Thursday, July 3, 2008

crazy coop caper continues with creature comforts and independence for all

hey hey hey, the crazy coop caper continues. finally finally chickenmama installed the time and/or solar activated coop door, officially known as the vsb electronic doorkeeper made in germany. i bought directly from the axt folks themselves. the price was better, the service great and everything arrived packed so well it could have traveled around the world twice and still been in good shape upon arrival. it's another brilliant piece of engineering.

this little dandy ensures me piece of mind when either my mind goes wacky and i awake middle of the night wondering did i forget to close up the coop and for those times when i am out of town thinking on the girls and their keep by a friendly neighbor. it also allows folks to wake at a decent time and hit the hay at a decent time too if they wish.
i've set the doorkeeper to function on the timer. it currently opens at 6am and closes at 10pm. this gives the girls a good half hour leeway to rise and shine or jump roost. they are usually up nearer to 6:30am and up on roost by 8:45pm. there have recently been a few evenings when they have stayed up later, i imagine to enjoy a bit more scratching in some cooler temperatures, thus the further extension on the evening's closing up of shop.

i of course was up last night and early this morning watching the door close and open. not so much to see if the contraption actually worked but more so to see if my installation was properly completed. check, check and check - all fares well. now if i want to, i can sleep in without guilt though i must admit i treasure my early morning hours with the chickenchicas.

the contraption consists of three primary elements. 1. the hatch and running rails which you can see in the above photos. this is an optional purchase but i opted to buy it figuring it best to trust the engineers.
2. the photo sensor and reel box also known as the vsb. this box contains the reel in/reel out mechanism which raises and lowers the door. the silver strip on the box is photosensitive. if you wish, you can purchase an extra photo sensor for outdoor mounting. the cool thing about the reel/photosensitive mechanism is that you can set it's relative sensitivity to light with a small knob inside the box which means that you can make it super sensitive to light or less so depending on how much extra time on either end of the sunrise sunset you wish to build in.

3. the timing mechanism is also optional in the case you are a control freak like myself. the timing mechanism allows you to set exact open and close times of the door. the ladies have proved to act consistently with their routine. the timer ensures that a rainy day or heavy cloud cover won't trick the photo sensor into thinking it is evening and time to close shop. it will also allow adjustments for seasonal sunlight shifts.

the last bit of goodness on with the doorkeeper is that like many garage doors, it will stop and re-open if ever it begins to come down on an object in its path, a.k.a. a chickenchica. it will then wait 40 seconds before attempting to close once again, giving the possibly spooked feathered friend some time to collect herself and get up to roost.

the girls are not the only a.m. alarm clocks around here. opera kitty loves to let loose his singing power in the wee hours. he's a character and knows just how to get what he wants. he's also a smart little bugger, very intelligent and quite crafty.

here he is keeping a good eye on the chickenchicas. he seems to have taken up the role of chicken guard which is more than fine with me and he's adopted a new habit of sharing a bit of morning conversation with the ladies. first thing out he runs to their coop door and give a quick hello meow. seconds later he's off on his own morning adventure. he's got to check out the gardens of which exist around the property, he visits the various birdbaths and takes a drink out of each and if any of the soaker hose systems are running, he'll set himself down on top and cool off.

this guy has pretty much figured the cool off in the hot weather thing. i'm so happy to have this little fellow around.

i figured in the spirit of independence for all creatures i ought to craft a bit of something for the wicked boy. he loves to go in and out and in and out and in and out. now that he knows the back porch/studio is his territory, he tends not to eat from the food dish i leave for him in the garage. i guess he feels that it should be for some other in need as he's covered inside.

whatever the reason i'm not going to always be available to answer to his whimsical wishes for privacy or the great outdoors. so mr. opera kitty is gaining his very own entrance to and from his great domain.

i did not wish to cut through both a screen door and a door door so in talking to neighbors decided a window would prove the best option. here it is.

on the outside of the window i've installed three tiers for climbing using simple cabinet supports. they require an initial jump to the first but as opera kitty displayed for me yesterday, it is a piece of cake. i told you he was smart. i hope the initial jump will deter other such fellows like the two raccoons mr. t - supercat and i had visitation with last night. (more on that later).

