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Chickens On The Balcony, Or How I Made A Chicken Coop In The Apartment

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One day, while visiting acquaintances, I accidentally went out to the balcony of their apartment on the tenth floor of a seventeen-story building in the city center and was almost taken aback - a dozen neat cages were placed on top of each other. Of course, it was not the cages that surprised me, but their occupants. They were... chickens! Yes, very ordinary chickens! As I found out a bit later, the owners were keeping them for years, because they were obsessed with a healthy diet and organic food. Because of this, the eggs from the balcony chickens were on the menu of this family. The hens laid well and the owners were even able to sell some of their eggs to neighbors.

Chickens on the balcony, or How I made a chicken coop in the apartment
Hens on the balcony, or how I made a hen house in the apartment

Why I decided to have chickens on the balcony

I did not get into details and all kinds of nuances of keeping chickens on the balcony then. First it was necessary somehow to digest for myself the fact of seen. Chickens in the city! Up to that moment I could not even imagine that such a thing is possible in principle. Nonsense! And if someone had told me that in a year I would be interested in keeping chickens at home myself, I would have simply laughed in his face. It so happened that for some time I was out of work. I sat at home, counting every penny. The refrigerator was empty. It was in those days that the idea occurred to me to try and have chickens in my own apartment. At least, I will not die of hunger, fresh eggs for the table will always be, I decided.

Besides, I thought that raising chickens in small numbers - the easiest thing. From you, actually, and is not required. You fenced in a corner, you have enough food for your layers, and then you just know how to collect eggs.

How I built a coop in the corner of the loggia

Allocation of space in the apartment for a mini chicken coop, I did not see the problem. I had a fairly spacious glazed loggia, a third of which to devote to a useful thing was quite possible.

I immediately imagined how it would be blocked by a grid of some kind of netting, arranged in a small door in this partition. Then it remains to put there a feeder, a bowl of water, and then you can safely launch into the pen chickens. I would only have to sit in an armchair and "smoke bamboo", waiting for the first eggs, as a reward for their labors righteous.

Probably, the fact that it seemed to me from the outside quite simple and pushed me to implement the idea of the hen house. I didn't put it off for too long. Though I couldn't find rabiza wire in hardware stores near my house (it's certainly not a sought-after commodity in the city), but I found a roll of wire lattice which workers-finishers usually use while plastering walls.

When I was walking along my loggia with a tape measure in my hand to define which piece of this lattice I should cut first, I suddenly thought: isn't the space dimension too big for a few hens? I confess, I thought at that moment not so much about the chickens, but about a possibility to save money on their keeping. Though I had no experience in chicken keeping, I knew some general principles of handling poultry. When I was a child my parents used to send me to my grandmother's house for summer and winter vacations, and now they keep chickens there themselves!

For example, I knew that in winter they often leave a lamp on in village hens' houses all night long; some warmth comes from it. And especially advanced rural breeders even set special infrared lamp for heating.

In perspective, closer to winter, I was going to buy such lamp too, but even the thought of it was enough for logical conclusion - it is necessary to warm with it not so much the hens as the under-ceiling space of loggia! After all, according to the laws of physics, the heat rises up.

A little bit of witting, I decided to lower the height of the future hen house to one meter, providing it with a removable lattice roof. According to my calculations, this option would give several advantages. In winter, for example, it will be possible to put glass on it, which will allow to keep some of the warm air under it.

In addition, a low roof would also help solve the lighting problem. After all, the city lights literally flood my loggia with light at night as well, which could, I thought, disorient chickens regarding the time of day. I assumed that if I threw a blanket over this makeshift roof at night, the light problem would be easily solved, and my hens would get a semblance of a small but cozy bedroom.

Chickens on the balcony, or How I made a chicken coop in the apartment
The height of the balcony chicken coop should not be too high not to warm up the winter air. © backyardchickens

Organization of perch for the hens in the balcony hen house

In the end, already thinking about the comfort of the hens themselves in the hen house, I remembered that, besides the feeder and drinker, it is desirable to have also a perch. In this regard, I immediately thought of fixing a pair of perches (as if two steps) near the far end wall of the designed coop. And in order birds, located on top of the perch, did not lean against the bars of the ceiling, I thought of this very ceiling to have not horizontally, but obliquely, raising it an additional 30 centimeters above the top perch near the end wall. Made so the ceiling with a slope toward the front of the coop.

This solution seemed to me correct. The only embarrassment was that it would be not very convenient to clean the manure from under the roosts. So I also puzzled over the issue of cleanliness in the home of my future hens. In general, how to clean such a small chicken coop? That with a trowel or a garden hoe, it is clear, but what to do with chickens? They would be in the way!

The idea to arrange under the lattice floor retractable trays was not my innovation. It worked quite successfully for many citizens in the construction of small cages for all sorts of parrots and canaries. Of course, to make a giant tray for a chicken coop with a total area of more than two square meters, probably just not very sensible. But the principle itself...

It interested me, and as a result I figured out how to reduce the floor area of the pen so that the size of the manure drip tray could be proportionally significantly reduced.

I estimate this could be achieved by using a sheet of iron, if you fix it under the perches, with an appropriate slope, parallel to the sloping ceiling. Besides, smooth iron is easier to wipe off manure.

I've seen similar construction in village hen-houses, but the iron was used mainly to protect chickens wandering under roosts from excrements of their friends who were overhead.

With all materials prepared in time, it took me only few hours to build a hen-house by this plan. And did not assume that I can cope with this task so quickly. I did not forget to make a feeding trough and make a couple of nesting boxes from planks for hens to lay eggs in. © tolkostroyka

Purchasing chickens

The chicken coop came out in glory! Now I just couldn't wait to populate it. After calculating the optimal number of future tenants, I decided on five hens and a rooster. The next day I went out of town, to a small private chicken farm, where, as I was told by knowledgeable people, I could buy young chickens, which in a month and a half would begin to lay. I did not know the breeds of chickens. I just bought the ones which were offered to me by the seller. While transplanting them into a cardboard box, he kept praising his goods. Looking at the young chicks, I naively asked him: Where's the rooster? The seller grinned and told me that I could buy a rooster too, but that it was not necessary to have a "man in the house" for these chickens, they would lay even without him. The only thing is that the eggs from under them will remain unfertilized, and if I think about putting a laying hen on them or try to raise chicks in an electric incubator, it will not work out. Otherwise the eggs from "unmarried" hens would be no different from those that a rooster would have been involved in some way.

I thought it was for the best. In the back of my mind I was even afraid that if a rooster moved in on my loggia I would have to listen to complaints not only from neighbors, but also from people all over the neighborhood, who would not like to wake up early in the morning to roosters singing. Well, one less problem.

Molodochki in their new home got used to it pretty quickly. I did not find myself in the first day. Almost hourly I went out on the loggia to check on my birds. Or maybe, more likely, myself. In my head I could not believe that I now live on the loggia ... chickens.

But after a month, to my great joy, I was already holding in my hand the first egg they laid!