Day Four

Today started pretty early, though not on the farm.

Thursday mornings I head down to the high school for 730 to set up the breakfast club (run by the parent association), which provides bagels, juice, hot chocolate and tea, for a nominal cost (25 cents per item) – no student is turned away hungry.  It’s not so much about feeding those who don’t have adequate food at home, though there are probably a few kids in that category, it’s more about feeding anyone who skipped breakfast for any reason – many of them have to be at their bus stop by 7am, for example.  It’s a nice volunteer job, as I enjoy getting  to know some of the kids.  When the bell goes at 830, I start cleaning up, and usually get home by 915 or so, which is what happened today.

After my own breakfast and coffee – desperately needed,  I might add, I got my tools out and got going.

I got the big gate finished (wire stapled on), and I got the little gate installed and working, so that I can now control access to runs #3 and #4.  That felt good because those two gates are probably the only things from the grand plan we drew up last winter for a complete makeover on the hen house set up.  I celebrated with a second cup of coffee and got the laundry out on the line, because at that point it was a lovely breezy, sunny day.

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Gate allowing access to run #2; it swings to this side of the pop hole and secures, to allow access to run #4

I then got going on cleaning out the lobby – there was a lot of wasted layer pellet all over, I think the wild birds who find ways of getting in spread it around.  Unfortunately, the dropped feed was going mouldy, so I made sure to clean it all out.  That all pretty much filled the little trailer, so after a very short lunch break, because I could see the sky starting to loom darker, I took the trailer down and spread the load on the field.

Next thing was to spread some straw in the lobby to give the pullets something to scratch in.  I originally devised the lobby from a description of Lady Balfour’s method of chicken housing , as written of by John Seymour, but if you don’t stay on top of cleaning it out, the system is a total fail – and I totally failed about 5 years ago, and just didn’t bother.  So the straw is my way of beginning again.  It had the Henny scratch of approval.

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Henny, absolutely thrilled with the lobby makeover

Rain was imminent, so the laundry came in, and so did I, for a cup of tea.

The rain began just as I was returning from the field after delivering a bunch of transport crates to the field ready for tonight.  And boy did it pour.

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See that sky?

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Same sky, 5 minutes later, and about 30 seconds before the deluge began.

Our younger daughter (16) and I got started on loading the crates around 830pm.  Catching layer birds is not like catching the phlegmatic and heavy broilers. On the one hand, that’s good – they’re not nearly as heavy.  On the other hand, they’re much harder to catch, even in the dark.  We had escapees (daughter had one escapee and went to chase it, leaving the lid of the crate open…) we had wily hiders, we had aggressive tooth and nail types, in short – all kinds.  Hubby arrived home about halfway through proceedings and added some useful muscle to the proceedings, and by 930, we had all 73 birds in the hen house, much to the bemusement of Henny Penny, who never left her roost, but kept craning her neck down to check out the intruders.

So that’s how Day Four ended – my last day of moving field shelters this year!  Three thousand cheers!

One more day…

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22 thoughts on “Day Four

  1. What is it about coffee that makes everything better? Do you like chocolate? Have it with coffee. Cinnamon rolls? Try it with coffee. Cleaning out the chicken house? Coffee makes that better too.

  2. What I am dealing with, concerning the Balfour method, is providing a sufficient quantity of fresh material. I am re-reading The Farming Ladder and he makes a quick comment that a small amount of litter added daily is far superior to a large amount added weekly. Same as practicing a new skill…practice a little each day and you will progress more quickly.

    But he also talks about the large quantities of bedding they use to absorb all nutrients for later field application including peat moss in his chicken houses that is used again in the next step to absorb liquid manure from the hog building. So I think I need to step up my nutrient capturing efforts in two ways: regular application of fresh material and increased overall quantity. But I think I’ll skip the peat.

    I do find, though, that the quantity of new material required to keep the pile fresh decreases as the pile grows and begins to digest the nutrients within.

    • Yeah, I saw what you were saying about the straw quantities, and your math for the pigs. That’s a lot of carbon. Yes, getting enough material in there for the chickens to turn over is the weak point, and I think it’s where I failed last time, though I didn’t realize at the time that that was my problem. I’ve learned a lot since then, so at least I have awareness on my side this time. I can only try. The other issue is the rats, which can be a problem if the chickens don’t get everything. But that’s a problem with the compost pile too. Peat is basically non-renewable – it’s organic, but takes so long to become peat that it’s not really a sustainable product.

  3. Aah, that has to feel good – not having to move those shelters. Job well done. And nothing like a little chicken chasing before bed.
    I use the deep litter method in my coop and I only clean it once a year. It has never smelled and it is never wet. We put about 6″ of gravel and a couple of inches of sand as the “foundation” when we built it. I sprinkle fresh straw every few days or so. We also use a bucket with chicken nipples for watering – that helps a lot with keeping the moisture out.
    When I clean it, I just scoop off a few layers and add it to the garden beds or toss in with my compost pile as I don’t have fields here at home for spreading.

    • I use the deep litter method in the actual hen house as well. The clean out I did before I started tackling the floor was the first in a year. Do you ever had trouble with rats coming up through your foundation layer of sand/gravel?

      I was using automatic filling bowls that hang from the ceiling, but one of the pipes split last winter, and frankly, the valves on the bowls are so unpredictable that I’d rather carry them 5 gallons of water/day than deal with the mess that arises when valve sticks and then floods all night.

      The nipples are available here, and I keep looking at them, but in the meantime have two of the 5 gallon jug waterers out there, and it’s easy to just top those up twice a day.

      • We also stretched a double layer of chicken wire over the framing so no rats can dig in. The walls are covered in 1/2″ hardware cloth which was folded under the edges too. All easier to accomplish at the time of construction obviously.
        Rat proof so far!
        I just like the nipples as they are less messy. We also use heat tape with a temperature sensor in the winter. It’s wrapped around the hose and pipe that’s hooked up to the bucket. The heat tape comes on when the temps start to drop near freezing.

      • Heat tape – saw it last winter, but didn’t invest, and lived to regret it.

        Yet another example of how you and M think things through in advance….We didn’t put wire on the floor when we built this shed, and should have. We didn’t put wire on the walls either, and should have. About 5 years ago, we did put wire halfway up the walls on the outside of the hen house, and obviously, I’ve now done the floor. Learned my lesson, but oh my, all those proverbs ring in my head at moments like this: an ounce of prevention…a stitch in time…

      • Well, I am also guilty of over-thinking… This is why I love farm blogs! I learn so much from small farms like yours and Throwback at Trapper Creek, and many others.

  4. Oh, and I forgot to say what a great thing to do – the breakfast club. I can’t eat first thing in the morning myself, so can’t even comprehend eating before catching a 7 am bus!

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