Chickens first, with pumpkins a close second

Wooden storage shed for chicken coop

The weekend went by in a bit of a blur. Ever have one of those? It wasn’t unpleasant, just very busy, some of it productive, some of it the general busyness of life. It was very much the weekend of the chicken coop. I realize that I’ve said precious little about our chickens since writing about their impending arrival some weeks ago. We have nine Americaunas – a mama (Esme) and eight babies, who are rapidly gaining in size. They will be layers (well, except for a couple of boy chicks for whom we will have to come up with an alternate game plan), and a proper coop was high on the list after their arrival (we’d been expecting two chicks, not an instant flock!). With the weather closing in on us, we feel the clock ticking.

Unlike so many of our projects, we didn’t go for a completely from scratch solution with the coop. We felt overwhelmed by the timeline and just didn’t have the time or energy to think through a coop entirely of our own construction. We were thrilled to find a new storage shed made of rough boards and a metal roof that fit the bill: at 11 x 7 feet, it’s just about ideal for our mini flock. With some basic insulation, metal sheathing to keep out chewing critters, and the infrastructure needed for a roost and nesting boxes, we could call it done. And we’re nearly there.

Inside of storage shed on the way to becoming a chicken coop

This shot shows a wall that has been insulated and sheathed with plywood (metal still to go on top), next to a wall, under the window, that has yet to be given the same treatment.

Adding insultation to a small storage shed

The R-factor isn’t great here: 3.75 is all we’re adding through the insulation, plus whatever extra warmth we’ll gain from the plywood and metal sheath layers. Chickens don’t need a lot of additional warmth, but a draught-free abode will be essential here in the frozen north of Eastern Ontario.

Older son working on insulating the chicken coop

Oldest son was kind enough to pitch in throughout the weekend, in spite of a schedule that saw him work a six-hour shift at the library on Saturday. He’s pictured here on Saturday evening.

Other weekend highlights included:

Popped corn from the cob in silver bowl

A trip to the last local farmers’ market of the main harvest season with our dog, Reggie, and our youngest son. We picked up a bunch of butternut squash to round out our own homegrown stash in the root cellar, two huge bags of heirloom carrots, a gorgeous head of red cabbage, and some dried corn on the cob for popping right in the microwave. Youngest son loved popping the first cob later that night for a well-earned movie evening, but suggested that we intersperse it with ‘regular popcorn’ (from our jar of kernels) to make the cobs last longer.

Saute pan with tomatoes and zucchini

A number of quickly-thrown together meals including the last tomatoes from our own garden tossed in a saute pan with some shredded zucchini and garlic (it was delicious!).

ingredients-for-pumpkin-cranberry-pear-cake

Pumpkin Cranberry Pear cake from Green Pocket Protector

A bit of baking, mainly the really delightful Easy Pumpkin Cranberry Pear Cake from Green Pocket Protector, which I’d been keen to try since reading about it last week. It was every bit as yummy as I thought it would be, and I must encourage anyone who loves a good tea cake or pound cake to give it a try. While Libby’s recipe calls for dried cranberries, I used fresh (as they are abundant here at the moment), and I combined spelt and regular unbleached flour in a 2:1 ratio, but otherwise my cake is completely true to Libby’s version.

Red cabbage preserved in brine

A bit of preserving, after a self-imposed break from the same. The beautiful head of red cabbage that I picked up at the farmers’ market on Saturday was shredded, salted, rinsed, and then packed in brine and placed in a water bath this evening as my youngest hummed and hawed about going to bed. No comment on the bedtime antics, but the lovely and simple cabbage treatment can be found at Canning Homemade!

Young boy with jack-o-lantern with a cat face

A bit of pumpkin carving, in preparation for Hallowe’en later this week. Not pictured is oldest son, who fashioned a pumpkin with multiple faces. I promise to post final pictures on Hallowe’en (if I remember!).

Also in the line-up were multiple loads of laundry and battening down the hatches for the expected rains and high winds related to Hurricane Sandy, neither of which was terribly photogenic. We are a good 10-hour drive from New York City, but Eastern Ontario is expected to get hit by Monday evening, so we’ve taken sensible precautions. Otherwise, it’s business as usual as we head into another busy week, and a bit of Halloween madness.

