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Archive for the ‘Chickens’ Category

There really isn’t much to winter in the garden, except the muddly slog to the coop and back to bring in the eggs. Luckily my hens are responding well to having a light in the coop and I’m getting almost 3 eggs a day, daily from my 3 hens.

I haven’t posted in forever, and the hens producing now reminds me of the horrible luck I had last year. My coop was all done and ready to be inhabited, and I’d hatched 5 chickens out of 18 (pretty low hatching rate, but it was my first go). 2 were roosters so I was down to 3 hens. Wanting to get my flock up in numbers I went to a farm in the valley where a lady was selling some lovely lavender orpingtons. I knew there was a risk buying adult birds, but her farm and animals looked good and healthy and I bought 3 birds to bring home. Almost immediately 1 of my birds got a goopy eye. The next day one of her birds died suddenly, and another of mine had a goopy eye. Then both were coughing. The next day all my birds were coughing. Sadly I learned they had a chronic, incurable and highly contagious respiratory virus. There was nothing I could do to help them, and with such a contagious and virulent disease I couldn’t visit any house with chickens and go in their yard. I worried I would spread the disease throughout my neighbourhood. In the end the only thing I could do was cull the entire flock. It was a horrible learning experience.

Since then I have cleaned out and bleached the entire coop and run, and left it without a flock for 3 months. I worked with a neighbourhood kid down the road to incubate 10 more eggs (hatching 50% this time) and now have 3 happy, healthy hens. I can’t add to my flock with adult birds, I’ve learned that lesson the hard way, so I’ll be incubating more eggs with the preschool soon. That way I can have another bird, as can my parents who lost a bird to a predator last week.

Anyway, that was 6 months ago and now the only thing on my winter plate is the odd beet here and there, as I was so sad about the chickens I didn’t plant a winter garden. I’m shaking it off and thinking now about….

Seeds. Yup, I won’t bore you with another LONG, LONG list of seeds this time. I’m working away in my mind though, and have plans to:

Start some seeds in the next couple of weeks
Set up a new, more resilient greenhouse (those stupid plastic mini-greenhouses are worse than useless!)
Move the raspberries AGAIN

I did a couple of things last summer that worked well for me. I planted some thistle-y, thorny berries in the back planters against our fence to keep the marauders out. They are thriving (surprise surprise). I also hired a friend’s teenage son to help me with the weeding and hauling and coop-cleaning. He was fantastic to have around, very useful and I felt good about teaching him the basics of being a good employee (be confident, come up with ideas, work hard but take a break for water, ha!). I highly recommend hiring a teenager, it’s a good community builder.

Anyways, I hoping to keep the good ideas and toss the bad. I may even just toss these raspberries honestly, the berries are small, the harvests are small and they aren’t ever where I want them to be…

How are your plans coming along?

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Winter Gardens

I’m trying to (finally) get the last of my winter garden in. I have rutabaga, squash, parsnips, brussel sprouts and kale in now. I need to sow some more beets, lettuce and broccoli. Any must-haves for the winter garden in the PNW? I don’t have a ton of space, but I’m ready to pull all my bolted lettuce, basil and the peas & beans that the cat trashed.

I am not going to have a ton of time this winter because I need to build my coop. I think that’s why mentally I really haven’t prepared much for the winter.

I can’t wait to start on the coop though! Just waiting for the deck and fence to be finished – probably by September 1…

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Neighbours

Last night I went out to the garden to water and fertilize my tomatoes which by the way have just started putting on fruit, at least the cherries anyways. I heard my neighbour in the alley and went to offer him some greens. We share a lot – he provided the tires for my potatoes, and he’ll get the spoils of one stack. He also let me use his water for almost a year when we had no outdoor plumbing, during the renovations. Anyways he has a shop in his garage and spends a lot of time there and in the alley. Last night he had some friends over, and when I offered the greens one of them got very excited and practically begged for a bag as well. He offered some fresh caesar salad dressing he had just made in exchange. They were cooking something on a little propane burner, and hanging out in lawn chairs. Anyway I brought them the lettuce, and he came and asked all about what I was growing. Turned out he is a chef. A very excitable chef. Right when I was about to go in they came by with a big plate of steaming BC mussels that they’d steamed in a natural bacon, garlic and local seaweed broth! So delicious… Apparently their next course was a miniature bow tie pasta in a fancy sauce of some kind.

Yes, they were making this gourmet meal in the alley, and yes, I love my neighbours!

PS on the same note, the carpenter who is building our deck (woohoo, deck!) recently did a job for my friend who is a beekeeper and now he buys her honey. He wants to know about my chickens and what I’ll be doing with the eggs HAHA. Build your community with every relationship you foster!

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Scrounging rocks!

I just got a nice big piece of linoleum from the free section of freecycle. It’s a beautiful piece – I think it’s actually marmoleum – and will be PERFECT for the floor of the chicken coop! Yay!

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Bartering

I’ve been thinking about my coop a lot lately (obviously) and I can’t wait to get started on it. I know it’s going to be a lot of work though, and I can’t really have the kids out back with me while I do it. So I was thinking of bartering with people – I’ll give them greens for an hour of their time.

