Tag Archives: coops

The New Digs

Sixteen 5+ week old chicks are just too much for the 110 gallon hard rubber water trough that they have been in for the past 5 weeks.  As few day old chicks, they looked lost in it with room for two mother tables, a 1 quart water dispenser and a 1 quart feeder and still plenty of room to run and chase.  By 3 weeks old, they needed larger dispensers for feed and water as they would go through the quart in half a day and the gallon size ones took up more room, plus by then they also needed a small container of baby grit.  Now, they are just too large, they are teenage chicklets and a couple have even escaped into the garage to be confused and terrified wondering what had happened, even though there was a window screen over the top. They needed more space.

After the morning school drop offs and the return home, a realization that they needed to be cleaned again and almost no way to do that without chicklets flying all over the place, they were caught a few at a time, place in a giant bucket, covered with a feed sack and carried over to their new digs.  Their feeder and a 3 gallon nipple water dispenser, one of their mother tables, and the pint of grit were added to their new space.

Babycoop

This coop is raised off the ground on a raft of cedar logs sitting on large rocks, covered with several inches of hay, then soil, rocks around the inside edge to further deter predators and the soil covered in a thick layer of hay.  The coop is fondly called Huck’s Coop.  I just couldn’t resist during the construction last year.

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The brooder tub had pine shavings in the floor, so the chicklets were at first unsure of the new surface, but quickly discovered it was fun to play with.

Chicklets

There is much chasing, grabbing leaves and running off with several others in pursuit to see what goody had been acquired.  A much larger space.

This coop has three perch bars and a ramp up to them where I am sure the teenagers will soon discover and will be found huddled in a tight mass at night.  Until then, they still have their familiar mother table to sit on or huddle under.  They have been in the unheated garage for more than a week now and all of them are fully feathered except for a few fuzzy heads.  For the next week, the ends of the A frame will be blocked at night to cut down on drafts.

In about a week, once they think of this coop as home, they will be let out into a spacious run enclosed with rabbit fence so they can’t squeeze out and topped with a sheet of bird net to keep the flying predators from swooping down for a meal.  They will live in this coop for about 5 or 6 weeks and then they will take over the main coop.  At about 22 weeks old, we should start seeing some pullet eggs from this crowd.  With 16 layers instead of the current 6, one hen doesn’t lay anymore, there should be plenty of eggs for our use and to share with friends and family.

If any of the big girls decide to brood this year, they will take over Huck’s coop to raise their littles.

Getting It Done

One tiny step at a time, the prep and early planting is getting done.  It warmed to above 60 after lunch with sunshine until about 3 p.m. Jim hopped on the BBH and took off on a ride, and it seemed a good day to get some more gardening done.  Yesterday never warmed and the sun disappeared early never to show again, so the garden sat idle.  The baby trees had to get in the ground.  They had to soak in a bucket of warm water for 2 to 5 hours before planting, so they were set in the bucket late this morning.

The little garden cart full of necessary tools was wheeled out, the nursery bed raked smooth and any rocks and weed clumps that were scooped up by the tractor bucket were removed and the 10 little twigs were put in good composted soil, marked with dowels with the tree type on them, watered in, and mulched down with spoiled hay. It is supposed to rain tonight and tomorrow morning, so they will get a good soaking.

Baby trees

 

The box at the top of the garden near the asparagus bed was planted with 130 yellow onion sets and the row cover dome placed over it and clipped in place with granddaughter’s help, then the lower 4 X 4′ box was planted with 5 rows of peas and also covered with row cover.

First plantings

 

More mulching between beds was done, but the weeds really haven’t started due to all the soil movement and box building and other jobs needed to be done today.  Four boxes are now planted, one with asparagus, garlic, onions, and peas.  Soon radishes and turnips can go in the ground too.

The white grape was moved against the garden fence where it will be trellised.  Some leveling of the area above the garden was done in preparation of planting one of the two plum trees, but more needs to be done.

