Category Archives: Chickens/Coops/Runs

Fanatically Clearing Out the Old in Order to Make Way for the New!


This weekend has been a plethora of activity. Rather that the typical building progress with my greenhouse build, this deals with demolition (in a sense). The yard has had a number of old dead bushes lining the back wall for more  than a year. I finally made the time to get cracking on that particular item for getting the backyard back into shape.

The first item was to get the branches knocked down or cut off and following that getting the root balls removed. All in all there are 13 of these pesky bushes that I’m contending with. Thankfully I was able to get the branches taken care of and will follow up on digging out the root balls next week. I also took it upon myself to prune the tree a bit as it was getting on my nerves.

Needless to say this section of the yard now looks 1000% better than before. Cleaned up, raked, it really opened up the area. The plan of course is to get this area ready for future updates. We have a number of ideas in mind… rain water harvesting, solar water heater, compost pile, black soldier fly incubator, and possibly an anaerobic digester. The other plans include the typical backyard upgrades. We’ve got ideas for a deck, an outdoor fireplace, dedicated BBQ area, jucuzzi, arbor, assorted potted plants, some xeriscaping ideas, etc. etc.

Updates will be posted per project as we’re able to work on knocking out each in succession. We’re planning on speaking with a landscape designer next weekend and will have to determine how best to proceed with updating the existing irrigation system, but it should make for a urban farm/yard when completed.

No, we are not made of money.. most of these items will be taken on piecemeal when funds permit and as much of the cost will be offset by doing the labor ourselves. But its exciting to know that following next weekend, we can get cracking on our ideas!

I’ll keep you updated! 🙂

Advertisements

Fanatic Growth! – Aquaponics Can Do No Wrong!


With all of life’s ups and downs, it sure is nice to have something to come home to where everything is just working right 😉

The AP Greenhouse has been a big goal of mine and now to see the fruits of my labor (pun intended) starting to come into their own, its just a big warm and fuzzy right where one needs it 🙂

I’ve done soil based planting since I was a kid with my Grandparents out in their big garden in their backyard. But the sheer SPEED at which the plants we’ve put into the new AP system grow is just incredible!

We decided to give everything a try.. we’ve got Swish Chard, Kale, Basil, Corn, Fennel, Peppers, Eggplant, Tomatoes, Leeks, Garlic, Lettuce, Pumpkins, Beets, and Chives. That’s not to say that some things didn’t quite take.. we did try Yellow Squash and Strawberries, but they did not make it. After a bit of research we believe its because the waters Ph is still too high for these varieties and so the nutrients aren’t being absorbed through their roots.

The other fascinating aspect is Fish.tv. Watching our Talapia grow has been grossly entertaining. Its been about 5 weeks and they are now four times their original size. We started out with 50, and I’m ecstatic to say we have yet to lose one fish!

The system itself has had very little need of intervention. The siphons have  been doing their work splendidly without adjustment. We have had to top of the tank on occasion. We now average about 1 to 2 – 55 gallon barrels a month (through evaporation).

On occasion, bugs have crept up, but it has taken little work to keep them at bay. Usually I will clip off the infected leaves and either toss them in with the fish, or give the chickens a treat every now and then.

Overall, it has been a very productive month. The wife has been regularly clipping off a few of the herbs to assist with various dinner preparations. All our chickens are now laying eggs now that the heat has dissipated. We now routinely get about 3-5 eggs a day!

I’d say by next month we’ll be able to start collecting on the eggplants and tomatoes!

Good times! Good times! 🙂

A Weeks Worth of Eggs
(Minus 6.. we were hungry this morning)

Fanatic Chicken Update – Week 12 – Let the Feathers Fly!


Been a bit of a dry spell on updates with regards to our brood of chickens, so though it best to give a great big shout out to my peeps! (yes I said it)

Well, initial thoughts are these… they are all just fascinating to watch! I’d say the only one that has actually gotten prettier since being a chick is the Americauna (Easter Egger). She has got the most colorful plumage of the lot, plus the decorative feathers around her jowls really add interest versus distracting from her. She’s also the most friendly of the bunch, being a more placid bird.

The Cuckoo Morans (the black ones) are by far the biggest as well as highest on the pecking order. They are not fans of being held, but will relax the longer you hold them. They are also the most curious of the bunch and will always be the first to inspect something new that comes into their territory.

Lastly the Rhode Island Reds, have a great color, are a bit milder than the Cuckoo’s, but tend to be the last to the party.

All the birds recognize us on sight and look forward to us refreshing their wading pool (helps to keep them cool in the triple digit heat). All of them now recognize that we will provide them scraps as treats on a regular basis. Watermelon is their favorite 😉 and boy can these gals poop! Surprisingly though the straw does a wonderful job of neutralizing any odors. Right now I clean out the straw every 2-3 weeks as needed.

They have also been remarkably quiet. My initial worry about having chickens in an urban setting was the potential for disturbing our neighbors. But for the most part the ladies have had impeccable behavior! The local dogs and wild birds make more of a clatter than these girls ever do. So my concerns have been placated.

