MAPLE CITY — When more than 30 inches of snow fell over the course of two days, Andria Metrakos knew she had to act fast.
She had 18 chickens living in a coop far too small to be stuck inside all day. About 500 feet down the road from her Maple City farm, Metrakos’ boyfriend, Bob Bufka, had the same problem.
Metrakos, owner and operator of Red Gate Farm, had bought a structure to turn into a larger winter coop six months prior, but hadn’t finished work on it.
That’s when Bufka had an idea, one he said he’d never heard of before.
Glen Lake Community Schools — where Bufka works in the maintenance department — had two school buses for sale that no one placed bids on. Why not buy one and turn it into a chicken coop?
“I looked it up online and I’m like, ‘Oh that’s perfect, people do this’ — but people with a lot of land do it,” said Metrakos, whose farm is about 5 acres.
But the couple went ahead and purchased the 7.5-foot-by-30-foot bus that would house the two flocks and, once it was theirs, Bufka proceeded to gut it.
Bufka said he spent the next two weekends — and some nights after work — removing all the passenger seats, building a partition behind the driver’s seat with an old screen door to allow access, adding lights and laying flooring. He also constructed and installed 10 nesting boxes, 20-foot-long supports that allow an old ladder to be used as a roost and feeding stations.
Bufka said it took him about eight- to 10 hours total.
The 36 chickens and lone rooster were moved into their new home near the end of November, Metrakos said. It was just in time, as more snow arrived the next day, she said.
“I was glad to get the chickens in one spot,” Bufka said. “(The bus) filled the need and it seems to be working out really well.”
A cedar tree on one side of the bus acts as a good windbreaker, as do the treeline and hill to the front and back of the vehicle, Metrakos said. The strategic placement also keeps the bus from being an eyesore to neighbors, she said.
Still, keeping the vehicle dry, draft-free and with limited humidity is a challenge — too much humidity and the birds can get frostbite on their combs, Metrakos said. There’s a fan to help with the humidity and the windows are closed, but they likely aren’t hermetically sealed, she said.
“I talked to a local vet who keeps chickens and she said there’s really nothing you can do (about the frostbite). It doesn’t hurt them,” Metrakos said.
“If we use it (the bus) next winter, we’ll probably make some modifications,” she said.
One change Bufka said he’d like to see is the bus moved a bit farther from Metrakos’ house. It’s nice for winter, but not so much for the summer, he said.
It sounds funny, Metrakos said, but she feels like the flock is happy — possibly because she lets them out more often than she has in previous winters.
“I just feel like they’ve got enough room so they’re not beating each other up,” she said.
For more on the bus and chickens, check out Maple City Chicken Bus on Facebook.