Brothers M. Mondays is our way of showing you how excited we are for the first Seymour Farmers Market
Cold is always a risk raising chickens on pasture especially freezing temperature, such as what happened on 4/21. We start our birds as late in the season as we can while still having chicken available for the first Seymour Farmers Market. Fortunately when this cold and snow came this year, the chickens were still snug in their brooders with the heat lamps.
However, the cherry trees didn’t have that luxury and they are one of Olivia’s favorite trees. I’m not sure if it was the right thing do to, but I sent her out to get the snow off the trees to help protect the blossoms. Not only was it fun to watch, but we have plenty of cherries growing, so I think it helped.
Brothers M. Mondays is our way of showing you how excited we are for the first Seymour Farmers Market
Since it’s still the Easter season, I thought we’d start out with this post.
I went out to the brooder to check on our new chickens, who had arrived the prior day. When I looked in, their resemblance to marshmallow Peeps was striking. They were all lined up with one eye on me. The pictures don’t do the initial pose justice as they moved around a bit when I lifted the lid to grab a pic, but you can still see what I’m talking abouth.
While these youngsters may look like they have a marshmallow center, I assure you they’ll grow into high quality protein.
I’ve been very pleased with ISA Browns. They are gentile, except we don’t seem to have good luck with Roosters; I’ve been told meanness is common in the light colored roosters. The egg production has been great. Longevity seems to be on par with what I’d read, 2 years being the peak for egg laying.
But what about winter laying of ISA Brown chickens, especially supplemental light?
In my review of the Buff Orpingtons and the Rainbow breeds as Dual purpose birds, one of the things I mentioned was that artificial light was needed to keep these breeds laying in the winter. From what I’ve read, breeds that are bread for egg laying will lay through the winter without additional lighting. I’ve even heard first hand of Rhode Island Reds laying through the winter without additional light.
I’ve not had that luck with my chickens, including the ISA Browns. Last year I did not provide extra light and they stopped laying. I could not pin down for sure if it was the light, stress, cold, or water conditions, detailed in my solar tire saga.
This year, winter 2020/2021, when egg production started dropping off, and basically stopped, I was again having predators stressing the birds, including even losing some birds. However, cold and water were not an issue, see best solar water. So I went ahead and introduced artificial lighting in the mornings and evening to ensure the birds were getting 12+ hours of light. To my satisfaction, egg production not only increased, but our egg production returned to normal. Of course, the predator situation was also taken care of; however, after a couple more months of good production, I really think it was the light.
The down side to this is that I didn’t size the solar panel and battery to accommodate running the light this much. The solar panel does help, and for now I’ve ended up adding an additional deep cycle battery and swap batteries every 5-7 days if it’s been overcast, not as hands off as I wanted. I haven’t done any calculations, but I’m considering a larger solar panel, but in the summer it would be extreme overkill just to run the automatic door. In the meantime, it’s still better than how frequently I had to change batteries without a solar panel.
Another note about the cold. Our chickens don’t seem to be bothered by the cold. The research I’ve done indicates that if you’ve chosen a cold hearty breed, which I have, then as long as you provide a dry area that’s out of the wind, the chickens will be fine. The worst thing for them is to be wet in the cold. Our coop has an open floor, but 4 solid walls and windows to let the sun in. The lowest roost is a foot off the floor, which allows for wind blockage.
I’ve tried frequent waterer swapping, the lightbulb waterer, and a solar tire, but this solar waterer is the best design yet for my needs. In part 1 I talked about the concept and design, this post actually included my 2nd update about using plastic to shield the insulation from pecking. So this is my 3rd and possibly the last, update on this water.
When I put the waterer out this year, I was pleased to see the older chickens remembered what it was and taught the new ones; thus, bypassing needing to do any training.
However, I underestimated the destructive power of chickens and they had pecked all the insulation off of the lid directly over where they stick their head in. This suprised me. Basically the chickens are sticking their head in a hole roughly the size of an elongated baseball. Then looking up and pecking the top in the small cavity I left open.