Deconstruction was accomplished on the chick pen that had shredded plastic stapled to the sides of the coop and a 2′ high wobbly row of garden fencing not even on real fence posts with a layer of plastic bird net to keep the chicks inside.  Not secure, not high enough, and a major hassle to mow around.  The fencing was all removed and rolled to use as tree rings when the nursery trees get replanted in a year or two, the bird net and shredded plastic put in a big garbage bag to be recycled.  Mowing the thick weedy mess that had grown up between the fence and net could not be done as there was no gasoline for the mower.

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The fence line needs to be mowed short.  One fence post was set, but three more need to be relocated and set.  Once that is accomplished, the rabbit fence with tiny holes at the bottom and larger ones near the top will keep the little ones safe inside the enclosure.  The new fence is taller than the garden row that was there and some sort of protective cover will be erected to keep them safe from flying predators.  The coop is about a foot off the ground, so they can run underneath when threatened too.  A few feet outside of the old enclosure is one of our peach trees.  It would be nice if the enclosure was larger, but the big chickens killed a good sized peach tree in their run in only two years with their scratching and pecking. Perhaps the tree can be heavily mulched to keep down the weeds and a ring of the fencing around it to keep them from the roots and trunk. That would put a little shade in their pen and give them a larger enclosure to grow in until they are large enough to not get through the fence holes and their pen opened up to the cull pen.

While the work was being done, granddaughter donned her bike helmet and walked her bike up the hill near the garden and rode down and around the back of the house over and over.

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If the rain stops in the morning, perhaps the leveling of the area above the garden will continue, the plum trees planted, and if the gasoline is purchased, then the weeds can be mowed in the fence line in preparation for setting the new fence for the baby birds when they are ready to go outside in another 4 or 5 weeks.  The sides of the coop still need to be enclosed and the nesting boxes mounted inside.

The bluebird box also still needs to be mounted on it’s post, maybe in a different part of the garden from the existing one.

 

 

Olio-Week’s end-March 17, 2017

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things.

This bitter week is winding down.  Last night was hopefully the last night in the teens that we will experience this winter.  Spring on the calendar is but three days away.  The garden planner alert today was to plant the peas and onions under cover outside and start the peppers, tomatoes, and tomatillos inside.  The cover fabric from prior years is gone so a trip to Harmony Organics in town is necessary to procure more for the two boxes.  The garlic looks like it suffered some damage from the cold, but hopefully it will perk back up with the milder weather.  The daffodils in town are all laying face down on the ground,  the forsythia, ornamental fruit trees in town are all browned, our peach tree lost it’s blooms.  Our forsythia had not bloomed yet, so we may see some of the sunny yellow soon. The weekend is to be milder and Tuesday actually making it into the low 60’s, so some garden time is in order this weekend and early next week.

For Christmas, daughter’s family gave us an Arbor Day membership which provides 10 young trees, plus an additional purchase for our windbreak and flowering shrubs for the driveway bank.  Yesterday, the first of those young trees arrived and they must be put in the ground within a couple of days of arrival.  The suggestion is to put them in a garden area for a year or two to let them begin to establish fibrous roots and gain some size before planting them in the location of choice.  I guess that is going to make part of the lower garden a tree nursery for now, a good use for that otherwise not in use area.  The tree planting helps reduce our carbon footprint and is helping to re establish some areas of woodlot on the farm, where we need a buffer or where it is too rocky to mow.

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The cold weather brought many birds to the feeder and to the deck to clean up the spilled seed.  Feeding the neighborhood birds and trying to foil the squirrels was an enjoyable pastime when we lived in the suburbs on the coast.  With bear in this area, a feeder has been absent for the past decade, but a small cage feeder was hung outside of the kitchen window this winter, high off the ground and it has been enjoyable to see the fearless little birds feasting.  Granddaughter observed this morning while watching them during breakfast, that the chicks in the brooder are the same size as the little finches, juncos, and titmice.

