Sunday, March 31, 2013

Growing Grass Update

My back yard is lacking in grass.  I put down seed about a month ago.

This is what it looked like then.

This is what it looks like now.

It's more green, but not as great as I had hoped.  I'm no expert, but to me it looks like the little bit of clover and winter rye I had in there are what have come in well.  The fescue is taking its sweet time. 

The fencing has worked well for the most part.  It's kept all but one of the chickens out.  

I was really hoping that this area would be done by now so I could move the fence to another bare spot in the yard.  I guess I just have to wait...

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Potting up.

I started seeds back in January.  I don't have a lot of patience and was worried that they weren't doing as well as I thought they should.  So I got one of those seed starting trays and started additional seeds. 

Of course now I have a ton of stuff going in the greenhouse.  I don't know that I'm going to have space for everything.  That isn't really a problem.  The community garden can use anything that I might have left over.

Anyway...  I had several plants that were getting to big for the seed tray.  So I dug out out my containers from last year and potted them.  Some of them were moved to the greenhouse and the rest are going to be put in the sun during the day and in the garage at night (at least until they get bigger).

Smart Chicken

I've been trying to get grass to grow in my back yard.  I fenced off an area to keep the chickens out.  It's worked well with the exception of one chicken.
Chicken inside the fence.
Generally the chickens just go back and forth along the fence looking for an opening.  They tend to look kind of annoyed and confused when they can't find one.  This particular chicken has discovered that she can get her head under the netting, lift it up, and walk right under.  Luckily, she hasn't destroyed what little grass I have growing in there. 

I'm hoping that my other chickens don't figure this out. 

Friday, March 29, 2013

Seeding starting update - March

I moved some things around in the greenhouse today.  The plants seem to be doing well.  I'm ready for the cold weather to be done so I can get them in the ground. 
I have so much oregano that I put this outside hoping that the chickens would eat it.  They did not.
I'm not even sure what I have in here.
I think these are mostly peppers.  Who knows if they are hot or sweet.
These are hot peppers.  They are just taking forever to do anything.
More lettuce.  I should probably thin this out.
Lettuce on top and bottom left.  Bottom right is more oregano.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Well, that's the end of it.

They finished it off.  It took them longer than I expected, but here's what's left of my cover crop test area.

Here's a close-up picture.

They really picked it clean.  It only took them 4 days. 

Just as a reminder, this is was it looked like when I took the fence down.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Release the hens!

That didn't take long.  Here's what the cover crop test area looks like after two days. 

It's still green.  I didn't get down close to investigate, but it looks like they ate all of the clover. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Have at it!

My cover crop test area has been doing well, so I thought it was time to let the chickens have at it.

This is the best looking spot in my yard.
 I left two of the stakes in place and made a square adjacent to the last one.  As you can see from the picture, I'm going to have to do this a lot.  I have a lot of bare patches of yard.

This is a closeup picture.  You can see all of the tiny clover amongst the winter rye.

It took them a while to realize that the fence was no longer there.  They spent a lot of time investigating that area, but so far they've managed not to destroy it.  

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Chicken coop cost.

On more than a few occasions I've been asked how much my chicken coop cost to build.  I'll try to provide as many details as I can here.  Some of the materials I used were leftover from previous projects.  Their cost to me for the coop was $0.

The table below is a materials list containing links to Home Depot's web site.  I don't have every receipt from the project so some of the items listed are from memory.  I used the prices from the receipts that I do have.  The other prices came from HD's web site.  

315/32x4x8 Plywood17.87 53.61
14x4x6 Pressure Treated timber5.27 5.27
115/32x4x8 OSB9.87 9.87
302x4x8 Dried Whitewood Stud2.92 87.60
62x2x8 Spruce-Pine-Fir Furring Strip1.53 9.18
119/32x4x8 Sheathing20.97 20.97
1Charcoal 3-Tab Shingles22.0022.00
1Felt Roof Deck Protection15.5015.50
1Galvanized Hardware Cloth9.979.97
26Hurricane Tie0.5213.52

I know there are things missing from this list.  I didn't include nails, screws, hinges, hooks, and latches.  As I mentioned above, and in my post about the nesting boxes, I used leftover OSB to build the nesting boxes.  You'll need material for those as well.  I didn't include paint because I used primer and paint that I already had.

