The Farm*Homestead*Garden Blog

All things farm, garden, homestead related from the Catsndogs4us family.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

The chicken coop

A few people have asked me about our chicken coop and the easiest way to show the progression seemed to be to do a blog post.

The coop is actually a shed kit from Lowes, you do have to buy flooring separately. Our order was 1 shed kit and 6 sheets of sub flooring.

Other materials that we needed to buy were vinyl flooring, 2 by 4's for roosting bars, nest boxes, a ceiling vent and several small round vents. Also one more window.

First step was to level the ground and put down cement blocks since the coop will be raised. The ducks enjoyed any part pf the process that involved digging and moving dirt, someone to find the worms for them!
Then we put down the floor a double layer of the sub flooring, 3 sheets per layer with a frame in between. Followed by assembling the walls, usually one of 4 kids in the family was called in to help hold up walls of pass tools as my youngest son Tristan is shown here.

 Then the roof went on, we had to buy shingles, they were not included.
Vents, some of them look like this:

A silkie was sized for roosting

Then everyone checked it our, ducks, chickens, kids....

Finally it was babies first night in the coop and I was nervous and barred the door with bricks but they did fine.

Because they were getting so big they moved in before the shingles were on and finishing touches were done. The birds enjoyed watching the building process and took advantage of ladders and such. They LOVE being under the coop on hot days, I'm so glad we made it a raised coop even though it's large.

The ducks have a section which at first was a large dog kennel on one side, this is still in the process of being finished off so they have their own little part (so they don't get the coop all wet at night, all the birds do fine together in the daytime and outdoors).

We've changed the roosting bars and added nest boxes, plus interior walls.

We added a second window and a pop door to the back fenced area. They have about 110' of 6' chain link for their secure area, it has been buried, reinforced with hardware cloth (more is being added)  and is in the process of having netting added to the roof. Their limited free range is much larger and is only secured by 4' welded wire fencing but a goal is to continue buying 6' chain link and replacing welded wire as we can afford and time allows so their limited free range will be bigger and more secure.

The chickens and ducks seem happy with their coop and runs and so far it is keeping them safe. We will continue to change and improve it as we can. I think this coop is great because there is room for this rather adorable next generation too.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Old, New and Maybe

The vegetable gardens are getting to the old, worn out stage, except for late crops. I still got a good amount of beans, enough for today's dinner, from the straggly end of season plants but most of what we'll harvest now will be late season crops like carrots, beets, some greens and winter squash.

The new chicks are continuing to do very well. I am so pleased with this group of chicks. Love to hear them peeping away and see them eating, drinking and playing. Tomorrow we'll move from paper towel bedding to pine shavings.

The older chickens are laying even more regularly now, a lot of our breeds have an average start to lay date of 20 weeks old and as they turned 20 weeks old today many new layers sounded their egg song. One hen even used the real nest boxes, after Hayley placed her there.

I had plenty of eggs to use in making this week's variation of dog and cat food. The ducks continue to be prolific and we got small cream eggs to large dark brown eggs and even a speckled one from the chickens.

As for the maybe, we candled the silkie eggs today, it would be day 10 for 4 of the 6 eggs and I just don't think I'm seeing baby chicks growing in there. It may be my untrained eye or if may be the eggs are not fertile. A broody silkie will sit either way, she just lives in hope, I suppose!

Candling the silkie eggs on day 10.

Day 10 and still the silkie sits on her eggs.

Friday, September 23, 2016

How do you solve a problem like 3 roosters......

With our spring chick order I ordered female chicks, I expected female chicks, I hoped and prayed that they were all female chicks. At just four weeks old someone crowed. That turned out to be Conan the destroyer (after all he destroyed my dream of all pullets!). At 7 weeks two more roosters announced themselves, they turned out to be Buttercup and Mo.

