Sunday, January 27, 2013

Chicken Update- 1/27/2013

     The improvements to the hoop coop are working out well.  They seem to like the new roost and almost the entire flock can sleep on it; with only two birds on a dowel that's in the corner, a little lower than the main roost. 

They like the nest box, but of course they all want to use the same box.  In the shot above, 4 amaraucanas are all jammed together in the lower right hand box.

Even though our girls are still young and fairly small, I feel much better about a 1' cube nest box being big enough now that I have seen four of them inside one.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Whats in bloom- July 2012

     The extremely hot, dry July we had didn't leave much to work with.  It was also a busy time of year, when I didn't have much of a chance for photography, but here's what I got.

Gladiolus in Nikki's Square bed.
Globe Thistle
Yellow Spanish sweet onion, and a petunia
Queen Anne's Lace
Hens & Chicks
This one was a big surprise.  I have never seen or even heard of Hens and Chicks flowering in Wisconsin before.  But we did have an extremely hot, dry summer.


Saturday, January 19, 2013

A Low cost, easy to build, chicken nest box design

     Nest boxes are an important feature in a coop for several reasons.  They provide a safe, and comfortable place for layers to do their business.  The eggs stay much cleaner than if they are lain on the floor.  It also protects the eggs from getting stepped on, kicked or otherwise damaged.  Chickens tend to eat damaged eggs, which can lead to egg pecking and eating as behavior problems.

     Not wanting to spend hundreds of dollars on a ready made unit, I came up with this simple design based on scrap wood that I had in the garage.  My goal was  to make something light enough that I could hang it on the back wall of the hoop coop for use during our mobile summer setup.  I felt that it needed to be sturdy, though, so the hens will feel secure using it.

This design gives you 6  12"x12"x12" boxes, which is pretty much the minimum size for large breed birds.  So far the design is working great.  The hens have taken to using boxes on both levels leaving clean, beautiful eggs.  We are using pine chips for bedding.

Salvage opportunities:

(click images to view larger)

     The main components can all be cut out of a single 4' x 8' sheet of plywood.  Or at minimum a sheet that is 3' 6" x 7' 8".  Since most of the pieces are only 1' wide, there are ample opportunities to use scrap or salvaged materials.  I used 3/8" plywood that I had salvaged from a demolition job.  It was painted white on one side.  Any thickness greater than that could be used, though the lengths of the front rails, back piece, and perch will need to be adjusted along with the appropriate fastener lengths.  I used 1x2 furring strips that I had left over for the cleats and perch rails.  If you have access to a table saw, the short 1x2 pieces (exact dimensions being 3/4" x 1 1/2") can be ripped out of any 1x or 2x lumber 12" or longer.

Tools Needed:

Saw horses or work table
Measuring tape
Chalk line or straight edge
Circular saw
Drill bit (same diameter as the shank of your wood screws)
Driver bit for wood screws

Shopping List:

Here is a shopping list for all the items needed for this project if you were going to purchase them at a store.  Prices given are my current local prices for these materials and are only to provide an example of what you might expect to spend.

1  4x8' sheet of  3/8" plywood                  $13.37
1  4x4' sheet of 1/4" plywood                   $  8.79
3  8' 1x2" furring strips                             $  2.64
1  8'  2x2" lumber (perch)                         $  1.42
1  8'  1x4" lumber                                      $  3.10

64    1" exterior wood screws                    $  4.26 (Box of 100)
28    1 1/2"  exterior wood screws             $  5.19 (Box of 100)
small brads or finish nails (3/4" to 1"long)$  2.49
80 grit sandpaper                                        $  1.99
Boiled linseed oil                                        $  6.99 (quart)
Example cost to purchase all new materials   =  $48.25



Cut List:

Here is the cut list of all the parts, Use this as your guide if you plan to salvage materials.

4  sidewall pieces as pictured above, cut with a 45° angle from 3'6" on top to 2'6" on the bottom.  These are 1' wide and cut from 3/8" plywood or other suitable sheet material.

6 Shelves 1'x1' cut from 3/8" plywood or other suitable board
14 Cleats  1x2 lumber x 1' long
1 Back  1/4" plywood  3' 1.5" x cut to fit at assembly (at least 3' 2" long)
1 top 1' 7" x 3' 6" out of 3/8" plywood or other suitable sheet material
2 Front Rails 1x4 lumber x cut to fit (at least 3' 2" long)
2 Perch rails 1x2 lumber x 18" long
1 perch  2x2 x cut to fit (at least 3' 2" long)

Finishing the wood

     After a light sanding to remove any splinters and smoothing the edges that the chickens would perch on, we coated all the un-painted wood with boiled linseed oil; both as a preservative, and to make it less hospitable for mites.  Boiled linseed oil is not actually boiled at all.  It is infused with drying agents that also happen to be toxic heavy metals.  I personally am not worried about using it in this application, but I will not use it in garden beds, compost bins, children's toys, or cooking utensils.  If you are not comfortable using the boiled linseed oil, raw linseed oil is an alternative, though it can take weeks to dry.  Another option is a paste made from 5 parts food grade mineral oil and 1 part beeswax gently heated to blend.

