My Tiny Farm Page
It started with some neighbors through the trees. I would be out in the garden, and I could hear the rooster they had all day. It was such a comforting sound, and I loved to hear it. As I pulled weeds, and turned soil, I would wish I had my own chickens. I loved the thought of coming out of the coop, with a basketful of fresh eggs.
I bought 5 chickens from the feed store when we first purchased our property about 9 years ago. But the neighborhood dogs, as well as my own promptly ate the chickens, and we decided that the free ranging wasn't going to work. During this whole time, I kept hearing the neighbor's rooster.
Then my brother and sister in law got some chickens a few years ago. If I remember correctly, they are Rhode Island Reds. I thought the rooster was gorgeous, and I wanted chickens so badly.
Then one frosty autumn morning, I discovered a baby cow and a ewe in the yard. It was almost quite a shock; because that's just something I don't see every day. I knew the neighbors through the trees had horses and some daughters in 4H, so I led the cow back through the trees, across the field, and tried to coax it down the trail that led to their house. The baby cow would not move down the trail, so I ran to their house, and was greeted by a baby goat. It hopped around me, baaing; it was just the sweetest thing I had ever seen.
Then I was surrounded. There were turkeys, ducks, geese, chickens, and the rooster. How come their chickens got to run free? I was amazed. I loved the whole set up right down to their composting techniques. I spent most of that winter on-line, researching all I could about farming. When I started looking up chickens that spring...I found BYC.
I had decided I was going to get something started. I wanted chickens, and I also wanted rabbits. My husband hunted rabbits all through growing up, and loved the meat.
I was really proud of my coop. It was made only with recycled materials, it keeps my birds warm and dry, it was movable, and the best part, it cost us NOTHING, (Ok, it cost me a jar of pickled quail eggs, but what did that really cost me? Like a nickel?)
First, a few years ago, I begged my hubby to build me a shed for my garden stuff. Well, now all my stuff is sitting outside. It had been built out of pallets that he brought home from work. He works at a steel shop, which they receive shipments of metals on pallets. Then they were just thrown in a pile in the back yard. Now every time they get a nice one, DH sets it aside, and brings it home.
The plywood siding was off someone else's old shed that we had taken down for them. We got to keep what ever we wanted/needed, and got paid for the deconstruction of the shed (NICE HUH?) and it all fit together well with a few trim ups here and there.
I used to have on old microwave cart, that was wobbly, and barley hanging on. No way did I want to put my microwave on it!! So it got taken apart, and the shelves are being used as dividers for the nest boxes. Any piece of board is also recycled from old pallets. Their roost is a piece of 2x4, nailed in front of the nest boxes, just far enough to keep them from pooping on their nests. They also have 2 places to perch up on in their yard. It's a piece of wall trim. Again, there was not enough do much with, so I stuck them into the chicken wire. I do need to find a way to tie them in though, because they keep making one fall down, maybe from too much weight on it.
The window up front was a piece of fiberglass board, that came off my collapsed green house, granted it's not clear, it lit it up enough for them to see inside the dark house. That was also recycled a few times. It was on my hubby's friend's mom's greenhouse. Then it was on my green house, and now some is on my chicken house.
The roof leaked, so I covered it with roofing paper. The cost? Nothing! I think we got the partial roll when we moved here from my DH's parents. It's been raining all summer, and the roof still doesn't have a leak.
The chicken wire that covers everything was also a pile of left over from a project at my in-laws. I offered to buy the left over, but he looked at me like I was nuts, and told me to take it before he took it to the dump!!
I was worried about my birds flying over the side of the chicken yard. My hubby's friend, same guy, has been around, and worked on fish sights all his life. He happened to have an old gillnet, that still had the buoys, and the weighted ropes on it. Granted it took 2 days to untangle the whole thing, it went nicely over the top of all the pens. We did have a falcon come to visit. He didn't get in, and was quickly discouraged when I ran outside hollering "NO!!"
The only thing wrong with it so far was where I had chosen it to go. It was right behind our bedroom. My husband reminded me of how loud a rooster was, and we hooked up the pallet house to the four wheeler, and dragged it in to the back yard. We put a door on, and the house was ready. Then I placed the ad. It was something along the lines of helping me start my tiny farm. I was looking for chickens, rabbits, even sheep or goat. Any body's un-wanted animals for a fair price to free.
