Double Tragedy at the Chicken Shelter!

6/20/16 – 6/27/16 | Headlines of the week:

Lots happened this week! Monday morning, after the chickens had been in the shelter for 3 nights, I found one dead bird outside the shelter with its insides strewn around and a leg ripped off, and another dead bird in the shelter with a missing leg. I’ll spare you pictures… anyway, I’ve read that raccoons that will pull birds out under the shelter or through the chicken wire (which is why I took these precautions, but they still weren’t enough!), and they will typically just take what they will eat. Possums kill just out of spite, it seems, and rip the birds open, like mine. But possums don’t necessarily have the grip to be able to pull a bird under the shelter. So! I don’t know if I had a possum or a coon attack.

Fast forward four nights, and you’d be in the middle of a huge rainstorm that dumped 2.9 inches on us in a few hours. Chickens aren’t smart, especially when they’re sleepy… and my chickens have a habit of sleeping in their trough feeder. So after that rain I was greeted with two dead chickens in their feeder – they’d either drowned or gotten too cold and died as a result. Two other chickens were soaked and nearly dead, with super low body temperatures.

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I brought them into the garage, set them on a heating pad and under a heat lamp, and tried to give them some warm milk (which they didn’t swallow at first). Then I waited.

First they started breathing more regularly, and then they would sit up and swallow water when I dipped their beaks in. After they drank, they ate. And after four hours they were acting like normal chickens again!

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Now for some happier news! I’m experimenting with growing potatoes this year, and I dug around a few of my plants and pulled out some treasure!

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Also this week I’ve been harvesting and drying herbs to (Lord willing!) sell at the market next year.

And then I made a Youtube video about my morning chicken chores and/or moving the chicken shelter! It was super fun to make, but you’ll have to excuse the fact that I didn’t talk, except a word or two to the chickens. Enjoy the sounds of nature. 😉

Then I made hay! Or rather, my dad cut it and I raked, transported, and spread it on my garden as mulch. Mama helped too, which was awesome.

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Side note: I’ve gotta get my own pickup truck soon…

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I got almost the entire garden mulched with a thick layer of hay! By the end I was (just a bit…) worn out, filthy (sweat + dust + bits of hay), and happy.

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Make it a wonderful week, friends! Think about where your food came from. Did it come from a farmer who cares about its quality and about you? Or has it never touched a farmer’s hand?

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How to Predator-Proof a Chicken Shelter

We’ve got lots of raccoons. And lots of ‘possums. And probably lots of other varmits, too. So when the chicks/chickens (when do they graduate from chicks to chickens? They’re only half feathered out currently, but they’re getting chunky) get moved out of the brooder and into the shelter it needs to be as predator-proof as possible. Especially since the area I’ll be running the shelter is surrounded by woods and out of sight from the house (anyone recognize this area from this spring when we put up those fence posts?)!

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The weak spots are:

  • Gaps between the shelter’s base and dips in the ground
  • Loose roof sections
  • Chicks that sleep too close to the sides with chicken wire. The coons can reach in and grab the chicks, apparently.

I won’t go into the gory details, but you can actually tell what kind of animal got your birds by how you find the remains (if any)! My goal, however, is to avoid that as much as possible. So I’m addressing each of the weak spots before I have a predator attack.

To keep varmits from coming under the shelter when it’s sitting on uneven ground, I’m keeping a stash of wood blocks on top of the shelter for plugs. Each day when I move it, I’ll check for gaps under the shelter’s edges. If I find gaps, I’ll plug them like this.

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To keep the roof sections tightly closed, I’ll have a 5-gallon bucket of water sitting on them, and if it becomes necessary I could put a concrete block on top. Although I want to avoid that if at all possible, because that is one more thing to worry about when moving the shelter.

Then to keep the coons from grabbing chicken nuggets through the chicken wire, I came up with this idea:

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In “Pastured Poultry Profits“, which is the blueprint for my operation, Mr. Salatin says that the chicks tend to sleep on the north-east corner of the shelter – this one.

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Probably because that’s where the feeder will be, and also because it has a solid roof.

My solution to coons reaching through the wire is an experiment. I want to see how long tulle will hold up outside…. because yes, I am the kind of girl who racoon-proofs a shelter with tulle she’d cut off an extremely poufy formal dress. I’d saved it for…. something…. but I hardly imagined it’d be tacked to a chicken shelter!

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It’s not stretchy, and it’s pretty strong. I stapled it with a staple gun to the shelter on the open west end and the north-east corner. We shall see what happens! I may take it off a few weeks into it, when the birds are bigger.

