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*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘chicken ramp

Chicken Entrance

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There have been multiple iterations of ramps for the chicken entrance of our coop over the years. Here’s a refresher of the process that got us to where we are today:

The first version suffered a fair amount of abuse from the chickens who took a liking to pulling apart the branches I wove into it. I patched it up once, but then Cyndie smashed it with a shovel when executing a murderous possum that had snuck inside for a night.

So, I built a second one that was much sturdier. Or so I thought. The chickens liked picking that one apart, too. In addition, after several winters of abuse, we grew weary of the ice and snow disaster that built up on it because the ramp crossed beneath the low side of the slanted roof.

Accumulated snow would slide off or drip directly onto the middle of the ramp. Design flaw, I admit.

So, I did something about it. Last May, I completely changed the ramp to a version that ran parallel to the drip line, just inside the short overhang of the roof above.

Okay, how many of you engineering types can see the problem with this solution? Let me give you a hint. How does snow slide off the edge of a slanted roof? (Click here for the answer.)

I had hoped the new sideways design was just far enough inside the dripline. It’s not. That brings us to the latest enhancement. Over the weekend, I built a new chicken entrance overhang to extend the dripline well beyond the ramp.

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Using materials we had lying around from previous projects, including a salvaged hail-damaged clear roof panel from the woodshed, I gave the chickens a luxurious awning over their entrance. Makes the place look downright palatial.

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If that ramp still gets messy, I’ll drop walls from the overhang and give them an enclosed entrance. It’ll be their mud-room where they can kick the snow and mud off their feet before going inside.

Let’s hope that won’t be necessary.

We are now awaiting more snow to see how this works out. Stay tuned for future status reports…

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Written by johnwhays

January 12, 2021 at 7:00 am

Coop Sprucing

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Yesterday, I finally got around to attaching the summer window awnings on the coop. During the winter we install plexiglass panels over the hardware mesh openings, but in the summer it’s wide open to the weather. For a little protection from wind-blown rain, I add some window-well covers.

Last year, one of the plastic covers was bashed full of holes by a hail storm. Luckily, I had a spare.

While I was tending to the coop, I also added some cross-beams to the chicken ramp because Cyndie felt the chickens needed better footing going up and down.

The Buff Orpington that had been inside laying an egg when I first showed up to work, came out to test the ramp after all the drilling and hammering stopped.

Initially, she seemed hesitant about even coming all the way out the door, but eventually scampered down the ramp without delay. I think she likes it.

After Cyndie came in from tucking the hens in and shutting the chicken door later in the evening, I asked her if she noticed the ramp improvements.

“Nope.”

“Well, did you see the window covers?”

“Nope.”

She had been at her parent’s house while I was sprucing up the coop and I hadn’t mentioned anything about it after she got home.

I guess this demonstrates the changes weren’t overly ostentatious, since she didn’t even notice a thing.

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Written by johnwhays

June 19, 2020 at 6:00 am

Newest Ramp

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Chicken ramp is now up to version three. I’ve given up on the cutesy woven willow branch ramps because they don’t hold up to the abuse of the elements and the apparent urges of critters and/or chickens to pull them apart.

It feels a little sad to be getting around to fixing this just days after the loss of five hens, but there are still three birds who are going in and out of the coop and I have decided to remedy the design flaw of passing through the drop zone for snow sliding off the slanted roof.

The new design approaches the chicken access door from the side, keeping it just inside the drip line off the roof.

Cyndie said the first chicken to exit the coop this morning after the door was opened had to stop abruptly to figure out the turn, but then walked right down.

I watched the Wyandotte who is becoming broody approach the new ramp from the ground yesterday, driven by her strong urge to get back inside and park in an empty nest box. She stopped where the bottom of the old ramp would have been and stretched her neck up as tall as she could with a look of incredulity as she inspected the strange alteration.

Then she flapped her wings and hopped halfway up from the side and scrambled up through the opening.

I’m anxious to see if the snow will drop just beyond this new ramp since that is the primary reason I changed to the side entry, but hopefully, that test won’t happen for many months.

Seven years ago today, the first spring after we had moved here, we received 18-inches of wet snow that wreaked havoc on trees and branches. I will always remember the sound of snapping limbs that resembled rifle reports cracking all around me within the otherwise sound-deadened thick blanket of white.

It was very distressing.

I will happily wait until next winter to see how the newest version of the chicken ramp works when melting snow drops off the roof overhang. By then, we should have round three of purchased chickens established, as Cyndie has already placed an order for all new breeds. Delivery is much delayed and breed selection was rather limited due to very high demand.

I guess a lot of people are in the market for the comfort of having their own source of eggs at a time when going out in public is being discouraged.

