Thursday, August 2, 2012

Chicken Coop and Other Things...

Gerty "inspecting" the clean coop.
So, I finally got the chicken coop cleaned today!  It really needed it bad I'm sorry to has probably been about 5 months since I cleaned it out last, aside from changing out the hay in the nest box.  My girls don't really spend a lot of time in the coop, so it wasn't "totally" disgusting or anything...just "icky" from night time poops mostly. 

Today though, the girls got into yet another fight over the one and only nest box that any of them will use, knocking it over not once, but twice!  When I first got up this morning, I went down and turned it right side up...with Gertrude firmly attached to the interior of said nest box, I might add!  Within a few hours, they had they box overturned, completely this time, and all three were raising a ruckus outside!  I don't want to say my girls are quiet by any means, they are after all a vocal animal, but they are "quieter than most" and really don't get "loud" unless they've just laid an egg or there is a serious problem in the chicken run.  When I say "serious", I mean they ran out of food or water (these have both happened once, maybe twice if I wasn't feeling well) or if there is an issue inside the coop (usually pertaining to the single nest box).  This is when having the security camera on the TV in the dining room comes in handy...I can tell when it's a food/water issue or a "coop" issue (of course, it also helps if you don't accidentally lock them in the coop the night before...).  Since I could see they had overturned the nest box again, I decided it was just time to clean the coop and be done with that chore (until shortly before the baby gets here...but hopefully I'll have a little help with that cleaning).

Clyde was the first to claim the fresh nest box!
Months back when we cleaned out the garage, my Mom washed up an old garbage can for us and we put the open bag of pine shavings in it (I had bought 2 large bags because I got them on sale for more than half off).  However, it never got moved to the run!  So, to start, I had to drag that around the house, really it was less work than it's a plastic garbage can and the pine shavings don't weigh much at all, it's just big and awkward (and hard to carry when you've got a baby bump).  Also, I took one of my handy Kitty Litter container to the garage to grab some fresh hay for the nest box.  In the 35-pound container, I can fit enough hay for two or more "fresh" changes!  The hay "bale" is an equally large plastic "sack" full of chopped hay, it was much cheaper than buying a bale of hay.

Gerty checking out my iPhone...
I have worked out a pretty simple Coop Cleaning System really...I just use a broom!  One of these days, I know I need to get out there with an actual cleaning solution and give the floor a good mopping, but we haven't had any issues with the girls being sick or any sort of bugs, so I think the system is working okay.  When we first moved the girls outside last summer, I was carting the used bedding away and dumping it in our make shift compost heap behind the shed...all we're really doing back there is making a huge pile of junk and by December, I wasn't willing to cart it across the snow.  So, "plan B" came into being and we've been using it happily ever since!  Now, I just sweep the old, icky stuff out of the coop into a pile below it.  After the coop is emptied onto the ground, I just shove it the best I can under the coop and the girls distribute it from there.  With all that old chicken poop now in the ground, it attracts bugs and the girls eat the bugs, win-win!  Then, I just put Pine shavings in the unused nest box (if I put hay in it, it just gets kicked out anyway) and that box goes in the corner I can't reach. 
Henri also needing to use the box
Next, I put the fresh Hay in the cat box turned nest box that all three girls use and it goes next to the unused box.  This keep the box they're actually laying in within reach and I can get the eggs by simply sticking my hand in the pop door!  Once the boxes are in place, I start tossing in handfuls of Pine shavings until I'm happy with the thickness of the bedding (usually 2 to 3-inches deep).  Then, I just close up the coop and walk away feeling accomplished!

I also spent a little time on the goings on in the chicken's run as well.  We recently made the switch to pellets instead of crumbles.  This was a change I really wanted to make last year when the girls got weened off of chick starter, but until this last visit to the feed store, they've always been out of pellets!  Pellets take up a little less space, meaning in a week, we're already down to only having 2 litter containers full instead of three.  Some say pellets reduce the amount of feed chickens waste, but my girls never let any food go to waste, so I can't see any difference there!  I also refilled their water with fresh...last time I cleaned their water dish and put a little Apple Cider Vinegar in it as well (good for them, but I fail to remember why).  I need to remember to not do that!  The girls don't like it, they drink less water than they do normally, the water turns milky and mold grows (gross)!  So, I dumped it out and gave them a container of fresh, clean water today as well!

Then, I got to moving some of the stuff in the coop around...a few weeks ago, we (Garrick) finally got sand back in the sand box!  The girls have gotten pretty good at digging through the river rocks and finding the sandy dirt below it, but they really enjoy climbing into their turtle "tub" for a sand bath more!  I also moved the Sumac limbs around a little too, made them more horizontal...the gals have never really climbed on them as they were and I needed to make room for the "new" garbage can storage out there!  I may need to raise the feeder up a little now though, we'll see if they start making a mess out of it!  It may be a good thing to mention that the big white bucket is my water system (two nipples drilled into the bottom of that bucket) and in reality, it is several feet away from the turtle.

And in other chicken "stuff", I do believe as of today, all the girls are back to laying!  Gerty has been dropping a ton of feathers everywhere, but I don't think she "looked" like she was molting...however, she laid a 1.7 ounce "torpedo" egg today! I know it was Gerty because she was the only hen not fighting for the box after I cleaned the coop.  It has been several months since we've gotten 3 eggs a day!  Of course, the day before we go out of town for several days isn't the ideal time for us to get an influx of eggs...especially when I didn't line up a chicken-sitter for this trip!

I guess getting moving is what I rally needed to do recently too...over the past several days I have been dealing with increasingly more swollen ankles!  Today they were/are so bad, that even my fuzzy slippers are leaving a crease line in the middle of my foot!  But, I did manage to get a pair of socks and shoes on to go out and deal with the coop, and surprisingly, once I was done, I noticed that my right foot was a little less swollen.  Of course, the relief lasted until I sat down for 5 it was short lived relief.  I'm gonna try soaking them later, maybe that will help?

While I was outside, I decided to snap a quick photo to show how tall my tomato plants are this year!  They're in large pots on the back deck and if you only count the part above dirt, they all start about mid-shin on me.  Boy do I look puffy today!

And here is a preview of a post I'm planning for the future (near I promise)...aren't the colors just awesome?  It's a quilt, and I am sort of following a pattern...but more on that once it's finished!

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