Subscribe via Email

If you're not receiving email notifications of new posts, subscribe by entering your email...

Henhouse #7 – A Work of Art

When I was about halfway through my Henhouse Series, a friend said I had to visit Cosima. Her henhouse was a Taj Mahal of henhouses she said. Look here and you can see the center posts that is key in holding up the green roof.

When I finally visited Cosima I had to agree. Her henhouse is a work of art. She said they built this cordwood  masonry henhouse using Robert L. Roy’s books and that this is actually his sauna building plan. The building has an interior diameter of 9 feet with circular walls that are about 8 inches thick. These walls are comprised of cordwood/firewood, sometimes split, and sometimes as plain logs, plus a special masonry mix. They also created a green roof . They put hay bales on the roof and planted gourds and nasturtiums in a pocket of soil in the bales.  Other plants were carried there by the wind. In this rear view of the building you can see trailing nasturtiums, and if you look very closely you will see trailing gourds on the right.

In addition to the cordwood, Cosima used glass bottles to provide handsome graphic elements.

Hens lay their eggs in these egg boxes inside the henhouse.

But eggs can be collected from the outside.  This type of construction keeps out the wind and is quite warm in the winter. Practical and beautiful. One cannot ask for more.

Althuogh I did not realize it. when I arrived as Cosima’s house I got a preview of the henhouse. The cordwood masonry  mudroom is an addition to the old house, and is also beautiful as well as practical.

This interior detail of the mudroom gives some hint of its charm.

So there it is a week’s worth of henhouses, providing food for thought about designing for practicality and beauty. For more unique henhouses click here, here, and here.

Henhouse #6

There was nothing photogenic about our chores this glorious autumn weekend – mowing, weeding, cutting back – so I’ll concentrate on an exploration of another Heath henhouse.  Joey built, overbuilt he said, this 10×12 foot henhouse for his ten hens. You can see he has a lot of help! He read a lot and looked at a lot of henhouses, and talked to a lot of people before he built his. The forethought shows. His luck shows too. He found the little stairway at the town dump. He said it is attached to the henhouse with only three or  four screws.  The building itself is built on skids, much like Bob’s, which I wrote about here. Joey said he built it on skids because he wasn’t sure where he wanted to put it permanently.

Joey wanted the children to be able to collect the eggs without going into the chicken space so he set aside this part of the chicken house for storage and copied Sheila’s system which I wrote about here.

The front of the egg boxes looks like a cabinet with a slanted top that keeps the chickens from roosting on it. The chickens enter this space from the opening on the left.

The flat part of the cabinet can be lifted and hooked up to make it easy to clean the egg boxes. The row of boxes is not nailed down. The row can be removed entirely making it very easy to shake out and clean. This is a great idea.

Joey thought a lot about the cleaning out process. This clean out door with a latch near the floor on the inside opens  to a door on the outside.

The reason for the second door is too keep out critters who have been known to open latches.  When this door opens all any critter will see is a blank wall.  On clean out day, Joey is outside with the cart and the kids sweep out all the bedding. They do a terrific job, Joey said. He then vacuums out all the cobwebs and they all put down more shavings.

One of the most unique elements of Joey’s henhouse, and one I am  going to add to mine, is this oystershell dispenser. It is made of two lengths of PVC pipe with a cut back PVC elbow on the end and fastened to the wall with ordinary brackets. He just pours crushed oyster shell into the pipe and the chickens take it as they wish. And Joey says they really like it and it goes very fast. He uses these in the winter when the chickens do not get the necessary grit from pecking around in the  soil. The oystershell provides grit all winter long, in addition to providing calcium for strong eggshells.

Fortunately Joey has a good crew of chicken wranglers. Only one more henhouse in my series. Keep watching.

Faster and Faster

The Holiday Weekend started for me on Friday afternoon when I visited the Heath School’s Garden Day. The classes have been working before now, of course, but on Garden Day, the whole day is given over to planting, weeding, mulching – and learning.  I am impressed with their energy, which I expected, but also with the quality of the child-sized tools they are using.  Many hands make light work was certainly the motto on Friday.

You may wonder what is with all the stones and stone -like things in  the Shed Bed, but you have to remember that the Shed Bed is right next to the hen house and for the past couple of months the chickens have considered this their personal Lido for taking dust baths.  First I kept the chickens in the hen house today. Then I finished weeding and edging, dug in some nice rotted manure and lime, and planted the little annual salvias that edge this bed every year. This is the way I fudge not being able to grow a lavender hedge.

You can’t really tell, but I also put tiny annual dianthus along the west edge of the Lawn Grove, as well as nine cosmos seedlings.  The big task was planting the weeping cherry that I bought at Home Depot.  I hope that was a wise decision.  It’s been watered and mulched with wood chips. You can see a small hardy azalea blooming on the far side of the grove.  Lots of weeding.

Guan Yin Mian

The garden is progressing faster and faster.  Everytime I turn around something new has come into bloom.  This tree peony is so lovely. The translation of the name is Guan Yin’s Face.  Guan Yin is the Goddess of Compassion and surely hers is the most beautiful of faces.

Boule de Neige and Rangoon have been slowly opening, but with temperatures in the 80s for two days they came into full bloom in the shady bed next to the Cottage Ornee.

Last year I found this rhodie forgotten and languishing in the weeds at the edge of the ‘orchard.’  I dug it up and this time I transplanted it properly, “Keep it simple, just a dimple,” as my rhododendron expert says. I think it is Calsap. What a lovely surprise to have it survive and put out new growth and bloom!

The lilacs are blooming and perfuming the air.  We even spent some time enjoying the beauty and fragrance of the garden: we opened the Cottage officially and entertained two friends who we see all too infrequently.  A perfect weekend.

