Chickens · Farm-ish · Rabbits

New hutch and bad weather

Three days of nothing but storm fronts — and bad ones, at that — reminded me how soon winter will be here. So, despite the non-stop rain of yesterday (it finally slowed to a drizzle a long time after sunset), I acquired the lumber and various bits for building out a new hutch.

It is, approximately, 120″ (10′) long, and 72″ wide. I’ve designed it to be a bit sturdier than the other two, because it won’t have any kind of significant windbreak, and I’ve learned how much snow really does screw with roofing. It should hold (at a tight fit) 4 holes at 24″x28″ on each side (it might take 24×30 holes, later, if I acquire any). It’s also shorter. Perhaps too short, but I think that’s better than the problems I’ve run into with the tall two-tier hutch.

Sadly, this morning I was delayed from starting the new hutch, because I discovered that most of the chicks in the brooder were dead. They appear to have gotten wet and chilled during the incessant downpour. I’m not sure HOW the normally fairly dry brooder got that wet, but I moved the survivors into an empty rabbit cage, gave them hay for bedding and moved their brooder heater. Hopefully they’ll be okay. They have wind blocks there, and it’s drier. I’ll have to deal with the brooder situation later. :\ Not sure how I will … I have to bend over to clean it out, and that’s … significantly uncomfortable at the moment.

Which is why, once I had the surviving chicks moved and made as comfortable as I can make them, I proceeded to start work on the hutch. That’s mostly standing work.

I pre-cut everything according to my diagrams and cut list, pre-constructed the two end pieces, and hauled everything up the hill with some help from SP and husband. I spent a good bit of time attempting to make the two end caps as level as possible.

At 10′ wide with a reasonable walking path between the chainlink run exterior and the end of the run, I discovered I’ll have to do some re-jiggering of other semi-permanent structures inside the run proper. That includes the support structure for the chicken-wire overhead, as well as the mini run I built this time last year.

I worked on the frame structure, with a few short breaks, until shortly after sunset. I completed the frame, including rafters and purlins for the PVC roofing that will be installed. I took pictures, but my phone wasn’t happy about trying to take night pictures, so they’re a bit fuzzy.

Front corner, showing the roofing structure.
From the other front corner, showing the side structure.

Once I get some of the other stuff cleared out of the way, I’ll install another T-post on the other side’s center post. That should help keep it mostly level, as well as help with the wind problems we have out here.

The front side of the hutch will probably be a more comfortable height to work with — the bucks will go there. The back side will likely be primarily grow-out / keeper candidates, and less populated.

Once completed, the bottom row of the two-tier hutch will be moved into the new hutch. Those cages are in fairly sad shape, anyhow, so I’ve also started work on a custom-sized cage. I’ll directly attach a PEX water line (hopefully with insulation and either aluminum or PVC protective covering to keep rabbits from chewing it) to the back of the newly built cage, as part of the winterizing prep work.

That’s the other concern: that two-tier hutch was HELL to keep the water system going when the bad freeze hit. I’ll be severely limited in how much I can do this year, being immediately postpartum as of late December/early January. So if I have everything as single level, I stand a much better chance at keeping the water system functional for longer, and hopefully all winter. My dad arrives later this week to help me overhaul the whole thing. Hopefully, between the two of us, we can force it to work properly.