Archive Tag:chickens

Predator Alert

The weather is getting nicer with the arrival of spring, which also brings the arrival of local predators.

Generally I try to lock up my chickens just after the sun sets. However, by the time I finish cooking and eating dinner, I look up it is already pitch black outside and the coop door is wide open.  A flood light in the yard has done a great job of deterring predators since we got our chickens, but we had an unexpected visitor the other night.

My husband had just finished putting my oldest son to bed, and he headed out the door to lock up the chickens. Getting ready to open the back door, he watches as 4 of my 5 chickens walk out of the coop and stand a few feet away as a possum waltzes in.  Luckily, this possum was not in a vicious mood (other possums I have come across have been quite defensive). Taking a 2×4, my husband gently nudged the possum out of the corner of the coop. He asked me to go take a look at it in case it was sick (it was just playing possum).

I got outside and followed the footprints around through the snow just to make sure he/she wasn’t still nearby. This possum was determined to bed down somewhere because the footprints went all around our 4 car garage before coming back to the coop. After being evicted, the footprints led out to the pasture and into the tall grass.

I convinced the girls outside that their coop was empty, and found one Marge in the nesting box. I’m just happy none of the girls were hurt during this, but we now make sure we don’t leave the coop open after dark.

For tips on protecting your flock from predators, check out the learning center at www.backyardchickens.com.
https://www.backyardchickens.com/articles/category/predators-pests.28/

(No affiliation)

New Year Homesteading Resolutions

With only two days left of 2017, my reflection on the year and my resolutions are more focused on improving my homestead (and in turn, improving myself).

Here are a few of the things we want to improve:

 

The Garden

2017: This past year we built garden beds with cinder blocks . This worked out great for weeding, and was much more manageable than when we had our garden at ground level. However, with our pasture being overgrown right in the area of our raised beds, it was a lot of work mowing between the  beds and getting close enough to get most of the grasses cut was a pain.

2018: We plan to mulch between the beds so we don’t have to mow; and instead of fencing off each bed individually (to protect our plants from the chickens), we will fence off the entire perimeter. And we will add an extra bed this year for corn.

 The Goats

2017: Last year we acquired two meat goats. One we lost to a respiratory infection; the other we had to butcher about 2 months sooner than we would have due to goats being herding animals. We also believe the goats we got were cross breeds so they did not grow as much as we anticipated.

2018: I would like to pursue breeding our own meat goats, which would require a larger flock and winter quarters.  Currently we have a three-sided lean-to that at least kept the goats out of inclement weather. We also would not be able to rely on just pasture for the winter months so we would need to budget for food rations. In the meantime, I think we will definitely get at least two more meat goats for 2018.

The Chickens

2017: I went through about a month period where I thought my girls weren’t laying. Unfortunately this winter, cleaning out the garden bed around their coop, Fendi found a stash of eggs (maybe 12) that I hadn’t found. My girls were inconsistent not only with laying in their nesting boxes but also with where they were laying outside the coop.

2018: I’m hoping my girls will start laying again at the end of January like they did last year. In order to keep them laying in the nesting boxes, I’m going to try getting wooden or ceramic eggs to keep in each box. I think I will also put rubber matting of some sort in the bottom of their nesting boxes to see if that helps with cleaning.

The Harvest

2017: We discovered a few things growing on our property that we did not plant. We have two large patches of asparagus that I did some harvesting on, but the weeds were quite difficult to control in the summer. Also we have a lot of wild grape vines (not producing fruit) that spread all over the asparagus “beds”, these were also hard to control and keep from snuffing out the asparagus. In that same area is an older Elderberry bush that we didn’t know was there.  The fruit trees in our yard bloomed this year (they didn’t the previous year), and it turns out they are apple trees! We didn’t really get out to harvest them although I’m sure they would have made great baking apples.

2018: I plan on harvesting the asparagus again this year, and maybe move a few of the plants to a more containable area for weed control. If we can get to the Elderberries before the birds and wild animals, we hopefully will get a larger harvest for either jam or syrup. If the apple trees bloom again (we are thinking they are an every other year breed), then I will be sure to get out and pick apples. With the increase in raised garden bed space, I’m hoping we get a bit larger harvest in things we use more often (last year we had quite a few more peppers than we needed and not as many tomatoes as we would have liked to do some canning. And canning more of my harvest is something I really want to work on in 2018.

What are your homesteading resolutions for 2018? Comment below!

Coop for the girls!

Weekends are the only time we get things accomplished in large-scale. Hubby had to leave for two weeks so we needed to get the laying hens’ coop built in a hurry.

I found a book at Farm and Fleet which was really helpful, Reinventing the Chicken Coop by Kevin McElroy and Matthew Wolpe. A great reason to get this book if you are building a chicken coop, (and don’t have a lot of experience building things) is that this book gives you the entire shopping list of building materials and tools you will need for each version of coop. It also gives you instructions.
Some of the designs had great features that we will like to apply to a future chicken coop, but with the time crunch we had we needed to stick with the original plans. We decided one of the easy coops was the ice box version. It seemed easy to clean out, and it was tall enough to put our already made watering system inside the coop.
(Picture of waterer)

Hubby is such a wiz with getting things done that he got the main coop cut and built in about a day.

coop 1

coop 2

(Sides and bottom of coop)
coop roof 1
(frame for the coop roof)
coop roof 2

(Bar to support the nesting boxes and provide a roost)
inside 3
We will need to install another board on top of the nesting boxes to make them darker so the chickens feel more comfortable laying eggs.
inside 4 (supports for the nesting box walls)

We used an oil base outdoor paint on the coop to protect the wood, and it is water-resistant!
closed coop
(The front door and window)
They recommend using hardware cloth, which is tiny squares, but we happened to have the chicken wire left over from the meat bird coop. The hardware cloth is more durable, providing ventilation and protection from predators.
open coop
outside run
Since I am home, my girls usually go out in this run during the day. They can hunt for bugs to supplement their feed, and eventually they will be able to get in the yard and garden.

We do have a hawk in residence near by- happened to see it on the garage this morning. I took some fishing line and tied it to the posts across the run. I am hoping this will prevent the hawk from coming in and carrying off one of my chickens. In the future I would like to plant some shrubs and bushes that the girls can hide in when the hawk is around. We have some wild birds that chase the hawk, and I have read that martins are great at keeping hawks at bay. So I will be looking for plans to build a martin house next to my coop.

Lastly, pictures of my girls, they are getting so big!
the girls 1
girls 3
girl 1
Can’t wait to get some eggs!

Update: Upon further reflection and actual use of the coop, helpful additions to the icebox coop are:

Paint the inside of the drop down door- my ladies poop on it frequently so the oil-based paint will help keep the wood from getting damaged faster.

Buy a small brush and mount it on the side of the coop- I filled the inside of the coop with pine shavings and the girls drag heaps of shavings out with them during the day. The brush is handy for removing those shavings to prevent damage to the hinges of the drop down door.

Original post published on June 29, 2016