Keep On Growing

Roofing

The chicken coop now has a roof with shingles! We had to stretch the tiles Jonathan and Anna gave us but it fit just fine and we still have one piece left to cover the nesting box. The husband and father-in-law nailed it up. I wish I could have done it myself but that it is done is the most important part. We’ve been getting some interesting weather that’s been avidly chewing away the plywood we used for the roof.

I started cutting the wood for the nesting box but between babies and a cold it just didn’t get done. I still can’t picture how to assemble it because the wood is so fragile. I wonder how far glue will get us.

Then there’s painting the coop. We have to do that to help keep the plywood from falling apart.

Looking at these photos, it occurs to me the nails should be hidden under the next shingle up. Well, hell. I should’ve done it myself so I could complain.

Raised Beds

After about six inches of late spring snow the outdoor plants seem to be growing happily. The moisture did them more good than the cold did bad. The plants got partially frozen– think lettuce to close to the cold air vent in the fridge–but warmed slowly in the sun and seem to have fully recovered.

Our son had the honor of eating the first crop of the year, a pea-sized radish that was spit all over the rug. I ate what remained and it was lovely– spicy and crisp. I think we’ll have lettuce and pak choi soon as well.

Peas are raring to go as well. Today I stuck a old baby gate in the ground that they can hopefully cling to as opposed to wrapping those tendrils around the other plants.

Mother’s day planting is around the corner and I’m ecstatic to think of getting all these crazy tomatoes and eggplants out in the ground.

 

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Chicken Tilling and Almost Time to Enjoy Radishes

I think my chicken tilling is making a difference. As May 10 approaches, I am hoping the chickens can get all the beds ready for the tender crops we’ll be planting.

Right now, they’re doing good work removing the grass and plants in the two beds in Chicken City.

The planted beds are doing well, by the way. Slower growth than the seed packets indicated but the radishes are looking like, well, radishes. Someone (rabbits?) are nibbling the spinach and bugs munched holes in the pak choi so I think I need to work on deer netting covers. Yay, plants!

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner


Water

I’ve made some changes to the chickens’ food and water. They’re growing so much it’s hard to keep up with food and water refills so I poked a hole in a old milk jug and set it in a aluminum pie plate. I think the principle is sound but the plastic is so weak it collapes on itself.

I want to try a sturdier bottle like a juice bottle.

The water seems to leak out too. I’m hoping that has to do with the crumpling of the jug.

Food

The are going through food quickly too. We bought fifty more pounds of Purina mixed flock feed (they were out of grow feed) and it was something like $23. I am curious to see how long it lasts them.

I put the feed into a milk jug and cut a quarter-sized hole in it and set it in a plastic salad container. That seems to work well and last a few days at a time.

Coop Construction End in Sight

The in-laws are here so I’m hoping to have time to build the nest box, roof and paint the chicken shack. It will be glorious.

Chicken City Progress

The temporary chicken fencing is holding up and the beds they contain are looking nicely trampled. I’ll post pictures soon.

 

Plants and Weather

Spring is being spring and the plants in containers has been experiencing it as I’ve set them on the deck for about a week. They are sun burned/bleached/shriveled and many look worse for wear from wind and cold. I brought them in tonight because the low tonight is around freezing and we saw a little snow during the afternoon. I did leave.  Few outside because the pots were damn heavy so here’s wishing the the best.

I’m happy some plants look just fine, including ones in the beds.

Chicken City

Part of the thrill of having chickens is the fantasy that they will reduce the work to be done to prepare garden beds. A nong that vein I have started Chicken City. It it more Hooverville than Big Apple but we all start somewhere, right?

Basically I used left over hardware cloth, dowels and broomsticks, deer netting, and an old tarp to enclose the next two raised beds I want to till. It looks a mess and wouldn’t keep predators out except maaaybe hawks but it does provide shade and keep them in one spot. They seem to like it.

We started digging one of the beds but didn’t get far. I’m not sure if the chickens will have an affect on it but we will put them in the enclosure in the daytime for a week or two and see how it goes. If it works nicely, I’ll try to make a more functional enclosure.

In the meantime, we did dig and plant a third bed. Beets, carrots, scallions and parsley. It was a bed I used last year and I was happy to see worms in it. That seems like a happy sign.

Other Beds

My other two beds are growing slowly but look good. I’ve been hesitant to weed because I couldn’t tell the intended plants from the weeds but now I can tell them apart and the beds are looking neater.

Tender Plants

The indoor plants have outgrown the seed starter containers so I’m reporting them in old pots and recyclables like juice bottles and milk jugs. The plants look a bit shaken up from the relocation and the hodgepodge of pots looks more than a little crazy.