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The daylight saving time change last weekend has school bus delivery back in the early morning with the sun just peeking over the ridge while we wait.  Once home and on to do the chicken chores, it can be seen over the ridge, but not yet over the trees and with no leaf cover yet, it creates an interesting morning view.

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Shooting directly into the sunrise it looks like the sun is shining through the ridge.

The brooder chicks are thriving, growing little wing feathers and boldly hopping up on the heat table to check out the world.

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Fortunately, the screen on top should prevent any fly outs that are inevitable in another week or so.  The outside brooder coop needs a new layer of straw, the brooder nest boxes mounted inside, the sides covered for protection and the pen surrounding to have the new rabbit fencing installed to keep the littles in and the bigger critters out.  It will be time to move them outside in just a few short weeks.  Hopefully these littles will be grown enough for the big girl coop about the time brooder season starts and the great chicken shuffle begins.  The littles will become the layer flock with the Americauna and the half breed, the broodys will go to the brooder coop  and any remaining older hens and Mr. Croak will go to the cull coop where they will live for the summer and as this year’s chicks get large enough, they will be moved to the cull coop as well to provide our families with chicken for the winter.  One young cockerel will move in with the young pullets to be next year’s rooster.  This year’s brooder chicks will be out layers for the next couple of years before they are replaced with new young.

We love our little farm and the chores help keep us young.

The Curious

Chickens are funny birds.  I do not attempt to domesticate mine to the point of being able to pick them up and stroke them, they are egg and meat producers, not pets.  They do learn who you are though and will come out of the coop in the morning when I am standing there, will come running towards me if I go out with the compost bin or a scoop of feed or treats.  When they are out of their fenced in area, being allowed to free range, they will come running and follow me into the pen like I am the Pied Piper if I shake some scratch in a bucket or scoop and make noise.  And they are curious.

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Gathering at my feet for a treat.

Last week they were penned inside the coop with food and water for three days due to the single digit temperatures at night and the low teens during the day, plus there was snow on the ground for a couple of those days and they just won’t set foot outside if the ground is white.  Then the temperature soared, rarely going below freezing at night or if it does, just into the upper 20’s, and climbing into the 50’s, today actually broke 60ºf.  This produced a situation that could not be ignored.  There are only 8 adult birds in the coop at this time. But…

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My layer coop is a commercial structure 5 X 8 feet, about 2 feet off the ground on skids and about 5 feet at the highest point inside.  The area under it has fence wire on the door side and the egg door side as those two sides are outside of the fence and underneath around the perimeter, inside the leveling cinder blocks on which it sits, there is about a pick up truck load of medium to small rocks to prevent the hens and rooster from undermining the cinder blocks as they quickly started to do.  There are two windows that can be raised above the nesting boxes and a long narrow drop down shutter with hardware cloth on the opposite side.  That window does not shut tightly, so there is always some air flow and quarter inch holes were drilled in the peak on both ends to also facilitate air flow.  In good weather, the windows are opened to allow the coop to air out, but if the temperature is too cold or if it is precipitating, the coop remains shut except for the pop door that they use to enter and leave the coop via a ramp.

Normally, I utilize a method of deep litter in the floor of the coop that composts down during their scratching and additional straw or wood chips, dry leaves, or whatever bedding is available is added on top throughout the season.  The coop is thoroughly cleaned out in the spring before brooding and in the fall before it gets shut up for the winter.  However, with the fluctuation from frigid to spring like temperatures, I could smell ammonia when I opened the egg door.  That is a bad sign and can result in respiratory issues with the birds, so today once the rain stopped, the temperature a delightful shirt sleeve afternoon and the run a muddy mess, I grabbed my trusty multi-purpose tool, the snow shovel (we haven’t needed it for snow this winter) and decided that the coop was going to get cleaned out.

The litter was scooped out one shovel full at a time and carried into the run, laying down a path as I went.

