Sunday, July 27, 2014

Getting Started with Backyard Chickens - Part 4

I have learned so much since starting with the chickens this winter.  All four chickens are doing well and enjoy the treats I give them throughout the day.  They thrive on eating leafy vegetables when I pull them up at the end of their growing season or ones that insects have started eating.  I am finding what they enjoy eating and often give them treats.  Since I have chickens and worms I have a lot less to compost.  

My dad picked up some pallets and shared how nice they were and his vision for a chicken run.  He removed one side of the boards and brought them over.  I assisted as he put them together in the back yard.  It consists of one 5” pallet wide two long.  I temporarily added 2' chicken wire around it and used pallets for the top.

Isaac and I worked together to pain it. He rolled the slats while I painted the sections at the top and bottom.  He worked nonstop until we had finished.  I put chicken 3" wire around the outside leaving an opening for the chickens to get into the coop and a door for them to get out to free range.

This is the finished run.  I made five 2' X 5' PVC screens to go on the top of the pallets which can be removed for access.  I normally have landscape cloth on the front and some of the top to provide shade.

I use the PVC run as my modified free ranging that I use on the days each chicken lays an egg.  I normally am working in the yard and move the cage every 15 minutes.  The chicken rush in when I link the doors and are normally quickly return to their permanent home when I re-link the runs.

I buy food and supplies in bulk due to the price.  Chickens need extra calcium for the eggs they lay so it is good to have a continuous source available. Crushed oyster shells sells for $8.95 for five pounds or $12.99 for fifty.  I needed a holder for the oyster shell and found a small strawberry pot and filled with oyster and covered with a PVC 3” couple and lid.  It works well since the chickens just consume it when they fill a need.

I use diatomaceous earth to keep down the insect population.  It looks a lot like flour and I use a plastic ketchup holder like you see when you go to a hot dog stand as my sprayer.   I dust under their wings by holding each chicken by her feet.  When I change the bedding, I spray their coop with the dust.  When larvae come in contact with this substance, it is like glass and cuts holes in the insects but do not harm the chickens.

I decided to try wood shavings for the nesting instead of shredded newspaper and found that it works better and easier to clean. A large bail is around $5 and lasts for a long time.

I also found that the chickens like cracked corn better than whole.  They will eat the whole corn from your hand when feeding but prefer cracked when given a choice since they leave the whole corn in the scratch mixture.  Grace is watching the chickens eat after being fed by Isaac and Elise.

The four generations that built this chicken coop are pictured here.  We all enjoyed doing out part so we could enjoy raising chickens and eating their eggs.

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