Saturday, August 20, 2011

Chicken waterer

Should have been wearing my 'genius at work' T-shirt at the barn... yeah, maybe not. But I did make this nifty water-er for the chickens!

Want Less, Live More has a great DIY chicken feeder, and I adapted it for water.

I started off with the bottom of a dog treat container, you want to make this part fairly deep. I cut two tabs into each end to string it up with, but I quickly wished I'd made four (it wasn't stable enough with one string). Then I took an old ice-cream container and cut the tiniest hole in it and just put it in the dog treat bottom. Then I ran some binder twine through the holes & voila!
The piece of wood floating should
hopefully prevent any chickens from jumping
up on the rim then drowning in the
water; and I can still
fill it up from outside the tractor.

Now it's not fancy, but it certainly gets the job done. Plus now I can move the tractor with out having to first remove the waterer (which always ended up in escaped chickens). I've actually been able to move the whole thing over a few time now with out loosing any chickens at all!

That can't feel good on the tongue!

Believe it or not, the creature that is chewing off the buds on the thistle, is Meg! I can't understand why she'd enjoying these prickly little treats. But even with lots of other foods to choose from, I've actually seen her snap a few of these off and crunch down.

She really re-defines "easy keeper"!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Bribery? /The results of poor pasture management

 There just aren't enough hours in the day sometimes! So the pastures still haven't been divided, which means the large animals are just roaming about, trampling the grass, and wasting most of it. Instead, we should have been shifting them between a few small paddocks so they eat up everything that is in one paddock, while the others rest, re-growing the grass.

To keep the cows in & happy we've had to go to round-bales. Which sucks during the summer, but I'd rather pay for that, then pay for cow damage if they got out again.

They've actually eaten very little of it since Saturday. I'm sore I didn't have my camera with me, but the little guys were laying on all the hay yesterday afternoon, lazily throwing it over their backs and making quite the little nest!

A hay-feeder would have prevented most of the waste, but it's part of our management plan to allow the calves to sleep in the old hay during the winter. It keeps them nice and warm!  Plus the livestock would all much prefer fresh grass anyway. At least this way, instead of rotting in a feeder where they can't reach the bottom, the hay will stay out out in the air & sun and hopefully not mold any more.

We're getting the hay for ridiculously cheap at $20/round bale w delivery (no I'm not giving out any names/numbers! My hay guy, MINE!) but unfortunately they were stored outside in the open, so they are already mouldy and unsuitable for the horses.

So the question becomes, can we get under here cleared out enough, stabilised enough, and weather-proof enough that we could get a whole load of round bales delivered when they second cut comes in.

It would probably save us a few $$$ but I doubt they are going to add any more daylight any time soon, so we'll see.

Moving the Tractor & Poo

Moved the chicken tractor to another part of the field this morning, it was a distance so I had to let the chicks out first (insert more Yakety Sax...).

Thanks Crows!
I was just starting to think that you could argue that you were ensuring your birds were not contacting wild birds (and thus could "range" them) by either watching over them, or having some sort of bird-scarer. When I looked up and noticed the giant hawk circling. I wouldn't have even noticed if the hawk hadn't flown too close to a nest and pissed off two crows who were busy dive-bombing it and kept it right away from my chickens!

So the kids and I very quickly started running around collecting up all the little chickens.

This horse poo is a few days
old and in just a few moments
the birds have spread it all over
looking for tasty fly larva

This picture depicts the biggest benefit of ranging your birds.
  1. Any worms that may have been in there have now been killed. Part of the worm cycle is for the larva to be ingested by a new host, or even original host, to live and reproduce in their digestive tract. This happens when the host grazes near manure and snuffles the worms up with the grass. Spreading the poop out like this kills the larva by exposing it to sunlight. I frequently go into the fields and do this manually with the rake.
  2. Fly control! Maggots can't hatch into flies if they aren't around to do it.
  3. Free food for the chickens. (I'll do another post about costs)

 The chickens don't need to be outside the tractor in order to go through some nice cow-pies. As a warning, they do get really dirty pecking through there!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

GARDEN: Curlie Zuks & Mangled Grapes

(blog note: I'm going to be moving posts over from "Nes' Garden" when I get some time, it's really silly to have two, when they really are related topics)

 No, this isn't some sort of brilliant grape-growing trimming strategy... the goats got out. They love those grape leaves! Really hoping the poor thing will survive to produce some grapes this year, but I'll be happy if it just survives!

I can't believe how large it has grown in so short a time, we're going to have to provide it with more room/support for next year. And maybe some more 'friends'.


Curly produce is a sign of poor pollination, which is pretty surprising in our garden, and not an issue I've had to deal with yet. 

If I had to guess what had caused this problem:

(1) Our neighbouring fields are commercial farmers, and the herb/pesticides are just flying over there! Not something that makes me very happy, but they were here first and it's not like I can put up big mesh tarps to protect my organic garden.

(2) not having any time for the garden means there are tons of weeds, and we may have too few pollinators with too much to choose from.

Hmmm, I wonder if I can use this as support in my argument we should get a bee hive (a fight I am never going to win)...

