Thursday, April 21, 2011

House Those Hens for Under $10: How to Build a Chicken Coop on the Cheap!

Our chicks are just about 3 weeks old and it is amazing how fast they grow.  They don't look anything like the cute, fuzzy balls of fluff we brought home at the beginning of the month.  They are still living in our family room in a clear plastic Sterlite tub, but the time is coming for them to move on up and out of the house! 

Integrating chicks with adults is not a good idea, but eventually everyone is going to have to live together.  Until that magical moment (I'll have more to say on that topic in a future post), we need temporary "outdoor" housing for the growing brood.  Our local farm store advertised a swell looking small coop for $239 - yikes!  And a search on Craig's List returned few options as well.  With time running out (who wants month old pullets living in the house?), we turned to the DIY plan.

Hal sketched out a basic salt box coop design and we were off to the home improvement store.  We purchased two 4 x 8 sheets of OSB plywood ($6.97 each!!) and we were on our way to a new temporary coop. Within two hours we had the basic structure together. We ended up using just one sheet of the OSB plywood.  The roof and floor came from a few pieces of plywood we had left over from other projects; otherwise we would have needed the second sheet.  We also had screws, the 1x corner supports, roof hinges, decorative trim and paint. Our cost in this has been our time and about $7. 

I am confident that you could build something similar for well under $50 with supplies from a Habitat for Humanity store or similar second hand building supply store.

It's with screws, so when the chicks move into the main coop, it can be dismantled and stored.  It will be great to have on hand for future juvenile housing or for any reason that we need to separate flock members.

The coop measures 3 feet across, 3 feet tall in the front and 28 inches tall in the back and 32 inches deep.  The roof is hinged and lifts up from the back.  It will sit on four 4x4 posts about 18 inches off the ground.  This is a perfect size for four growing chicks.  Since this is only temporary housing, we don't need to worry about nesting boxes - by the time they are ready for that, they will be in with the big girls.  However, there is room for a nest box and it would be perfect for two to three hens. 

It's not done yet as we still have to get a few more coats of paint on it, add vents, attach the door and ladder.  Then comes the pen construction.  We've going with the "row house look" as it will be placed right next to the main coop.  Stay tuned for that project.

If you would like the actual dimension of this Salt Box coop, let me know in the comments and I'll send you the details!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Chicken Little Grows Up...Fast

I am still amazed at how fast chicks grow!  Our new chicks - Marigold, Petunia, Violet and Rose - are just about three weeks old.  See how much they've grown since joining the Second Street Chicken Ranch on April 2nd.

Here are our fuzz-balls on April 3rd

And a few days later on April 8th - notice the wing feathers and tiny tail feathers.

On April 15th - starting to get chest feathers

And on April 20th, starting to get the "uglies" - but they still have baby faces!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Make Your Own Seed Tape From TP

Don't you just love a neat, tidy and evenly spaced row of vegetables in your garden?  Maybe, if I'm lucky, I can get a straight row, but the evenly spaced thing is another story.  Really, have you seen the size of carrot and lettuce seeds?  Once they leave the confines of that white envelope, it's any one's guess as to where they go in the row.  

And, I admit it - I am a terrible "thinner."  I should embrace the micro-greens/veggie trend; you know, where you eat the tiny little thinnings - this would make it easier for me to yank them out. 

I have discovered a simple and quick solution to both of these problems - make your own seed tape using toilet paper!  Really, think about it - it's biodegradable. I discovered this nifty idea at Garden Girl TV blog . 

Making your own seed tape is easy:

1.  Tear off 4 or 8 feet of TP (depending on how long your raised beds are).  Each TP square is 4 inches, so for a 4 foot row you need 12 squares.

2.  Cut the strip in half, so you now have two 4 foot lengths

3.  Make a simple paste of flour and water (about a teaspoon or so of each).  This will hold your seeds in place and seal the "tape" when you are done.

4.  Using a small paint brush or toothpick, dab a little paste at the required spacing for the veggie you are planting.

5.  Apply the seeds on the spot of paste.

6.  If needed, add a couple extra dabs of paste on the tape and fold over to seal.

7. Plant your tape!  The TP and paste are biodegradable and your seeds will be evenly spaced.  No thinning required!

I made a couple of seed tapes for carrots and lettuce is next.  Then I just need to get them in the ground! 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Indoor Farming

Well, it is April 6th, and in north Idaho we are still waiting for spring.  Oh yeah, the usual signs are all around -- tulips are pushing up, grass greening up - but the temperature certainly is not up.  As eager as I am to get out there and do something in the yard, Mother Nature has kept me inside.

What's a urban farm girl to do?  Move the outside inside! Family-room turned Farm-room.  We are lucky to have a very large, south-facing window in our family/dining room and this local has been where I have been starting seeds for the last few years.  I started basil and tomatoes in early March and have been transplanting the starts to individual pots over the last week. 

Currently I have more than 50 tomato plants.  When the temperature is consistently above freezing at night, these will all be moved out to the covered beds outside; but for now, they are living in the warmth of the farm-room!   

And, what's a farm-room without livestock?  Not much, so last Saturday the 2nd Street Chicken Ranch added four new chicks to our flock.  After losing another girl in March, we decide we needed to restock the coop.  Our new chicks are Rhode Island Reds and Production Reds (a RIR and New Hampshire Red cross).   Of course these peeps are way to small to mix and mingle with the big girls, so they are living on the other side of the farm-room in their very own luxury condo.  They'll be hanging out in the house for another week or so then be relocated to the garage. 

It was a tough decision between going with 4 month old pullets and having eggs at the end of May; or fuzzy chicks to hand raise and get eggs in September. Since we still have two big girls, we went with chicks. 

Between hail storms I have managed to plant arugula, lettuce and radishes in one covered bed (they are popping up like mad) and onions and shallots in another bed (uncovered).  Still have lots to do...understatement with 50+ tomatoes staring back at me! 

Hope you have all wintered well!  Let me know what your 2011 garden plans are and how your livestock is doing!!
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