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The birds all ran to the garden end of the run until I had put down a good layer of soiled wood chips and straw, making traversing the run a bit safer for me and back they all came to see what was going on.  Something new to scratch through, and activity in the coop to explore and investigate.

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It then got a good spritz with a solution of apple cider vinegar, lemon, tea tree, rosemary essential oils, a tablespoon of Neem oil and warm water, followed by a new layer of wood chips as I forgot to buy a bale of straw today.  They will get a layer of straw tomorrow to scratch into the wood chips.  The coop smells cleaner, a few sprigs of fresh rosemary were tossed about, it is the only herb growing this time of year and they will have to start the compost cycle again, hopefully before the weather turns too cold again as it helps heat up the coop. Windows will be opened tomorrow, but everything will be locked up again for the heavy rain due Sunday and Monday.

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Everyone resting together under the watchful eye of Mr. Croak in a clean, fresh smelling coop.

The Buffet Is Closed

A good night’s sleep and clearer minds prevailed this morning.  A run to Home Depot for a 100′ roll of 15′ wide bird net, 3 long poles, and a roll of velcro plant tie up tape, total expenditure only $40 and my birds should be safe.  The hawk, if it dives into that net will require me to call my neighbor’s son, a licensed raptor handler.

My solution involved attaching a length of polycord to the top of the coop, half hitching it around the top of two of the tall poles, then anchoring it to a T post deeper in the run.  A length of 6′ tall plastic deer fencing that I already had was used to shorten the length of the run to just beyond the gate that the chickens use to get into the garden when they are allowed.  A thin flexible fiberglass pole that I also already had on hand was arched between the two sides of the run just above the new back fence line.  Using the polycord like a clothes line, I worked the bird netting over the top, draping it over the side fencing and anchoring it in place with strips of the velcro tape.  At the coop end, the netting was carried over the roof.  The only open space left was above the gate and that was closed in by draping another piece of netting to the top net and dangling it down a few inches lower than the top of the gate.  That piece not being anchored at the sides or bottom can be pushed out of our way when we open the gate and the net cage is about 7+ feet high down the center, so as long as I don’t have my hair up with clips or sticks to catch in the net, I can move about within the run.

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I effectively created a cage that has wire sides and a net top that is tall enough to walk in.  Hopefully, it will protect the chickens if they ever get brave enough to go out again.  I removed their food and water from inside the coop and ran them out.  Each explored a bit, then went right back inside the coop instead of under it like they usually do during the day.  I guess when they get hungry or thirsty, they will venture out and eventually learn that they can again be outside.

After that run was finished, I began on a shorter version for the cull birds, however, it started raining a little, then a lot, so I quit for the time.

I did get the first harvest of tomatillos brought in and see many pounds of tomatoes that must be picked and processed pronto.  I will venture back out in a little while now that the afternoon storm seems to be passing and pick a bucket full.  There are many split ones, lots of overgrown, over ripe cucumbers to toss to the chickens, maybe that will entice them out.

A follow up on the old Opossum that visited while at my son’s house.

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He came back last Thursday, the day I left, cuddled up against their lawnmower under the porch and died.  Wildlife experts say they only live about 2 years in the wild, but he looked like a little shriveled old man.  Daughter in law took him away from the house and buried him.

A Week On the Farm – April 24, 2016

A Day Late!

Busy weekend.  Daughter and family went away for the weekend, but eldest son and family arrived.  Daughter in law had a job reinstalling an art piece for an artist that she works with.  They had de-installed it a couple of weeks ago and packed it up for the owner, who drove it to their new house about 45 minutes from here.  DIL and son went over yesterday to install the piece and we got eldest grandson time.