I got a call back! A lady had a goat, that did not like her other goats! She was in milk, and was great with humans. She also had chickens, and pigs and cows and horses. She gave me the goat, named Baby Blue. Along with a bale of hay, a sack of rations, 2 rolls of chicken wire, a crate with 6 hens, and a rooster, and a smaller crate with 3 bantam hens, and a rooster.
I did research, and discovered that I had a white leghorn, a white EE, and another one with colorful markings, 2 silver laced Wyandotte, a red sex link, and a Silver Spangled Hamburg rooster, I named sergeant Bald a$$. He is now Sergeant Hamburg, but I just call him sarge.
I was In heaven. I let the chickens go in their new coop. Instantly, they were in chicken heaven. They started scratching about In the dirt, and kicked almost all the straw out of the house. They pecked and rolled. Ad the rooster started crowing. The bantams did the same. I had thrown together a smaller hutch before I got the chickens and put the bantams there.
I didn't think I was actually going to get goat. But I got her anyway. As my hubs went to cut fence poles for a pen, the goat and I toured the property. She discovered the old dog house. My dog preferred the porch to the old dog house, so it wasn't being used. She stood in front of it, looked at it, sniffed it, then stood in it, sniffed it, then wagged her tail, and flicked her tongue at me. As if to say "this'll do" she lay in her house and ate her hay as she watched my hubs and I build her a pen.
We attached the log posts to the side of the coop. My hubs attached 4 in. mesh around it, and then wrapped the rolls of chicken wire around it. We dragged the dog house in there, and placed it on a pallet to get it off the ground. We laid a board to the front of the dog house, to keep her from kicking out all her bedding. She was very happy. I milked that goat twice a day, and traded some of her milk for rabbits.
They were 2 Californians, and they were huge. I got 1 male, and one female. I named them Ma and Pa. I got them late in the year, so I fattened them for winter, and bred them that spring.
During that summer, I placed an ad for the sale of some of my strawberry plants. I offered that I always take reasonable farm and garden trades. I mentioned that I was looking for any type of meat and egg bird. I got a response from a hatchery here. I wound up trading a bunch of plants for 9 baby quail. They were coturnix. I also bought some black australorp chicks. Later on I wound up getting 2 more white leghorn hens from that same place.
I wound up going back there later that summer and buying three more of the same australorps, 3 light Brahmas, and I got a silver spangled Hamburg hen named Gracie. I still have sarge and Gracie, they are my favorite.
At the end of that summer, we began preparing the site for our future log cabin. The coop was awfully close to the concrete posts, and my hubby said it would have to be moved that spring.
I had had plans to breed the goat to keep her in milk, and have more goats, but plans to breed her fell through. I didn't want to keep her alone, and then, I saw an ad for a companion for a horse. The horse was too old to be ridden, but the lady refused to get rid of him, so she decided he needed a friend. I replied, explaining my situation. She traded me a pair of eastern wild turkeys.
I have since gotten a couple of e mails saying that baby was happy and healthy. She loves her horse friend, and the neighborhood kids loved her. "She's fat and Sassy, and thinks she owns the place."
The quail I had were grown in to a tiny flock of 18 birds. I had 5 females to a male, and they were just fixing to start laying for the spring time. I fed and cared for them all winter to discover that the neighbor's dogs tore the door off the cage, and left a trail of feathers and bodies all the way back to her house.
During that fall and winter, I played with the incubator a lot, hatching what I could get from my girls, and once again, my favorite hatchery. I got some silky eggs, some of my bantams, which I think were just mutts, and green eggs.
I wound up selling off a bunch of birds, because I had way too many. A lot of them went to kids who were in the 4-H. I love when kids want to be involved with animals.
That spring, I set to work building a new coop and run that's out of the way of the building of our cabin. It's built in almost exactly the same manner as the old one with a few improvements. The floor is the same style, covered with chicken wire. I placed a board over it for the sake of their feet, and the easier clean up. The nest boxes are built into the wall, and sticking out the back of the coop. I also just added a dresser that I recycled into more boxes.
I just removed the front of the drawers, and placed them on the drawer rails. Then I placed a board in front of the boxes. That way they don't kick out kick the shavings out.
Their pop door is extra wide, making it easier for the girls to get out in the morning, rather than all of them trying tom pile out in a hole that's the size of one hen. I also placed a board in front of the pop door, to keep the litter in. The girls love to kick and scratch around when I put in fresh litter, and lots of it winds up outside the coop. I also placed one of these boards along the bottom of the big coop door.