I also seem to remember having a few 2x4's left over.  I don't think I needed all 30 of them, but I don't remember how many I did need. 

In any case, the above list should provide an idea of what it costs to build yourself a decent 4x8' chicken coop.  I'd estimate that it's easily doable for $300-350 (in early 2013, who knows what prices will be in the future).

Thursday, March 21, 2013

More Self watering 5-gallon bucket containers

I made some more self watering containers.  I did some things a little differently this time.  I managed to cut myself while hacking on a tick can.  So I went to Lowes and got one of these 3" atrium grates.

I drilled holes in the bottom of the bucket to allow excess water to drain out.  I did use a can in this bucket.

I used the atrium grate mentioned above in this bucket.

I have three buckets done.  I used three different lids.  I don't know if the color will make a difference or not.  I'll just have to wait and see how well each one works.

I don't have a picture of it, but I did drill holes in the exterior buckets just below the bottom of the interior bucket.  That way water can drain out if they get overfilled.  

Now it just needs to get warm enough to plant stuff.

These things climb trees!?!?!?

The dog was going nuts along the fence near the front yard the other night.  I thought that was odd.  Then I noticed that she was looking up into the tree. 

The opossum was in the tree.  The tree was outside of the fence, so technically he wasn't in the yard.  I did throw some sticks at him (and missed by a mile).  So I got out the garden hose and got him good and wet.  He just climbed higher.  Luckily he was out of sight at that point and the dog was willing to come in.  I'm hoping that he died of hypothermia.  I doubt it though.  The dog was going nuts along the back fence again last night.  I went out and looked 3 times and never saw anything.  I don't know what she was upset about, but I'd bet that the thing was out there.  I don't know how, but she picks up stuff like that.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Cover crops in the yard -- Update.

I was outside the other day and I thought I'd carefully pull back the straw and see how my cover crop project was doing.

Well lo and behold the stuff was growing.  And not just a little bit.  I kept removing the straw and found more and more green.  The stuff took off over the entire area.

Here's a closer picture.  I'm no expert at identifying plants.  To me, it all looks like clover. 

I'm going to wait until the stuff is really established and tall before taking down the netting.  I can only imagine what those chickens would do to it at this point.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Really? Another opossum?

Unbelievable...  Either the opossum I killed and buried the other day rose from the dead, or I have another one. 

It was either this morning or yesterday morning that I noticed chicken feed on the ground and that the feeder was kind of low.  I thought it was odd, but I don't check it too frequently.  So I figured that it was just low.

I feel like a broken record writing this...  Tonight I let the dog out.  She was out for a while and then I heard her barking.  I went out to see what was going on.  Sure enough, she was in the chicken area where she's not supposed to be.  So I got my boots and my flashlight and saw a dang opossum on the other side of the fence in the woods.  The dog was going nuts running along the fence and stopped frequently to look over.  The opossum sat on the other side glaring at us.  It had its mouth open and teeth on display.  It didn't move from its location even after I threw sticks at it.

The chicken food was already put away.  I got a log and used it to block the gap under the gate.  I'm guessing that's how they are getting in.  Then I brought the dog in.  She got a drink of water and went right back to the door to go out.  I'm letting this one go (this time).  Hopefully it won't come back. 

Thankfully I have a dog.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Seed starting update.

The new greenhouse is working pretty well so far.

Kale, cabbage, dill, and who knows what else.

Lettuce on the top and lower left.  Oregano on the bottom right.

More oregano.

Hot peppers on top and lettuce underneath.
I have to note here that I didn't plant any of the oregano.  That stuff was already in the containers from last summer.  It was all dead and brown.  I just put the containers in the greenhouse with hopes of eventually replanting them with something else.

The peppers are taking forever.  I started those seeds in my garage on January 15.  They are just now starting to develop their second set of leaves. 

I really really need to start labeling things when I start them.  I always think that I'll remember what I put where.  That never happens.  Some day I'll learn my lesson. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Opossum Update - For the last time.