Today was dedicated to work and fun on and near the farm. Last year, we tried to use the chicken tractor that was too heavy for me to move by hand and not sturdy enough to move by tractor as a brooder coop, inside one of the chicken runs.  It ended up being a disaster, we lost batch of chicks after batch of chicks, regardless of how we tried to secure it.  Son was determined that we could make it work.  Last fall, he cut some cedars, stripped the branches and brought the trunks up near the chicken pens.  Today, we set about making a base for the chicken tractor that lifted it up off the ground on a solid floor.  One of our goals was to not spend any more money on it, as it probably only has a couple more years of life before the reclaimed wood fails.  My idea was to put it up on blocks with a plywood floor.  He said that was too expensive.  We had many old cedar posts that were being used mostly unnecessarily to try keep weeds out of the garden or to keep the chickens from going under fences.   We decided to use them.  Four large fairly flat rocks were located in rock piles and used as the corners instead of cinder blocks.  Two of the cedar trunks were used to be floor beams and the cedar posts, cut to length as the floor joists, surface.  Now I need to let you know that at this point, I threatened to rename son, Huck and give him a paddle.

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The end joists were screwed to the cedar trunk beams and the rest packed as tightly as we could put them.  “Huck” questioned whether they were close enough together and though they are, they surface is neither smooth nor flat.  I said that I would spread a thick layer of newpaper, wood shavings or hay over it and that would probably do.  DIL had the idea that we could make a sod house type floor to smooth it out instead.

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We started laying hay over the raft perpendicular to the floor.

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A few tractor buckets of soil and sod were layered on top of that, the rocks removed and packed down.  Thereby creating a sod floor over the cedar raft.

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The fence was removed from the meat chicken pen’s upper end (no chickens in there right now) and son and I wrestled the tractor out and adjacent to the sod covered raft.  The two of us could not lift it alone, but a neighbor and his friend were using metal detectors on our field looking for civil war treasures and they came up to help out.  With DIL eyeballing where it should sit, the other four of us each picked up a corner and set the tractor on top of the sod covered raft.

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This left a few gaps and we decided to line up the rocks that we had pulled out of the soil around the interior perimeter.  The shot I failed to get was son on his hands and knees inside this structure as I handed in rocks for him to fill the gaps.

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The structure is now soundly in place and as secure as we could make it.  The lower hardware cloth sides are going to be closed in, leaving the upper triangles for vents, a ramp built and the nesting boxes installed.  A low chicken wire fence will surround it to allow the chicks and their mommas outside once they are a few days old.  I still need to reattach the fencing that we removed to get the tractor out of the run.  A predator will now have to climb, and gnaw in to get to the babies.  Perhaps we will have better luck raising them this year.

Once we finished and had lunch, we took off on a hike that was a portion of the hike we did last summer backpacking.  The hike is about 5 miles total with the first half a steep climb to a ridge that is a beautiful, fairly level walk out to a rock outcrop that allows us to look through the gap to Blacksburg and Christiansburg in the distance.

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In spite of the beautiful blue sky, there was quite a haze off in the distance.

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The first shot, looking east toward the towns and the other looking west up the valley and the farmland.  Sorry they aren’t clearer.  It was definitely still looking like winter up there though the temperature was summer time.  There was no leaf cover at all at the elevation.  I certainly got my steps in today, almost getting twice the 10,000 step goal with 19,780, walking/hiking 8.63 miles, and the equivalent of 111 flights of steps.

They are headed home.  Daughter and her family have returned from their trip.  Leftovers prepared, eaten and cleaned up for dinner, a shower taken and now I am ready for bed.

Tomorrow is the last nice day for a week of expected rain, so I will try to repair the fencing, enclose the brooder coop and work more on garden prep.  We are approaching our last expected frost date and I will be able to plant the tomatoes, peppers, beans, popcorn, pumpkins, bush beans, cucumbers and flowers.  The part for my car came in, and that is also on my schedule to get the part installed and the reinspection.  An appointment has been made to get another estimate on replacing the ball joints in a few more days.

Loving life in the mountains.

The Chicken Palace Restaurant

Around 1 a.m. when Mountaingdad came to bed, he awoke me and said, “I think one of your chickens is out, I just heard it right below our room.”  Mind you that the nearest coop is a football field away from our room and on the east end of the house, our window on the south.  Being awakened, my response was “Oh well, I can’t do anything about it in the middle of the night.”

