Fixing up the Old Coop/Run

We bought some property in Como, Colorado two years ago. One of the goals was to fix up the coop that was already on the property and make it more secure and more hygienic.

We feel were are close enough, so this weekend, 9 of the chicklets were moved in. They are 8 1/2 weeks old.

The bones were there. But it took some significant work. First, we removed the existing roof, which was made up of 24”x24” glass window panes. Why they used repurposed windows like that, I have no idea, but they had to go. So, I removed them and put in the clear polycarbonate roof panels that I have used on my coop/run in Aurora.

Existing Benefits

Welded Wire – The previous owners put in welded wire for the first four feet up, Coop5which is incredibly strong. The main issue with using welded wire is that the holes are fairly large and many predators can get in through them, like weasels, rats, and other small vermin. The benefit is that dogs, coyotes, and such will not be getting through the welded wire without working on it for a long time and will likely leave for easier pickings. At least, that is the hope.

Chicken Wire – Chicken wire is not for keeping predators out, but works very well for Coop2keeping chickens in. Chicken wire is run the entire length and width of the exterior walls, and it will keep out predatory birds, and most other wild birds that might carry disease, while keeping the chickens in their run.

Solid Coop – The coop, inside the run, is incredibly well built, and is draft free. It does need some more ventilation, so we will add some more venting this coming weekend. By the way, I love the old wood. You can see the coop to the right and in the back of the run, in this picture. Well, you might not be able to see it very well. Smile 

Secure Entry – The door is large, but is well built and secure. No predator is going to get through the exterior door to the coop/run.

Improvements

Polycarbonate Roof – Lots of metal roofing screws were used to lock the panels into place, with good overlap. I expect the roof will keep out the rain and snow, except that blows in the sides. We have had great luck with the polycarbonate roofing, but I am a bit worried about the high winds we get up in Como, and them being ripped off. If that happens, I will replace it with metal roofing.

Predator Apron – This is the term that I have heard Coop1used, and I like it. Basically, rather than digging into the ground a couple of feet and burying welded wire or hardware fabric, you just bend it and secure it against the side of the run and run it along the ground and out a couple of feet away from the exterior walls. Most digging animals will try to start digging closer to the wall, and will give up if they can’t get through. Of course, the rocks also provide some protection, too. So, we combined them.

Electric Fencing – Yeah, we went way above and beyond. We put in two lines of electrified Coop4wire. The first is about six inches off of the ground. The second is about eighteen inches off of the ground. It is hard to see the two wires in the picture, but they are there. The lower wire should be a nice shock to smaller predators and the higher wire should be about the right height for dogs and coyotes. I may change the height, but I think it is a good start.

Waterers and Feeders – This is my first attempt at doing my own side nipple and bottom nipple waterers. Hygiene is pretty important, and using these nipple waterers will make a huge difference when it comes to a clean water supply. So far, the chicklets love these waterers and needed no training in using them.  The feeders are PVC feeders. I will have to get some good pics of them. They don’t work too well for crumbles in that it is easier to “bill” the feed out onto the ground, but this isn’t a big issue for the crumbles. It is almost a non-issue with pellet feed. I will get some good pics in the near future.

Diatomaceous Earth – I know many people are against its use, but with the wild birds in the area, I feel the benefit outweighs any negatives. I feel DE is great at keeping mites and lice at bay, so it gets a good sprinkling in all wood joints, perches, and nesting areas. Of course, it also gets a sprinkling in their dirt bath areas.

End Result

I think this will be a good secure run and coop. However, only time will tell.

 Coop3

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Tortilla Recipe

I am strange. I know it.

Anyway, I have been testing different recipes for the last couple of decades. I think I like this last one the best.

