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Monday, May 3, 2010

Two birds with one stone

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

In our efforts to raise our own food, sometimes some of the tools we require can be an expensive part of the deal. Especially fixed equipment or buildings. To spread out the cost a little, we try to plan for multiple uses when we are planning and purchasing. By applying the permaculture principle of stacking we can utilize the same space and expenditures many times over, and sometimes simultaneously to help defray the initial cost.

When we had our large pastured poultry laying flock, we required a brooding space for a large number of chicks. What we didn't want was a single purpose building that would be outfitted just for chicks for a short number of weeks. And since heat lamps were involved for 24 hours a day for a while we also knew we didn't want to just partition off the corner of one of our existing wood buildings. Having heard too many tales of entire barns burning due to heat lamp failure, we decided not to put all our eggs in one basket. While the baby chicks were an important part of our operation, replacing a barn for $500.00 worth of chicks just didn't seem worth it.

What we settled on was a small hoophouse with metal framing and plastic covering. It would allow for natural light, provide semi-safe housing for baby chicks, and in case of fire, would be fairly easy and quick to replace. And a plus in our minds, also service as a great place to start early plants for the garden, or even grow a small quantity of plants after the chicks had outgrown the space.

For approximately $500.00 we purchased the bows, purlins, hardware, plastic, wire, and lumber to build a 20' x 20' unheated brooder/greenhouse. The chick area is 15' x 20' and that leaves a 5' x 20' space for feed and supply storage, our "personnel" area.

While it may seem cost prohibitive for a smallholding or farm. A smaller model with these ideas in mind may work better, but I have to say, these buildings, (we have two) have paid for themselves over and over.

A place to brood chicks, gather their nitrogen rich manure with bedding for the garden, and later in the year a hothouse for warm weather crops. By changing uses, parasite cycles are broken, giving "rest" to this plot of land and allowing us to spread the expense over several endeavors.

Normally, I start my plants on the chick hover before the chicks arrive. This year, we had terrible mice problems in the sprouting seeds. So we rigged up a hillbilly plant bench from leftover plywood and baling twine.

When it was time for the chicks, I moved the plants to the personnel area. The plants still need the warmth of the greenhouse, but I didn't want to be watering the chick bedding area daily. I did leave the makeshift plant bench though, and have been using it as place to store chick stuff. It's handy, and since it isn't fixed if it becomes cumbersome, I can take it apart in 5 minutes.

And actually it is quite pleasant to work transplanting, with the sound of the chicks nearby. I am sure they are getting the benefit of having growing plants in their space, and they are getting used to us because we are in there a lot puttering about with the veggies.

So this may not be for everyone, but I just wanted to throw the idea out there, to think outside the box in regards to our farmsteads and gardens. You never know what kind of ideas will grow!


The Younger Rachael said...

I try to make sure everything has multiple tasks it can serve for. It also means less stuff around... which I like.

I love the idea of greenhouse/chick house combo -- Its just a good idea. Thanks for sharing the idea with us!

Sense of Home said...

Looks like a perfect solution, and those chicks are so cute.

the canned quilter said...

Already have the hoop house but never thought of using it as a brood house for the chicks too. You may just have a great idea there!! Thanks : )

sawn61 said...

While I have "been there and done that"on most topics you speak of, I've had to refrain from using the saying,"kill two birds with one stone",since I now have grandchildren who are very protective of birds. They say "Meemaw, that is terrible.Killing birds with rocks."so evidentally we have taught them well.(I am a great one to use a lot of those types of sayings, just for their benefit, but who knew they would end up teaching us a thing or two?)

Missus @ Escape to the Farm said...

Well, I think it is a very efficient and frugal idea to have the chicks in your hoop house.

We are considering adding a hoop house to grow on the plants started in our greenhouse, and we are always thinking about raising chicks.

You have given us some food for thought this winter.

Kristen said...

Well, I LOVE it! And since I "met" you, I have been dreaming of one of my own.

Throwback at Trapper Creek said...

The Younger Rachael, I like having less stuff too. And it is working like a charm - we are having a cold spring, yesterday the brooder stayed around 80F during wet, stormy, 40F weather, of course when the sun goes down, it cools right down, and then the lights are needed. The chicks have no idea what is going on outside.

Sense of Home, they are dolls, and so funny at that age too.

The canned quilter, it works well, the natural light makes a huge difference on the welfare of the chicks. Heat is important, but the light is important too. Plus, even with taking out the bedding, the soil is very fertile, just till and plant!

sawn61, I assumed since they were meat birds and I will eat them, the title would be OK... .

Missus, it works great. When we had our large laying flock we used hoophouses for winter housing. Natural light, protection from elements and very cosy on a cold winter day!

Kristen, I know what you mean, I am dreaming of replacing one of the bigger ones :) Eek, especially since it is snowing this morning!!

Drew said...

what a great idea. we are just getting ready to start a small farm and this looks like a great thing to have.