Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Taking Chicks Out To Pasture

Still waiting for those adult feathers to come in...

Going back to an awesome conference, the Midwest Sustainability Conference, I can remember listening to Darby Simpson talk about taking chicks out to pasture.  For meat birds, you want them out at 3 weeks of age, but you want to make that transition as seamless as possible.  Well come Thursday my not-so-little Red Rangers will be three weeks old and here is the weather outlook.

The ten day outlook
I'm thinking Sunday or Monday the birds will go out... and then we can all rejoice!  "Why rejoice" you might ask?  For one thing, these little buggers make a TON of DUST!  Seriously, who would have thought that chickens can create so much dust out of nowhere!  "Where does it come from?" - My wife has asked me multiple times... the answer, I DON'T KNOW!  But wherever it comes from, I'll be happy when it's no longer in my garage.  

At the point they go to pasture, they'll then have access to salad greens.  This is good for a few reasons... starting with one assumption: Salad is good for you.  

1) When chickens eat salad with their food, the chicken becomes healthier for me
2) When the chickens eat the salad, it's less lawn for me to mow.
3) When the chickens are done with the grass/feed, they poop and fertilize the lawn... now I have to mow more, but now it's also healthier soil!  
4) If the soil is healthy enough, I can get some four legged lawn mowers and support them on my small piece of property.
5) If I get four legged lawn mowers, I won't have to mow as much.
6) If I don't have to mow as much, I have more time to spend on productive things and I don't burn as many hydrocarbons, thus saving more polar bears!
7) The four legged lawn mowers can be eaten or sold (or the kids can take them to the fair... eventually)!

Okay, that was a rant... I'm sorry... kinda.  At least now you can share in my joy that my garage will once again be... well, not as dirty.

UPDATE: A few pictures from the season...
First week in the feeder...

Close to butchering weight

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

This weekend... an update from the Johnson property.

Well this weekend was quite a stir... there was a to do and not so much time to get it done... so where should I start?

The house

About 6 weeks back, or so, it seems God (or was it Satan tempting me?) didn't appreciate the siding on the south end of my house and used the wind to help me remove it.  One thing I discovered through all of this is that my house didn't have any Tyvek on the South wall (I don't believe my house got any when it was built).  Tyvek, or house wrap, is something of a Gore-tex lining that goes underneath the siding to keep the water and wind from infiltrating and rotting out the wood, and generally making your house less warm or cool, depending on the season.  As a result of the wind damage, we had insurance come out and give us an estimate... it was $1300 for a house with a $1000 deductible... grrr.  

Narrator: Mr Super Hadyman Husband enters stage left and gets quotes from contractors.  He finds the company that made the original siding and contacts them, only to find out they only sell to contractors.  Mr Super Handyman Husband discovers that one of the contractors will allow him to purchase the siding directly from the manufacturer through his company!  

So in the end, my father came up over Easter weekend to help me put up Tyvek and 1/2" extruded foam insulation board.  Then this week I got started putting up the siding.  Saturday morning I got up early to completed putting up 2 boxes (400 square ft), plus a little more, of siding only to be stopped short of the goal by some little boys who needed to be taken care of while mom was out shopping.  
After fixing them lunch, General mom returned to the home base and I was once again set free to attach the ever growing list of things that need to be taken care of. 

Planting the garden!

I planted two rows of green beans, only to discover I severely didn't order enough bean seeds.  I also planted some squash, cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers.

Then on Sunday I went to Lowes for reinforcements... I purchased some T-posts, electrical conduit, and a flower for General Mom for Mothers day, although Alpha (my first son) determined that he should get all the credit for that one!  All that said and done, my next plan is to build some Tomato Grow-Up Trellis's.

Courtesy Herrick Kimball

I'm sure I'll make some changes to it... in fact, I know I will.  I went to Lowes to look for the concrete re-mesh.  In Herrick's blog, he said that it comes in 5'x10' sections... well not at the Lowes I visited!  It came as an $8, 3-1/2' tall by 8' wide panel... not optimal for growing tomato's!  So my plan is to cut up a 16'x5' cattle panel to make three of these things... I'll let you know how that works out!


Well this week we lost a chicken... so now we are down to 60 total.  They were pecking at each other and doing all sorts of mischief.  We did some research, spoke with some people and came to a few conclusions...  1) It was too hot.  This causes stress and often times leads to cannibalism.  2) I tried to quarantine some of the birds getting pecked on... it didn't work too well, but served its purpose enough.  3) We got some anti-pecking soln. from TSC (tractor supply).  It's a purple goo that comes in a glue bottle like container that smells like grape flavor, in my opinion.  I caught each of the wounded chicks and smeared this stuff on their wounds... it's supposed to help them heal and keep the others from pecking on them.  4) I reduced the heat lams from two down to one... they seem to be happier this way. 