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Written by johnwhays

May 2, 2020 at 8:35 am

Gettin’ Out

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It is very easy to be out and about on 20 acres while maintaining appropriate social distance from other people, especially when our property is surrounded by fields and forest. Yesterday afternoon when the sun warmed things up a bit, I took a crack at a few chores in the great outdoors.

My first order of business was to do something about the increasingly dilapidated ramp to the chicken door. I don’t know whether the main culprit is the hens or some other critter, but somebody doesn’t like my weaving of willow branches.

I tried monitoring the ramp with the trail cam, but there is so much chicken activity that I get a couple of hundred photos during the day while capturing nothing after dark. I haven’t had the patience to keep trying long enough to see what animals are nosing around during the nighttime.

I think part of me doesn’t want to know and part of me doesn’t really care. My fix will be the same, regardless of whoever is messing with it.

I had collected a bag full of downed branches beneath the willow tree with a plan to redo the bad parts of the ramp but ended up having a change of heart. I decided to try cutting some finger-sized trees from our forest to weave bigger green wood through the existing frame.

A lot of the willow branches I originally used were dead, so they just dried out more and got brittle, making them easy to break. I think the thicker and greener sticks will stand up much better to abuse.

Around the shop garage, I chopped down the dried shoots of tall ornamental grass, pulled out the failed sheet of plastic water barrier that was supposed to redirect drainage, and then detangled the broken cedar post and bird feeder from the cage of vines that covered it.

It felt a lot like warm weather yard work, which was strange just a day and a half after the blast of snow we had received. At the same time, it was a glorious distraction from the mindset of sheltering in place and the unending gloom and doom news that is the other hard to avoid attention-getter of the moment.

My health is still good, my hands are washed, and I’m physically isolated all weekend at home. Today, I return to the day-job and will strive to avoid infectious invisible droplets.

I hope you all find an opportunity to get out wherever you are to spend some time beneath the open sky. It’s good medicine for long-term in-place sheltering.

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Written by johnwhays

April 6, 2020 at 6:00 am

New Ramp

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Our chickens have been politely accepting the replacement ramp Cyndie fashioned out of some spare wire shelving, after her incidental demolition of my original ramp, when she killed the possum multiple times with a shovel back in February. But, the replacement was intended to be temporary, so I have been plotting “Ramp 2.0” for some time.

I’m not sure it will be shovel proof, but I did try to beef it up a little bit. The chickens took a liking to pulling out the sticks in my first version, so I increased the weave to hopefully slow that process.

Initially, I tried grinding notches in the cross braces, hoping to “key” the branches to seat tightly together. It ended up being a wasted effort, as my technique was rather imprecise and the frame branches kept torquing and twisting out of the sweet spots as I wove sticks through.

Since I increased the weave, adding two smaller vertical branches, it became critical that I find sticks that could really flex. The solution came to me after winter storms brought down a massive number of branches from our willow tree this year.

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On a return trip to the tree for more material, I noticed there were some new branches sprouting from the trunk that were destined to be pruned, so I included those, as well. It was very helpful to have the “live” branches, because the closer I got to finishing, the less space there was to angle the branches into the tight bend required.

Gives it a little color.

Since the notched frame branches had shifted out of position, I decided to add some screws to lock things in place after the weave was complete. It is definitely more robust than the first ramp I built.

With that, the new ramp was ready to be mounted on the coop for chickens to test.

I am interested in finding out if they will try to disassemble this one as much as they did the first ramp. Something about little sticks that seemed to just call to the chickens. I don’t think they could help themselves. It was irresistible.

Maybe they won’t like willow branches and will just leave it alone. I have my doubts about that wishful thinking. Then what it will come down to is, whether my two additional vertical branches (the warp) will be enough to discourage the chickens from trying to pull (the weft) branches out.

Worst case, I need to collect more willow branches. Luckily, that tree seems to offer up an unending supply.

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Written by johnwhays

April 22, 2019 at 6:00 am

Quickly Fixed

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The chickens finally did in the ramp of woven sticks leading up to their door into the coop. In trying to mend it, the outer braces let loose and I pretty much ended up rebuilding the whole thing.

Unfortunately, many of the old twigs had lost the necessary flexibility. They snapped before I could bend them into position. Cyndie showed up and helped scout some greener specimens among the random growth nearby.

Then she grabbed my camera and documented the process.

Luckily, there is no sound with the images, so my verbal frustration over the breaking sticks was not captured.

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Just like that, it is complete again. I asked the chickens to leave it alone this time.

I’ll let you know how well that works out.

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Written by johnwhays

July 30, 2018 at 6:00 am

Posted in Chronicle

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