At first it went ok, but when they hit their rooster adolescence I could no longer deny that 3 roosters to 16 pullets was stretching the boundaries of how many hens does one need to keep roosters getting along. I researched and asked questions of other chicken people. Most of this research pointed to the fact that one should have *about* ten hens to every rooster. As we planned to add to our flock the following spring I figured all would be well then, we'll add more hens next spring. Summer moved along and I watched the dynamics of our flock. I started to worry seeing that Conan the destroyer was also sometimes Conan the Barbarian. Boy he has lived up to his name! I thought about sending him to a farm in the country (oh wait we are a farm in the country...) but the kids expressed hope that we could keep Conan. Soooo, what to do, what to do, won't it be even worse in spring when a young rooster's heart turns to love? I really gave this some heavy thought and looked at my options.

I had heard about autosexing chicken breeds, where the color upon hatch instantly shows which gender the chick is. I thought to myself, guaranteed females, that will work. I am going to be all wishy washy here and admit that I didn't want 10 or 15 basic red or black sexlinks. We love the variety in our flock and the ability to tell everyone apart. Even when there are 2 of the same breed of chicken there are enough differences to tell who is who. With 5 or 10 of the exact same breed it would not be so easy and our flock wouldn't stay as unique. I received an email from My Pet Chicken one day as fall was nearing. This email was a bit different than the usual ones, they some new options and one of those options was an all pullet pack of interesting autosexing chick breeds. I added 10 of those chicks to my cart multiple times and removed them multiple times. They sold out fast but then I saw 10 available for September 20. I still worried a bit, fall temperatures, will the chicks fare well on their journey with fall night time temps? I looked at the long range forecast on weather sites and found that both day and night time temperatures were much higher for that week than they had been for May 2nd when we got our batch of chicks. O.K. added those babies to my cart and checked out!

Fast forward to September 20 and no tracking by 3:00 pm, oh no I was thinking did they not ship? I talked with the company and they said the chicks haven't all hatched yet but they will go out when they do.  Around 6:00 pm I was notified that the chicks had shipped! Then 34 hours later I was called, at 6:45 AM to come pick up the chicks at the post office. Hooray all 10 GIRL babies arrived safely. I'm really pleased with them and wish I could order from this particular farm always. They didn't come from the main hub in Ohio but a farm in North Carolina, they were well packaged and had a food dish attached right into their travel box/cage. Next we got them settled in and tried to work out just which breeds wewere sent. There were around 6 different varieties of chicks that might be included in the order. Luckily the packing list noted which we were sent and those are Carolina Blue sex-links, Cream Legbars, Green Magnolia chicks and Rhodebars. They will lay olive, blue, green and brown eggs respectively. Just love these little fuzzies and look forward to having a less rooster heavy flock come spring at which point these babies should be all grown up and fully integrated with the flock. The best part we get to raise baby chicks again sooner than expected!

So how do you solve a problem like 3 roosters......more hens!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Cold morning, garden goodies and the ducks and chickens.

The day started out so chilly but there was still lots to do. We're still in a severe drought so watering the gardens came first. There just hasn't been much rain this year, thankfully our well has held out. The gardens are still producing pretty well so I picked some beans, broccoli, swiss chard and a few other things to use with lunch. I was glad to see we have about 8 Brussel sprout plants really taking off now, they will hopefully be our Christmas sprouts. Last year we picked them the day before Christmas, not sure the weather will hold out that long again this year but you never know.  I checked on the silkie chicken several times, she's still sitting on her nest, so day 2 of 21 is now completed. She did get up to eat and drink so I was happy to see that. She ran right back to her nest quite quickly after she ate. I worked with Tristan on some of his homeschool work and checked emails and messages then made tofu loaf, herb stuffing, sweet potatoes, red potatoes, and all those garden greens and such for dinner. After dinner we finally moved the bunny habitat (a 6' x 8' kennel) away from the fence line so the chickens will no longer be able to use it as a way to jump out of the fenced area.. Need to finish it off tomorrow and get it winterized.

Ducks, always taking over the place.

baby Brussel sprouts

These sprouts will go with Christmas dinner.

Blue cochin, well she's black, she is so beautiful, big and fuzzy.

The silkie is still sitting on her nest of 4 eggs, day 2.

This nice tomato plant took off too late, I'll need to find a way to protect it from the colder nights.

Part of the dinner thanks to the garden.

I needed this many layers this morning.