18 thoughts on “Chickens first, with pumpkins a close second

  1. oh my goodness – that does sound like a full weekend. We too used a prefab shed for a chicken house years ago – ours isn’t insulated, we don’t get cold enough here to need it usually, though some years the water inside has ice on it. I am impressed that you also managed to bake and do the cabbage with construction going on.
    Your eldest works at the library? Me too!
    Love the cat pumpkin.

    1. I’m so envious of you folks who get to work at the library; I’m enjoying it vicariously through my son, as I’d personally love the same job! 🙂 Youngest son was thrilled to hear that you liked his cat pumpkin too.

      On another note, how are things following the earthquake out in your neck of the woods?

      1. Didn’t feel it way down here. My cousin (Kimberley’s Kitchen) in Smithers felt it a bit, but the epicentre was in Haida Gwaii, fortunately very low population and not much infrastructure to be damaged.
        We’ve been been feeling pretty lucky out here compared to the Eastern Seaboard right now.

      2. That is good news. It does sound as though the kind of quake it was also contributed to the fallout being much less than it could have been, thankfully. Yes, the Eastern US is in an unbelievable state!

    1. It’s almost a distant memory now, but getting things done does keep me going through the week! Of course, I never blog about the 1001 things that I can’t seem to get to! 🙂

  2. What a productive weekend you had…you must be wanting an extra day off, just to take a rest! The coop is very nice, and I like the idea of using a pre-made structure. Thanks for the new idea for zucchini (we’re always looking for new ways to cook it). Great job on the pumpkin decorating! We put out pumkins for the season on Saturday, but failed to decorate them this year. And, thanks also for the evaluation of the pumpkin cranberry cake. Yours looks delicious, and I think I’ll give the fresh cranberries a try the next time we make it.

    1. Thanks Libby! On the tomato/zucchini saute, I made a point of using a spice-infused olive oil with it (some chilies mainly), and that made it really tasty. Our pumpkins will be our only decorations; I just can’t get organized enough for some of those fun details at this stage! My mum has been here with the boys for a couple of days while we had to be away, and absolutely loves your cake. Now I know she’ll want the recipe!

  3. Love your coop and run! Great Job!! I’m still trying to find a way to improve the insulation factor/keep it cozy in my chicken area. I have a coop inside an old outbuilding and it still gets cold, although not drafty. The coop is 41 degrees (F) when the outside of outbuilding is 30 (F)…so only a 10 degree difference, which I suspect will be a problem once temps plummet and winds howl… Your coop looks very tight, bright, secure, and with adequate ventilation!!

    1. Thanks for the tremendous feedback. We will be insulating the loft area with straw, which I note that another commenter has also suggested. We’ve been reading been reading a lot about how to maximize warmth in an otherwise extremely simple structure, and there seems to be a lot to back up a well ventilated loft space packed with fresh straw, which can then be cleared out in the spring. We’re going to give that a go and see how we get on. I will definitely share our experience here, and will keep following yours.

      1. I think your point about the scale of the space versus the size of your flock is a very good one, and that’s something we’re definitely going to be learning about as we go. Thanks for the link, I’ll make sure I read that this evening when I’m doing some more catching up – thanks for that!

  4. I’ll have to try that Pumpkin Cranberry Cake recipe!
    Your coop is looking good too. We built our first coop with a loft for straw….. then it became the kids playhouse when we moved the chickens into a smaller, better insulated coop. Bales of straw will also help to keep them warm as well as a heat light on the very cold nights. Plus a branch or dowel for them to roost on will keep them off the colder floor……
    Awesome!!

    1. It’s definitely a cake that’s worth baking up – very satisfying. Hope you get to enjoy it soon! Thanks for taking time to comment on the coop, and I’m intrigued to hear of your experience of storing straw in the loft. That’s exactly what we’re planning to do for added insulation. Straw bales on the floor sound like a great idea, and a cosy roost at the right height is definitely a must where we are, isn’t it!

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