So to fix it, I cut a new piece of insulation, then cut the lid to match it as best I could. Of course duct tape was used to cover the seams for additional measure.
Then I cut a new piece of corrugated plastic from my ‘For Sale’ sign I’ve been using and placed it on top of the cavity where the chicken put their head into. I had to trim some of the side insulation pieces to recess the plastic so the lid would sit properly.
The chickens have also been pecking the top of the insulation every time we lift the lid to add water and big sections in the corner are now gone. Amazing what a few pecks a day over a couple months adds up to. So I fixed the corners. Then for good measure, I covered the top of all the insulation with duct tape to help prevent further pecking.
Also, the duct tape around the entry hole keeps coming loose on the outside. I’ve fixed it multiple times, but it just doesn’t stick for long. The main purpose of this tape is to prevent the chickens from pecking the insulation on the inside of the tub, so I removed the inside insulation, as one big conglomeration, since it’s all taped together but not taped to the sides or bottom. Then I put the tape on just the insulation, where it seems to stick the best.
Finally, when I pulled the inside insulation “cluster/conglomeration” out, it was a perfect opportunity to use come caulking to seal in the Twinwall Polycarbonat. I previously used tape, but it was coming lose and given how well the waterer is working, I figured it was time to do something a little more permanent by adding a bead of calking to the inside perimeter of the window.
As mentioned in the first post, the water inside will still freeze, especially at night, that’s not the goal. The goal is to keep the water from freezing in order to give the chickens an extended period of drinking time. If it’s sunny, the temperature can drop in the mid 20’s at night and 32 during the day and the sun will melt the water that froze overnight in a couple hours in the morning.
We’re looking at weather in the teens and below zero in the coming weeks. That means we’ll need to go out and dump the frozen water, which is why I use a rubber bowl. When we replace it with warm water, if it’s sunny I don’t expect it to freeze for the rest of the daylight hours, even at those temperatures. If it’s cloudy, we’ll check it and maybe need to refresh with warm water later in the day.
This really doesn’t need to be a separate post, but I didn’t want to combine it with my solar tire tub post since I consider that a failure.
My father-in-law gave me these feeders, so I decided to use them in the initial phase of the coop build. My thought was to build a PVC feeder system that we could add feed from outside the coop. This was because roosters are mean to little girls.
Now, we no longer have a rooster and I’ve grown to like the door feeders. Having to open the door to feed the chickens is a bit more work. And a time or two a chicken has escaped, as referenced in my aviary post; however, at this point I’m no longer interested in perusing a PVC solution .
As a bonus item, here’s my solution for providing calcium for the chickens. I like the idea of providing a second feeder that they can get the calcium at-will instead of adding it directly to their feed. For this I repurposed a broken brooder waterer and an old brooder feeder base I picked up. The plastic waterer was cracked and not holding water, so I cut open the top to be able to fill it from the top, and drilled two holds for the hanger. A scrap piece of house wire inserted into two drilled holes acts as a hanger.
Recently I realized I didn’t do a post on my solar tire waterer and that it’s on the outline for my initial build. In my opinion it was a failure and I guess why I overlooked it. But, I want others to be able to learn from both my successes and failures so here goes.
I researched ways to keep water from freezing and the tire idea intrigued me so I built one. I thought I had an ace up my sleeve, I’ll explain.
So I got a tire and put a board across the bottom for the pan to sit on. This was to insulate the pan from the ground. The instructions said to fill the tire with insulating material, plastic seemed to be the most common material so I filled the tire with old tarp scraps. I got a black plastic oil pan that fit the tier pretty well and I was off to the races.
And my ace in the hole? One of our small blue-ice bottles, unfrozen obviously. I saw people putting a dark ball in the water to move the water and attract heat, thus helping to keep it from freezing. If figured if my “ball” was also partly filled with salt water, which freezes at a lower temperature, it would help keep the water from freezing even more.