I have a window up front of the coop, that's covered by chicken wire. ......there is a huge flap outside that opens and closes. That lets the light in, and fresh air in. plus they like to sit on the old 2x4 roost, and watch outside. I plan on eventually replacing the wire with an actual window.
Also plan on replacing the old plywood doors with doors that are more attractive, and I'd like the added security. I wanted to add a flip top lid to the nest, so I don't disturb them while I look for eggs. I also wanted to replace the tarp that covers it all, protecting it from Alaska's heavy snow. We have a bunch of galvanized tin from our roof of our cabin, and I'd like to cover it from the rain and snow.
I used to use straw for bedding, but last spring, I discovered, as so many others on BYC have, that straw is just gross. The spring break up is the worst, with all the snow melting, and the ground is still frozen, so there is standing water everywhere, with layers of stinkin straw, mixed with poo. I had stated it was easier to rake up, but once it freezes; there is no raking about it. I switched to pine shavings, which actually lasts better than the straw. It's clean, it smells good! It doesn't get wet like straw, and it shovels right out.
The girls occupy their time by scratching in the run, perching in the sun, singing the egg song. Their dust baths are a must. They love when I come with the ash bucket to put fresh ashes in their box. It's just an old rubber maid tote that is made to slide under a bed. The lid got broke, and it's perfect for them.
I admire each hen for their different quirks. Gracie, my silver spangled Hamburg, likes a spotless nest. I have a Rhode Island Red mix that likes to roost on the edge of the next boxes, and I get the occasional poops in the boxes. Gracie will throw a fit. I fi miss one, or she decided to lay before I get there, She stands by the nest she likes to lay in(which is the nest that gets the most poops I it) and squawks and hollers. It took me a while to figure out why she was freaking out every now and then. There was a turd on the inner lip of the box that I had missed.
I have currently 11 hens and 2 roosters.
6 Black Australorps (Black Betty...all of them)
2 Silver Spangled Hamburg hens (Gracie, and Baby Gracie)
1 Easter Egger hen (Muffs)
2 Rhode Island Red mixes (Red and My Other Red)
2 Silver Spangled Hamburg Roosters (Sarge, and Buster)
I plan on breeding the Australorps. I also want some Araucanas, Barred rocks, New Hampshire Reds, and I'm dying to get my hands on some of those French Black Copper Marans. I'm making plans to get more birds from the hatchery, and some from the feed store.
The turkeys I had were killed by the dogs that ate my quail. It was horrifying to see that the 5 beautiful birds that I had been wanting to breed again this year, were gone. Just to say that the neighbor had paid me, and each time it has happened, she had been out of town.
I have a dream barn drawn up. It's divided for several coops and runs, and has a room for hatching, and brooding. I have plans for a loft for storage, and so it's easy to just rake it out, and haul to the compost heap. I eventually plan on a separate yard for ducks...I really want to get some ducks. And some more turkeys. I'm in the process of breeding my rabbits again. The last litter I had were put into the freezer, and my hubs was as pleased as punch. I want a few more females for breeding stock. They sure do eat a lot though. It's amazing how much grass and greens 7 little bunnies will pack down in a day...not to mention all the feed! I planted extra greens, radishes, carrots, this last year, and they reaped the rewards!
The chickens get every scrap of veggies, and greens I could find. This last summer, I would dump all my weeds, and garden trash, all kitchen scraps in a pile on one side of the run. They would run and pick through it all day. I cleared an area from my garden, and dumped all the dry leaves in there too. They had a blast. Every day it was topped with more weeds, grasses, and scraps. If I wanted them to scratch it up better, I tossed a handful of corn or oat meal, with crushed eggshell in, and they mixed it.
Last fall, I raked it to bare dirt, and covered it with dried leaves. I had intended on getting a truck load of sand for the floor of the run, but that didn't really happen. Everything that was in the run got put in the compost heap, along with other stuff I don't feed the animals. And lots of rabbit poo. Did I mention a lot of rabbit poo!! I actually can't wait for the time to feed it to my garden.
My story is still coming along; I am well into my adventure of having birds. I have thanked Mrs. AK Bird Brain for turning me on to BYC. I had mentioned BYC before, I had found it while researching my hens. When she said she was a regular here, I began spending more and more time here. This is the best place. I have been spending more time here recently due to the loss of my dog Bear. She was a good old dog. I told my hubs that I needed to obsess my self with something, to help me through it. And I put eggs into the incubator. Just a test hatch and most the chicks will probably get sold on Craig's list.
I'll keep adding to this as time goes on, and I'm planning on adding pics, so stay tuned!