Tag Archives: coop maintenance

Chickens On A Shoestring Budget

I have had so many worries about raising chickens through the last 4 years and wondered if I was “doing it right”. Somewhere about the last two years I realized that, as may ways to raise chickens exist, as there is sand on a beach.

I look at the pristine chicken farmers posts with their neatly built structures and think, “SEE! I’m doing it all wrong!”  No. Actually I’m doing this right for Me.

One of the things I did right, but swore I had wrong, was building temporary shelters instead of permanent ones. Everything I have in the chicken yard, is easily dismantled and put up in a different spot.  For my O.C.D. tendency’s and quirky nature, this proves very valuable. Tomorrow, I may wake up and think, “Oh gez this set up isn’t working like I wanted it to”. Then go about redesigning the whole shebang! My husband is usually patient with me and my constant changing.

Below you will see the most valuable piece of equipment in my arsenal of tricks.

IMG_0021 Did you see it?  That black plastic fencing?  Let me tell you, it’s amazing to have when you need to separate birds of different ages. In the front you will see some juvenile Ameraucana, and Cochin in the front and behind them is another group of birds who would not get along with the newbies. This fence gives the older wiser meaner birds time to adjust to the new-comers.

This is something else I use to keep the birds cooler in the blistering 90-100 temperatures here in Florida. Note the temporary used billboard covers. I use them as drapes sometimes to block any sunshine which may reach into the nesting area. Now that I know more of what they need, I have plans ready for a fixed structure.  IMG_0500 Chickens do not do well in Heat. That is without exception.

“A chicken’s normal body temperature hovers near 104 to 107 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s not difficult for them to maintain a healthy body temperature when the air is at least 10 to 15 degrees below that.

During times of extreme temperatures, producers must dissipate the excess body heat of their flock quickly. When a chicken’s body temperature reaches 113 to 117 degrees Fahrenheit, it is in danger.

Without sweat glands to cool their skin, birds rely on their respiratory system. Chickens pant to cool themselves, as the panting evaporates water from the throat to lower body temperature.”

( I didn’t type that one part, so I’m putting the link to the information page here).  This is a very good article and a must read!

This photo below, looks really rag-tag, but I wanted to show you how to make use of things you may already have, without going to the local Hardware store and buying the place out. It’s alright to use what you have on hand. You can always upgrade to a better building later, which I am doing myself. We change things at least three times a year, as our needs out there change and evolve.

We are in the process of planning a more permanent structure in this spot (Which means my husband is going to want to slowly strangle me…. ).

It’s hard to see but we have a 9 foot fence dividing the back area from the foreground area where the door is.  That is my brooder for the babies. I actually have birds who can scale an 8 foot fence; so, I made it 9 feet and attached it to the roof. The babies are all grown now, so I have some old ladies now in the brooder area. The “new ladies” (babies) are up front where the nesting boxes and large coop are. The old girls get to enjoy being free to do whatever… Occasionally they even give me an egg!IMG_0334

A Local store had a sale on office type storage boxes, and I bought ten of them. They became the nesting boxes of choice. The girls don’t mind one bit that they cost me a dollar each! I have them Zip-Tied to the support boards. I can move them around quite easily!IMG_0237

 

Well, there you go…  At least a little bit of what I do on a Shoe-String budget.

Amazed Disgusted and Shocked

July 19, 2014

Amazed Disgusted and Shocked I need to warn you in advance, this is not for the faint of heart, OK? If you get squeamish easily, ya best click off and leave now.


Putting off the chicken coop cleaning was done for long enough! I’d fiddle-farted around most of the spring and the spiders and icky stuff was beginning to get to me (Insert disgusted face here (Really I wish I had one of those “insert face here” on this blog-post editor!).

Weekly, one needs to clean the shavings of poop, and then do general maintenance, of raking, picking up random bits of trash and god-knows-what, that the hens dig up in the yard. Then you have to clean up the storage area of the stuff you thought you wanted to keep and now find you can surely do without.

It’s all good, but it can wear you out. I’d let this go for several weeks now and was sort of tired with all the catching up I’d done for the last hour.

Along with the usual cleaning, I also decided to do that Spring Cleaning, I skipped doing! I’m going to hate myself in the morning, I can tell already.

When my husband brings me the pressure washer, I’m elated that I get to blast the shit out of stuff with water, but appalled at the thought of how much my arms are going to hurt in the morning. I begin by washing down the walls, back corner, then out to the front corner. After that, I blast the roof where the spider webs are! If you are as arachnophobia prone as I am, you know that you would also back out closer to the door, one step at a time, while you blast away. Just so you don’t end up with an unhappy spider landing down your shirt…

 As I finish up the coop area, I move over to the nesting area where they work their magic laying eggs. It’s pretty dusty in there and thankfully the girls are finished laying. With the exception of one hen laying claim to that area, it’s free and clear. I move the grumpy broody hen out-of-the-way, for now. She officially hates me, at the moment… =/

I take down the nesting boxes which are held in place with Zip-Ties. I can always put them back when I’m done washing the area down.