By then I was awake and in light of our recent predator attacks and losses, I put on some pants and a t shirt, grabbed a flashlight, added muck boots in the garage and ventured out into the night to assess the situation.  The coop with Broody Hen 5, Momma Hen 2 and her 3 babies, Momma Hen 1 and her two almost 6 week old chicks, the laying hens and Romeo were all snug and tight inside, the egg door latched, the pop door latched and the human door secure.  That only left the new cull coop, AKA, the Chicken Palace which is at the other end of the garden and only marginally secured with chicken wire and hardware cloth until we can finish hanging the leftover metal roofing material to the ground.  The chicken wire is stapled with long staples to the nailers, the corner posts and to provide more security, folded out about a foot and stapled to old cedar fence posts to hold it to the ground.  Upon shining my light back there, I saw a hen on the ground right by the door, not a good sign as they were perched on the highest rung of one of the ladders when I went to bed.  Midnight, the randy Americauna cockrell was on a lower rung on the other ladder by himself at bedtime.

The Chicken Palace check showed both hens alive and well, but on the ground and Midnight missing and this hole in the corner of the coop.

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I figured that a coyote or fox had made a meal of Midnight or carried him off to be a meal for kits or pups.  I grabbed the two hens and returned them to the secure coop for the night and headed back into the house.

By now, sleep is lost.  I had had a 3 hour nap before being awakened, so I relocated to the loft with my book and finished reading it, ending it around quarter to 5.  I returned to bed with little hope of sleep, but dozed off in time to hear SIL’s alarm go off and then go off again later, then him quietly preparing his lunch in the kitchen.  After he left, I did go back to sleep for a couple of hours.  When I got up to deal with animal chores and feed granddaughter her breakfast, I discovered a wet bedraggled Midnight outside the chicken run fence.  I don’t want him back in with the hens, but I don’t know what I can do to secure the Chicken Palace in the rain today to put him back in there.  At least whatever came for a meal last night, left hungry and we aren’t out yet another chick or chicken, the restaurant is closed.

The Shake Up

The Americaunas are 19 weeks old and one of the pullets showed to be a cockerel early on.  In the past couple of weeks, he has gotten both quite randy and aggressive toward the young chicks, perhaps killing and inflicting pecking damage to a couple of them.  A few weeks ago, I posted about building a new coop here, but we didn’t fully enclose it, so this week I made it my goal to make it secure enough for adult birds that are due for freezer camp come fall.  With a 10 foot roll of hardware cloth and 30 some feet of metal poultry net, a few old rotting cedar posts to hold the poultry net to the ground, a couple of metal handles and a length of chain with an S hook and it was ready to go.  I still needed perches and since it is A-framed and has poultry net stapled up to and over the tops of the nailers, that was a dilemma, but then I remembered an old hand made ladder of 13 foot long locust posts and nailed on slats.  The ladder was too rickety to use, not pretty enough to display and so it was cut in half and the halves leaned against opposite walls to provide the perches.  A fruit crate reconfigured as a nest box and away we go.

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First move on the agenda was to capture Midnight and put him in isolation for a bit.  He was surprisingly easy to capture with a close mesh fishing net on a long pole.  He was not happy with me, but he soon had 144 square feet of space to himself.

Next move might have been a bit cruel, but of the 24 eggs that were being brooded last week by 3 hens we had only 11 hatch because of the two older hens abandoning their nests before full hatch to try to “adopt” the ones that hatched first under the younger hen.  We then lost a couple from the chicken tractor, a couple injured and moved to the brooder in the garage, leaving 3 hens trying to sit on 7 chicks in one nesting box each night.  At dark last night, those two older hens were removed from the nest, leaving the 7 chicks to the younger hen who hatched most of them and she settled right in to sit on all of them.  The two older hens who are to be culls were put in with Midnight.

