It’s a slippery slope once you start building projects. Now that I’ve started up again, with the potting shed organisation, I’ve got the building bug! There are a few building projects that need to be done, but I’m still juggling a lot of things at the moment, so I am trying to contain myself.
One of the things I cleared out of the potting shed was the frame of the old gate in our very first chicken pen, in the corner. That link doesn’t actually show the old gate but you can see our very first chickens, including Frodo, who’s still with us. Anyway, The Little Fulla helped me turn this wooden frame into a garden screen to protect seeds and seedlings from digging creatures. We removed the old latch and some nails and attached some plastic netting onto it with fence staples. I’m loving the ingenuity going on here at the moment.
The Husband also used some ingenuity to clean the big build-up of debris off the back carport roof: he put the handle of the metal leaf rake into a long piece of PVC pipe and taped it in there, giving an impressively long rake. Then he discovered the brush with the extendable handle after I organised all the tools nicely in my shed. Ha. He swept the whole garage roof and cleared the gutters, which get inundated with cedar needles and fallen birds nests. I discovered that the downpipes on both sides at the back of the garage had broken, causing the pipes running along behind the garage to fall down as well. This means the rainwater cannot run into the garage tank until we get some replacement pipes.
I have finished my next building project: a chick feeder box. The garage clean-up really needs to be done but the chick feeder box became more important. It’s not just something that’s nice to have, it means I can put the oldest (5-week-old) chicks out in the main flock so they have access to foraging other food sources, so hopefully we don’t run out of chick feed. They were getting rowdy and messy in the Big Cage too. So what is the chick feeder box? It is a place where the chicks food can be housed, with a gap that is only big enough for the chicks to get it, meaning the older chickens cannot get access to the medicated chick feed. This feed helps prevent the chicks from suffering from coccidiosis, which can particularly be a problem in wet/damp places, like where we live. Aside from the drought thing. It also means the chicks can eat their food in safety, without being pushed around by the oldies.
The existing chick feeder box I had made by adding things to the front of an old wooden food container shelter that was in the original corner pen when we came here. It worked well for a while and then the wire started getting pushed around by the older chickens and falling apart. It got patched up and held together by a metal peg in the ground and other bits and pieces, which also made it more and more fiddly to get the food container in there and top it up. It was on its last legs. So, I came up with an idea of how to build a new one. Yes, I drew it up in a spreadsheet. Then, I began to build it. Now we have a very solid, functional chick feeder box! The only thing I couldn’t do was attach the lid to the frame because we don’t have any small hinges at the moment. But the lid is fine just sitting there for now.
I got it finished yesterday evening and put the chicks out there, showing them several times how to get into the feeder box. They are now adjusting to life in a big pen and learning the new social rules of living within the flock: 1) keep a safe distance from superior chickens and 2) don’t stare other chickens in the face; otherwise you will get bopped.
It was just as well I got all this done yesterday, because I headed out the door early this morning to open the coop and check on the chicks. Lately I’ve been leaving the pop hole door open and checking the chickens later, but last night I closed it to keep the chicks safe. As I opened the back door I heard a noise. Then followed a succession of thoughts in my still half-asleep mind: Who’s using a tool so early in the morning? Why does it sound like it’s coming from our garage? Hold on, why is there water springing up from the black rain barrel? Argh! The water’s spurting out of the pipe to the tap!
I ran to get The Husband up and tell him to turn off the water and ran back to hold the pipe and connector together to stop the flow. A properly awake Twiglet would have turned the pump off herself, but this was early morning sloth Twiglet. The pipe hadn’t come completely off the connector so it wasn’t a big visible fountain behind the rain barrel, but it was still letting a lot of water out. This water comes from our main tank and if I hadn’t been out to the chickens early it could have emptied a lot of our precious tank water. Timing is everything. It turns out the pipe isn’t connected with the proper fitting. What’s up with the plumbing matters?
You might think that we’re doing well with plenty of eggs at the moment, but, unfortunately, no. We’ve had a bunch of slackers. Maybe the chickens got confused about what ‘lockdown’ means. Maybe I need to put my stern face on and have a chat with them. But really, it’s been a tough season of heat and drought. It has meant little grass or weed growth in the chicken pens, plus a reduction in bugs, plus an increased population of mites, all of which can reduce the chickens’ nutrition. I have been chucking greens and things in for the chickens. The heat also sent most of the hens into a procession of broodiness or semi-broodiness, so their hormones have been all-over-the-place. Some of them are moulting now. Poor Paris is moulting so furiously she looks like she’s been in a terrible accident. Tiggywinkle is moulting fast too. Jemima is moulting ridiculously slowly. Duchess got bumblefoot. The two younger girls haven’t started laying yet and Morpheus is raising chicks. Thankfully, Frodo has just started laying again, once again proving her worth. I hope her daughters start laying soon.
Frodo’s daughters, Jenny Cheeply and Helen Cluck have been joined in naming circles by the two cockerels, Winston Cheepers and James Claw. I’m enjoying going with the NZ politicians theme. The chosen names are not an indication of my political preferences, they’re just for fun. Winston Cheepers and James Claw have been surprisingly quiet so far. I’m not used to such a lack of crowing. I think they’ve been suppressed by the females. James Claw is starting to get more curious. He knows that I bring nice treats now. Winston Cheepers is the boss of the two but is being weirdly quiet about it at the moment. He’s probably plotting his big move.
At the moment, it is perfectly acceptable to quarantine your groceries and parcels in a room for three days, to ensure there is no live virus left on them. As long as they’re not fridge or freezer goods. And that is what we do. Some people might think it’s a bit over-the-top, but I think it’s sensible. It’s easy to dump them in the spare room and forget about them until they’re no longer a risk. Then, after three days, they rise again and it’s exciting opening the parcels and grocery bags. It makes me much more thankful for what we have.
One such parcel that’s come out of quarantine is a book that I ordered from the US, which arrived much sooner than expected. When I opened it I just held it out in the air for a while, staring at it like a child stuck in a moment of wonderment. It is called Mini Farming: Self-sufficiency on 1/4 Acre, by Brett L. Markham.
I’m sure it has lots of great morsels of learning in it, but what I’m really excited about is the plan for building a chicken plucker that is contained within its pages. The Husband was tinkering around with a small motor a little while ago, and, getting annoyed with it being left to sit aimlessly on our outdoor table, I was threatening it with disposal until I stumbled across a video of a chicken plucker online, made with a small motor. The Husband, glancing over, said, “We could make that with that motor.” With that, I was sent into the realm of no return with this Markham Farm Chicken Plucker. I had to purchase the book in order to get the plan, but it looked like a great, useful book for us anyway. We haven’t got all the parts we need to make the chicken plucker at the moment, but I’m just about busting with excitement at the possibility of having a chicken plucker that doesn’t cost $800 to buy. Having a chicken plucker would be a game-changer for us in terms of being able to butcher chickens much faster, meaning we could butcher more, providing ourselves with more meat. This is a project to look forward to.