And that’s it, my friends! Do you have experience, ideas, or warnings for me about predators and pastured poultry? I’m always open to suggestions!

Prepping to Send the Chicks out to Pasture

6/4/16 – 6/11/16 | Headlines of the week:

  • Chicks sure grow up fast
  • Making a Youtube video about assembling a Bell-Matic Poultry Waterer
  • Selling produce at the market (again!)
  • Finishing the chicken shelter!!

It’s been super dry this week, so my garden isn’t growing very fast. But my chicks sure are! They’re two or three times the size they were a week and a half ago when they arrived, and have wing and tail feathers already. They’ve also graduated to throwing bedding and nasty stuff into their water at a great pace, so now I’m checking/changing their water several times a day instead of once.

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I’ve been experimenting with fermenting their feed, and it’s been going alright (I’m still working out the kinks, though). It’s hard to keep on top of how much they eat! Here’s a sneak peak of the feed they go crazy for!

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This week I’ve also completed prepping the shelter and setting up my waterer. I had fun making a Youtube video about that!

I was able to sell some lettuce, kale, and green onions at the market today. Normally Jan and Andy sell out of their lettuce within an hour or two of the market’s start, so I figured I’d be able to sell all this lettuce after they sold out.

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But sometimes things just don’t go as expected! Maybe the 90-degree weather was keeping everyone at home, but in any case I ended up taking home half a cooler of lettuce. Anything I sold was a bonus, so I’m still happy! And the folks at church will be getting some free lettuce tomorrow morning, which is something else to smile about!

And my favorite news of all: we finished up my chicken shelter this evening, attaching the sheet metal and chicken wire on the sides and chicken wire on the top. I kinda got frustrated at the start, fighting with a hammer and big staples trying to attach the chicken wire. But then my family came to the rescue and we got it done much faster than I would have by myself. Families are awesome like that.

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Chicken Shelters and the Chicks to Go Inside

5/21/16 – 6/3/16 | Headlines from the past two weeks:

  • Selling a bit of produce
  • Building a chicken shelter
  • Building a brooder
  • Getting chicks!!!

Jan and Andy have been super kind and have let me bring my extra produce to sell at the market! So far I’ve sold some green onions and spinach. This is a real bonus because I didn’t expect to sell any of my garden produce this year! Currently, though, my garden is very dry. I’ve been watering every few days, but we need some rain! In this picture all my kale and lettuce is wilted from the heat. 20160603_170451.jpgLast Sunday I had an awesome time helping my brother and a friend build a Polyface-style chicken shelter!20160529_201645

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20160529_201257All that’s missing from this picture is a few more braces plus chicken wire and aluminum on the sides and part of the top! (You can see pictures of the finished product here)

And now, a shoutout to my friend Judah, who headed up the project! He’s pretty awesome, and if you like high-quality handcrafted knives you should check out his business/website, Creation Knifeworks!

My Dad and I spent Memorial Day setting up a brooder, and then yesterday I picked up 79 little balls of fluff at the post office! My chickens are here!!20160602_090845(0).jpgBefore I set each one in the brooder, I dipped their beaks in some sugar water. This helps re-hydrate them and gives them a bit of energy until they’re able to find the food and water on their own. Once they were in the brooder they raced around, toppled over, ran into each other, drank lots of water, and fell asleep. It turns out that my homemade waterers don’t work amazingly, because if I keep the lids on tight enough to keep the waterers from overflowing, a vacuum is created in the jug. To get around this I periodically open the top of the jug to let in some air, which then allows the frisbee on the bottom to refill again. And I also bought a waterer from the store…20160602_091417.jpgTo give the chicks a good dose of grit right off the bat, I spread some creek sand on newspaper under their feed for the first day. You can’t see the grit here, but those little chicken nuggets sure are cute! 20160602_091109.jpgI got the chicks yesterday, and here’s what the setup looks like today. The heat lamp is over the right back corner, and as you can see they’re pretty warm without it because it’s in the 80’s outside. I’m not using newspaper to put their feed out anymore, because they’re eating too much to keep up with that! 20160603_170353.jpgThis morning I found one weak chick that was just laying down listlessly. I dunked his beak in the water a few times, then in some milk, and he seemed to appreciate it. Now I can’t find him among all the other active birds! Water is key – if the chicks are dehydrated, they won’t eat.

And that’s all for now! Have a lovely rest of your week, friends! Enjoy the sunshine and eat some good, wholesome food!