Homestead Adventures

The fact that I am a forgetful person makes homesteading all the more interesting, or entertaining, or stressful. It depends on how you look at it. With my hard-working husband’s work schedule, I’m often on my own to run the show here. The show being 4 kids, meals, snacks, house work, laundry, home school, 2 cats, 2 fish, 11 chickens, and a rather large veggie garden.

Yesterday I felt on top of things. Following 15 minutes of running around the house looking for swim suits, a swim diaper, lathering on sunscreen, filling up a water jug, pulling out a kiddie pool, and turning on the hose, I was finally able to get some serious gardening done.

The final act of yesterday’s gardening was turning on the soaker hose for my hay bale tomato row. Despite lots of rain, the hay bales seemed a bit dry. They needed a couple of hours of watering.

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Once everyone was inside and the bountiful harvest stored, I relaxed.

At 9:45pm, with my two-year old fast asleep on my lap I suddenly remembered the chickens! It was dark out and the chickens were not locked up! This is incredibly dangerous for our chickens as we have coyotes, raccoons, opossums, skunks, and more roaming the land at night.

I laid the baby on the sofa, rushed to the door, slid on my husband’s clunky rubber shoes, and ran like the wind to the first chicken house. They were safe. Door latched, I ran to the chicken fortress where I froze solid, heart racing.

It was so dark, yet there it was, the unmistakable white stripe of a skunk trying to find its way through the gate of the chicken fortress. Unsure what to do, I began to pray out loud that it would not spray! Should I go get a gun? No, then it for sure would spray me and the chickens and we’d simply reek for days! Plus, it was late and I was too tired to take a tomato bath.

I also did not know where to quickly find a flashlight as my kids use them and NEVER put them away.

My only option was to stand back, clap my hands, holler, growl and jump up and down. Finally, the skunk leisurely walked about 20 paces away. Seizing the moment, I karate kicked the gate open andentered the run, straight into a jumbo cobweb. No time to panic! I listened for the sound of happy chickens, shut the door, moved the block in front of it, shut the gate behind me, and ran back to the house.

Once inside, with baby girl still crying, I tore off my clothing in an arachnophobic fit, searched for spiders, and ruffled my hair over and over. This made baby girl stop crying and look at me with a smile. Off to bed she went while I got cleaned up and took many a deep breath. Ah, the life of a ‘Greenie’ as they call us beginner homesteaders. Never a dull moment.

It’s fair to say that I need to start setting a timer for the chickens.

Also, I remembered to turn off the soaker hose today after church.

Building a Predator Proof Chicken Run/Coop

I never knew keeping chickens could cause so much drama. For having tiny brains, they hold a grudge and establish a pecking order that never lets up.

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How are they smart enough to strategize about banishing two lovely hens from the roost, but are dumb enough to wonder too far from the house a and get snatched in broad daylight be predators?

And why do we keep buying chickens? So far, chickens have been a money pit!

Supplies necessary to keep chickens include a run, a house with a roost, store-bought wood chips for younger chickens and later, if you have a carpenter for a father, free wood shavings.

Our homemade mobile chicken run, capable of housing 4-5 hens.
Our homemade mobile chicken run, capable of housing 4-5 hens.

A 50lb bag of chicken feed is about $16. Not to mention the cost of buying the chickens.

Or how about the first chicken house we bought? I REFUSE to toss it. We spent a fortune on that darn thing and I will use it! It turned out to be rather flimsy, but we’ve reinforced and painted it and now it’s finally being used properly. I doubt we will ever pay off that house with eggs though.

Or what about the fact that we can never leave? These birds have to be let out during the day and put in at night! If you leave too many chickens in a small run, they turn cannibalistic on one another. They get the taste of blood and it’s all over.

We bought 10 more chickens this year and hoped that we’d keep them all alive and well.

Not happening so far. We lost one gorgeous 2 month old to a raccoon. Why these raccoons end up cute heroes in movies and stories, I’ll never know. In real life they are vile, vicious blood thirsty wild animals. It was a very ugly death for the chick.

We poured our extra money this Spring into what we call our backyard paradise. This includes a huge veggie garden and what my husband is calling “The Chicken Fortress.”

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The fortress is a 4 X 8 run. It will have a roof, siding, and entrance into the chicken house, which I can access without going into the run.

He put a door on the run so we can get in and out easily to refresh water and hay(which is free).

The posts were put in with concrete, and he is going to bury chicken wire along the outside of the run. This method is easier than digging a trench and burying wire, but just as effective (or so we’ve heard) at keeping predators out.

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You just lay the wire on the ground, going about 36 inches from the run, then cover all of it with dirt.

Final touches on chick moving day.
Final touches on chick moving day.

The raccoon or whatever will try to dig right next to the run and discover the wire. The idea is that it may try to go a few inches out and hit wire again, then giving up the attempt all together.

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Today we put up some siding as the raccoon was able to reach in and get the one poor chicky. Now we keep inspecting for weak spots in the fortress.

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The reinforced house with the chicken fortress run. No siding shown here. But it is done now!

Once the gate to the fortress is opened, the chickens will have access to a 14′ X 14′ run. This is adequate space for up to 12-14 chickens to run around and get sunshine without wanting to hurt each other.

 

Our plan is to keep 2-4 chickens in our mobile run and allow them to roam the yard eating bugs. If we decide to let them all out, we can say adios to grass and every bit of flower beds.

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We are down now to 11 chickens. May you live on Chickens! Be smart and go into your house at night. Lay many eggs and be happy.

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Our grown hens that run around the yard eating bugs. They are fat and happy.