frostbite others have had to contend with. I agree. Our chicks have always huddled together at night, it started when they were a few days old and has continued to today. Even with a small coop they don’t use the entire space; in fact, our girls use only about half of the available space so it’s clearly a choice they’re making.

We weren’t able to be part of the tour this year but we’re happy to have everyone view the coop. It’s much smaller than most on the tour but it suits our three chicks just fine. If we’re home they free-range all day in the backyard, otherwise they’re in the attached run. The Eglu coop (made by the Omlet company) is insulated for heat and cold but I add extra warmth in the winter by way of a pet heating pad and heat lamp. We’ve never had any problems with pests or predators, since we use services as powerpestcontrol to help us with this. The coop can be easily disassembled and cleaned in minutes and has a slide-out tray for droppings that I empty every morning so the coop stays very clean. It can also be moved to different parts of the backyard or garden

Omlet is coming out with the bigger Eglu Cube next year. It’s already sold in Great Britain but we’ve been told they’ll start selling it over here in 2009. I can’t wait! My girls will love the extra room in the run and their old Eglu will go to our lake cabin so I’ll be able to take them with. We haul our cats, so why not the chickens? The chickens have ridden in the car several times as they’ve vacationed across town when we went away. (The coop can be disassembled and taken in the car.) They’re quiet well-behaved travelers in their dog cage.

I hope the Parade of Coops! becomes an annual event as it is in many cities across the country. I promise not to miss it next time. In the meantime, I’d love to hear of other coop tours as they happen across the country.

Swingin’ Chickens

September 08, 2008

Welcome to the Swingin’ Chicks: Three backyard chickens and their starring act on the outskirts of St. Paul, Minnesota. I’ve decided to write this to let everyone know how easy it is to raise a couple of chickens in a suburban backyard. I’ll write about the many joys but also let you in on a few of the problems that have come up. I knew nothing about chickens before I brought home my 1-day-old chicks, but I’ve learned along the way. They’re warm incredible pets with amazing personalities who lay gifts of eggs almost every day. I’m also passionate about simple good food and decided to raise chickens because of the incredible taste of fresh eggs. I’ll therefore pass along a few original recipes now and then that I feel are worth making. (See the post below for my favorite pancakes.)

To introduce you to the chicks, Roxanne, a buff Orpington, is the leader of the trio. Her fluffy golden feathers should evoke images of Las Vegas showgirls. Instead, her wide hips give her a matronly look not dissimilar from a certain “pantsuit brigade” I admire. She uses those hips to push the others aside and is a born leader keeping the other girls in line.

Cleo is an Araucana/Ameraucana, a mixed breed otherwise known as Easter egg chickens because of the colored eggs they lay. She is the sweet chick. She runs over to join me when I sit on the stairs of the deck and climbs onto my lap snuggling in. She loves to be petted and hugged.

Crazy Lulu is my other Easter egg chick but she has the opposite temperament. I’ve never held her; in fact I’ve never been within an arms reach of her unless she’s in the coop and half asleep. Nevertheless, she lays beautiful blue eggs and she’s prolific.

The girls live in a royal blue Eglu made by the Omlet Company of Great Britain. I love it and the chicks love it. It’s a thoroughly modern practical coop that looks great in the backyard and comes with everything you need to raise 3 to 4 chickens including a fox-proof run. It’s also portable—not convenient to transport mind you—but doable if you’re going away for a couple weeks and need someone elsewhere to watch them. Check out the link.

This is the second year that I’ve had my chickens and they’re now heading into their second fall and winter, which is certainly the most difficult time for all of us here in Minnesota. I’ll be writing periodically through the year about the chicks’ health and lifestyle, and sharing some photos of them as well. I hope this blog will entertain but perhaps more importantly inspire some of you to join in the backyard chicken “revolution.” So for now, welcome.