Ingredients

  • 3 C Flour
  • 1 Tsp Salt
  • 1 Tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/3 C Vegetable Oil – I have only tried corn oil, so far
  • 1 C Warm Water

Directions

  1. Mix the dry ingredients together, well.
  2. Add the oil and water and mix them using a large spoon or something along those lines until the dough forms.
  3. Remove the mixture from the bowl and place it on a lightly floured surface.
  4. Knead the dough a few times until all of the ingredients are well mixed.
  5. Let the dough rest about 10 minutes.
  6. Portion the dough into 14-16 small balls of dough.
  7. Let rest about 10-15 minutes.
  8. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each ball of dough to about 7-8” in diameter, it should be nice and thin and almost translucent.
  9. Cook on a flat griddle, a comal for those that have one. It may take awhile to get the heat right. The tortilla will begin to bubble, at that point, flip it, and cook the other side for about 10-15 seconds. Both sides should have small light brown spots of them.
  10. Place the finished tortilla into a warmer, I use a dish towel folded in half.
  11. Roll out the next ball of dough and repeat until all are done.
  12. Eat

Storage

Once the tortillas have cooled off, you can place them in a plastic bag, a gallon bag is about the right size. You can reheat them on the stove or in the microwave as needed.

Troubleshooting

If your tortillas are too crunchy, it is probably because you cooked them too slow or too thoroughly.

If the dough is sticking the rolling pin, flour the rolling pin a bit.

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Starting the Wood Burning Heat Stove

Since we purchased our ranch last year, the most important purchase we made was a wood burning stove. I love it. I love starting it and enjoying the almost free heat that it provides.

Most of us know how to start a fire. At least we think we do. Being the geek that I am, I did some research. I wanted to know how to make wood burning as efficient as possible. After collecting some paper, which is really easy when you get those pink notices in the mail. Smile  Here is what I am doing:

First,  put in the larger logs in the bottom. As we have Fire1tons of free Aspen, and it burns pretty easily, there is really no need to split the logs until they are pretty much huge. With the first logs in, I crumbled up paper and put it between the logs and around the sides. The pink stuff doesn’t burn as well, but I get lots of gratification from crumpling all of my bills and using them to get the fire started. Am I seeing stuff or is there way too much pink paper in there? Fire2

Second, another set of logs goes on. Of course, some more bills get crumpled up and then are put around the second set of logs. I hear some people use newspaper, as it lights easily and is readily available. However, in the digital age, our news comes via the Internet. It doesn’t burn very well.Fire3

Third, a little kindling is put on top. I invested in this really cool kindling cracker that mounts on the wall in my garage. It is easy to cut up some kindling without loosing a finger, so I am into it. You might want to stack some kindling going multiple directions to get that fire started up and nice and hot. In this case, I am pretty much running out of room in the firebox. Fire4

Fourth, it is time to light up that fire. The fire catches and gets the kindling burning. I, generally, will light some of the paper on each side and in the middle, too. I like fire. Fire! Fire! Fire!

Last. Enjoy the flames and the free heat. Most of all, enjoy the bills that are turned into ash as you yell at them, “I have you creditors and Fire5service providers that take all of my money!”

By the way, I have been told this is the top down fire starting method. I just know that once it starts, you can close up the firebox and walk away, and know that it will start just fine.

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Breaking a Broody Chicken

Until this year, I have never had an issue with a broody chicken. I have one new Olive Egger that has gone broody twice this summer. She is driving me crazy.

Wait, I better back up for some people. A broody chicken is one that is intent on hatching eggs. She will sit on the nest and not get off of it. In most cases, she will also steal eggs from other chickens and put them in her nest. A broody chicken doesn’t care that there isn’t a rooster and that the eggs aren’t fertile. They will often get very defensive of their nest and will peck, and hard, when you trying to pull eggs out from under them. In fact, even if there are no eggs under them, they will still continue to set on imaginary eggs.

Some of us don’t want them to hatch chicks, and we want them to get back to laying regularly, and some of us don’t have roosters because of local codes. So the real question is how to make them stop. If you don’t get them to stop, they will continue to set on the eggs (existent or not) and will starve themselves and suffer significant malnourishment. I have heard the following:

