Summer Heat Prep for the Chickens

As summer is coming closer and the temperatures are getting into the 80s we need to start thinking about better ways to keep the new young girls cool when the temperatures get into the 90s.

Since we pulled out the old nesting boxes the back door entry to gather eggs is no longer useful. The man of the house once again used his engineering mind and with a few modifications created a big vent facing into the run to give the girls another source of fresh air.

The girls seemed to really like it! They were climbing in and out of the open space while hubby was trying to get the wire cloth over it. Took longer than he would have liked but it was finally finished. Curious girls really like the results!

More important is this vent will eliminate the need to use a fan in the coop. We weren’t big on the idea of the fan blowing all the dust around to begin with. Take a look at the girls reaction with their new coop feature:

More Firsts for the Littles

This batch of new chicks are amazing. I always heard that Rhode Island Red chickens were different in personality but they are SO much different than the other breeds we had. They are more brave, inquisitive, and very assertive. They are so pushy I can’t even tell you how difficult it is to go into the coop, feed and water them, and just get back out. They are completely under foot, pulling on you and pecking at every spot that looks interesting on your clothes. They want to play all the time!

Here are some of the recent firsts for the littles that made us laugh.

First coop clean out:

I wasn’t aware at first but did you know that young chicks go through 8 moltings before they get their final adult feathers? Well this batch of chicks has been shedding and growing new feathers it seems like forever! They are eating twice as much food as the older ladies and that means twice as much poop! Since they have been refusing to go outside in the run it’s all stacking up inside and stinking! So I finally changed out the bedding and dumped a brand new bale of pine shavings in the middle of the floor. They didn’t even give me a chance to grab my camera! They were all over it, tearing it down! Remember dust bathing girl? Trying to dust bath without any dirt? When the chips came out she plopped herself down and started to bathe with the chips! That was funny enough but then the other littles started to pull the pine shavings off of her! Then another little joined in with her! You have to see the video:

Trying to Get the Littles Outside:

You didn’t see them all but I took 5 videos trying to get the littles to go outside, but they wouldn’t even venture off the chicken ladder! For brave girls they certainly took a long time finally getting outside! They were 10 weeks old when I finally shoved them out! And of course they enjoyed themselves. Funny enough they haven’t gone out since. Check them out:

New Roosts:

When we moved the littles into the coop they insisted on laying on top of each other in a pile in the corner of the floor at night. They should be roosting! Stupidly they picked the corner underneath the hanging feeder full of food which is right in front of the drafty chicken door. They couldn’t stand up without hitting the feeder and knocking food on the floor. We left a new poop deck shelf on the wall and put their training perch on top but they had no interest. At 12 weeks old we finally started to see poop under the perch on top of the poop deck! (It’s sad to see how excited we get about poop). So now we know it’s time to put up the roost! What an exciting day! The littles are turning into big girls at 3 months of age and they have huge feet! Although we had to pick the girls up and put them on the roost to get them started they seem to be getting the hang of it! Check it out. Oh…..and they are having a good time pulling, tugging and pecking like always!

More firsts coming up soon. Don’t miss them!

The Littles Move into the Coop!

Today is the big day! The chicks are finally moving into the coop! First I had to tear out EVERYTHING and clean every surface. It’s a long job to do it right.

It started with shoveling out all the used pined shavings and dumping them into the tractor bucket, driving them and dumping them into the compost pile. Since we were using the deep litter method over the winter this meant 5 trips! A lot of compost!

The feeders, waterers, roosts and nesting boxes were all moved out. Then I swept everything out. We installed linoleum on the floor so it was very easy to sweep and clean. To make sure everything was clear of any debris from the older chickens I pull out the shop vac next and vacuum every surface in the coop. I find it’s cleaner in the end this way because adding water to a dusty surface just makes the dirt stick. If you vacuum first then wash, its super clean!

I wash everything with dish soap and a little oil soap to smother insects. Then I spray with a very diluted bleach water to disinfect. After it’s dry I spread diatomaceous earth in the cracks of the wood in walls, floors and especially around the windows. This prevents pests from getting in.

Spread some pine shavings down and we are ready to move the chicks in! Because it’s so stressful for them we tried to put them in boxes to move them but it seemed to stress them out even more. So we ended up grabbing 2 at a time and walking them outside and into the new digs! They love it! Space!!

See the videos on their YouTube Channel:

Chickens Move Into the Barn

With the new chicks coming of egg laying age its time to move the older ladies to a retirement home. We are creating a coop set up in the barn.

We brought back their old nesting boxes they loved so much. They didn’t use the high tech metal one we just bought. They were laying their eggs on the floor in the corner. They are happy to have their boxes back. Plus we put together all new clean roosts.

