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.
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.
Wow, what a month February was. It’s been a little over a month since we kicked off the 2020 CSA season and our CSA slots are almost full. A huge thank you is in order for everyone who’s supporting us by ordering.
If your considering a CSA order, we have a couple slots open so let us know what you want.
Thanks again for getting 2020 off to a great start.
Providing unfrozen water in the winter can be a challenge and time consuming. Since we pasture the chickens “tractor” style with the portable coop, power to heat the water is the issue. I believe I’ve finally figured it out.
First year we started with multiple plastic waterers that we swapped out multiple times a day. This works decently, but the water still freezes, it’s labor intensive, and someone needs to be around during the day to swap waterers.
The next year we steped it up by heating the waterers with a light bulb. This worked pretty good, but required us to keep the coop within extension cord distance of an outlet and periodically water would freeze in the top of the waterer.
Last year I built a tire waterer to try and keep the chicken water from freezing. I put a board inside the tire on the bottom side, stuffed the inside of the tire with old tarps for insulation, and fitted a plastic pan in the tire. My experience with that was poor and I do not recommend it. The biggest issue was that the chickens would stand on the tire and mess in their water all day. By the time I got home to change it, it was pretty bad. It did help slow down the freezing process; however, being open air, it still allowed the water to eventually freeze solid, especially overnight.
I’ve been playing with an idea of an enclosed PVC and nipple system. Basically building an insulated box and filling it with 3″ tubes of PVC, shown in the graphic. There would be a cutout of frame and insulation in one top corner to allow access to add water. One bottom corner would have a smaller PVC tube that protruded through the box with a water nipple on the end. The front would be Twinwall Polycarbonate glazing to let the sun in and the inside would be painted black to absorb as much heat as possible.
It was getting cold this year and I needed to get a waterer made for the chickens so I decided to not build the PVC waterer for the following reason. One, my chickens are not trained to a nipple system yet. I’m having trouble figuring out how to attach the PVC box to the ‘Pequod’ chicken coop, especially since it’s going to be heavy and need decent support. The 3″ PVC fittings are expensive and I have concerns the metal part of the nipple would still freeze and cause issue.
I was basing the PVC system on principals I learned from this solar horse tank. Then it hit me, how about trying to replicate the horse tank at a chicken waterer size! Since the amount of water would be significantly less, I wouldn’t want to leave the top exposed, but chicken heads are small, so I took a gamble that they’d stick their heads through a hole instead.
My first thoughts were to use a bucket, but I didn’t like the clearances nor dealing with bending and attaching the polycarbonate glazing. So I decided to use a tote, black obviously so it will absorb the heat from the sun.
Using similar principals as the solar horse tank. I first put 2″ foam on the bottom to have an insulated base to sit the water on. I measured from the top of the foam to the bottom of the lid and subtracted 2 inches for the foam that would be attached to the lid. This gave me the height for the foam sides and Twinwall Polycarbonat glazing
Next I added the 2″ foam to the sides. I looked at the shape of the tote and measured across the end where I could fit a straight piece of foam. The bottom of the tote is narrower than the top, measured top and bottom and cut sloped pieces of foam.
I measured from the floor to top and between the insides of the sides to cut a rectangle out of the front of the tote for the window. I cut a piece of polycarbonate glazing slightly larger, about 1/2 to 3/4 inch, than the hole on the sides and bottom so that the foam could help hold it in place. I used duct to hold and seal the polycarbonate glazing in place; this also sealed the tubes. I put the scrap piece of plastic from the side on the floor in front of the window to try and suck in more heat.
On the other side, I placed the water bowl in the tote and used the top of the bowl to mark the bottom of the drinking opening. Using a hole saw, I cut two overlapping circles to make the oval shaped opening for the chickens to sick their head in to drink, cleaning up the oval edges with a utility knife.
I thought it would be better to use a thinner foam where the hens stick their heads in, so I cut a piece of 1/2 inch foam, from scrap I had, to cover this side, removing the same oval. I used duct tape to hold the foam pieces together and seal the seams. I also used several pieces of duct tape to secure the foam to the hole and prevent the chickens from rubbing the foam.
Next I cut the 2″ foam for the lid making it fit snug when placed in the tote, but not too snug as it’ll need to be opened and shut frequently. With the foam in the tote and the lid on, I drilled 4 sets of 2 holes so I could use zip ties to secure the foam to the lid. I also cut some small squares of plastic from something in the recycling to prevent the zip ties from digging into the foam and pulling through.
From the drinking hole, I wanted to minimize the surface area of the incoming air over the bowl. I used 2″ foam to make a bridge over the bowl, then added 1/2 foam on either side of the hole to create a smaller cavity where the outside air had direct contact with the water.
At this point I put the waterer into action; however, I forgot chicken peck. I’m not sure why I thought they wouldn’t peck the foam bridge, but I did and they did, effectively destroying the bridge.
So… I redid the bridge. I used corrugated plastic from an old ‘For Sale’ sign I had on all the pecking sides of the bridge and plenty of duct tape to hold it in place. The 2″ foam was replace with 1/2″ foam over the bowl. I didn’t account for needing to remove the bowl to clean it and the 2″ foam made it so I had to tip the bowl to get it out. Now I don’t have to.
How well does it work? Great. Basically, overnight at 15-19 degrees Fahrenheit I had about 1/8 inch of ice frozen on the top of the bowl. Down in the teens is a bit thicker. In the morning if the bowl was full of water, pull the bowl out and bang it upside down on the ground to remove the ice. If it’s half or less, then fill it with warm water from the tap and melt the ice that way.
During the day, in the teens and twenties the water stays unfrozen, especially if there is sun, but even on overcast days, there should be enough solar to keep it unfrozen. Unfortunately, we only had a few days this winter where it stayed below freezing night and day for 2 or more days, so I cannot give accurate results for long cold spells; however, given what I’ve seen so far it should work great. The heat from the warm water in the morning in conjunction with the passive solar heat should keep the water from refreezing during the day.
With all my scraps, this was a pretty cheap build and worth every penny. $6 for the tote and $10 for the rubber bowl, and $20 for the polycarbonate glazing. (the link isn’t the one I purchased, but this is a similar 5 pack) I had 2″ and 1/2″ foam left over from insulating the basement and other projects.