We’ve got another 8 weeks before we start seeing our first eggs, but that’s fine. Its just as enjoyable taking care of the birds and watching them learn about their world around them. Eventually the plan will be to allow them free range of the entire yard during the day (after we’ve secured a few areas in the yard and clip their wings), but for now they seem happy and healthy!

Got Perch? Chickens Need a Place to Lay Their Weary Feathers.


One of the last add-ons to the chicken coop was the addition of a couple of perches for them to roost on. I had put this off for a while only because they were too small to make use of them just yet. That has changed as they seem to have grown by a factor of three! So roosts were needed and relatively soon. These were simple enough to install as I had pulled them from a couple of our closets (replaced with better closet storage). They worked perfectly. The chickens are fat and healthy, and after a good days scratching around the run, they now have a place in the coop to truly rest.

As for the ladies… they are doing very well. Growth has as mentioned, been astounding. We keep them on chick starter for the last 6 weeks and will continue to do so till they reach full maturity in another 17 weeks. At which time we’ll switch to a feed that provides additional nutrients like calcium for healthy egg production.

The only bad issue to report as of late has been a local bird species that has a taste for chick feed and has diligently made attempts to dig  under the surrounding run. One was successful 😦 So with that I am in preventive maintenance mode. I now have 2/3rds of the surrounding run with additional mesh that runs below the rock line and plan on finishing the rest of the run in the next week. Do not underestimate small birds and their tenacity to want to get at food. These little buggers actually moved 1/2″ rip rap rock and dug a tunnel under the run to get at the feed. AMAZING. So when building your own enclosed run, I’d recommend running steel mesh on the bottom of your runs as well to prevent such occurances with your own chickens.

Fanatic Chicken Coop Update!


One of the first posts I put to this blog was our building of a chicken coop/run in our backyard. For the most part this was 90% complete, but needed just a touch more. The other items include a chicken coop door, adding some 1 inch decorative rock around the base of the run, both for aesthetics and also to discourage predators. The last was to get some perches installed for the hens.

For us, its more than just a building for chickens, it’s also a serious part of our backyard landscape.. so we treated it not only as a home for our chickens but also as a decorative element to accentuate our yard proper.

The chickens get something akin to a Taj Mahal and we get some bragging rights in our neighborhood. So far this has been about 5 full days work on my part split over 4 weekends. It seemed like a pretty heady task at first.. but taking it step by step and breaking it down into smaller tasks really made this more manageable.

So this weekend we got the chicken coop door installed.. whooopteedoooo, you may say.. but in this case what we added was an automated chicken coop door so we would not need to wake at the crack of dawn every morning to let our little monsters out! Its a pretty slick piece of kit that I purchased from www.AutomaticChickenCoopDoor.com. Followed their online installation video. It took me a few hours only because I made the last minute decision to add 2×4 supports to either side of the door (not required, but really makes it sturdy).

Altogether though this was a nice addition. It works off a timer that goes off twice a day, about an hour after sunrise and about a 1/2 hour after dusk. Right now I’ve got an extension cord that goes out to the breeder lamp and so I just added an additional outlet splitter and added in the door as well. Eventually though the plan will be to make this run completely via battery/solar. Thankfully the kit also includes directions on how to do just that.

The other item of note is that I decided to add a 1 inch rock around the periphery of the coop/run to add an aesthetic element, but also one that should help discourage potential digging predators. I’m still needing to finish that up with some landscape trim, but ran out of time due to the fact that the previous day we added about 10 tons of the same 1 inch rock to our Aquaponics Greenhouse build (more on that in an upcoming post). 😉 Simply put, I’m a bit beat 😦

All in all, a very productive weekend that got our 2 week chicks out of their little Rubbermade container and into the coop proper. As mentioned, final details like roosts and a ramp are yet to come, but the chicks are still young so I’ve got a few more weekends to get those knocked out.

Growing Protein Sources..


When I used to think of gardens, it was in the traditional sense.. fruits and veggies. More and more though I’m coming to a conclusion that I need to also focus on the other half of growing food… proteins.

I’ve never been a fan of humanely killing animals for general consumption. This came after visiting a slaughter house in Greeley, Colorado when I was attending college. When you see it at that scale and the sheer mechanics of it all, it will definitely change your view of how you get the chow on your table. Like most, its much easier to just buy a package of pre-processed meat to serve because of the disconnect one has with ones food nowadays. But now that I’m making a more dramatic leap into cultivating my own foods, it becomes much more apparent that I need to add proteins into the mix and attempt to do so as humanely as possible.

Eggs are our first jump. As no fertilization takes place, our eggs are in essence a simple source of protein that can be repetitively cultivated and not have any negative side effects towards the animals themselves. Our chickens are not for meat consumption, purely for egg laying. The next steps will be to harvest things like fish (on ice), Crayfish, Quinoa, Spirulina, Soy, milk products such as cheese and whey. Other protein bearing foods like nuts and beans can be cultivated as well.

