Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I'll huff, and I'll puff...

When you build a strawbale house, you get a lot of Three Little Pig jokes.
There's just no way around it.

In spite of that, we've tackled our next strawbale project. Want a hint?

My hens (a.k.a. "the girls") currently reside in a henhouse at the rear of my grandmother's garage.

Some of you might remember that we lived in a brick house---the Gatehouse---on my parents' property during construction. Anyway, shortly after we moved into the Gatehouse (January 2008), I was struck with homesteading fever. My house was due to be ready in July, 2008. If I wanted a laying flock of hens at my new house, I needed to order them in May.

(At this point, some readers might be doing the mental math and feeling confused. "2008? But they didn't move into the straw house until 2009..." Right...)

May, 2008: I was living in a house that I didn't own, with 14 Australorp chickens in my bedroom. The summer solution was to house the girls in a chicken tractor in the field out back. My prayers were answered late in the fall when my parents very nicely agreed that the small room at the back of garage could easily be transformed into a winter residence for the girls.

May, 2009: We moved! Enter Great-Grandma.

Great-Grandma is my maternal grandmother. As soon as we moved to Haven she took up residence in the Gatehouse. Although initially disdainful of the girls, she seems to have come around to appreciating their finer points (i.e., free eggs) and has even been observed talking to them on occasion. Though she might not admit it, I think she likes their company.

Chickens are fairly easy to care for in the summer. A little food, a little water, room outside to stretch their legs, and they're pretty happy. Contrast that with caring for them in the winter, when the challenges of keeping poultry increase exponentially.

Maybe I'm exaggerating when I say exponentially. The largest challenge is that we live in Pennsylvania, where the winters can get cold. Drinking water becomes compromised when the temperature in the coop gets below freezing---which can happen for weeks at a time. As clean water is imperative to keeping poultry, last winter found me filling the waterers with hot water from my basement twice a day. It's one thing to traipse down to your own basement in boots encrusted with mud and chicken droppings. It's quite another thing to ask the same of your grandma and her clean floor...

Hence the need to move the girls to a permanent residence. Plus, I can't wait to have them foraging in the woods around our home! Goodbye, ticks!!!

The coop will be strawbale construction, sharing a wall with the back of our garage.

We started digging the trench and laying the block for the footer earlier this week. The weather here has been beautiful, perfect for working outside!

More details and photos to come as construction progresses. In the meantime, I think I'll pass my back issues of Backyard Poultry along to Great-Grandma.

Just in case she misses the girls.


  1. Wow! I didn't know that you had a blog! I would like to link up to it, but since you're not advertising it yet, I won't. . . Let me know when I can! It's right up my alley.
    Now, we need to chat about chickens. Christoph and I are dying to get into livestock. He's wanting to start with a couple of pigs. I'm into chickens. . . Hmmm. . . Lots to think about!

  2. very cool! We had quail this past year and I'm ready to upgrade to full chickens. Possibilities are opening up and we MIGHT move into my gparents home. So, we won't get to build our strawbale home... however a strawbale chicken coop could be in my near future! Once again, can't wait to steal lots of ideas from your homestead!

  3. I'm jealous! I want chickens in the worst way.... someday! Think Nanny would b-sit???