Do you think this is a good idea? Have you done it before? Should I only do that with people I know or should I put an ad on Craigslist?

 

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Last month’s chicken coop planning post was pretty detailed, probably boring and very useful (at least for me). Today I want to talk about the fun stuff- things that will make the coop that much better, more interesting and suited to our life and our aesthetic. If you remember the original list and what I covered last time you’ll have the background on placement, legalities, chicken needs etc. Today, we’re discussing the non-essentials:

  1. garden add-ons
  2. family stuff
  3. sustainability
  4. looks

 

1. Garden Add Ons

I hate stealing any space from the garden, even if it is for the wonderfully productive chickens I’ve been whining about for months. With that in mind I have two ideas to maximize the coop’s potential for planting. One is to add vertical pipe planters for strawberries against the south wall to keep them up off the ground (so there, slugs!) and to catch the sun. The other is to build a green roof for the coop (helping with insulation) . I should say green salad roof though, because I plan to plant it with mesclun and other short greens. It does mean that the coop can’t be too high off the ground, or too tall. I will build in a step to be able to pick the plants, which can double as storage as well. With the south wall covered in strawberries and the west wall closer to the fence I’ll have to think a lot about access to eggs and cleaning. It will also affect how the coop and run are placed relative to each other. I think it means the coop will be as wide as the run rather than the run having space to the north of the coop. That way the north wall can have the nesting box, AND swing open to be able to clean. The pop door would then need to be on the east wall.

2. Family Stuff

Although I want these chickens for terribly selfish reasons, another reason is how great it will be for the kids, and the man. He doesn’t necessarily know that yet, but he will. I want the kids to be able to help collect the eggs. I want them to be able to get into the run to visit the chickens and help clean. I don’t want the man to *have* to do anything that I can’t do. These are all things that affect how the coop will be designed. The nesting box(es) will have to be low enough for the kids to be able to access them. The run is going to need to be tall enough for the kids and me to get in. Nothing should be too heavy for me to manage on my own. I will admit my once formidable biceps have atrophied since having kids. I really can’t explain it considering that I seem to carry more now that they’re in my life. It seems cruel. ¬†Anyway, the trick will be to use quality hinges and smart construction to keep things smooth and light(ish). Mostly that applies to storage lids and access doors.

The other piece to “family stuff” is making sure that the space required by the chickens doesn’t infringe too much on play and relaxing space. Right now we have neither, because of the multitude of concrete spills and the piles of lumber from the reno. I need to break the concrete all up, use or move the wood, lay down top soil and plant a small lawn for some nice barefoot space. None of us are lawn freaks, but I do think there needs to be a soft, nail-free spot for little feet. I also need to make sure that no chicken mess travels that way, so the human door to the run will not be off the north fence but the east, on the path. That way anything dragged out will end up on the path not the lawn.

3. Sustainability

This is an essential to me, but not the chickens, so it waited until today. I’m building this coop almost entirely from salvaged wood and leftovers from our renovations. I just heard there may be some hardware cloth down the alley so I’m waiting for the car to go investigate. That stuff is expensive! Also I try to keep my purchases of anything mined to a minimum. Anyway, the coop will stand on legs made from the beams we had to take out of our old basement. The floor joists can be made with “scraps” from our framing, as can the wall studs and ceiling joists. We have some insulation left over to keep the coop warm/cool as appropriate. The green roof is obviously sustainable. I’m going to use our mangled gutters and downspouts since I can cut them to shorter lengths where the metal is fine. I’ll run them to a rain barrel to water the green roof and strawberry towers. ¬†We probably won’t even get much in the gutters given the green roof, but every drop counts! Also, I’ll be using old windows for light, and the hardie plank left over from our renos to side the coop. I have the PVC pipe scraps I need to make the feeders and waterer. I think all I’ll be buying will be hinges and hardware cloth. We have all the nails, bolts etc. we need still too.

I still have a pile of lumber in the alley waiting for others to use it – enough for a small coop too!

4. Looks

Being in the city it matters a *little* bit how the coop looks. Whatever we can do to keep the neighbours happy helps. That’s why I’m trying to match the coop a little to our house. The siding will be the same, and the colours the same too. I want to use antique windows and proper trim. Although it’s more modern I think the green roof will help too. I’m mostly concerned about how to make the run look OK. Hardware cloth rusts, and if we don’t use good materials the framing for the run will sag. I think I have enough good stuff to keep it looking good but if we’re going to buy anything for this project I think this is where it will go. I wish there were no coyotes, eagles, raccoons, dogs and large cats to worry about but there are, and there’s no way around a fully enclosed run.

So, any thoughts, ideas or suggestions about the coop when it comes to the garden, sustainability, the family and looks?

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my nagging is working… I *almost* got chickens today, too bad the realities of our schedule this week don’t allow for it! I could only get the cheap coop if he could deliver it tomorrow, but to get them tomorrow, and get the coop up on its legs, and the run fully enclosed and safe before we leave at 5:30am the next day is too insane. That and the whole begging for help chicken-sitting the day you got them thing.

This bodes well though, for future chickens! Near-future chickens! YAY!

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