I won’t say I’ll be totally cured of the need for beef. I readily admit that on occasion I’ll head out for a steak every now and again. But hopefully no where near as much as I once used to.

Truth be told, it’ll get much easier as time goes on. We’ve all seen the grocery bills climb in recent years and that trend, like gas prices, is not likely to go back down to more reasonable prices ever again.

Rhode Island Reds, Cuckoo Morans & Ameraucana – Chicken Status!


Our Brood - 1 Week

Our Brood - 1 Week

Well, we haven’t killed them yet! 🙂

As mentioned earlier, this is our first foray with raising chickens and we were a bit worried.. recently we had a pretty good cold snap kick through here, so I was concerned about maintaining the temperature where it needed to be. But the chicken coop held up well (no leaks) and our breeder light kept the temps well into the 90’s even with potential drafts (wind gusts were hitting 40-50mph). They all came through with flying colors!

We also finally nailed down names for each of our brood. Names? Wow! You guys seriously are city slickers! 😉

Of the Rhode Island Reds, there is now Blondie (the lighter of the two) and Paprika. Our Ameraucana chick has been named Bluebell. Finally the two Cuckoo Morans, one has an very prominent white spot on its head, so I named her Eightball and the last was a toughee.. since we had such difficulty coming up with one, ‘She Who Could Not Be Named’ is now called Voldemort :))

Blondie

Blondie

I’d say a job well done so far! They are now just over a week old. The wing feathers are coming in nicely! Appetites are strong and they like to engage with us now (especially if we’re providing Mealworms for a tasty treat).

The next steps will be to ween off the breeder light and reduce the temp about 5 degrees each week. I’m also going to need to add a cover on the breeder bin eventually, to negate accidental ‘jumpers’ from leaving the area too soon.

Some observations thus far.. of all the birds, Bluebell is by far the most docile and accepting of being handled. She also has a serious chicken sweet-tooth for meal worms and likes to do a happy dance as soon as she’s got her beak on one.

Paprika

Paprika

Next up, Blondie and Paprika are more lovers than fighters, though they take a bit more time to warm up to being held. Already you can see that their gobblers are starting to form on their heads. Lastly there is Eightball and Voldemort.. who would prefer not to be picked up and are typically vocal about it, they are also the biggest of all the chicks. These little guys need more one on one time 😉

All chicks are starting to form feathers on their wings as well as testing the use of said wings. Each one DEFINITELY has a unique personality! I’ve never had a bird for a pet and found it kinda strange those people who do, but now I’m starting to understand it more and more.

Eightball

Eightball

The only other item of  I’d like to mention has been that they do need stimulation. Chickens I’ve found like to have items to keep them occupied. We’re planning on adding in a straw tower in one corner for them to peck at and later I’m thinking of installing a sandbox in the run for them to scratch around in once they’ve existed from the breeder box.

In the next week or two I plan on adding an automatic door to the coop and some perches for them to roost on once they’re older. I’ll post those updates as soon as I have them.

Bluebell

Bluebell

Voldemort

Voldemort

Urban Farm Fanatic Item #1 – We need a Chicken Coop!


Chicken Coop/Run

Here's the completed coop in all her glory.
Simple 2x4 & OSB panel construction.

This was our first foray into raising chickens. We’re bound and determined to make our urban farm work.

We were worried originally about the legal issues with raising the chickens. Our yard is slightly under the minimum square foot requirement, but the workaround is getting permission from your neighbors (which we got) and keeping the coop/run at least 80 linear feet from the nearest neighbor.. check! Figured the chatty Chihuahua’s in the neighborhood make more of a ruckus then the chickens will, specially since there’s not going to be a rooster. Local regulations differ, so check your area about local code regulations regarding raising fowl.

We decided to go to a local seminar on raising chickens and that really helped open our eyes! The eggs you see in stores are surprisingly so far removed from the farm to your dinner plate, its pretty incredible. I highly recommend finding such a seminar or possibly visiting a local farm (organic/free range) to better understand the dynamics of it all. The numerous breeds, the variations of eggs, etc. will leave you flabbergasted.

When planning on the coop, there were plenty of pre-built offerings available at the local feed stores. I made the decision to design our own by scouting ideas online via visual reference and taking cues from designs I liked. I then sketched up an idea and proceeded to build the coop/run. The color scheme comes from the wife, who has a good eye for color!

You can view the progression of the build in the following video we put together..

Ultimately we came down to getting ourselves 5 chickens in all (originally planned on 3). We got two Rhode Island Reds, two Cuckoo Morans, and 1 Ameraucana chick. Giving us brown, chocolate and blue/green eggs respectively. It was a fun learning experience!

You can see the new brood here..

We plan on growing some vines over the run to help shade and protect the chickens from flying predators as well as lay some stone around the periphery to discourage burrowing animals.