Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Best5Chickens 3/31/2015

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After watching my dad raise chickens the last few years (translation: learn all the tricks and tribulations), we are now on the road to raising chickens(and promptly stealing all their eggs). We wanted to start raising them last year, but we knew we would be moving out of the 'burbs and into the country. Well, that's not true....we were open to moving anywhere that had enough room, but we preferred a place that we could....stretch out. That meant, having a garden and chickens without being the ban of our neighbors existence.  Now, considering that we haven't actually met ANY of our new neighbors, it remains to be seen if that will actually happen, regardless. 

So, in case you missed it (likely, since I JUST posted it), we started our preparations for our garden yesterday. You can read about it here:

Best5Garden 2015

Since I managed to misplace half the seeds and I didn't really want to delve into tilling quite yet, I decided to get a jump on our chicken coup. We had a few options when it came to a coupe. We could build a custom one or buy one. A custom one is great because you can build it sturdy, add cool options, and most importantly, build it for as many chickens as you would like. The only downside is, well, you have to build it. And, construction material and tools are prohibitively high. I admit that woodworking tools aren't something I have really invested in. And, I knew my dad had sunk around $1,000 into his coup. I don't have that kind of money.  This isn't a hobby. It's a learning experience that might end up saving us some dough. 

Dad found these chicken coupe kits at Tractor Supply for right at $200. Great deal, right? Just line up the tabs, screw in some hardware, and you are all done, right? Well, sorta. The issue here is that the coup only will house 2-3 birds. In fact, there are only 2 laying boxes. This coup is really meant to raise the chickens to adulthood and then put them in a much bigger coup. But, we are starting small and I can make this work. Also, it was cheap. 

So, I busted out the box and found the instructions, which were very limited...which is great for a man who doesn't really like to read them, anyway. 

In 30 short minutes, I had the whole thing assembled, despite having a 3 year old who was CONVINCED this was meant for him. 

Couple of pointers: don't try to move it without it being nearly fully assembled. Why? It's fairly flimsy. The roof adds most of it's rigidity. So, either build it in the right place (which I actually planned to do...and executed perfectly..whoot) or wait until the roof is on, then use two people to move it. 

Make sure the land you build on is level. It's awfully hard to get the sides lined up on uneven soil. Sounds stupid...until you find out the hard way. 

That's really all I have on pointers. It was easy enough. 

Being an engineer, I couldn't leave it alone without modifying it. The lay box (seen in the bottom right picture, on the left of the structure) has gaps around it's edges. We plan on heating the main house (center-left of the structure) but with the gaps, the heat would bleed out quickly. So, I caulked the gaps. 

The screw holes in the roof were predrilled. I was hoping to not have to put holes in the roof to attach it, but that is part of the design. I don't want the thing rotting, so I caulked the screw holes (after fastening, of course). This will prevent the fasteners from rusting and from the wood rotting where the bare wood around the shingles would be exposed. 

Again, these weren't big modifications. Those might come later.

So, what else do we need? Well, chickens, obviously. But dad has that taken care of.

The next few tasks are:
  1. Fence in the coup
  2. Design an automatic door for the fence. Looking at a solar arrangement, which would be preferred. 
  3. Add a heater. Alyse has looked up solar heaters, which I think I can make happen real easy. That would involve aluminum cans, some grill paint, a vacuum cleaner hose, lexan, and a few pieces of wood. 
  4. Build a water collection and distributor for the chickens. Planning on using a rain barrel setup
  5. Build a food distribution center. Will use PVC and attach to the back of the shop, most likely. 
  6. Find a way to expand the coup to house up to 6 chickens. 
  7. MAYBE build a run around the garden to allow them to eat all the bugs
The kids have loved playing with my dad's chickens, and they offer a ton of benefits, not limited to just the eggs they lay.

Consider the amount of bugs these guys eat. They eat ALL the bugs. Which means, limited affects of bugs on your garden. Additionally, for those in wetter areas, less mosquitoes. 

The chickens produce great poop for composting, both in the amount and the quality. 

And, there are the eggs. Which, they should lay 1 a day, but be safe and consider that you will get a 75% lay rate among your chickens. So, currently, we plan on 5 chickens who lay around 4 eggs a day. Eggs are currently $1 a dozen. So, we need 200 dozen to break even with current investment. So, we are currently at a 600-day to break even investment...not counting by products.

Just keeping it real. 

Anyways....until next time!