Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Idea of Chickens

It Begins

JoAnn and I retired to Hawaii, dream of a lifetime, right? Retirement in paradise. Well, the life in paradise is expensive. One of the higher costs here is at the grocery store. The high prices of meat has gotten us to rethink how we want to go about providing for ourselves here. Among the other choices we've made, we want to raise chickens. So the first order of business is to get a working egg and meat production coop up and running.

We want to have both egg and meat provided from our future flock, and figuring out how many birds of each to have has proven to be vexing. I'll cover the thinking process in subsequent posts, as chicken math takes on a life of it's own.
Those that know what I mean will be smiling, those that don't are invited to take the trip with us on our adventure to find out just what 'Chicken Math' is and how it corrupts. I'll be devoting an entire post just for that subject so I'll skip to the second step.

 So the first thing we though we needed to do was build a place for the chickens, and if we have a home for them, we needed to pick a spot for the coop. We have a full acre in a rough rectangle so we thought that the coop should go in the 'South Forty' and picked this spot. Just for those that don't see it, the dark rocky patches you see in the photo is lava. This is the youngest island of the chain, and the lave is everywhere. Every building decision one makes here revolves to a certain extent around the lava.

Next is the design of the coop itself. We knew we didn't want the coop to be slammed together Willy-Nilly but it is after all, a home for chickens. There are lots of plans on line for coops, including those made from wooden pallets but this was a bit rustic for me. We looked at converting children's playhouses, using commercial sheds, and finally we came up with a modified barn-like design with a Monitor roof, complete with clerestory windows/vents on both sides. It has, we think, the obligatory farm feel, cute factor and ease of ownership that we were looking for.

We wanted the coop to be as self reliant as possible, that is, easy to take care of and maintain so it had to be as automated as possible. It rains a lot here, some years getting over 190 inches. We wanted the coop to supply it's own water so the roof rainfall runoff is caught but way of a gutter and barrel catchment system. From there the water is gravity fed through a filtration system (we recently up graded our own homes water system so the chickens get the old home system) to two self watering stations, one inside the coop and one in the shade, under the coop.

Feed would be similarly distributed, a gravity system split into two semi-auto feeding stations one inside the coop and one in the shade, under the coop. For this we are u cycling / converting the old water pressure container of our home water system into a collection hopper, adding a new toilet flange to transition to PVC pipe for the tubing, and use fitting and pipe to get to the final feed stations.

The warm climate here in Hawaii is in the 75-90 degree range year round. Winter is really just a marking on a calendar here but it is also very humid. We wanted the windows on all four sides covered in wire mesh for ventilation and cooling but we are going to add a fan to be sure to have as much ventilation as possible. The high humidity will allow growth of many bad things if not ventilated well.

We are planning our first solar installation on our property to begin on the coop. A small collector and battery set up to run a 12v system for one or two LED lights, the timer for the Pop doors letting the chickens out in the morning, and securing them in at night, the fan and running a video feed up to the house.

While Free Ranging most livestock is all the rage, I prefer that my chickens stay my chickens and not become my neighbors, nor my neighbor's dogs chickens! Hawaii already has a feral chicken issue so adding my own to the Island collective is not an option for us. Fencing the run is a given and we decided that ours will be a 5 foot enclosure of 2" x 4" woven wire at a gauge heavy enough to keep out the dogs. We may end up fencing the top as well, as the feral cat population tends to feed on the feral chickens, and the cats don't know these are ours.

That's it for the design considerations, next post I'll be starting the construction process.
Till next time!

Photo Credits
Chicken Math image from:
Solar Image from :
Fence image from:

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