Farm Photos

Monday, February 11, 2013

Chicken Coop Construction #2

It’s been a bumpy road, but I am thrilled to finally be able to post the completion of this coop. If ever someone was as happy about a chicken coop, I doubt it. This was a learning experience, problem solving and ‘making it work’ all the way. It actually helped that as we finished it up someone gave us three red laying hens, so we were forced to finish it and now are able to see how it’s working. 

Chicken Philosophy:

Our chicken philosophy is basically the golden rule; treat your animals’ right and give them healthy food and they will do the same to you. Through taking this part of my own food supply into my own hands and personally overseeing the process, I am eliminating my participation in the industrial food process for this product. Beyond food, chickens are domesticated farm livestock that, when raised traditionally, contribute to a healthy fertile farm. 

I realize that raising chickens isn’t an option for all people. With my backyard flock, I hope to provide four people: two of us here and two of our friends in town, with eggs. We don’t eat meat, but if we did we would still have to purchase chicken somewhere else. I am providing my household with its chicken needs and another household with its eggs needs, everyone with a small flock could do this. We still need sustainable methods of producing meat and eggs for all people. Joel Salatin of Polyface farms in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia is currently spreading the word about how he does this.

“Our whole culture suffers from an industrial food system that has made every part disconnected from the rest. Smelly and dirty farms are supposed to be in one place, away from people, who snuggle smugly in their cul-de-sacs and have not a clue about the out-of-sight out- of-mind atrocities being committed to their dinner before it arrives in microwaveable, four-color-labeled, plastic packaging… The notion that animals can be raised, processed, packaged, and sold in a model that offends neither our eyes nor noses cannot even register on the average bureaucrat’s radar screen — or, more importantly, on the radar of the average consumer advocacy organization. Besides, all these single-use megalithic structures are good for the gross domestic product. Anything else is illegal.”Joel Salatin, Everything I Want to do is Illegal.

Polyface farm is a 550 acre meat farm which produces beef, chicken, pork, turkey and rabbit. According to author Michael Pollan and Polyfaces other fans, this is one of American’s most sustainable meat farming operations. Through Salatins’ sustainable biomimicry, nutrient recycling, and animal rotation techniques he produces 25,000 pounds of beef, 50,000 pounds of pork, 12,000 broilers, 800 turkeys, 500 rabbits, and 30,000 dozen eggs annually. He does this without using industrial feeds, fertilizers, pesticides, antibiotics, growth hormones or trucked-in soil. Salatins faming style is catching like wildfire within a community of American farmers who are searching for a way to hold onto their livelihood. We must design our farms to operate post-oil for there to be any hope of them succeeding. 

Reading on Polyface and sustainable Meat Farming:

Raising chickens:

Chickens hatch and become full-grown in one year. Once they are grown, hens will begin to lay eggs given that they have adequate exposure to light each day. After three years, the laying will diminish and eventually the hen will no longer lay. Chicken will live between 8 and 10 years on average. On a typical, small homestead farm, a farmer would keep a rooster along with his hens. Every time the farmer wanted to harvest chickens for meat or replace chickens which had died, he would allow a hen to brood (sit on the eggs) until they hatched. Or, he could take the fertilized eggs to an incubator…either way, new chickens. A hundred years ago, your chickens were your chickens…they gave you eggs and when they got too old, you ate them. Nowadays, there are specific breeds of chicken that farmers raise separately from their laying hens for meat birds. 

Upon learning what we had about raising hens, Andy and I had some choices. Did we want a rooster? If we were truly self-reliant and had no one else to trade with then having a rooster would be essential. But we happen to have two neighbors who both have roosters, and adding another one to the noise of the existing birds may get annoying. Also, because the neighbors have roosters, we could always trade for fertilized eggs from them when we need more chickens. 

Even though there’s no visible different until after a broody hen has sat on an egg and it’s had a chance to develop, there was just something about eating a fertilized egg, rather than an unfertilized egg that grossed me out. It is peace of mind knowing that we’ll never have to crack open a partially developed egg on accident. 

Brrrr! Cold and Rainy!

We discovered how to make pretty art flowers from recycled plastic bottles!

The run door, ready to go on!

The three access doors...

 It's important to be able to have easy access to your coop, so Andy and I decided on three access doors. A main door to clean out the coop bedding, a door to easily access fresh eggs, and a door to access the far-side of the coop which we may turn into a storage area.

We found a piece of wood on the property to serve as the run door handle. Below, a plastic tub we used as a window. When the coop light is on, the sun shines illuminating the painted rays.

Assembling the coop by moonlight! Hens are coming!
The walls are plywood, we framed them in with 2X4's. We had a ton of spray paint left over from a previous project, so we used it to color the entire coop. The bright colors will be fun and attractive for kids and people learning about the farm.

 This is the chicken door, which they will access via a ladder. The coop is placed off the ground to discourage predators and pests from entering.

The roof is corrugated plastic; it allows sunlight to come into the coop even during colder days when they may not want to spend alot of time outside.

The chicken door can be drawn up from outside the coop. This makes it convenient for us to let them out each morning, we don't have to enter the run.

Inside the coop are wood shavings, and in the run we put straw on the ground. The Chickens like to scratch and spread the straw; inside the coop the shavings or chips (which we will produce ourselves with a wood chipper) will absorb the liquid waste and be easy to clean out. This time we purchased the chips from a local farm store and the straw from a neighbor.
 We have bought feeders that the previous owners of the hens gave us, but we made additional recycled feeders from drinking containers. Our laying boxes are temporarily cardboard, they will last long enough for us to build more permanent boxes.

And they arrive! This coop is an upgrade from the small backyard coop they lived in at their previous home.  They are about a year and a half old and once they settle in, they should begin to lay.

We didn't get to choose the breed but these hens were free, these are Rhode Island Reds. We will add to our small flock with additional hens we choose and purchase from local farmers.

It was exciting to see them using the roosting bar we made.

A Video Featuring Joel Salatin and Polyface Farm.

No comments:

Post a Comment