  1. Remove them from the nest and put them out in the run or yard and try to distract them with a treat of some kind. Basically, we are trying to get them off of the nest. You will have to repeat this many times, in most cases.
  2. Put them in some cool water. The idea with this is that it will cool off their underside and lower their body temperature which is caused by broodiness. Hopefully, it will snap them out of it and discourage them from sitting on the nest. This may need to be repeated several times.
  3. Chicken Jail is an option. Basically, you put your broody chicken in a small enclosure without a nest box. Many people use wire dog kennels. The idea is to make it impossible for her to sit down and spread herself out, comfortably. Our chicken jail is a small coop with the nesting box blocked off. To prevent the broody from trying to make a nest in the dirt, I put a sheet of plywood under it. After a couple of days, she gets paroled, but if she runs right back to the nest, she has her parole violated and gets two more days in jail. So far, two trips to jail has helped.
  4. Some people will just let it run its course by putting some fake eggs under the broody, and at 20-22 days, they will get some day old chicks and sneak them under the broody in the middle of the night. This may work, and it may result in the broody killing the chicks.
  5. The last option is to go out and get some fertilized eggs and just let nature take its course. What is ironic is that I have heard of many people scrambling for eggs only to put them under the broody and watch her get up and walk away and not return.

Good luck in getting your broody back into production.

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Chicken Coop and Run–Winterized

This is my first Winter with chickens. As previously discussed, they can be expensive when it comes to setting up, but they are a wonderful hobby for me.

Here is what I learned from the chicken raisers in Colorado:

  • Make sure there is enough space to keep stress low.
  • Sand in the coop and in the run is great for all year round, but especially Winter.
  • Sweet PDZ is great for the smell and is also good for the chickens’ health.
  • Food grade DE (diatomaceous earth) can help control parasites.
  • Heated water is a must unless you want to constantly go out and replace frozen water with warm water.
  • Keeping chickens dry is probably the most important concern.
  • Keeping chickens protected from predators is another very important concern.
  • Supplemental heat is not needed.
  • Air ventilation is important whether it is hot or cold.
  • Supplemental light is not needed.
  • Some breeds just won’t produce in Winter no matter what.

Space

In my city, Aurora, Colorado, we can have up to six hens (no roosters) with a permit, on lots larger than 20,000 square feel, we can have eight hens. Our city requirements are basically:

  • Coop (they refer to it as the house) must be at least 2 square feet per chicken of floor space.
  • The run, which must be attached to the house, must be at least 6 square feet or larger
  • The combined structure cannot be larger than 120 square feet.
  • The combined structure must be 15 feet or more from property lines unless the neighbor provides written permission for it to be closer.
  • Chickens must be secured in the house from dusk until dawn.

Obviously, the more space available, the better. The chickens love scratching around and eating bugs and grass and such.

What we did was build a run that is 8’ WP_20160323_17_21_08_Prowide by 12’ long by 6’ high. We actually went 6’ high to patch the privacy fence on the one side, and the other is 5’6” to give us a slope for rain and snow to drain off.  We then added a coop that we bought from Murdoch’s. I wish we had not purchased it, but, we have it, and it is doing its job.

The run is directly attached to our tuff shed, and is well anchored.

Yes, our chickens are spoiled.

Sand Floor

In general, many people feel that sand in the coop and in the run is great for all year round WP_20160323_17_20_27_Proas it allows any water (including chicken poop) to drain away easily and helps keep their feet dry. Sand is also fairly easy to rake clean of waste. I use a big cat litter scoop to clean through the sand on a regular basis.

Another benefit of sand is that it retains heat and it is a big benefit in the Winter.

As you can see, even though we had about 15 inches of snow, it is perfectly dry inside, and there is no mud or wet area inside the run.

I have heard from several people that the sand is nice in that it keeps their claws nicely trimmed, too. Think: Chicken Pedicure.

The Chicken Chick recommends construction sand vs play sand.

Sweet PDZ

This is a mineral that is marketed to horse stables. It controls odor by binding to ammonia and neutralizing it. The mineral also absorbs moisture. The mineral is available in granules or powder, but for chickens, granules are best. Powders can get cause respiratory issues for chickens.

Ammonia not only causes a great deal of the smell that attracts flies and the general smell, it also impacts respiratory health and egg production. 

The best way to use this mineral, in my opinion, is to mix it with the sand. Others use it in the poop trays below perches.

DE

DE is a fine powder that scratches the waxy shell of insects and parasites and causes them to dry up and die. I use it to kill off ant hills in my hard, for example, and it is not harmful to humans or animals. Make sure you get food grade DE, which is readily available.

I have heard some chicken raisers use a bit of DE is feed to keep internal parasites under control, but I only use it by putting down a bit in the areas where they enjoy their dust baths and I put some down in their nesting boxes under the pine shavings.

