Tag Archives: Chicken Run

I’ve got a headache

Headaches, do they really need to rule your day? or are they more just a symptom of apathy or depression? Today mine is all about the weather drying out and my sinuses protesting the change. Looking back though I realize that just maybe “i’ve got a headache” has been my internal excuse for just veging out rather than getting to those projects that need to get done.

Just about my biggest “headache this past year has been attacks on my flock. If my recollection is correct my flock has been hit by no less than 3 dog attacks, 1 coyote attack, and one disease infection. This repeated building up and then having my flock decimated has taken it’s toll, while still maintaining that my chickens and ducks are livestock it is very disheartening to see their lives wasted.

To that end I have been working to build housing that is more secure for them at night and also more aesthetically pleasing (gotta keep Tuey happy now that we’re up on the hill).

coop

Sample Design

Tuey saw this coop in Fernley last year when picking up some Crested Cream Legbars and liked it so much she took a picture and sent it to me. Since last summer I haver been supposed to build a prototype, but that damn headache kept interfering.

Escape Hatch?

Escape Hatch? 

Last weekend I finally got started by building the floor and run.

The Floor

The Floor

Overgrown Nails?

Overgrown Nails?

The above pic shows what happens when you forget to flip off the repeater switch on your nail gun after sheathing your shed roof.

Today I started on the framing for the hen house.coop8 coop9 coop

Tomorrow I hope to get the sheathing on (I am not gonna turn that damn double tap back on!!) Then my Sweety, Karen, can start painting. Having a project going sure does push those pesky headaches into the background.

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Progress, Obsession, or Therapy?

Thanks in large part to the moderation of the weather I have been getting more hours in at The Fruity Chicken on the weekends. I like to think I am making steady progress on my goal of making my 1/4th of 1/2 of an acre as productive and interconnected a Chicken Ranch/Orchard/Garden as possible. To that end I have been making major changes to my Chicken Run.

Chicken Yard

A panoramic view of the Chicken Yard at The Fruity Chicken

Their are no big changes in philosophy in the management of the chicken run this year, just minor refinements.

Chicken Yard

The Juvenile Pen

Brian and I moved the Juvenile Pen from it’s former place against the block wall out to the wire fence that separates the Orchard Area from the Chicken Run. This change moves what had become a bit of a stinky area further away from the neighbors and also gives access to the pen without opening the gate to the Chicken Run.

Forage Area

The Forage Area

On the opposite (West) end from the Juvenile Pen a third of the Chicken Run has been fenced off to create a forage/pasture area. This area has been tilled and seeded with Scratch, Pigeon Feed, Buckwheat, and Dry-land Pasture mix. The Scratch has milo. sorghum, and corn seed; the Pigeon Feed has various field peas, oats, wheat, millet, and safflower; the buckwheat is pretty much buckwheat; and I have no idea what is in the Dry-land pasture mix but it sounded good.

Run

The open area where the Juvenile Pen used to be

Originally I had planned on running a wire fence from the corner of the Juvenile Pen to the block wall separating the run into 3 roughly equal sections. The central area, containing the coop, would be occupied all of the time while the flock would have access to one of the side areas at a time on a rotational basis. That plan is still under review. Currently I am leaning towards leaving the infrastructure as is and only giving the chickens access to the pasture area for short (1 or 2 hours) a couple times a week while leaving the West end behind the Juvenile Pen open. In that area I would like build and place some breeding pens like Barbara’s over at The Crowing Hen. For some reason certain members of my family, co-workers, and friends think that this is turning into a bit of an obsession.

 

 

Over in the Orchard Area things are focused on cleaning up so that I can rework the planting sites for the trees I lost this year.

Clean Up

Pumpkins left over after removing the vines

The Comfrey  I planted this year are doing well.

Bocking 14

One of my Bocking #4 Comfrey Plants

Comfrey

Comfrey Plant I got from the Korean Nursery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The plant above on the left is one of the one year old plants I got from Coe’s Comfrey which is a Bocking #4 variety while he one on the right was purchased at a Korean Nursery in Pomona CA. It is pretty obvious they are different varieties, the Bocking #4 grows much faster and has larger leaves.

The Mulberry trees are doing great as well.

Mulberry

Mulberry Tree just outside of the Chicken Run

Mulberry

The Mulberry to the West of the Orchard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Both of these trees came from the same Korean Nursery as the unknown variety of Comfrey shown above. They are growing fantastically, there are two others Mulberry Trees from another source in the Chicken Run that are growing well but don’t quite compare to these two. It is great getting back into full swing working on this project and as I’ll post about soon all of this is about to get both easier and harder at the same time.