The results. The chickens roosted on the tire during the day, frequently butt side toward the water, and made a mess in the water. It was hard to keep the water clean. The tire setup did help keep the water from freezing, a little. It was fairly easy to dump frozen ice out of the pan or to melt it with hot water. The blue ice bottle seemed to help, but I’m not sure if or how much better than just adding a ball.
The end result was I finished the winter with it and moved back to a standard ground waterer as soon as I could. The tire was thrown in a corner, pan and all, and I didn’t touch it until I grabbed a picture the following February for the solar water post. It’s still sitting unused.
This was a part I didn’t plan out in great detail, but I’m used to that. Even the well thought out plans I made for this coop got modified as I built. Typically I’m building with various material, used and new, and I incorporate what I have to make what I want. I like to think I’ve developed pretty decent system around this building process.
Just so happens, I watched this video on being more productive the morning I was going out to work on the Aviary. It made me feel better about building the Aviary from just an idea in my mind. Early in the video, I like when he said “I think it’s easy to stand around and talk about how to do something better, when if you simply put your head down and went to work, it would be done, and well done, when discussion on the best possible method was just beginning to slow up enough for somebody to begin to pick up a tool. Now I’m overstating that, but productivity is important.”
I also, I enjoyed the Frost poem, and finally CS Lewis’s quote, “Two of a trade, never agree.” and his interpretation that Everyone does it different, so learn new things from that.
But on to the Aviary…
Building a coop on a trailer meant coming up with an aviary that can be lifted for movement. I don’t have permanent perimeter fencing around the pasture to keep and protect the flock, so an aviary is necessary.
The aviary is easily detachable at the pivot/hinge, made from a caster with the wheel removed. This is for three reasons. I may use the coop with portable fencing as some point and not want the aviary attached. The corners of the aviary drag when moving, so if I’m moving over large distances, removing the aviary makes the move easier. It’s also necessary for me to use the windows as access portals to remove chickens when they are roosting in the middle, removing the aviary gives me access to the windows.
Most of the frame is made out of some scrap aluminum wire track I picked up. This helps keep it light. The wooden pallet boards are for extra strength at the corners and pivot point, and to make it easier to tie everything together. Chicken wire is zip tied to the frame and stapled to the wood where appropriate.
I turned one corner of the frame into a hatch. This mainly allows us to water the chickens. We’ve been using ground waterers in the warm months and my new solar heated waterer in the cold months. I recently setup a PVC nipple system, but the weather turned cold before I could try it out; more to come on that.
The initial plan was to use a pulley system attached to the aviary to raise and lower it like a drawbridge and attach a motor or winch to raise and lower it. Even though it’s pretty light, it a pretty hard pull to raise. This is due to the shallow angle of lift I have from the roof and that I used cheap pulleys. Even with double pulleys, it’s a struggle to lift by pulling the cables.
Currently, I raise the aviary by hand, prop it up with a bucket, then pull the slack out of the cable and tie it down, using a cleat hook on the inside. I’m thinking I may scrap the whole pulley system and just have one cable on each end that is right length to hold the frame up once I’ve raised it on the bucket.
I’ve been told I should have designed the coop so that the aviary drags behind the coop when I move it. This sounds like a good idea; however, it doesn’t make backing up easy and I’ve already built the coop. I do think a redesign is in order, I have some ideas, so more to come when I’m finished.
Brothers M. Mondays is our way of showing you how excited we are for the first Seymour Farmers Market, LESS THAN A WEEK AWAY!
It’s been a fun year so far and this week I thought I’d showcase some of it.
First is the dynamic between Matthew and Samantha. Over the last year or so, these two have really come into their own and seem to bring out the good fun loving qualities in each other.
That attitude carried over into the care of the chickens. It has been interesting and a pleasure to watch these two work together; everything from joking and encouraging the chickens, to war cries when moving them
…and of course running.
And then there was a cow
And as a bright spot for the future, Olivia has been joining in the fun. She says she’s learning so she can help too.