Step 1.  Add cleats to the end walls.
     Start by attaching three cleats to each of the two end walls.  One at 6" and another at 18" from the bottom as shown above.  The third is centered on the angled top.

Attach each of the cleats with three 1" wood screws.  Screw from the plywood side into the cleat as shown above, you do not need to pre-drill these connections.  Take care that they are on the line, and not sticking out on either end.
The process is the same for the other end wall, but the plywood must be reversed so the cleats will face inward like bookends.

Step 2.  Add cleats to the two middle walls.
     The two middle walls begin just like the end walls, with two cleats attached from the plywood side at 6" and 18" from the bottom

Two more cleats are attached to the opposite side using 3 1 1/2" screws on each cleat.  Pre-drill holes in the cleats using a drill bit that is the same diameter as the shank (no threads) of the screw you are using.

Be sure to stagger the holes so that you will not hit the screws from the other side.

Step 3.  Add the shelves.
  The first shelf can now be added between an end wall and a middle wall using four 1" screws to secure it.  It is helpful to have another set of hands at this point.  You do not need to pre-drill these connections.

The second shelf can then be added right above the first.  Be sure to keep the walls straight up and down so things come together squarely.

 Keep adding the shelves until all the shelves and walls are connected as shown above.  At this point you can measure the width of the entire assembly.  This will be the length of the three other components; the back, the two front rails, and the perch.  Waiting until now to measure is to take into account the small differences that can accumulate from imperfections in cuts as well as different  thickness of material that can be used.

Step 4.  Add the back.
    The 1/4" plywood back is cut to fit and attached using brads or small finish nails.  Be sure the assembly is square.  Use a straight edge to mark the two middle walls to avoid missing (shown above).  Any missed nails should be pushed out from the inside using a nail punch.  Chickens won't like using a box if they get poked in the rear!

Step 5.  Add the top.
    The top can now be attached with 1" wood screws.  The cleats on the end walls make an easy place to screw into from the top without needing to pre-drill.  With a bit of skill, the top can be attached to the middle walls as well, directly into the plywood, pre-drilling is recommended.  Adding 2 additional cleats to the top of the middle walls is an option to make this step easier.

Step 6.  Add the front rails.
     The two front rails are attached 2" higher than the shelves so that the chickens can't kick all the bedding material out.  They can be attached using 1 1/2" wood screws.  4 are on the bottom into the ends of the cleats, and 4 across the top, into the edge of the sidewalls.  The top four are tricky, so take your time and drill straight.  All of these connections should be pre-drilled to avoid slitting the 1x4.

Step 7:  Add the perch
     The perch rails are attached even with the top front rail so they are sticking out 8" on each side.  They are each attached using 3 1" wood screws driven through the plywood from the inside.  They do not need to be pre-drilled.  The perch is attached to the rails using 2   1 1/2" screws on each side.  These connections need to be pre-drilled.

     That's it! You're now ready to install it in the coop and add bedding.  Do not try to hang it up by nailing through the thin back wall.  Angle brackets should be used to hang it from the supporting side walls.  It also stands up quite well on it's own.

Here is an example built by one of our readers.  Thanks Brad!

Built and photographed by Bradley Ellis
Hey!  His build looks better than mine, what gives?

Brad also took the time to create a printable pdf file of these plans.  Since I don't know how to setup a download through blogger, e-mail to request a copy.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Chicken Update 1/18/2013

     We have been finding anywhere between 2 and 8 eggs daily, bringing us up to 3 dozen so far.  After 5 months of chicken chores, it sure is nice to get something out of it.  The greenish eggs are from the Americanas, the dark brown from the Rhode Island Reds, and the tan from the Red Stars.

I added plastic over the coop door to cut down on wind infiltration

and added some nest boxes.  Very important; both to keep the eggs clean, and to prevent them from getting stepped on and broken.  If the chickens break the eggs accidentally they tend to eat them, which can lead to egg pecking behavior problems.

     I also replaced the 2x2 roost that we had running across the back with a longer 2x4 running back to front.  I've read that it's better to keep everyone on the same level to reduce "pecking order" disputes.  Much like people, the chickens all seem to want the tallest roost.  I rounded the corners on the 2x4 with a belt sander to make it more comfortable for the birds.  Nikki treated the wood with Linseed oil several days before I installed it.  This both preserves the wood and makes the small cracks less hospitable for mites and such. 

Friday, January 11, 2013

Whats In Bloom- August 2012

 Cherry Tomatoes, Queen Ann's Lace, Geraniums, Gladiolus, & Delphinium in the raised beds.

Radishes, cosmos, celosia, petunias and amaranth in the large sheet mulched bed in back.

Surprise lilies


Better shot of the sheet mulch garden.  The tomatoes and peppers are starting to ripen.







Canada Thistle