While some may see my focus on progressing this project as an obsession I like to think of it as my Sweety does, Karen says that “Chicken Therapy” is the best thing that has happened to me in a long time.

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Fall Fun?

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The days are finally cooling off a bit and it is back to being pleasurable working in the garden. It is so pleasing to see that the girls are finally getting back to business after 3 floods and a molt.

Todays Haul

It had gotten to where I was lucky to get 2 or 3 eggs a day and now I’m back up to averaging 7 or 8. Last week on craigslist I found a 10’x10′ chain link dog kennel for a very good price that only got better when I picked it up and found that it was brand new! Maybe tomorrow I will start on separating my Chicken Run into three sections. The plan is to have a central area with the Coop, Duck Pond, Feeders, and Waterers with a large foraging section on either side. What I am envisioning is the flock only having access to one flanking section at a time while the unoccupied section has some type of pasture recovering/growing in it.

Pumpkin Patch?

Will they eat it?

Today I started cleaning up the tangled mess of Pumpkin vines between the Orchard rows. In the Upper picture you can see that I found quite a few pumpkins that the girls are sure to like come winter. The Comfrey that I planted earlier in the year is doing quite well and I even found a Swiss Chard plant that I had forgotten still plugging along.

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Blechy

My Sweety Karen has been on a top secret mission helping train some kind of birds for the last week, it involves getting up early (6:30 is early?) and being gone for a couple hours. Alexa helped her yesterday but I still haven’t been granted Top Secret Clearance, maybe next week she says. Anyway what’s this got to do with me? well it meant that I had to get my butt outta bed to load some seed in the truck for a delivery Karen had to make after todays secret mission. Not bein the type who goes back to bed very readily after getting moving I decided to have a cup of coffee and read a bit. Just yesterday the Library received my interlibrary loan request for The Monster War by Dave Duncan an omnibus book incorporating three previously published novels from Duncan’s The King’s Blades series that my local library didn’t have. Duncan’s books are great reads, not a lot of meat, but fast paced character driven plots with plenty of twists across the series to keep you interested. The book started off great but I wasn’t doing to well staying focused.

Pat over at growsoeasyorganic.com had replied to my post “What to do”, where I was whining about lack of motivation with a referral to her similar post “Fall Garden Clean Up”. She expressed some of the same sentiments but instead of just whining created a common sense approach to getting stuff done. Those ideas kept spinning in my head and interrupting my reading to the point that Cammie and I got up and headed up to the homestead to get some work done.

The focus of our plan was cleaning up the chicken run. So much mulch and other debris had been washed into the run during the flood 3 weeks ago that combined with this past weeks rain I had one blechy mess. Cammie’s project was seeking out possible escape routes from the newly fenced backyard. Michone, my sons Husky puppy, keeps finding weakness’s in the security system so the services of an expert were deemed necessary. As you can probably tell from her picture when it comes to “pointing” out things Cammie is truly an expert.

My little Honda Tiller made short work of breaking up the compacted mulch, soil, chicken crap, and straw. It also did an excellent job of mixing all of those components so that they should cook up really nice in the compost bins. Tied into the chicken run cleanup was the duck pond mucking out job. The process was that I would run the tiller over an approximately 4 square foot area, shovel all of the loosened stuff into a bin with my flat nosed shovel, then wet it all down with pond water. When the pond got low enough I scooped all of the blechy gunk out of the bottom and spread it evenly in both bins. In no time at all I had two full compost bins and a spic and span area in my chicken run! Then it was breakfast time for all the Chickens and Ducks. As I was bringing in their rice Cammie found a weakness in the backyard fencing, before I knew what had happened she was in the chicken run grabbing up a red hen in order to tell me she had a red alert situation over in the backyard! She had found a 6″ gap under one of the gates that Tommy thought was secure, not for an expert like Cammie! She made it through it without a scratch.

The next project was going to be relocating the “lockdown” pen. It sets in the shade and had never really dried out from the flood 3 weeks ago. That along with the rain earlier this week and the overflow from the watering system has combined to make the area not just blechy but smelly and slimy to boot. First thing upon arriving I had propped open the door and let all of the chickens in lockdown out to mingle with the general population. The purpose of the chickens in the lockdown pen had been to isolate my 2 BCM, 3 EE, and 3 GCM hens with one of my BCM roosters so that I could get some hatching eggs for my incubator that would give me more dark brown and olive egg laying hens. Today was going to be my first day of a week of egg collecting out of that pen, wouldn’t you know it I caught one of the supposed EE hens fighting with another Rooster! Guess who’s going to the SantaRia priest! Turns out Tommy, who I was counting on to help move the pen, wasn’t at the Gym he had already gone into work. Oh well that gives me something to do next week.