Bed-time Story

Quick note with little photo documentation. I have the above bed covered with fleece cloth in a feeble attempt at stopping plant growth. I hope to start digging this bed tomorrow. It’s snowing still today so there’s no real rush but if it turns nice tomorrow, I’ll start.

IMG_6475Also, we’ve brought the chickens in for what we hope is the last time. It’s predicted to be a 27F low tonight, and that combined with a little leakage from the unfinished coop roof and the youthfulness of our fine flock, we’ve put them in a dog carrier in my husband’s office for the night. We’re watching a friend’s dog who seems to see the chickens as food so the office door will be shut.

Plants, Indoors and Out

Outdoor Planting

It seems like things are taking longer than I expected with my outdoor beds. The radishes I planted at the end of February had a growing time of 23 days, I think, but they’re still not ready. And the others are barely recognizable.

We’ve had typical warm-cold and back again spring weather so maybe that is slowing things down. You can tell from all the apricot blossoms that have fallen on the beds they’re been through some crazy spring weather.

I had them covered for a week or two but as the plastic ripped in the wind I didn’t continue to replace it and now they have been uncovered for a least a week.

My second bed is littered with sprouts from the plants the previous owner grew there. I haven’t been weeding it because I am confused which plants are which.

We have been getting lots of precipitation for us so that have been nice.

Indoors

Things are slowing down inside too. I think maybe the plants have reached the maximum size they can in the little pots they’re growing in. It’s hard to keep up with their watering needs. I can’t put them out til May 15 so they have another month and a half to go.

Chicken Update: Hawks, Ski Hills and Coops

Flapper: Rest in Peace

Sadly, we now have four instead of five chickens. Flapper, the Golden Wynadotte we suspected was turning into a rooster, was killed by a hawk. My husband and kids came home to find Flapper’s headless body by the back porch. After we disposed of it, a red tailed hawk landed in the same spot, probably looking for its snack. Thus ends the carefree backyard roaming of our chickens.

HeyHey: Adventurous Soul

Another reason we built an enclosure: one of our  Production Reds went missing…only to be found at the local ski hill.

Yep.

When she (the red one in the foreground of the photo at top) went missing we figured it was coyote/hawk/cat related and we wouldn’t see her again. A friend suggested that we post a “lost chicken” notice on the local Facebook page so we did, thinking there was a slim possibility a neighbor would find her wandering around. Los Alamos is a small enough town that things like this happen.

Much to our surprise, we got a message from someone who found her not in our neighborhood but at the end of a ski run. Later a friend described asking a fellow skier  how her day was going and hearing that she found a red chicken. Small town.

So she took it home, fed it spaghetti and salad for dinner and contacted us through facebook. We still have no idea how she got out or got up the ski hill. She did get named Hey Hey (HeiHei) from this adventure though.

The Coop

21hgvc

This coop is functional now, but is far from done. At minimum, it still needs roofing, painting, and a nesting box. The roof is just plywood right now and is leaking a little but for the most part they are happy out there.

I gave up on it after we moved it up the hill in the back yard. It is very frustrating trying to rush building because kids are crying, needing nursing, etc. I passed the baton to my husband who finished the hardware cloth around the pen and cut the old the chickens can come in and out of.

They’ve been out there several nights now and seem happy with the arrangement. We brought them in during a wet, cold snowstorm where it got down to the 20Fs and they slept in a dog kennel, but other than that, they’ve been out in the coop.

 

Coop de Grace

Chicken Coop in Progress

After days of planning and lying in bed in the middle of the night thinking about it, we went and bought supplies for a chicken coop on Monday.

I made plans to use wood from the old shelves in the shed but after looking at them. I adapted the plans for new, fresh lumber. I found plans for a chicken coop that was similar to my idea on Purina’s website. That along with the idea for doors from the book Art of the Chicken Coop gave me a place to start. It’s amazing how plans and reality are so different.

Little details to think through. Things I didn’t see coming and had to go back and re-engineer. It makes me want to do more woodworking projects. Well, not until this is done.

In two days I built the floor, attached supports, attached two walls, detached the supports and put them on in a different way, tried to cut the top at an angle using a jig saw and horribly mangled it and attached part of the roof. It’s so hard to work for a uninterrupted stretch of time with the kids, especially a tool-loving toddler.

I still have to cut a board in half and attach it as the rest of the roof, patch weird holes, add a window or two, and doors. I’ll also want to make a nesting box, a smaller chicken-sized door, a roost, and a external chicken run. I broke the blade on my jig saw so I stopped for the day.

I’ll attach a drawing if I have time. It’s basically a 4 foot cube on 17″ legs. And a blast to build. And a husband-frustrating time suck.

 

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