Buff Orphingtons posing for the camera.
We got four of these hens to complement our rooster of the same breed but they seem to want to lay eggs everywhere but in the nest boxes. They are nice friendly birds and lay large brown eggs but just a bit on the strange side. Eventually predators killed all of these plus others that would not stay near the house. My grandfather had a hundred chickens and changed breeds several times but the only time we had to look for eggs was when one would occasionally go lay and set on the nest. In our case it just seems to be normal behavior to hid eggs with no intention to set them, very expensive and we can't continue raising chickens in a free range environment. I am going to sell some of the younger birds and confine the older ones into a fenced in area to see what happens in 2012.

I built a mobile chicken brooder/coop so that I can raise some new layers.

It fits through our basement door so they can be kept safe at night and then be taken out to a fenced area during the day. The final version is covered with clear plastic and has a heat lamp for when the chicks are small but is not necessary for larger pullets.
I also made my own incubator to hatch some eggs from existing chickens as we find eggs that have been hidden from time to time that are too old to sell but will hatch. It is made from a cooler and uses a baseboard heat thermostat to maintain the proper temperature from the 2 bulb ceiling light that is the heat source.
In July 2011 I built a second coop which is about 4x8 feet and has and axel with 2 lawn tractor size wheels for towing with the tractor. There are 6 nest boxes that are accessible from outside and a large door for cleaning and filling the feeder. In the winter I put clear plastic on the sides but left the rear open for fresh air. It is very predator proof with 3/4 inch oak flooring and steel mesh side wire that is stronger than chicken wire. The mesh is the stuff that they use as plaster lath and comes in sheets so it took 2 sheets per side. On the rear is a small opening over the next boxes that is protected with small size chicken wire. It is very stable and wind doesn't move it.

It was easier to put eggs under the game hen who is real good about setting and taken care of the chicks. The problem is that they are exposed to all of the disease from the adults and then evolution kicks in which is good in the long run but disastrous in the short. The best setter who was getting old, was killed by a predator in September 2011 but I found
her eggs before they cooled and was able to hatch 3 chicks in incubator and raise them in the mobile brooder.

Here is an early morning view of the barn with Dusty the draft horse waiting for his daily trip to the pasture.

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