Eggs-ellent Days

For several days the weather has been chilly, raw, showery, rainy and generally unpleasant. Not gardening weather. We all know we cannot dig wet soil.   However, the chickens remain cheerful and production continues. They are happy to stay inside, maybe because they know I’ll give them an extra small ration of cracked corn.

Don’t forget tomorrow is the last day you can enter the Give Away drawing for Starter Vegetable Gardens by Barbara Pleasant. Just click here and leave a comment. The winner will be announced on Saturday.

New Technology in the Hen House

Avian Aqua Miser

It is very hard to get a good photo of the chickens drinking at their new  Avian Aqua Miser waterer, but the first chicken on the right had been drinking and the second chicken on the right is still taking  good long sip.  What you cannot see in the photo are the little ‘nipples’ that work on a similar principle to a hamster waterer.  The 5 gallon bucket has water and the chickens  poke at the nipples that release a drop at a time into their little beaks.

We got our kit from the Avian Aqua Miser people and my husband installed the nipples in about 15 minutes.  It took a little longer than that to teach the chickens to drink from this new waterer but that was our fault for not hanging the bucket high enough.  Now everyone is happy. The chickens have clean water to drink and I don’t have to worry about them knocking the waterer over and then being thirsty all day long.

I bought the kit that contains three nipples and a drill bit, just the right size. I have not been paid for my comments. The company does not even know I am writing about this product, which I do recommend.

Snow – And Blood

February 25 8 am

The snow was falling when I woke.  I hope this is the first of the four final snowstorms predicted for this winter.

While the snow is beautiful, the view inside the hen house was not as lovely.  For the third morning in a row I went out to find a dead chicken, killed by a weasel. I don’t know if it is possible to keep a determined and hungry weasel out of a hen house. I will spare you the image.  Only a dozen chickens left, including a rooster.

Making the Ascent…

Snowstorm!   The chickens can’t wait…

I wish I had a portable chicken house! No joke.

Most Viewed Posts 2010

As I review and renew in my garden, I thought I ought to look back at the year on the commonweeder.  The 5 most popular posts were not what I expected.

In February Mycotecture got many visitors – and continues to be visited.

In March the New York Times had an article about Femivores, women who love their chickens too much. Or something like that. I have chickens so I had to comment. Chickens – and their houses – are a popular topic on my blog – and elsewhere in the world.

In July I went to Buffalo to meet with 70 other bloggers and tour the many wonderful gardens in readiness for the Buffalo Garden Walk. My post Mirrors in the Garden – A Trend? continues to get visitors.

Carol Dukes at Flower Hill Farm

In September I visited Carol Dukes at Flower Hill Farm. We are almost neighbors. It is no surprise to me that this post was so popular. Carol and her magnificent photos have many devoted fans.

Walden Pond

My Muse Day post in December was about our trip to Walden Pond the day after Thanksgiving. As a devoted fan of Henry David Thoreau I was happy that so many others wanted to share our visit. I never cease to thank Carolyngail for hosting Muse Day.

One popular post did not surprise me. In January my dear friend and mentor Elsa Bakalar passed away. In July we celebrated her life in her garden – and that month her garden, now tended by artist Scott Prior and his wife, was featured in Horticulture Magazine – with a nod back to the article that Elsa and I had published in Horticulture in 1986. Elsa’s life touched many gardeners, locally and across the country through her book and lecture tours.

2010 was a happy year for me on the commonweeder, with increasing readership, and I look forward to 2011 and the pleasures of the garden and garden friends with great anticipation.

Hen House #5

Henhouse in a barn

When Doug moved to Heath his property came with a big barn, but the only livestock he planned on was chickens.  When he moved his office into the barn he had that space insulated. He also insulated the area where the chickens lived.

Only in the ceiling can you see the insulation but it is also behind the wooden walls. Chickens don’t need this kind of comfort, but I’m sure they appreciate it.  Even the door to the outside is insulated.  The chickens do have plenty of room, and a chicken door that gives them access to the outdoors.

Doug only has a small flock of chickens, but lots of egg boxes.

Foldable chicken roost.

I was particularly taken with this roost. It can fold up against the wall to make a clean out easier.

Doug is the only one I know who has a heated chicken waterer. The rest of us make do with rotating waterers in and out of the hen house.   Mine sits by the woodstove when I bring it in.

As I have visited all these henhouses  I have been fascinated by the unique elements that have been designed.

A Treeful of Memories

The tree is up and decorated.  Each year I get so much pleasure and I add each ornament. The tree contains memories that go back more than 60 years.  After my mother’s death my brothers and I had to empty her condo and split up her belongings. There were no surprises until we got to a big storage closet in the garage that, among other things, held boxes and boxes of Christmas tree ornaments dating back to the 1940s.  My mother was much given to buying lots of new ornaments every year, but I never thought about what she did with the old ones. I actually do remember this  patriotic ornament; it is my husband’s favorite.

Many of the ornaments our children made when young were lost during a move, or being made of paper disintegrated, but we do have a collection of ornaments made by the grandchildren, so we go from the 1940s to the 1990s. And we have two great-granddaughters coming up!

Monkey King

When we lived in Beijing I bought a number of ornaments including a whole set of Monkey King characters. Monkey King is a major mischievous hero in Chinese literature and culture. He, along with Pigsy, Friar Sand and the Monk travel across the country to bring the Buddhist scriptures from India to China. Monkey King has magic powers and tools, but he does get himself and his companions into a lot of trouble. Many of the Peking Opera stories are based on Monkey’s adventures.

Some ornaments have been gifts that give a nod to our passions – like chickens . .

and the powers of the Garden Angel to make things grow in the garden.