Fruit Trees

I had ordered fruit tree's from Gurneys, but they screwed up.  I ordered them back in February, and two or three weeks back I called to ask them when they would get here.  They cancelled my order because my credit card didn't go through... and never told me!    Angry is one way to describe how I felt when they told me that... but now it gets worse.  I planted all the trees in a mixture of peat moss and horse manure, aged and mixed in well, and my two peach tree's are dead.  Why?  Well they are supposed to be in the ground by a certain time... about a month before I found out they cancelled my order.  I didn't want to do any more business with them, but now I have to... I can get store credit for the dead tree's, but have to pay shipping.... next spring.  So I basically won't have peach tree's for at least another year if I depend on them... yeap, I'm frustrated!


 I recently met one of my neighbors, a good ways down the road, who happened to be pruning his apple tree's.  I stopped in and simply asked if I could have some branches to try to start new tree's from cuttings.  I came home with over 40 cuttings and shortly put them in rooting compound and then in the ground... the longer branches I put into the ground in a low spot in the back yard while the shorter ones are in pots.  Weirdly enough, the longer branches seem to be doing better... but we'll see with time.  As a side note, I'm going to go back and try some air-layering to see if that works better.  Oh yea, this guy also makes wine and sent me home with two bottles... wow, thanks! 

It seems God got him ready for me moving in too, as he recently stuck grape vine cuttings in the ground in case anybody wanted some grape vines!  He said I can take all I want...  too cool!

Friday, May 2, 2014

A CJ Style Chicken Brooder and... My Chicks Arrived!

One day old.
For anybody getting into having chickens, you're most likely to get them as chicks.  If this is the case, you'll need to keep them warm, dry and fed... especially for the first few weeks.  The place you do this depends on your environment.  But here in NW Ohio, it's too cold to go outside right now, so I built a brooder in my garage.

Size and Density

There are a lot of different opinions out there about how much space a bird needs.  In my case, I purchased 60 birds and put them into a 4'x8' area, providing 0.5333 square feet per bird (minus feeders and waterer).  So while this may be a little small after 6 weeks, my plan is to get them out into the read world as soon as possible after the 3 wk mark.

The Build

As I said, I built my brooder to 4'x8', a very convenient size.  I started out with a sheet of 3/4" extruded insulation board from the hardware store sitting on top of two pallets.  Why on top of pallets?  Well, I don't know... it seemed like a good idea to keep them up off the cold cement and now I don't have to bend over so far to change out the feeders!  Along the sides I took another sheet of the 3/4" material and cut it in half down the middle, giving me 2' walls.  A third panel is needed if you are making this new, but I happened to have some scraps left over after putting it up when the wind blew the siding off the end of my house.

The basic design
You might have noticed some duct tape on the bottom piece... well the wind got hold of it when I was loading it and snapped it in half, right in the hardware store parking lot... BE CAREFUL if you plan on using this stuff!  It's not the strongest in the world.

Moving along... I attached the walls of the brooder to the bottom piece with nails.  This may seem like over-kill, but I couldn't think of an easier way to do it!  One thing you'll want to before you drive those nails through, however, is drill a tiny hole through the foam board.  There is a plastic coating on both sides that is difficult to puncture and the holes make it much easier to put this together.  Alternatively, you could get an ice pick and try that.  One note, you probably don't need a hammer for this, but it might be nice for the last 1/4".

Drilling the pilot holes for the nails

Driving the nails.

UPDATE: If you are going to do this, use deck screws!  The birds will push against it, the $#!* will pile up and the walls will be pushed out... left long enough, the walls can fall down... and that would be bad.

One all four sides were up, I put a plastic liner inside.  I figure this will make cleanup much easier!  I held it in place at first with duct tape till I got it where I wanted it and then stapled it into place.

Installing the plastic liner.

With the plastic liner in place, I added a bale (?) of pine shavings, some insulation to go over one end and two heat lamps in the middle.  This should provide lots of warmth in the middle if they are cold, plenty of areas that are not so warm, and lots of space in between.  This provides the chick's lots of room to find that just right spot for the amount of warmth they need.

Heat lamps, feeders and shavings... almost ready!

 The last thing I added in was a waterer.  You'll be able to read up more on that in my next post on Avianaquamiser Chicken Nipples. 

So how do they like it?

New arrivals

Well the chicks got here yesterday and it looked a little cold for them.  I was amazed at how active they were once they warmed up, but it took a few minutes. 

This is how my chicks arrived in the mail.

One thing that I did as I got the chicks out of the packaging was to hold their beaks up against the chicken nipples until they got some water out and drank it.  It is a common practice to dip their beaks in water so they know where it is, but I was a little worried they might not catch on with the nipples.  Well, so far they seem to have the hang of it... although there are still a few pecking at the water on the 2x6 underneath it.  (This is to absorb water, as opposed to it soaking the pine shavings.)

Chicks drinking from my chicken nipple waterer.

There was one disappointment as I un-packaged my birds... one of them didn't make it.  They had been hatched the day before at 5am and I picked them up the next day from the post office... I've been told it happens, but it's kinda sad.  Hopefully all of them will still be cheeping when I get home from work today!

Okay, well that's pretty much two topics in one... if you guys know of a better way, please let me know!