Little tip on the 'tractor

I'm getting better at moving the tractor without loosing any chickens along the way, but little tip. Make sure if you move it over a cow pat, it IS an old cow pat. Otherwise you may be throwing poop covered chicks back into your tractor as fast as you can grab them.

Should not have worn a white shirt in the barn this morning...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The chicken tractor

There are tons of benefits to having your chickens outside, but per Ontario law, we're not allowed to free-range the chickens (plus with dogs/predators probably not a great idea). We're quite close to the road, with a pretty clear view of the pastures so decided to play by the rules (For now, I'll talk about that in another post).

So hubby built this fantastic chicken tractor!

 The whole thing cost us less then $15 because we built it from all the materials left by former owners. If I had to guess, I think we did it for under $100.

The frame is made by 1x6, re-enforced by L-brackets in each corner, and nailed together. Then we use electrical conduit (really any flexible plastic conduit would be fine, I've read using UV protected stuff is a really good idea) to create the three arches. Then stretched small-gauge wire from one side to the other, and on the ends. There is a door on this end (made out of wire so hard to see). The whole thing is very nice and light! You can see the handle, there are also wheels on the other side so we don't need to carry a dolly.

Right now I've been moving it about 2-3x time a day. Slowly getting it out of the sac paddock and into the main paddock to travel around. The chicks do a pretty good job of chewing up all the vegetation. We're also giving them some feed because we want them to be nice and fat ! Although we may stop doing that, depending on how things are.

This is a slightly smaller coop then you'd want for 50ish birds, but it's a good idea not to give them too much space or they run around and loose all their weight. If it turns out later that it isn't enough room, "we will not be free-ranging them. "

We need to make some hanging water-ers to make it easier to fill them/move the coop. Right now I feel like this song should be playing every time I try to move the chicken tractor...

Gotta be really careful not to run over any of the chickies!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

It's cooler in here

LOVE these big barn fans,
we want to install another
one on the horse side

The cow section of the barn is finally open for business!

The mangers are nailed to the stalls & doors were added for easy access. We still need to remove some of the old dairy equipment, and fix the concrete for the feed trough. 


The hardest part is getting them back out again!
The barn stays about 5C cooler then outside (because of all the stone), and there are less flies.


Cows would much rather stand around where it is cool and there are less bugs and they don't have to move to get food. 


But we'd be going through a whole lot of hay if we let them do that. 


Update on the Gang

Look who finally lost that nasty horn! 
Yes, he looks really dumb now, the poor thing!

Can't believe how quickly these guys are growing! (Their tummies especially)
I've learned not to wear draw-string pants, or leave the camera in my pocket with the string sticking out because it goes straight into Diego's mouth!

Our scrawny little lamb, is not so scrawny or little any more.

We elasticated all the boys here, basically it's just an elastic band that cuts off blood flow to the tissue so the testicles just die and fall off. Safe, cheap and effective way to neuter your boys, which is fine, I just wasn't expecting to be there when things fell off...

I was feeding Maddie, so of course all the goats came running over to grab a bite, when I tripped over Billy, sent him flying, and his balls flying in the opposite direction.

I'm just hoping some animal is going to come by and collect the wooly balls from the field overnight...

Monday, August 15, 2011

Slowly coming together

The dilapidated front fence gets
a helping hand back up

I love old cedar fences, but they do need to be maintained properly over the years or they degrade into heaps of rotting logs. Bottoms get rotten out and posts need to be replaced. This old fence needed a really good heave-hoe to get it back up.

Really a temporary situation

 The whole fence needs to be replaced at this point, and those support posts should be completely in-line not sticking out into the paddock. But at least the gate closes now!!

 Clean up is slowly progressing, the old dog kennel came down so the cow can go in the barn. There is a pentagon shaped concrete pad (of all things!) we need to figure out what to do with, mostly because it's 1' above the surrounding dirt. Tripping hazard for the larger stock, but the goats think it's a great place to climb!

Next is getting that whole left side of this picture DOWN. Thankfully there is a fence so the animals can't get in there but it all needs to go before it comes down on it's own. It's a good space for a little run-in so maybe we can salvage some parts and that is what we'll put back there.

There is black gold under this thing!!
Just got to get it all to the garden
and we'll have monster veggies next year!

Very next project is the old manure machine. It was standing when we first came to see the house but it has fallen since. It's a neat machine, but it doesn't beat the ATV with a wagon so we're going to take the whole thing down. It's already out of the 'horse section' so that there is more head-room over there. 


Goats are Trouble

That would be the chicken feed bin...
Seriously considered leaving him in there as he was stuck, but happily munching the grower feed.

A look in the coop

Gobble Gobble!
 Their heads flush bright red when they see me because they've realised I have all the food.

Huey is getting, HUGE!
 Little ducks have fit very well into the flock

Lenny is still King of the Coop!

Still 'Dewey',
Poor Dewey's wing is still funny, but it's much better then it was before. We still may tape it, but she gets along just fine, it's just a minor aesthetic flaw.