Cammie and I had stopped by Star Nursery and bought some fall plants, Mustard Greens, Napa Cabbage, and Cauliflower. To make room for these I focused on clearing out one of three 4’x4′ raised beds. Tuesday I had cleared one bed and replanted it with broccoli and collard greens, all it had in it was buckwheat, soybeans and wheat so I chopped and dropped the existing plants then planted the new ones through the newly created mulch. Todays bed had zucchini and squash in it which made me think of Pat’s caution about overwintering pests in her fall clean up post, so I cut all of the plants off at ground level and through them in the chicken run. Leaving the roots in place should help build structure in the soil of my bed and the chickens will gobble up any pests or eggs hiding out on the plants.

All in all Cammie and I had a productive morning up at The Fruity Chicken orchard and fowl ranch. Now I can go back to my book and Cammie can take a well earned nap.

I think she’s braggin about how good that red hen’s tail tasted!

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Wipe the slate clean!

OK not quite but sorta. Last week 2 things conspired to try to wipe the slate clean at my orchard/garden/chicken ranch.

  1. Mother Nature decided to toss a whompin thunderstorm at the East side of the valley
  2. Somebodies palm frond decided to plug up the brand spankin new storm drain just uphill from me

The Chickens are bouncing back nicely, I never did find my two Barnevelder babies but all of the others are present and accounted for.

A couple Black Copper Marans Roosters trying to figure who is the boss of the Juvenile Pen

The adolescent Golden Cuckoo Marans Rooster staking out his claim in the coop

Little Chickadee Alexa posing like a dork, oops I mean stork

The dominant Black Copper Marans Rooster tending to his girls

Karen had some of the perimeter fencing repaired which has freed up some chain-link gates that I am now planning how to use to divide my chicken run into three separate “paddocks”.The chicken run is approximately 15’x 55′, bouncing around in my noggin currently is a central 15’x15′ enclosure encompassing the coop with a 15’x20′ yard to either side. A Mulberry tree planted in the center of each of the three enclosures would provide shade & food in the summer along with leaves for the compost pile in the fall. We’ll see how those ideas develop, there is a lot of time for modifications as it is still to hot and humid to start on any major projects.

The Orchard came through fine, the flood waters beat up the trees a bit but didn’t rip any out and they don’t seem to be suffering from being waterlogged. Of the 7 comfrey plants I set out along the chicken-run fence only two have sprouted, there was a third before the flood but I can’t find any trace of it now. This whole area was mulched 6″ deep, it is back to bare soil now, just to the right of that bunch of what I think is Milo in the center of the picture was a good sized clump of comfrey that pulled a disappearing act like the one by the chicken-run. As soon as I harvest a couple watermelons and pumpkins that are hiding back under those leaves this area is going to cleared. If you look closely you can see a rebar stake on either side of the picture about the center up & down, they are 10′ apart and define the tree rows of my orchard. You can sorta see to the left lower center area of the picture how the soil looks kinda damp, this is a week after the flood and that section hasn’t dried out. Coincidentally I lost all of the trees on this end of the orchard to what I believe was wet feet. I’m not ambitious enough to haul in enough soil to raise the entire end but I am going to build 3’x3′ raised beds for each of the trees that will be planted this winter and a 2’x 16′ raised bed running down the center of that 10′ wide lane between the trees. I plan on hanging the “boxes” from 3′ T fencing posts driven in at each corner and then filling the raised beds with compost, sand, and native yucky clay soil. There will still be some fall from the North to the South end of the orchard but not as much which should  allow for better drainage. Rather than filling in the area between the “hanging” beds with soil I’m going to fill it in with mulch to create a large sheet composting system which over time will create a great area for the roots of my fruit trees to expand into.I’ve found over the years that if you just sit down and chill out for a bit you can usually turn most anything around. This flood that seemed so horrible last week is the spark that got my fire going for the fall season to come! A couple more weeks of yucky heat to research and refine my plans and I’ll hit the ground running and come next summer have an even better Orchard/Garden/Chicken Ranch. Who knows I might even find time to figure out a way to divert next monsoon seasons storm water!

 

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