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In a few weeks, they should begin laying again, I hope.

Momma is doing great with her brood, but really doesn’t seem to want to bring them outside of the chicken tractor and into the yard.

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The two in the brooder are healing nicely, but may never be able to be reintroduced to the hen as one has a scab on his back that may take weeks to fully heal, so they may just stay in the brooder until they are fully feathered and can be introduced to the flock.

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They are adorable and granddaughter is enthralled by them.  The Brinsea brooder table will be here Wednesday and they will have that as a heat source instead of the heat-lamp.

Two nights ago, another hen flattened herself into a nesting box at bed time.  I moved her and took the eggs, but last night she was there again, so we put 10 marked eggs from yesterday and the day before under her to start yet another brood of chicks.  By the time they hatch, the littles will be feathered and will move to the coop, the mature hens except for the two younger hens that raised chicks this year, will be moved to the cull coop with Midnight and the two old ladies, the hen and her chicks will occupy the chicken tractor.  As this summer’s chicks develop and we can tell who is a pullet and who is a cockerel, the cockerels will also be moved to the cull coop.  By the end of the summer, the coop will contain the three Americauna pullets who should begin to lay by mid July, the two younger hens who raised good families this summer and 5 of this summer’s pullets along with Romeo (who needs his spurs trimmed again).  That will be my over winter flock of layers and their beau.

The chicken tractor is too heavy for me to move alone and it lacks wheels, so I am going to buy two sheets of exterior grade plywood, a sheet of floor vinyl and some pavers and it is going to be leveled and set on a solid base to become a permanent brooder coop for next summer’s chicks whether hen raised or brooder raised.

I’m not sure about this outdoor chick raising.  I thought it would be easier, but the abandonment, the predator loss and chick death is almost more stressful than buying day olds and brooding them in the garage for 5 or 6 weeks.  I may rethink having a rooster and return to brooding replacement layers and meat chicks in the garage.

Today is almost 20 degrees cooler than the past couple of weeks and it is finally dry.  A walk through the garden shows that the rain has engulfed the garden in weeds again.  I should be out there weeding again, but I think I’ll just pick peas and berries and wait for another day.

 

Unexpected Responsibilities

Securing the chicken tractor created a problem. Two chicks got under the double layer of metal poultry net that I used for half of the floor, one was retrieved unharmed last night, the other had pushed its tiny head above it and had been pecked to death. The 4 adults in the household were involved in the rescue effort as the three hens had to be caught and secured, the. Babies gathered and counted to be sure no others were under the flooring hidden in the straw and finally, efforts to make them safe overnight as I had cut a hole in the poultry net floor to rescue the chicks. As soon as they were returned to the tractor, all 3 hens and the 10 chicks piled into one of the fruit crate nest boxes, traumatized.. Because of this, I fretted all night sleeping very little. As soon as it was light enough, I went out with food and water, lured them into a net ” playpen” so that I could remove the wire flooring and determine another way to secure the little coop. There were only 8 chicks and I heard peeping still in the coop but couldn’t find the source. I quickly began removing the flooring to find them and discovered that they too had gotten below the floor, both weak and one severly pecked on it’s tiny back.

They were quickly transported into the garage and into a makeshift brooder with the heat lamp, food, and water until I could finish outdoors and move them to the real brooder box.  Both have perked up and are eating and drinking.

 

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My whole point of letting the Buffy’s hatch and raise chicks was not to have to set up a brooder situation.  I really fear the heat lamp situation, after all, we live in an all wood house, so today I ordered a Brinsea brooder table.  Since we got only about half the number of chicks that we were hoping for out of the hatchings, I guess an order of day old Rangers will occur later in the summer for fall maturity.

Today was spent trying to make the new big coop for the meaties secure enough to put a few cull in it.  Midnight, the Americauna that turned out to be a cockrell in spite of buying all pullets, has gotten too mature and too aggressive too fast.  He is going to be relocated with a couple of cull hens.  He threatens the chicks every time the hens bring them out of the chicken tractor, even though they are separated by a temporary fence.  He may be responsible for the chick injury.