My talented handy man created a wooden template for a chicken door. We can still close the barn doors to shut them in.

The biggest difference is the large free range space they have and are definitely loving it. There is no way to cover this large of an area.They are very hawk savvy so we aren’t worried about that, however I saw a fox the other day so we put up 4 electric fence wires on the outside.

They are really loving retirement. Lots of new vegetation to eat at their leisure and plenty of space to keep from getting on each others nerves. They’ve never had it better.

Watch as the ladies check out their new digs on their YouTube Channel:

Winter Coop Remodel

The words you hate to hear when you are on a farm. SNOW IS COMING! The warning came earlier this year so we were caught off guard. You should always do a thorough coop cleaning in the early spring and in the late fall before the snow comes. Last year it was in November.

We’d been talking about all the changes we wanted to make to the coop and agreed that the time to do it was when we did the bi-annual cleaning. Now snow has been predicted in a couple days and we were completely unprepared!

Why changes? Well, let’s see. You probably notice we have no internal wall board. We put up some of that shiny thin insulation between the beams but never put up drywall. We didn’t want to overdo the pocket book for a coop and we definitely didn’t want to insulate more. We found some thin, low cost, pre-primered no VOC plywood to finish the building and reduce the drafts.

We also noticed the ladies would try and jump from the roosts straight across to the nesting boxes a couple feet away or they would struggle trying to find a spot to jump off of the roost that was far enough away from the nesting boxes.They are big, fat and not very graceful when they try to fly so some of them banged themselves up! Not too bright. Moving the roosts and nesting boxes seemed to be in order.

Also, after spending 6 weeks eradicating lice from the coop, a lesson learned from getting somebody’s FREE rooster….(now we know why he was free), cleanliness is a must. The nesting boxes are a nightmare. First we started by covering the wooden floor of each nesting box with shelf liner. We learned quickly that there is a lot of scratching going on in those boxes and the liner wouldn’t stay in the box. We tried hay for nesting material but it was kicked out as well. So we found some nesting pads which were disposable but did not stand up to broken eggs  or a good shot of poop. Every now and then the wood in the box was dirty with something nasty and it is so hard to disinfect. I still am not convinced its clean enough, even after a diluted bleach solution spray. We needed an easy clean nesting box! And the poop deck…….what can you say. It didn’t go all the way to the back wall so poop collected there requiring me to pull everything out, crawl under the roost and clean it out.

Finally, winter is the worst time of the year. The ladies don’t leave the coop when it’s snowing or very wet. There are a lot of big hens taking up space in that coop. They tend to get on each other’s nerves which usually means pecking. We need to give them more space.

Hardware Store Run! We got everything we needed to get the job done. Plywood, screws, a tarp, buckets…..yes buckets. You’ll see…….

The girls got kicked out of their coop bright and early and the door was shut for the rest of the day. All the bedding on the floor was shoveled out into the tractor scoop and dropped into the compost. The whole coop was swept and even vacuumed, all the way to the mesh coverings of the peak vents. Everything was moved from the coop, and I mean EVERYTHING! The heating panels off the walls, the nesting boxes and the roosts. Then came the scrubbing. All-natural non-toxic dish soap for general washing, homemade orange peel cleaner for tough spots and a fresh scent, and finally a light spray with a very dilute bleach solution final disinfection.

Now it’s time to put everything back in. Roosting bars now go on the short back wall. The poop deck is no longer a table. A sheet of plywood is covered with a new tarp and put on a ledger rather than table legs. Now we can slide it in and out easier. And the best part?…..The deck is now notched to reach all the way back to the wall! …..Yay!

And for the grand finale………..plastic bucket nesting boxes!……..Whaaaaat?  You read it right. Buckets for nesting boxes. An egg can break in there and you can wash that bucket out and return it super clean! Ahhhh…..what a relief. But of course the question is, will the ladies use them? Well that’s a story for another day!

See both Before and After videos on their YouTube Channel:

 

 

 

Surprisingly Cold!

I’ve decided the ladies are fair weather girls. I’ve also decided their coop must be the Tajmahal because when the weather isn’t perfect they would rather stay inside! Maybe we need to spend less time cleaning it? Make it less hospitable?
Ladies, it’s important for you to get outside in the winter. You need fresh air and exercise to lay eggs! We haven’t seen but a couple eggs a week this winter!  Get your act together!

During the last couple snow storms we didn’t let them outside because it was frostbite weather. When it finally stopped snowing, we shoveled the snow out of the way and opened their door. They came storming out with excitement until they came to edge of the snow, and then turned around and went right back inside!

Ladies, ladies! Sitting in the coop all winter is only going to fatten you up and make you look delicious! And if you aren’t laying eggs and looking tasty you may not be here much longer!