I've had a problem with an opossum.  It came back again Sunday night.  I let the dog out like I usually do.  Ten minutes later I was ready to go to bed so I went to call her in.  She wouldn't come.  I got a flashlight and my boots and went out.  I saw that she was inside the chicken area.  I knew instantly there was a problem.  She knows better than to go in there.

I got down there to find her in attack mode.  She cornered the opossum under the coop.  This time it wasn't playing dead.  It was in fight mode too.  It was standing up with teeth out.  My dog was having none of that.  She was ferocious!  She had teeth out and was snarling and growling at it.  I remember thinking how glad I was that I wasn't on the receiving end of that.

I went and got a shovel.  I used the shovel to get the thing out from under the coop.  Then the dog went at it.  I got her to back off and then whacked the opossum with the shovel.  It went down and the dog bit it.  Blech!  It was still moving a little, so I got the dog back and whacked it a few more times.  It stopped moving so I tossed it over the fence into the woods.

Monday morning I went out to check and it was still there.  I dug a hole and buried it.  I really didn't want to kill it, but that was our third encounter.  I think it's been coming in at night and eating the chicken feed.  It seemed like I was going through an awful lot of it.  I thought it was because of winter and the chickens were just eating more.  I was putting the feed in the shed at night but didn't always remember.  Anyway, hopefully it won't be an issue any more. 

Thankfully I have a dog.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Getting grass to grow with chickens.

I mentioned in a previous post that my back yard needed a lot of attention.  I have chickens and they seem to think that whatever I put on the ground is for them.  If given the chance they would eat every single seed of grass that hit the ground. 

I have to keep them fenced out somehow.  The cheapest solution I have found is 4x50' plastic netting at Lowes for $20.  To hold the netting in place I used 5 ft. garden stakes from Home Depot and wooded tomato stakes that I already had.
Not the best picture, but you can see how bare the yard is.

I had a big space to seed, so I used two rolls of the netting. 

The soil is bad in that area.  So I went back to Home Depot and picked up ten 40 lbs. bags of top soil along with two bags of composted cow manure.  I mixed the compost with the top soil in my wheel barrow and hauled to my back yard. 

It took multiple trips, and I still didn't have enough for the entire fenced area.  So I covered the spots that seemed to be the worst and raked it as best I could.

Then it was time for seed.  I was told that fescue is shade tolerant, so that's what I got.  The yard looks sunny in the pictures, but once the leaves come in on the trees the sun will rarely hit the ground.  I had some of my cover crop seed mix left over from the other day so I mixed it into the grass seed.  I know, I know, they go through all that effort to make sure no weed seeds get in that bag of seed, and I go and add them. 

I put down a layer of straw and drug out the sprinkler.  I have it on a timer.  It's set to water once in the morning and again in the afternoon.  With any luck I'll have a green yard in a few weeks.  Of course there's no telling how long it'll stay green once the chickens get at it.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Self Watering 5-gallon bucket

I've read about self watering containers before.  I thought I'd try to make one to see how well they work.  The idea is to place one bucket inside of another.  The soil from the inner bucket will reach into the outer bucket and absorb the water.  A pipe runs through the inner bucket to the outer bucket and is used for filling the outer bucket with water. 

Here's what you need:
  • Two 5-gallon buckets
  • One 5-gallon bucket lid
  • 1/2" PVC pipe ~20" long
  • One can
  • Burlap cloth (not shown).

I started by cutting a hole in the bottom of one of the buckets.  I used the can to determine its size.

I cut a notch in the bottom of the PVC pipe so it wouldn't sit flat against the bottom of the bucket.  Then I drilled a 7/8" hole in the bottom of the bucket and put the PVC pipe through it.

I cut notches in the bottom of the can to allow water in. 

Then I placed the inner bucket into the outer bucket and put the can through the hole in the bottom.

Then I put the burlap in place.  It'll keep the soil from filling up the void holding the water.

Then I filled the bucket with soil.  I made sure that the can at the bottom was filled first.  In theory the soil in there should absorb the water and draw it upwards to the plants.

I drilled a hole in the center of the lid.  That's where the plant will go.  I also put the PVC pipe through the lid and used the top of a soda bottle for a funnel.

The last step was to fill it with water.  

I'm anxious to see how this works.