The best made plans sometimes fail.

Welcome to the Larry, Moe, and Curly School of Construction

Son #1 and Grandson #1 arrived around 2:30 a.m. Saturday morning and immediately fell in bed having gotten a little sleep on the bus.  Morning was met with bacon, blueberry muffins, scrambled eggs, and coffee before we tackled the coop construction.  He realized  quickly that my guestimate of the reclaimed lumber was way off and some of the boards, not sound enough for construction as I had not unstacked the pile to do measurements.

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We spread the lumber out to reassess it and his plan was immediately ditched and we retired to the table to come up with an alternate design that we could do with the materials on hand.  Our alternate plan is a 13′ square foot print, A-frame construction.  We measured the spot, not level, but nothing on our 30 acres is level, marked the 4 corner posts and he took off to the edges of the hay field to cut down a couple of cedar trees to use for the corner posts.  I stayed at the site and started digging the post holes.  As I have said before, I could get rich selling rocks and cedar trees and found my share of rocks digging the holes.  Rocks that were the size of a deck of cards to one that was bowling ball size.  The posts were placed and measurements made again and we realized the holes were too far apart.  Pause for lunch and re-digging.  Once we were finished, Daughter and family with Grandson #1 in tow returned from going to the local Aquatic Center where the kids had some pool time and she kicked in muscles to help us.

We mounted the two horizontal side joist boards and realized we had put them on the wrong sides.  They were moved, the threshold board cut and I realized that we had erred again.  Screws backed off, board moved, threshold shortened and the bottom 4 boards were in place.  This sounds easy enough, but remember, I said nothing on this farm is level, thus the south end is higher off the ground than north end to make it level.  This was the story of our day, do/undo/move/re-level/redo.

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Three sets of rafters were screwed in place and the tractor kept it from listing until we got to the nailers on Sunday. The peak is 6 feet off the ground in the front, so I will have no difficulty entering to clean it out.

We have laughed about our missteps in our construction.  Sunday started early for Son #1 and me, joined later by daughter and SIL.  Son and I got the nailers in place, then all of us dragged metal roofing down from behind the barn where it has been stored for years.  The circular saw was refitted with an old blade on backwards and roof cutting commenced.  It took all four of us, the tractor used very unsafely as a work platform and an 8 foot ladder on unlevel ground, but we got the 10 panels of roofing in place.

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Though I didn’t get a final photo last night after 7 p.m., we got the back on it except for the hardware cloth vent at the top, the front is framed and the door made and hung, though still lacking the hardware cloth on it.  The triangles to the right and left of the door are still uncovered, but will have metal roofing material in place eventually and the triangular gaps from the horizontal joists to the ground will also have metal siding installed with the white underside exposed to close some of the interior gaps.  Until the rest of the siding can be done, I will install hardware cloth in appropriate places and used garden fencing outside of plastic poultry net to close in those spaces as we will soon have about 25 chicks that will need housing for about 20 weeks.  The inside of this palace, named the Hobbit House by son is 144 square feet, so we have plenty of space for meat chicks.  I will have to do some re-fencing to have a significant run at the new coop and when he returns later in the summer we will finish the work on the new coop as well as restructuring the chicken tractor into a brooding coop, by mounting it on cedar posts, leveling it, and installing metal roofing extended down over the existing hardware cloth lower sides.

I started off with a few laying hens and now I feel like a chicken farmer, but as the new coop was reclaimed and leftover materials, we only had to buy screws and hinges, so it was cheap to build.

About noon, he decided to deliberately miss his bus with my blessing so we could get as far as we got.  He, Grandson #1, and I set out in my car for Northern Virginia to get them home for school and work today.  I spent the night and set out for home upon them leaving this morning, arriving home about an hour ago.  A very long, but very productive weekend.