the exterior and interior are pretty simple. rather than installing the kitty door in a door, i have installed it on to plywood with a foam core to ensure winter time insulation. at the moment i've got the window screen down. it will be removed once the project is complete and ready for launch.

opera kitty eagerly awaits. he's already figured the whole deal out.

and opera kitty the smartypants that he is has already tested it out. yipeeeeee! success feels good.

i built a little rain box that sits on the top platform to protect from rain and winterly winds coming in from the north. photos of that tomorrow - camera battery needs charging.

our creature comforts include the two sleeping porch cots. each kitty has their own and i the human creature am allowed to share whatever space i can wrangle for myself which is not always an easy task. the above cot lives in opera kitty land while the below is the world of supercat.

mr. t-supercat is very much pleased with the addition of the cot. i caught several glances while setting it up and spreading out the sheets that seemed to communicate "what took you so long to figure this one out?" he was up on the cot before the sheets were tucked. mine! and sure enough it is.
see how pleased we are

well mr. t-supercat and i both spent the night out on the porch. i've turned off the a.c. again now that the temps have dropped into the mid 90's. believe it or not the mid 90's feel quite a relief from the three digit heat we had been experiencing last week. so i run the ceiling fans and one big floor fan during the day and sleep on the porch at night. the late evening temperatures have been falling into the high 7o's low 80's and feel absolutely wonderful.

we had a few visitors around 3am. two raccoons, i believe a mama and a wee one (judging from their size) were snooping about calmly and were bold enough to spend a little time peeking in the porch door. mr. t was first to notice their snooping and was up like a shot to defend his turf through the door. the raccoons were little bothered by mr. t but soon began to move a bit further away when i got up. i wanted a look to see who and how big they were. my mind was on the coop's ability to deter these folk.

darn they were cute. too bad these little fellows are best left alone. the little one was really fluffy and had great markings. it chose to hide between the two rain barrels but soon found it was too big to actually get between them. the mama lead the wee one round the bend and they were off the explore the east garden. they came back around near 3:45 am which alerts me to the possibility that they might have a place out back. and the out back is where the coop is. fortunately for us, they must have simply been snooping as nothing was disturbed upon morning inspection, the coop nor the garden. i'll have to keep an eye out for future testing of the coop. better safe than sorry.

it's good to know though, the nearby population. there are probably more little snoopers if there are two.

this is quite a bit for one post, i'll finish with one final bit of fun. without any prior knowledge of the possibility of the following, i find it karmic in the naming of miss freckles.

miss freckles herself has the talent to lay eggs with her own namesake, little freckles.
each and every egg carries here signature markings. they are most visible when the egg has been whetted a bit with water. the ladies have made it easy for me to identify who's laying which egg.

saffron = warm brown egg
freckles = speckled freckled egg
aflie = supreme white egg

go girls grasp your independence
flaunt your own personal identity

bok chica bok bok!

- - - - - - - - -
on the menu today - home made potatoe salad
home grown yukon gold potatoes
home grown and pickled cucumbers
chickenchica's fresh eggs
fresh grown herbs
powdered mustard
a dash of salt, pepper and honey
a dollop or two of mayo (don't make my own yet, soon!)
a glug of milk
- - - - - - - - - - - - -

next up for the crazy coop caper - music!
many folk i' ve talked to have commented on the love their chickens have for music and these are folk raising a hundred or more feathered friends. one fellow dials in 50's type rockabilly during the day then switches over to a bit of ole' blues eyes for the evening chill down. pretty fancy stuff but he swears his girls lay better and that his roosters behave better when the music is playing. hey why not, i would imagine it would at least combat a bit of boredom if not anything else.

and someday
- a crazy coop caper chickenchica cam -
i'm not quite sure how to even get started with the live feed thing but i'm sure somewhere down the line i'll figure it out. as a friend wrote a bit ago. it will allow you to check in on the ladies when you are out of town. brilliant brilliant i thought. how do those live cam things work?

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