Saturday, March 5, 2011

Getting ready for new chicks- the long way

Well Spring is coming.  I know this because the local farm supply stores are starting to have baby chickens available.  I want some baby chickens!  But, I was told that until my quail have some place to live other than the baby chick area I don't get what I want.  So today I spent a few hours and started cleaning up the coop.
chicken coop looking in from front door
 I started by buying more wood pellets to use as moisture absorbing material.  Did that yesterday when I went to the feed supply store to get sterile syringes for the child's drain.  I figured I would get a two for one deal.  It worked.  So the first thing I did was take pictures!!  Then I got down to business.  As you can see the chickens make a mess.  There were feathers all over the place.  The litter on the right side of the picture is 14 inches deep.  It slowly builds up over the year as the chicken poop and wood pellets are added. We rake the pellets every so often, the easiest way to mix up the pellets is to throw chicken scratch (cracked corn or wheat) on the ground and let the chickens mix up themselves.  Otherwise you have to rake it weekly.

chick enclosure
 This is a view of the baby chicken enclosure.  If you look real hard in the bottom left area of the pen you will see a quail.  I had to run chicken wire to the ceiling to prevent the chickens from roosting on top of the enclosure.  You can see our chocolate lab is inside the pen sneaking around.  There is an outside entrance to the baby enclosure on the right hand side of the pen.  it is covered by that piece of plywood you see on the wall.  When the babies are big enough to go outside I will take that off the wall.  But first I have to clean everything up.  We found those feeders in the old chicken coop on the farm.  There were five of them, but I was only able to salvage four of them.  One needs a patch on the bottom before I can use it.  I figure I can do it with a little piece of sheet metal.   I had to unload chicken feed, wood pellets and oyster shell from two different cars.  A total of 510# (12 bags).  Not sure what I am going to do when I get old.  Probably buy in bulk and have a teenager come over for a day once a month to do the heavy lifting.  I could have driven around with the pickup, but at this point it is just easier to carry them over the bridge and to the coop.  The sheep managed to sneak out of the yard because I forgot to latch the gate closed.  I just hung the chain over the
chicken coop nest box area
gate so it looked like the gate was latched.  The head ewe pushed on the gate and it came open, so all the sheep were enjoying the untouched grass on the far side of the bridge.  I had to shoo them all back into the main pasture.  Once I started this I figured I might as well castrate that other baby lamb.  So I grabbed the rubber band pliers and some corn and took the sheep into the barn.  I caught the smaller boy, but he had a rubber band on already.  So I let him go and caught the bigger boy, but he had one on also and his was starting to work.  So obviously, I had already done it but forgot.  Everyone thinks I write this blog for everyone else, but it also acts as a diary for me so I know when what was done and can go back and check on it if needed.
chicken coop under perches
I started shoveling and managed to finish a mere three hours later. Luckily, I am still trying to fill in the chicken yard out front.  It slants toward the creek something fierce, so I have been throwing the coop manure outside in an attempt to build up that side of the yard.  It is slowly working.  I will have much farther to truck the compost once that is done.  No more just tossing it out the door.  You can see the perches are removable so that I can move around inside the area when cleaning.  I actually planned that and it works.

On a financial planning issue, I charged all the wood pellets to the month of March.  It will make me negative, but I will use them throughout the year.  The annual expenses will be the same and it saves me having to keep track every time a bag of wood pellets is used.  So after the chick purchases the only big expense left for the year is to get an automatic coop door.  The problem with this is the hardware will need to go on the wall where my chicken door is now.  So I am going to have to move the perch anchor elsewhere and maybe cut into the wall to fit all the hardware.  That is definitely a Summer time job.

chickens spreading out the pile

cleaned out ready for perches.