Heated Water

While it is only needed in Winter, the ability to provide a source of fresh water that doesn’tWaterer (2) get frozen is pretty vital to chickens. Of course, my dogs share their water with the chickens and expect the same in return. Smile

In my case, my chicken run has power available to it, so it is easy for me to just get a heated waterer and plug it in. We have power because we have our run butted up against a nice tough shed that has power. We have been pretty lucky in how some of our earlier decisions have helped out.

Keep Dry

OK, this sounds like common sense, but I have seen way too many chicken raisers that WP_20160324_12_08_10_Prodon’t provide a covered run area and some means of keeping blowing rain and snow out of the run.

Sure, chickens can get wet, and they will be fine. After all, they are outdoor animals. However, being wet takes away from their ability to keep themselves warm. One of the keys to our run was that we bought WP_20160324_12_08_29_Proclear poly roofing panels that are supported with 2×3 wood studs. So far, they have held up to a couple of really heavy snow storms. If I had to redo it, I would turn the 2×3’s on their side to provide even better support for the roofing panels.

We were also told that it is a good idea to staple some plastic sheeting on the sides of the run to keep out blowing rain and snow. I will take it off once the weather warms up, but it has certainly been a big benefit to the chickens.

I cleared off a corner to show the roofing. It was fairly cheap, and provides a great deal of additional warmth in the cold months.

Predators

Keeping chickens protected from predators is another very important concern. Of course, Dogmost of us recognize this, but I don’t think we all look at the most common predator for chickens: domestic dogs.

I thought we might lose a chicken to a hawk, a raccoon, or even a skunk, but I never thought about dogs being our biggest concern.

We lost one chicken to a friend’s dog (our fault for not watching over it) that just wanted to play with the chickens, and its prey drive kicked in.

We lost another chicken to a neighborhood dog that jumped our fence. It killed the poor bird and ate about a fourth of it. It also wounded two of our other chickens. This terrier jumped over a four foot fence into a neighbor’s yard, then jumped over another four foot fence into our yard.

We made a quick run to the parent’s house, and found him in our yard and piles of feathers everywhere. It was horrible.

Now, we have a 6’ high fence all around to help protect our hens from future disasters. My recommendations:

  • High fences around the yard.
  • Bushes and other cover that chickens can run under if there are hawks or eagles in the area and they need to run and hide.
  • Good strong hardware fabric (a little different than chicken wire).  Make sure that when you use this in your runs and coops that you it can extend into the ground a bit to help keep chickens safe from digging predators.
  • High roosts for the chickens to fly and jump to so they can evade ground predators.

Supplemental Heat

I never even thought about this being a danger, but I have seen too many reports of people having their coops catch fire, and also their houses.

Supplemental heat is not needed. I have to admit that I was not fully believing everyone, but common sense took over. There are small birds all around the neighborhood all Winter long. They can survive. What convinced me, though, was picking up one of my chickens on a day when it was about 4 degrees F outside. My fingers felt the warmth in the down and feathers. It was pretty clear that she was not cold, at all. In the worst nights, they would just all huddle together, and they stayed plenty warm.

What really sold me on them not needing additional heat was that my Rhode Island Reds were still laying eggs in the bitter cold. Granted, it wasn’t every day, but we were still getting eggs every other day from them.

Air Ventilation

This really seemed counter-intuitive to me. What do you mean, they need good air ventilation? Won’t that mean heat loss?

Yes, ventilation means heat loss, but most importantly, it also means that the humidity from their poop has a place to go. The moisture in the air is more detrimental than any heat loss that they might have from the air transfer with the outside.

Please note, this does not mean that drafts are OK. Ventilation is very different than drafts.

Supplemental Light

Those that support supplemental light say that chickens will lay more during the short days in the Winter. This is, somewhat, true.

The other side of the argument is that chickens should be allowed the time to recover from the stresses of egg production every now and then, and nature provides that natural break with the Winter months. Another reason for allowing chickens to reduce production in the Winter is that chickens only have so many eggs in them when hatched, and by forcing them to produce more during the Winter only reduces their laying lifetime.

I chose to go with nature’s plan.

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So You Want to be a Backyard Chicken Rancher

Yes, when people ask me what I do, I say that I am a rancher. I used to say I am a carpenter, because I don’t like to try to explain to everyone what I really do for a living.

