Extreme Makeover, Farm edition, part 1

Remember we got 58 layer chicks about 5 weeks ago?  They outgrew their wading pool not long after they arrived, though we bought ourselves a little time by surrounding it with wire.  Once they started hopping out of that, it was time for something bigger.  The original plan before they arrived had us processing the old flock about a week ago, doing the renovation that we’ve planned on the hen house (should take about three days – that means a week), and then putting the young pullets in there.

We decided early in July that the layers were still giving far too many eggs to do them in just yet, so we created Plan B:  we’ll keep them till mid September, process them then, which should be about the time some of them begin moulting anyway, and then we’ll still have good weather for fixing the house, and a much shorter eggless period before the new pullets start laying (I estimate that should be about the end of October).

The only problem with Plan B is that the little pullets (aka little monsters, as we call them everytime we put all the escapees back in their run), have outgrown the temporary quarters we created for them – despite efforts with wire, boards, signs, curtains (we were desperate), they have a thirst for adventure and an aptitude for flying surprisingly high.  The broilers are using the pasture pen, so it’s not an option.  We considered for a brief moment resurrecting a truly elephantine structure that we called a field pen, which we put together years ago and takes about a dozen people to move more than 2 feet…by some miracle we got it into the middle of the hay barn to store it, and then surrounded it with bikes, kayaks, hay, swimming pool paraphernalia, etc.  We looked at what we call the “little house”, rejected it quickly and after having a go at the elephant in the barn, came back to it.

The little house is about half the size of our regular hen house.  I would not normally keep more than about 25 hens in it, but the pullets are still really small (I can hold one in one hand easily).  It was built by my Dad when I was about 11 for “my” small flock of Rhode Islands (about 10 of them I think) that were meant to be my moneymaking enterprise.  It’s on skids, and technically portable, but it’s quite heavy and being about 40 years old, also a bit fragile for trips across a field, so it came to rest when we arrive here 14 years ago in a corner behind the barn.  We put up three fenced runs around it, and in our first few years of having layer flocks, this is where they lived.  We eventually built a bigger house, when we increase our flock size up to 50.   We’ve used it sporadically since, but not for about 2 years.

The little pullets need to be moved ASAP, no question about it.  So here’s plan C: We will clean out, repair and prepare the little house for the pullets this week, and have them in it before Monday.  They will also need access to outdoors, so the little shelter off the back side will have to be cleared of blackberries as well.  Within the next week we will need to clear a run for them as well, and repair any holes in the fence.  We started on Wednesday.  We have till bedtime Sunday night.  Two of the three of us are working at our “other” jobs for two of the available days.  Can we do it?  Stay tuned!

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7 thoughts on “Extreme Makeover, Farm edition, part 1

  1. Mary Ann says:

    Just found your blog through Goat Song’s… love it…. and why do I keep hearing my husband saying “Infrastructure FIRST” when I read you latest post???? (laugh)

    • Well, I guess technically I do have the infrastructure first – sort of :). Just not useable…however, progress has been made!

    • As to the brooding chaos, we absolutely should have been more prepared; we were prepared for 1 set of chicks (the broilers), but the layers were a last minute add on to the order, and I should have been firmer about waiting on them for a week till we’d sorted something out. It’s called joint decision making, as in I didn’t decide, and he did 🙂

  2. You’ll get it done. Didn’t you say the other day that you tend to procrastinate and you are indecisive? Well? Look at the birds as therapy. Then have yourself a glass of something cold and soothing at night to help you through it.

  3. Leilani says:

    I feel your pain. I am really bad about not saying no when offered great deals on animals and am constantly scrambling to build to accommodate new critters. This is getting better as we get more infastructure built. The next project is how to handle more laying hens. The mobile coop our girls are in is at capacity and we have a bunch of pullets in the grow out pens with the young roosters. All the boys will be processed but i plan to keep the pullets for a second laying flock. I can’t make up my mind what to put them in. I love mobile completely enclosed tractors. They are the best of both world, the chickens are on fresh ground and scavenging every day and they are safe from predation. My first layer flock is only 10 hens so they work well in a tractor. This next flock will be larger so I need to really brainstorm the best way to accommodate them…. SOON.

    • We obviously keep our laying flock in a stationary house – it’s not an ideal way to do it, since it’s less hygienic, doesn’t nurture the soil, and wastes the scratching and sanitizing skills of the chickens. We started out this way, and have the infrastructue for it, even if buried in brambles :), which is why we’re still using it. We’re just thinking through (don’t say it HFS!) how we can change over to an eggmobile model on our relatively small patch – probably with a portable hen house surrounded by electric net. Our part of Canada doesn’t get particlularly cold, but it does get quite wet for about 4 months, so we would still need somewhere to put them for that period. If you’re just getting set up still, I would totally recommend some sort of portable set up to take advantage of all the work the hens can do for you. Many people winter them in a garden hoophouse, you’ve probably seen that on the Polyface website. Despite my quandary right now, I don’t actually think a lot of permanent infrastructure is necessarily a good thing. Portable, cheap is the way to go – you’re less invested in it, it allows you to change things, and it’s just smart.

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