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Archive for March, 2009

Everywhere I read about coop design says, “make sure you have plenty of ventilation, but not drafts.” After reading this about 100 times, I had to think … what does this even mean?!? How much is plenty? When does a hole turn from ventilation into a draft?

The lovely people at Back Yard Chickens have pointed me to an awesome explanation. If you are building your own coop, this should be required reading!

Basically….
1) You need tons of ventilation as the coop gets very moist inside from respiration and chicken poo.
2) Moist and humid conditions create bad respiratory conditions.
3) You need tons of screened in (with hardware cloth) ventilation. Much more than you think. Some of it can be permanent, and high above the chickens heads. Some should be able to be opened and closed according to the seasons, and able to be in direct line of the chickens … in case it’s really hot and they want a breeze.

There is so much more in the article, so please take a look if you’ve been wondering the same thing.

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If you wait until the chickens are 7 weeks old to build a chicken coop, this means you have to build it … even if it is cold, and drizzling.

Building a chicken coop in the cold, west coast rain

Having a friend with power tools and spatial thinking abilities is definitely essential. Added bonus … if they don’t mind getting wet and cold!

Smart friends are great!

(Please don’t mind the giant junk pile in my yard.) It’s going away this week as soon as I have some free time.

I will post all construction shots once we’re done!

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Lawn mower advice

We have no lawn mower, and it’s starting to look like a jungle out there. Well, a selective jungle … as we have about 15 different types of green stuff growing out there, all at different heights, posing as a lawn. Moss has invaded at least half it, and frankly, I’d much rather have a moss lawn!

Anyway, that is not the state of things. So lawn mowers. I saw an ad for a Push Reel Mower for 149.99.

At first I thought this sounded like a good idea. I hate operating things with motors (including the car, power tools, etc) so this sounded like my way to mow the grass. It really doesn’t seem that heavy, and our giant .15 acre city lawn is actually apparently microscopic and the right size for one of these things. Unfortunately, if you don’t mow every week … it’s a apparently a nightmare.

I am not really a lawn person. Now, I will never neglect the chickens, or forget to water the tomatoes, but cut the lawn? Isn’t that supposed to be a once a month activity?

What do you think? Spend another $100 on a entry level gas or electric mower? Or be eco-friendly, cheap, and indulge my motor-phobic ways?

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Chicken Coop Plans

This weekend is chicken coop building time (um, procrastinate much? they are 7 weeks old!), and although I have most of my ideas ironed out, I am still looking for a few ideas to finalize my plans.

This woman is amazing. I envy her mad chicken coop building skills. She builds them for fun from scraps, with no plans … just for fun.

This is the site that finally made me think it was OK to get chickens … something as simple as a plastic doghouse as a coop could work.

I will follow-up soon with my trials and tribulations this weekend.

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Chicken Feed Confusion

So at week six, my chicken feed bag said I should stop feeding them this stuff what I had and switch to something else. Switch to what else? What even are my options? After some minimal research, I found out that there are 3 basic categories of chicken feed for future egg layers:

Starter
Grower
Layer

How they really differ is in protein content, and when to transition to the next stage. When you see a percentage next to the name of a chicken feed, like 20%, that generally refers to the amount of protein … the most important ingredient to worry about in chicken feed.

  • Starter is generally from day 1 to 6-10 weeks of age. The protein seems to be anywhere from 24% to 20%.
  • Grower is for the teenage chicken phase. They aren’t little chicks anymore, but they aren’t laying eggs. They are lower in protein, normally around 15-16%.
  • Layer feed has a similar amount of protein as grower feed, but added calcium to keep the chickens healthy and the eggs strong. This begins after they lay their first egg, or around 20 weeks.

Now what you’ll do beyond this general information is completely dependent on what you, your feed manufacturer, or farmer Joe down the road believes. Everyone has a different theory.

I’ve read that it’s fine to keep feeding leftover starter to older non-laying chickens, you may just want to mix in a little extra oats to lower the protein amount. I’ve also read that (from a feed manufacture) the #1 contributor to problems in small chicken flocks is not feeding the right food at the right time.

It’s easy to keep chickens alive, and you can find tons of advice online about how to do that. It’s much harder to raise chickens who are optimally producing, and I think that’s a trade secret that most people hold much closer to themselves.

Another thing to consider that is very confusing for the beginning chicken farmer is grit, and I will write about that soon!

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It is very fitting that I get their week 5 shots up on their 6 week birthday, with the week that I’ve had. The chickens are getting so much harder to photograph … they are so fast! We had to resort to all sorts of gimmicks like plastic chicken and trying to scare them into submission with Evil Cat. As you can see, this did not slow them down.

Chicken meets evil cat

Zeus is officially a really weird looking bird.

Week 5: Zeus

And Rose, I almost put her back … she was so docile and had fluff missing where her bum had been wiped off. But she’s (hopefully NOT he’s) the smartest, slightly bigger, and definitely in charge hen of my tiny flock.

Week 5: Rose

And crazy Tuesday. A picture of her without evil cat or plastic chicken in the shot.

Week 5: Tuesday

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Diapers for Chickens

Maybe this is not news to chicken lovers, but I read a little blog post somewhere (why or why can I not remember where!) about chickens in diapers, called house-hens. I have to admit, the thought has crossed my mind … “Wouldn’t it be so much easier if they could just run around like the cats and dogs…” Then I remembered I have cats and dogs (who look forward to a future that includes chicken nuggets) — and that was the end of that thought.

diaperonchicken

But here, in case you wanted some for you own little fluff butts, is the link to purchase your own custom-made chicken diaper.

Or of course, you could always make your own.

If I am reincarnated as an agricultural animal, I hope it is as a house-hen.

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