Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Try Something New to be more Sustainable

By Marc @ GardenDesk

I might be the only writer on this blog who has never written about raising chickens. I have always been a big vegetable gardener and love harvesting fruits and vegetables for the table. I never even thought about the possibility of raising animals as another way to add food to the table.

Renee and I have really enjoyed reading about all of the animal farming on this blog and on the members blogs and other commenter's sites. You all encouraged us to venture into something new to us - raising animals.

Our first try at raising animals will of course be raising chickens for our own organic egg production. We got day old chicks back in April which I showed on my GardenDesk blog. We raised the chicks in our garage while we built our outside coop. We built the coop mostly out of wood that we already had from an old deck that I took apart a couple years ago. The coop construction took much longer than anticipated but here it is:

We were able to put it right in front of the garden and beside the greenhouse.

When we would read about keeping chickens, it seemed that many people let them roam around during the day. Around here experienced farmers were telling us to watch out for the many predators, some even during the day. We have to watch out for hawks, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, opossums, weasels, rats and the neighbor's dogs. Many people told us that we wouldn't be able to keep our chickens alive.

With this in mind, we tried to build a very secure coop. The building that they sleep in is in the very center, up on stilts with no outside walls. The small window openings have two layers of wire over them and we even put wire mesh down under the floor boards.

The rest of the coop is all under tin roofing with two kinds of wire around the perimeter. The wire is also buried in concrete at the bottom about 18 inches under ground! The door has a second latch about a foot off the ground so nothing can squeeze in.

If anything does manage to sneak in during the night, they shouldn't be able to get in the wood building. The chickens have a small door that they use during the day.

They go inside at dusk and then I lock their door.

Here they are coming into their building:

The other wall is hinged for us to get inside for cleaning. It also has the nest boxes built into it. When closed it also has a heavy duty latch. Here is what it looks like from the outside:

Here is part of the inside:

I can hardly wait till when we are collecting eggs from those boxes! The chickens' main feeder and water hang from the building under the nest boxes.

We also feed them plenty of grass, fruits and vegetables and an occasional worm. Soon I hope to build a "chicken tractor" - a big portable cage with an open bottom. We will be able to put the hens in to let them graze in the yard.

I didn't intend this post to be about the chicken coop we built, but it sort of ended up that way. I guess we are just very excited about having our own chickens. The whole family loves spending time with them and they will help us become a tiny bit more self-sustainable.

That is really what I intended to discuss here. I encourage all of you to think about trying something new that can help you become more sustainable. For us, it was getting our own chickens. For you it will be a different area. This co-op has so many great ideas for becoming more sustainable and/or frugal.

Next, we hope to learn how to raise meat rabbits. It feels good to learn new things and apply them for the betterment of your family!

Keep Growing!