Saturday, July 7, 2012

New Chicken Farmer Update

Coop Improvements
     I have been working so hard to care for our animal family.  I try to be a good steward of all of my blessings.  Just when we think things are running smooth with our chickens, I notice a flaw in our set up.  I noticed when I came in from work & went out to lock them in for the night that their hanging waterer was empty.  I had just refilled it the evening before & I knew they did not drink it all.  It will usually need changing out before they could ever drink that much.  Apparently they became a little rambunctious and bumped it into a spin & it slid over on the rope.  I have no idea what part of the day they ran out of water.  It has been reaching 90's-100's lately and this worried me that they could actually hurt themselves.  
     I have been seeking out all sorts of automatic waterers online & could not believe the cost.  I started looking for homemade items & knew that it could not be that complicated...after all we are a Jack & Jill of all trades.  I found a few prototypes that I thought would meet our needs.  I wanted them to have fresh cool water at their finger tips without standing water that they could mess up or spill.  The idea that I preferred used cups & a garden hose, but unfortunately, it required a $35.00 pressure regulator to reduce it down to 5 PSI.  That was not in our budget at all at this time.  
     So I had to utilize systems made from a 5 gallon bucket.  I knew that I wanted to mount it from outside the coop so I could just bring the garden hose over (about 20 feet) & refill it easily without unlocking & entering the run, removing the bucket or hauling another bucket of water to refill it, & exiting and relocking the run. 
     I want to limit how much I enter the run as much as possible to reduce as much “poo” on my shoes as I can.  We leave "all" of our shoes at the door and have done so for many years, so I do not worry about contaminating my home, but I just try to practice good hygiene.  You never know when an emergency may happen and taking your shoes off may not come to mind.  Also, at dusk spiders are making their webs near the run door & we have walked into them several times.  Oh how I hate that!
     I am already thinking about a PVC feeder & a "rope-pulled" automatic door that I can do from outside to let them out of & shut them in the coop, but those will come later.  We do like to go on vacations occasionally so I am more concerned about the water issue than the feeder & door right now.  The last thing I want to come home to is a bunch of dehydrated or dead chickens because they knocked their water over. 
Here is our present chicken water system:
      I got tired of reaching under the coop to change out the water, so I moved it out from under it.  The chicken yard is the last place you want to be on your knees.  I can pour the food into the feeder without removing it, but I had to untie the waterer and carry it to the water hose & then take it back and retie it.  And like I mentioned earlier, I am trying to minimize the “poo” exposure.  If I could change anything about my coop design, it would be to make it a walk-in with the roof hanging over into the run more to cover the food & water.  Oh well, too late now.
     The new system uses a 5 gallon bucket, ½ inch PVC, & poultry cup waterers.  This system waters them on demand.  The hardest piece to find was the rubber washer & threaded ring to seal the bucket.  If these are sold in a kit, I would love to know where it is, as I had to wing it from scratch.  3 trips to Lowe’s & 2 to Ace I finally found everything I needed & returned the stuff that I didn’t.  It was fairly inexpensive…minus the gas, but a ready-made one online was ridiculous.  Hmmm, I think I could make a few & sell them online.

     The lid was hard to get on & off, so I left it slightly open for now until I can put a little Vaseline around the rim.  I need to make some sort of shade for it to prevent the sun from heating the water so much.  The coop only has a small bit of shade & it is on the backside where the fence-row is (along with a million mosquitos).  I am not going back there unless I have to kill a snake.                               
     I have seen one of them drink from it already, but the others are consumed with the watermelon slice I set out for them.  I guess when they get thirsty, they will find it.  I removed the hanging waterer so they would be forced to seek out the cups.  The cups work great & are so neat.  I put my fingers in it to make it fill and get their attention.  This new system should be more efficient for all of us & easier for my daughter to use.  She has no problems dragging a hose over to refill a bucket.
Newest additions
    We acquired a pair of hens at a local sale last weekend:  Zeba (Plymouth Rock) & un-named (Black Star).  
Zeba is the most docile & friendly of all of our hens.  She comes to me for love & affection every time I approach the run.  She is quickly becoming my favorite…sorry Lacey.  Lacey is our Golden-Laced Wyandotte that I chose & waited so long for from the hatchery, but she does not run to me with such affection.  I still want to find a Silver-Laced Wyandotte, but most of the ones I have seen have been too far to drive for a chicken.

     This is our newest girl:  Thelma Lou standing next to our Frizzle Plymouth Rock Roo.  I have been calling him Boaz, but I am leaning towards Andy (as in Andy Griffith & Thelma Lou).  Thelma Lou came from a co-worker, the same seller from which I got my roo.  I was hoping they might recognize each other, but I am not so sure that they did.
    Yesterday I added more outdoor fabric to the roof of the run (it is 6.5'X20').  It had a 3rd of it covered with a 6’X30’ roll of outdoor fabric that I found at Sam’s Club for $30.00, but that was not enough.  After noon, the sun would light up about 90% of their shade.  Now, they are shaded all the way down the run except for about a foot down the length of the run.  With the temperatures we have been having lately, it makes a ton of difference.  
     Our run is pretty secure & we have 3 cats & a Great Pyrenees guardian dog that kill all critters that enter the yard.  I know this because we have rodent-gifts left at our doorsteps pretty regularly & my husband has witnessed one of our cats killing a rabbit behind our shed.  I pity a coon or an opossum that dares to cross the fence.  Our ground has a few dips that does allow some air space beneath the frame.  I could not truly enjoy any time away from home without ridding their environment of all of these weaknesses.  My next coop improvement will be to fill extra dirt in along the bottom of the run wall to fill in these spaces.
     Maybe now our chicken family will feel safe & secure when we are gone to work or out of town & have less risk for accidents.  I hope to see some eggs soon.  The older pair we got last week are about 1 month away from laying & our original set is about 2, while the newest is a few weeks behind them.  I am anxious to see the fruit of all of our labors. I am thankful that the Lord has blessed us with the ability to have our little homestead.  
     There are perks to city life, but I prefer the freedom to work & live off of the land.  Although, we are far from being off-grid & being completely self-sufficient, we are taking small steps to remove the control of mainstream society on how we live.  Our goal is to control the quality & quantity of our food sources.  Also, when crises occur, we want to reduce the shocking & traumatic effects that it has on us & our ability to function.  We never want to be subject to others, including governments, for our lively-hood again as we were when Hurricane Katrina came through our region.  I hope we can be a blessing to others & we can all help each other learn how to provide for our families with a God-loving heart.
God Bless,
Marla B.

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