Posts Tagged ‘coop’

Confessions of a Chicken Keeper

January 20, 2010

I have learned a lot about chickens. There is no doubt about that. However, I have much to learn, as I’m sure many beginner chicken keepers do. So here are some confessions (and yes, it’s another list because this is on my mind but I really don’t have the time or energy at the moment to flesh it out more).

  • Our chicken coop is not sufficient for Illinois winters.
  • Or, at least it isn’t sufficient for roosters.
  • My roosters have frostbitten combs and wattles.
  • We had a bunch of eggs freeze because only the kids could get to the nesting box (Tim fixed that so that we can now get eggs, too)
  • I had a sick hen and I don’t know what was wrong with her.
  • She got over it, whatever it was, despite a lack of intervention on my part.
  • I can’t really tell the hens apart, except for:
    1. Miss Ducky, an orpington with oranger legs than the others
    2. Lula Mae, the only New Hampshire hen we have left
    3. Chicken Joe, our New Hampshire rooster
  • I have too many roosters.
  • My 3 Orpington roosters are all named Chuck Norris, even though I could probably tell them apart by now if I tried harder.
  • They really don’t have enough roost space.
  • They are roosting on the roosts Tim made, but those roosts are hooked up to a ladder and they roost on the ladder, which means they also poop on each other.
  • We actually forgot to close them in one night. Tim and I went out to close them in but they weren’t in. So it was actually a miscommunication and neither of us took care of it.
  • I didn’t realize we forgot to shut them in until the next morning when the roosters were crowing right near the house quite early in the morning.
  • They are all unharmed, amazingly enough.
  • They are eating feed from the farm supply store instead of the more natural, healthier feed Scott the Farmer was bringing me.
  • I want him to bring me that feed, but he thought I didn’t because I kept buying the feed from the store because I kept running out.
  • I haven’t talked to him about this yet, despite the fact that it’s been a month or longer that I’ve been using the feed from the store.
  • I am totally getting more chicks next spring so that we have eggs in the winter again.
  • Yes, I realize we are totally lucky to have eggs in January.
  • Lula Mae is finally moulting.
  • She doesn’t look very pretty.
  • She’s still my favorite, but please don’t tell the other hens.

Tilling sucks

June 10, 2009

OK, I suppose tilling has its uses, but I must say that my tilled area looks really bad. I worked on it some yesterday, using a garden rake and a ho to get some of the grass up. There are some weeds in the tilled area, but mostly it’s just the grass growing back. Now to be fair, I haven’t done much of anything in the tilled area. Combine my laziness with lots of rain and that explains why the grass is growing back. However, compared to my raised beds, the tilled area is much worse. It is more work and the grass is growing faster. Even the Pie Bed, (the no-dig bed in which I turned some sod upside down and then filled with some potting soil), which is the raised bed with the most weeds, does not compare to the tilled area. 
 

Pizza Bed in the foreground, tilled area in the background

Pizza Bed in the foreground, tilled area in the background

The only complaint I have with the raised beds is that there is not enough room to get the riding mower between them. We don’t have a push mower and I really don’t want to buy one since we have a gas-powered weed whacker (that I can’t start!). Ideally I wouldn’t have grass in between the raised beds. I would like a garden with no grass at all, but how to get rid of that grass? Or, more precisely, how can I get rid of that grass without chemicals and without spending a lot of money? I know that if I put down mulch that will help get rid of the grass, but right now I’m short on mulch since our bagger for the riding mower was back ordered. We can pick that up today, so as soon as I can mow again, I will have mulch and lots of it. I also know mulch would help in the tilled area.

While I like the idea of grass clippings as mulch in the raised beds and the tilled area, I would like something else to put in between the raised beds. This site, Organic Weed Control Methods ~ Mulching, has some great ideas. It has some good information about why mulching is so helpful and has a list of natural mulches, with suggestions on where to get them. None of these mulches jump out at me as easy and cheap and quick (quick as in tomorrow), unless I want to walk around collecting the grass clippings from the last time we mowed. I guess I will just wait until we have the bagger and then let the grass clippings dry and apply them to the tilled area. Then I guess I will use the weed whacker to trim around the raised beds. I think it would be a good idea to put down cardboard and/or newspaper before putting down the mulch, too.

The best idea I’ve had for in between the raised beds is to use broken up concrete. I remember reading somewhere that broken up concrete is a flagstone alternative. It can be laid out so that it looks like flagstone, but has the benefit of being more environmentally friendly. One of our neighbors just up the road has a big pile that’s just sitting there. I’ve thought about asking him if he is going to use it, but I haven’t done it yet. Maybe I should stop by and ask him next time I am driving to town. I think I could always do the paper/cardboard with dried grass clippings piled on top and then add the concrete afterwards. The concrete part might be a good autumn project, though. You know, after we build a henhouse for our 24 pullets (though I suspect one of the Buff Orpingtons is a boy) and a greenhouse and a workshop for Tim.

Pullets, all of ’em

June 4, 2009

The Buff Orpington chicks are now 4 weeks old. Just as I was thinking that some were getting combs faster than others and I would soon be able to tell which were cockerels and which were pullets, I read this post on Ang.’s blog. When I got them, Ang. said that the store told her they were straight run. However, she had also noticed that one had a mark on its head. I told Ang. that it would be nice if they were all pullets, but I didn’t really think they would be. It turns out that they are all pullets, as Ang. learned last week. This is good because it means lots of eggs and possibly selling some of them next spring. It also means we need a bigger coop than we were planning on. Since we haven’t really started the coop, that’s fine. Tim is going out of town next week so we will have to get busy building the coop after he gets back.

Anyway, I spent the night at my mom’s on Sunday and when I got back on Monday I thought the chicks looked really big. They are getting lots of feathers. When it’s warm enough, we take them outside in the brooder. The bottom of the brooder is hardware cloth, covered with bedding. On Wednesday it was warm and it was time to clean out the brooder, so we put the chicks in the movable coop, cleaned out the brooder, and put them back in it without the bedding so they could eat some grass. When it was time to put them in the garage, we added some bedding. I’m ready to have them outside more, but I don’t think they have quite enough feathers to be out at night, even with a heat lamp.

Now I am contemplating another order for some meat birds, but I’m not sure I’m ready for that. Maybe this fall will be a better time. If I did get meat birds, I would probably wait until the coop is done and the little chicks and big chickens are all together so that we could use the brooder again. But by then it will be getting hot and I’m not sure I want to deal with chicks in the middle of the summer. I have to think about it and what kind of chicks to get. I don’t really like the idea of the Cornish Cross birds. My reasons for that are probably enough for another post!