When I do that, and move a bit of plastic which had fallen down on the floor, a passel (a bunch) of baby rats scrambled out of the area. They shot everywhere! Left, Right, Between my feet, Over my feet… It was pandemonium in that place!! About that time, the hens saw the scrambling baby rats and …. well…. Nature took it’s course…

I’d never seen so many chickens running around with rats for dinner in my life! It was disgusting, disturbing and fascinating! I didn’t want to watch, but like a soap-box show on TV, you just can’t miss what’s going on. I knew that chickens ate other critters. I’d seen them devour snakes, and kill other animals who had the distinct misfortune of finding their way in the coop; like a squirrel and a few birds, and random mice. I had never seen them GULP down a whole baby rat before. Kill something yes, but Eat it? Ick… Dear God. I was now damaged goods. You just can’t unsee some things…

With that said, I was totally fascinated with how they beat the snot out of them, then swallow them head-first. The fights that broke out in the coop, I was powerless to change, except maybe push them apart; which I did. I even moved some of the small dead rats into a hole so I could bury them, but the hens took them out before I could get the others collected.  I finally gave up and said, FINE! Eat Rat!  They did….

And they ate and ate and ate….  What they didn’t eat they left half dead, and I had to finish off the little rat babies.

Can you imagine what that did to me? Dear God, I wanted chickens but not this! Just one more thing “they” don’t tell you when you decide to have backyard chickens. You can read up on this, till the cows come home but you aren’t prepared for the real life with chickens (another blog of mine).

By now I’m pretty shell-shocked and just keep clicking photos, so you can live though my experiences. It’s not always easy, lemme tell ya! Below are more (yes graphic) photos of the hens enjoying Rat, a la carte’. This tiny New Hampshire Red pullet, is only 12 weeks old and she’s a master of killing and consuming baby rats. It’s kind of unnerving to think that I could be dinner as well, if I ever passed out in the coop. =/

 This young Red SexLink was one of the most persistent and aggressive. No sooner than I removed a rat from her, she found another one, or grabbed the one I had, back in her beak. She was so determined to eat it, I finally just gave it back to her, and grabbed my camera.

OK One More… Don’t say I didn’t warn you…   You just can’t Un-See some things… ♥The Chicken Mom♥

Maintenance in the Chicken Yard

Nothing gets done automatically in a chicken yard. Oh they talk about automatic waterers, and feeders, but they still need to be washed out and kept clean. Then the shavings under the roost, collect all the evenings droppings. If you don’t clean that frequently, it just gets layers upon layer of YUCK. I could just sprinkle some scratch feed down in the general area and let the girls bury it with their digging. That would just be temporarily effective, and have to be dealt with eventually.  Maybe I’m just a neat freak and need the work out. Either way I usually clean it once a week. On the off days, I just rake some clean shavings over the droppings. They soak up any of the smelly stuff. Wed is usually the Chicken Yard day.

I do talk a lot about Chicken Poop. That sort of makes me laugh, because my husband calls me a (should I say it?) “shit manager”. He means it in the most complimentary way. When things go awry here, I can usually make the best of it and find a way to keep going in some form or fashion.  I’m also good at pluming. When the sewer goes crazy, it’s me who rods out lines. I learned that while he worked his weird swing shifts at the Paper Mill. It seemed most stuff broke while he was gone and at night. It was not really unheard of to see me outside at midnight working on something. Like the year the pump lines froze in 11 degree temperatures. I’m outside with a blow dryer, fuzzy slippers and a house coat, coat and head muff.

He is more than willing to help and has taken share of the drama and broken stuff here. He does more than any man should have too. So, I am giving him credit for all of the good he does, trust me. I just fill in when he’s not home. Now, that he’s retired, he’s here a lot more.

Ah! Back to chickens…  (sorry).

Yesterday was work in the Chicken yard day. As you may be able to guess. Normally I write about my experiences, day-to-day. Yesterday found me winterizing the coop. It has a lot of protection, so it’s not been a very big concern for me that they would get too cold. I’m in Florida, that’s not really a hard issue, most of the time.  This year has been so mild, and it has felt more like Fall. I don’t know what’s up with that, but I’ll take it!

My winterizing consist of putting up corrugated panels against the chicken coops chain link walls. The girls, are in a dog proof 10×10, roofed, box with a dog proof door. The main concern for me is the wind. It can be very windy here. I don’t know why, for that situation either. We are on the Northeast coast of Florida  and it just has weird weather. Today you are walking in Bermuda shorts and tomorrow you will have on blizzard gear.

It is January and the winters we have are worse in Jan., and Feb.. Windy and Cold. However, none of that has reared its ugly head yet. I just wanted to be ready, in case…

Thankfully, the chicken coop already had up two sides and the third side is blocked with another room, where they girls eat, protected from the wet and wind. I needed to put up cleaned panels on two walls. Then I needed to rake the whole pen area. That’s 50 feet long and about 20 feet wide. After that,  haul out the poop and get in clean shavings.

In the middle of all this working, I stopped and thought, Why in the world I was having fun? This is a lot of work. Then I just shrugged it off and kept cleaning. I must just enjoy the chickens. Actually, I do. I go out there cleaning and forget worries. I call it my church. Unless I ask for help, most just don’t bug me out there.

Chickens are a lot of work, but they are worth every bit of it if you like them. People spend thousands on their pets every year. Well, I just spend thousands of  hours with my chickens.

Alpha Chicken