Watch the ladies reaction when they finally get outside after a couple days cooped up on this video from their YouTube Channel:

 

Pretty in Pink

Yes, this is what I get to look at every morning when I let the chickens out for the day!

The morning chores consist of opening the nesting boxes, cleaning off the poop deck, refilling the feeder, cleaning and refilling the waterer. Pulling the poop out in a bucket, there is a long walk out to the compost pile. It’s a perfect time to look out over the land and enjoy the sunrise. I often wonder if the ladies even notice or care about the colorful sky, but I can tell you it makes taking care of them a lot easier!

A little poop for pretty in pink!

Check out the sunrise on the ladies YouTube Channel:

Fall Coop Clean Up

We heard it was potentially going to snow over the weekend so decided it’s time to deep clean the coop to prepare for the winter.

We gutted the coop and I mean EVERYTHING out of it. We took a vacuum to remove all the left overs and dust. You won’t believe how dusty a coop gets!

The old linoleum was yanked out and replaced with a new, thicker version. Hopefully this one will withstand all the scratching and pecking! It was funny to see the ladies find a torn piece and start pulling and tearing it more. A little frustrating, but funny to watch.

A mild cleaner was used over everything and a light chlorine mix for the nasty spots. Luckily there wasn’t much of that.

The nesting pads were removed and replaced and sprinkled with dried herbs. The herbs are said to deter pests but the ladies seem to like the taste too. I like the smell!

Before I laid out new fresh pine shavings food grade DE (Diatomaceous Earth) was sprinkled around the edges of the coop including in the back corners of the nesting boxes to keep pests like lice or mites from taking over. A quick spray of all natural pest deterrent around the doorways and the shaving went down.

The poop deck got a fresh new tarp cover to make it easy to clean, and then the ladies were let in to take a look a their clean new digs!

If you want to take a tour of the cleaned coop, you can see it on the ladies YouTube Channel:

See the ladies checking out their new digs!

 

Chicken Run Shade Cloth

It quickly jumped from winter to summer and we are hitting 90 degrees! Chickens can die from being in 85 or higher weather for a long time. The girls really stressed out last year anytime it went over 85 degrees so we did things a little different this year.  We bought a shade cloth online to not only cover the top of the run but also the west side of the fence. It blocks out 60% of the sun and makes the run feel much cooler. The awning over the the coop door is just a tarp with the white side facing out to reflect the sun. It casts a shadow over the west side of the coop during the hottest time of the day.

Last year the girls had a hard time dealing with the high temperatures. You could tell they were hot when they wandered around with their beaks hanging open.You feel so bad for them! Its so nice to see only a few of the girls with open beaks this year. They are so much happier and I no longer have to worry about them!

Spring Cleaning and The Birds!

Let’s see……scrub brush?…check, rags?…check, rubber gloves?…check, air filtering mask?…check, and natural home made cleaner?……CHECK!  I’m ready to spring clean the coop!

We do what they call the deep litter method. You keep a deep 5-6 inches of bedding on the coop floor and turn it routinely which helps the chicken poop to break down and create it’s own compost so it doesn’t smell. It really works! Every 3-6 months you pull out the bedding and clean the nesting boxes, roost, floor, walls and windows. We waited 6 months over the winter for this day and it’s finally here!

I started by getting all my cleaning supplies together. There are great recipes online for natural cleaning solutions. Mine includes diluted white vinegar, lemon oil and cinnamon. It cleans great, smell fantastic and it has no harsh chemicals.

The girls never miss an opportunity to go free ranging so it was easy to get them out of my way. Open the gate, make sure they are all out and then shut all the coop doors.  Open the windows to allow air flow and I’m ready to start!

I had a dump trailer hooked up to the UTV and moved 5 trailer loads of partially composted bedding to the composting area! It didn’t look like much laying in the coop. I swept the linoleum floor and  then pulled out the farm specific shop vacuum to remove all the dust possible. Then came the brush and rags to start wiping down EVERYTHING with that great smelling cleaning solution. What a difference in the the smell!

That’s about the time the girls started to lose patience. I’d been in there for over an hour already and they wanted back in! As I was putting new nesting pads and dried herbs in their nesting boxes they started to peck at the doors and jump at the windows trying to get in! It was like being in the movie THE BIRDS! Crazy chickens frantically throwing themselves at the coop dying to get back inside!

I started working really fast getting the coop back together tossing 5 bales of pine shavings on the floor, barely spreading them out before I opened up the coop door. They came running back in right into the nesting boxes. They really wanted to lay their eggs inside the coop. I’m lucky in that they never laid eggs outside.

In the end we have a super clean coop and happy hens who, by the way, are now laying more eggs than ever!

See the before and after videos on the What the Flock YouTube channel: