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chickens

The farm sure has been a busy place. Updates haven’t been made here in quite some time. Lots of updates have been going on with the farm though. We’ve expanded a bit in size and added a few more veggies to the mix. I will try to keep pictures better updated for everyone.

A new, small chick hutch was built as a staging point so they can eat some developer feed for a bit. That should help turn them into some nice egg laying hens. Unfortunately, we’ve been dealing with a few predators. Solved the problem with the cat eating chickens by installing a finer mesh screen for protection. Skunks however, don’t mind digging underneath the entire building. Last night, our local skunk decided it needed 3 chicks for dinner.

Peppers in the aquaponic system have been growing well but not producing as many peppers as the ground planted variety. The plants look a bit healthier but that is mostly due to less wind exposure. The hot, dry winds have been wreaking havoc on the front yard gardens.

Potatoes have been hilled several times. We should have a nice crop of purple potatoes this fall. Golden celery was also planted to experiment with. It’s handling the heat very well so far. The hardier of the plants will be left to grow out to seed for next season.

Watermelons are growing very successfully for us this year. Lots of mulch was key to keeping the soil moist for them. A few of the melons are nearly the size of an 8 year olds head. We should be picking and eating in just a few weeks.

Even in a drought, tomatoes can be over-watered. I managed to stunt their growth a little by keeping the soil too saturated which locked up some of the nutrients. After backing off for a few days and then adding a foliar feed spray, they’ve turned back around and started setting tomatoes again.

We’ve forgotten the name of these but they’ll just be Backyard Grapes for now. They’re ripening up nicely. We won’t have enough for wine making but we’re learning more about growing better grapes for the future.

In order to determine the best growing pepper for our yard, we’re growing 8 types. The jalapenos, serranos and bull nosed bells are all doing great. In fact, I’ll be pickling peppers this week as they’re producing quite a few peppers every day.

The raised-bed corn experiment is doing very well. Next year, we’ll need to make sure it’s in the ground 2-3 weeks sooner than this year. There won’t be a big harvest but it should all be pretty tasty.

One of the fig trees out front. Hopefully it will start setting fruit. This one hasn’t been a producer yet.

Here are a few bottles of the spicy kimchi I’ve made. All the recipes I could find varied with seasonings and vegetables. I decided to use what we had and make up my own pickling recipe. It is really tasty and will be a great way to save money. This much kimchi at the farmer’s market would be around $30. I made all of this for about $6.

Well the greenhouse is finally ready to be a greenhouse. It gets quite warm and roasty in there during the day. Only took a year or so to get it finished up with no outside help. The next step will be making the solar collector for the radiant floor heating. However, my Urban Greenhouse Controller is still in the works for the Renesas contest. It gets priority for a few days now.

Front view of the greenhouse.

Potting soil has been made from sifted compost, peat moss, vermiculite and a bit our homemade organic fertilizer blend. We’ve started a few seeds and the rest of the trays will be filled this week. This is only a start. We hope to have 3 tiers on each wall of seedlings. There will be plenty of tomato seedlings for sale and trade. This year we are planning on a lot of Cherokee Purple tomatoes. Sliced with Buratta, they can’t be beat.

The start…

The baby chickens have been outside a bit. Temperatures are still a bit cool to let them roam. They don’t seem to mind getting a little sun on a breezy day.

The new chickens, 1 month old.

We’ve also been working hard at making a math game. If we can hurry, we’ll make it an instructable and enter it into the microcontroller contest at Instructables.com. All of the hardware is solved. It’s on breadboard now with a custom printed circuit board in the works. It is powered by a ATMega328p (as a barebones arduino) and programmed with a Bus Pirate. The software is being tweaked and should be done in a few days.

Our Money Math Game

We received an incubator for Christmas this year! It came a little early which was really nice. We found a local farmer that had fertile eggs for sale at a great price. The timing was perfect to have little chicks hatching on Christmas day. Some of the eggs were a day or 2 older than others when we purchased them so we’ve got a few chicks left to hatch. This video shows the first 4 chicks. We have 8 total now and 2-3 more should hatch. Hopefully, there will be 2 or 3 roosters. We would like to have more fertile eggs to make sure we can raise enough chickens to feed a dog and a kiddo.

(Strangely, this video is slightly chopped at the bottom. It appears fine on my youtube page but not when viewed by other users. I will look into getting it corrected. If the video is not attached to the emails, you can see it here.)

The chicken pen finally has a proper roof. The old roof was made of recycled, corrugated plastic sheets. They only lasted about a year before dry-rotting and causing a huge mess. The new roof is galvanized steel and should be good for a long time. I doubt the chickens will miss their skylights, especially after a hail storm.

It’s going to be noisy in the hail storms.

The greenhouse walls are ready to go. Roof trusses are nearly all assembled. They will be painted before installing. Once those are up, the polycarbonate panels are going in place. The floor was built with a insulated, reflective surface under the decomposed granite. There is about 70′ of coiled pex tubing in the floor for a radiant heating system. Once the roof is installed, the collector coil will be mounted to get the most sun.

It’s really green… “Bell Pepper Green”

Here’s a small video of our chickens with the re-framed, new-to-us nesting boxes. 3 hens have pretty much stopped laying so we’re looking for new homes for them. In January we plan to add another 10 hens to our flock.

The aquaponics are still doing well too. Had a small problem in one of the beds with aphids attacking the arugula. We pulled all of it for chicken food and restarted seeds. The basil and beans have been growing fine without any pest issues. We just got in a new high power water pump and it’s going to allow us to add a few more beds with more bio-filtration area.

Lettuces, Basil, Beans and Baby Arugula

With a few parts from the nice people at http://www.avianaquamiser.com and some modifications we now have an auto filling bucket waterer to keep our hens happy. It was about $60 in parts and only a few minutes of labor to assemble. It’s a short and simple parts list:

  • 5 gallon Bucket with Lid
  • Avian Aqua Miser 3 pack kit
  • Toilet Fill Valve Assembly
  • 7/8″ to 1/2″ Toilet Supply line
  • 1/2″ brass nipple
  • 1/2″ to 3/4″ hose swivel adapter
  • teflon tape and silicone glue
Make sure to snip the edges of the lid, at the perimeter markers. You’ll want it to be an easy off lid and you don’t want an airtight seal. If it sealed airtight, the pressure would block the flow of water from the fill valve.
Drill a 1″ hole in the bottom of the bucket for the toilet fill valve. Use the rubber grommet and plastic nut to seal and hold the valve in place. The supply line, nipple and swivel adapter will need teflon tape at all the brass on brass junctions. Drill holes for the Avian Aqua Miser watering nipples, thread them in and seal lightly with silicone glue. Once the silicone has cured, hang your new auto filling bucket waterer in your hutch and attach a garden hose. Adjust the height of the water level with the fill valve. We’re going to keep the level around 2-3 gallons so it’s always super fresh.

These projects save us time and allows that to be directed into more and better gardening.We love our funny farm.

We never posted videos of our chickens before. Here’s a couple of videos showing them doing what they do best, scratching the ground and eating.

Taking care of the chickens has been a lot of fun and very rewarding. Even the kiddo gets involved and collects eggs for us. Her school invention this year, she made a belt designed to carry a 6 pack of eggs back from the coop.

With the 8 hens we have, we get from 6-9 eggs a day. They are fed a local organic grain blend daily. Scraps, greens and grass clippings are all supplements along with any foraging for bugs. Mondays are usually big eggs after getting the weekend grass clippings.

Enjoy the videos!