Monday, April 30, 2012

What comes after 2 days of Rain? ---- Monday

We had another cool and wet week but the brunt of the rain is over for now and the sun is shining. It's cooled right down again with evening temps dipping below freezing. Still, the sun is out today and since the kids have a day off school we're going to make another attempt at getting a 40x60 ft sheet of plastic over the greenhouse roof without the wind carrying it away like a kite with children attached. The wind is supposed to be light after lunch so we'll see. With the moisture in the ground now and the sun shining we'll hopefully see the lawn growing soon. We did put on some 17-17-17 fertilizer to give it a boost since it's looking thin and weak. You can't really be spreading liquid manure in a neighborhood where the neighbours are mere feet away from your yard. So to keep the peace we used slow release pellets instead. We didn't fertilize the garden area though, I'm going to dig in compost, leaf mold
and composted manure when I till it this weekend. I did overseed some bare patches in the lawn too but resisted the urge to plant oats as a nurse crop for the grass, it works great in pastures though because the faster growing oats provide shade and water deflection for the smaller grass seeds to get established.

Yesterday Steve and Chris built me some hen houses with a removable panel on the side for easy cleaning and egg retrieval. We moved the buff orpington chicks out with the 4 hens but the hens chased them pecked them mercilessly and generally beat the tar out of the new arrivals. I've seen hen fights before but this was bad so they are now separated and doing well. We might try to reintroduce them once the chicks are physically bigger.

The houses measure 4 feet on a side (4x4) and it takes 2 sheets of OSB or plywood to make one house. Additional materials needed are some 2x2 or scrap lumber for edging so you have something solid to screw into and also some hardware cloth for vent screening, screws and some angle brackets to act as a rest for the side panel, to stop it from sliding off. To remove the panel you just slide it up a few inches and it comes right off. The houses do have a few exposed edges so for year round use they need to have a waterproof covering and currently ours are simply tarped. Venting is very important because chickens do have a tendency to get damp in their houses so ventilation provides a drier and healthier environment. Each house has top and bottom vents as shown in the pictures and are covered in hardware cloth to stop rats and mink from getting in. A roost runs along the house and we cover the floors of ours with shavings from the feed store or the high school wood shop. Cost for each house was about $24 and end triangles were cut from a 4x4 piece of wood with the front panel being a whole piece and the back panel being the leftover pieces joined together. If you need better instructions, let me know. This shape makes it easy to attach a run and is good for a chicken tractor, especially if you add feet or wheels t raise the house off the ground. Ours will be outside in the summer and then in the barn for the wet season so they're fine for now. They're not beautiful but they're cheap and functional.

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