Anyway, last year, my wife, referred to as “The Wife,” decided she wanted chickens. Since she really didn’t know if she could commit to keeping chickens, she made a deal to lease them for the season. This post is all about what we have spent and what we have gotten back.

Initial Cost: $450, which included a coop, two chickens, a bag of feed, and a bag of wood shavings , a bag of oyster shell, and a bag of grit.

Status: Two chickens, about 4 dozen eggs a month.

Next Purchases: $150. We decided that we really liked chickens and bought another small coop and two more chickens.

Status: Four chickens, and about 8 dozen eggs a month.

Chickens

Buying out the Lease: $40. We decided that we liked the first two chickens and didn’t want to give them back, so we bought out the lease for them. We did have to return the original coop, though.

New, Larger Coop: $300. At this point, we had four chickens, and decided that we needed a larger coop, so off we went to Murdoch’s.

Winterization: $400 or so. We built up a nice run with a heated waterer, sand for the base, hardware fabric all around, plastic roof panels, and plastic sheeting to provide more snow and wind protection.

First Chicken Loss: We had one of birds killed by a friend’s dog. It was a tough time, but we just kept reminding ourselves that it was just a chicken, and we expected to lose one over the first year to area hawks, foxes, or raccoons.

Status: Three chickens, and really slow production for them of about 2 dozen a month.

New Chicks: $65. I decided that it was Winter, and that if we started some new chicks, they would be mature early in the Spring, and we would get full production from them. I ordered three Easter Egger pullets (sexed by the hatchery). Wow, it was fun and we learned a great deal. One ended up being a rooster, so he was sent off to the farm.

Second Chicken Loss: A neighborhood dog got into the back yard and killed one of my new EE girls and wounded two of my other three chickens.

Status: Four chickens, one not laying yet. Still cold weather. About 2 dozen a month.

Fencing: $400. Thanks to the neighborhood dog, we had to raise the fence where it jumped over.

New Hens: $40. We bought two more hens from another chicken keeper that are about a year and a half old, and are semi-laying. The weather is warming up, and so is production.

Status: Six chickens and about 10 dozen eggs a month.

SUMMARY

TOTAL COST: $2,090 or so (I added the cost of feed and other consumables to the other costs)

TOTAL EGGS: Approx 850

Cost per Egg About $2.45, Cost per dozen $29.40

In all fairness, there are some very unusual costs involved in our case, and now that everything is all built up for the six birds, the only real cost that we have now is feed and some other consumables, which I estimate to be about $15 a month, so our future expectations would be a cost per egg for this coming season of about $2.50 per dozen.

We have loved every minute of owning chickens, and are very glad that we did it.

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Corporations and Taxes

As per our fearless leader, Barrack Obama, many corporations don’t pay their share of taxes. I guess he doesn’t understand all of the taxes paid, and also created by the economic activity of their presence in the US. It is kind of sad.

Let’s look at the taxes that are paid directly by these “dead-beat” corporations:

  • Property Taxes – These are paid by anyone that owns property such as land, improvements on the land, as well as furniture and equipment.
  • Licensing Fees – Company owned cars and other fees such as those paid for inspections and to pay for professional licenses for employees and officers.
  • Payroll Taxes – While most of these taxes are taken out of the employee’s pay, it is a tax that would not exist if the job didn’t exist. There are also some direct business taxes such as the company share of FICA/Social Security and unemployment taxes.
  • Sales Taxes – Yes, businesses buy things, like office supplies, furniture, and equipment and they must pay the sales taxes on those items.
  • Customs and Duties – Sometimes also know as tariffs, these taxes are paid when exporting and importing components and finished products.
  • Environmental Taxes – Also know as carbon emissions and pollution taxes.
  • Energy/Utilities Taxes – Ever notice the taxes on the power and water? Businesses pay them, too. Gas taxes? Of course, they pay those, too.
  • Tolls – Taxes paid for travel and shipping over certain roads or waterways.

Then, of course, there are all the taxes that are paid by the businesses that do business with them, like suppliers and services contractors and taxes paid by the employees that work for the company and have jobs because the company exists.

Yes, corporations pay taxes, lots of them, even in the cases where they declare income taxes in other countries and they get some tax breaks from local communities and States.

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