Chicken coop

PAINTING: Kaitlin Pfeiffer paints her new chicken coop after building it with her grandfather, Bradley Pfeiffer. The expanded hen house now houses 25 chickens.

ASHLAND – A granddaughter/grandfather project helped Kaitlin Pfeiffer grow her chicken flock from 10 to 25 hens and gain some valuable lessons in the process.

The 14-year-old Ashland girl has had chickens for about four years, after a suggestion from her grandma piqued her interest. She started with a small coop built by her uncle. This year, she concluded her hen house was too small.

“I decided I wanted one much bigger,” she said. “Five or six times bigger.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in mid-March, Kaitlin and her siblings were quarantined at home. Their learning came through the internet and extracurricular activities were at a standstill.

With so much time on her hands, Kaitlin decided to draw up plans for her expanded coop.

“It was the perfect time to do it,” she said.

Her parents, Becky and Steve Pfeiffer, helped her procure the wood, and she set out to enlist her grandfather, Bradley Pfeiffer, to help build the structure.

“I called one day and he said, ‘Sure!’” she said.

The pair erected the walls and roof and built boxes on the inside for the hens to nest in. Kaitlin soaked up the information her grandpa provided in terms of building, painting and other lessons.

“He showed me how to do things as we went along,” she said. “I learned a lot.”

The duo had fun together, too. But they were also working hard, because her grandfather is known as a task master.

“He always makes it fun and he always likes to make sure we’re getting stuff done in the best way,” she said.

The flock is a joint effort between Kaitlin and her 13-year-old sister, Hayley. They split the chores evenly, Kaitlin said. In the mornings, they let the chickens out to run free and make sure they have food and water.

When they get home from school, it’s time for the hens’ dinner. At night, they count the hens to make sure they all get back home safely for the night.

There are several different breeds in the Pfeiffer flock, including white leghorns and Ameraucanas, which lay blue eggs. The hens came from a mixed breed batch of chicks at Tractor Supply Co., Kaitlin said.

The eggs produced by the chickens are a big hit with the Pfeiffer family. Kaitlin said her parents “both really like eggs,” and what her parents don’t eat, she gives to the rest of her large family.

Only one hen has survived from the original flock, Kaitlin said. The rest were taken by predators. Coyotes and hawks are the main offenders, she added.

Kaitlin sees her chickens not as pets, but as livestock. She doesn’t name them and she doesn’t have any favorites. But visitors like to assign monikers to the hens.

“When people come over, they like to name them,” she said.

Her friends think it’s cool that Kaitlin has a flock of chickens all her own. And so does she.

“I just like having them,” she said. “It’s fun.”

As a member of the Ashland-Greenwood FFA chapter, Kaitlin is contemplating using her chicken flock as a supervised agricultural experience (SAE) project. She is a sophomore, so she has three years to decide.

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