Small Scale Poultry: Planning Your Coop

In a previous post, we determined how many hens we required to meet a set egg production goal in a week. A key to reaching any egg goal is to provide an environment conducive to egg laying. So this post is just a shotgun brainstorm on some of the critical parameters we’ll have to take into account for building the coop.

How many nest boxes?

As a rule of thumb, you should provide 1 nest box for every 4 hens. You’ll want them in a darker spot in the coop, that does not have a lot of traffic.

How much roosting bar space?

Generally, you can provide about 12″ of space per bird, although they can and do cuddle up closer than that. You’ll want to keep the space between the bars about 2 feet apart.

How large should the hen house be?

If you are in a warmer climate, you can get by with 2 SQ/FT per bird, because they will only be using the space to lay and roost. In colder climate, where the hens will spend part or all of the winter in the hen house, you should start at 4 SQ/FT and go up in space from there.

How big should I make the run?

The figure that gets thrown out a lot is 10 SQ/FT per hen. I’d prefer to think of it as about 3 feet by 3 feet of space per hen. I am not too worried about going down all the to 5 SQ/FT per bird if you are going to let them free range in the afternoon (more on why that is a good idea in a future post). If you are going to free range during all daylight hours, then you’re fine with just the hen house, but note that you will have to let them out every day and lock them up every day that the weather permits ranging.

Where do I put the water and food?

Both in the hen house and in the run. You never want your hens to run out of water.

Where do I put my coop?

You’ll want the morning sun to start the hens up, so have the entrance and/or a window facing east. Shade and trees are good for the hens (especially if you’re going to let them range at all). The area should not flood when it rains. Level ground will make construction easier, but it is not necessary. Follow your county’s codes, and you’ll be set.

Final Thoughts

These are some of the primary concerns to take into account when you’re planning a coop. You’ve now got an idea of the dimensions, and perhaps have started to think of shape and a spot on your land. Keep in mind, the further it is, the harder it will be to keep up. In all things farm related, the more you think the less you sweat.

 

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Small Scale Poultry: How Many Chickens?

How many chickens do you need in order to produce a certain number of eggs in a set period? We’ll work out the math and then ruminate on further considerations.

How many eggs do you want in a week?

The first question is how many eggs do you want. I find myself in a situation where I can sell as many as I produce, easily. In the state of Florida, among many other laws restricting various aspects of any poultry endeavor, a small scale producer is exempt from the absurd USDA inspection burdens if they produce 30 dozen or less eggs in a week. We’ll use that as a target goal, but it can be any number of eggs.

How many chickens to produce that quantity of eggs?

30 Dozen Eggs per week = 360 eggs per week

30 dozen eggs per week = 51 eggs per day

Assuming a chicken lays 2 eggs every 3 days, that is .67 eggs per day per chicken.

51 eggs divided by .67 eggs (the rate of lay per chicken) tells us that we need 77 laying hens.

To produce 30 dozen eggs per week, you need 77 laying hens.

Further Considerations

While 2 eggs every 3 days is a fair estimate of the productive ability of the average hen, that can vary wildly due to the number of variables affecting egg laying. Some things can be taken into consideration because they happen regularly, molting and winter daylight hours. During periods of molt and shortened daylight hours production will decrease. You can compensate by planning to have young pullets start laying just before season molt and supplying supplemental lighting during the shorter daylight hours.

The supplementation proposed as a possible solution to decreased production, may also be one for another further consideration, the rate of lay is for the average hen during her prime years. Older hens lay less often, and very young hens lay smaller eggs. In your system, to insure your production target, you will need to refresh the laying stock on occasion.

One final consideration will be losses sustained by the flock. Different housing situations present different predation and health concerns, but generally, you can factor in that there will be losses occasionally. This is especially the case for free-ranging and confinement housing.

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Fix Your Leaky Hose In 4 Easy Steps

I left the hose out when mowing the lawn. No problem until I turned on it, the hose caught and I got sprayed for being lazy. But the garden still needs water, so time to repair or replace. Luckily, this is an easy fix.

Tools Needed:
Knife
Flathead Screwdriver
Brass Linkage, 5/8″
2 Hose Clamps

Procedure:
1. Locate puncture/leak.
2. Remove affected section.
3. Insert brass linkage
4. Tighten hose clamps.

Moral of the Story:
Move the hose before you mow.

20130621-212235.jpg

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Resistant Bacteria Found In Factory Farmed Meat

From Wikipedia.

On February of 2013 the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System published their report which found bacteria resistant to antibiotics on more than half the samples tested from supermarkets.

The study done by the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System shows a significant increase the amount of meat contaminated with these “superbugs.” See this article for a concise and visual summary of the report: Environmental Working Group.

In their article, the New York Times quotes some vague and ambiguous counters and reactions to the report. As the article points out, at least two of the reports critics are financed by organizations who stand to lose from the findings. This is not the only or initial report to demonstrate the negative effects resulting from the use/overuse of antibiotics for livestock. If it were, then we could take “officials” like Professor Singer of the University of Minnesota more seriously, and further investigate. That is not the case, like the New York Times articles says, “public health officials in the United States and in Europe, however, are warning that the consumption of meat containing antibiotics contributes to resistance in humans.”

Antibiotics are not bad. Antibiotics are not bad when used correctly. Antibiotics are not bad when treating an animal that is sick. Unfortunately for the consumer, it is monetarily expeditious to feed livestock antibiotics to keep them from getting sick. It should be obvious to most that this is an unsafe practice, as resistance to the antibiotics is inevitable for both the animal and the person who consumes it. It should be shocking to most how widespread the practice is; the Department of Agriculture reports that 80% of all antibiotics sold in the US is used in agricultural practice.

People with factory farming & feedlot agendas, would have you believe that the threat to human health is not real. They will try to distance the problem from being your concern,for example, the salmonella on the meat is not detrimental to human health. True enough, it is not if the chicken is properly prepared. I wonder what they would say in the case that you happen to get an infection. That is the crux of the problem! If the these bacteria are resistant to antibiotics, how will you be treated?

The numbers and consequences are scary, make sure you browse the Environmental Working Group article.

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Book Review: Living On A Few Acres – Yearbook of Agriculture 1978

Living On A Few Acres

I came across this gem at a small bookstore in a small town. It only took a glance for me to ascertain the value of this book. I read a few of the articles while I was on vacation, and I keep it close as I find it easy to invest a few minutes for an article when I don’t have time to delve into a full fledged chapter in another book. It has short and relatively thorough introductory articles that cover a very wide range of topics. These articles may not be only reference you’ll need to tackle different projects, but they’ll give you all the basics, and lay the groundwork for further research. This articles will give you ideas, and point you in the right direction. As I read through them, I find that they don’t feel out of date, with agriculture, I find, many things don’t change as much as they do change.

Here is a list of the articles you’ll find in this book:

Preface – Jack Hayes, Editor
Foreward – Bob Bergland, Secretary of Agriculture

Part I – Pluses, Minuses

Living in the Country – a Diversity of People
Consider the Tradeoff Before Leaving the City
Three Years to Break Even
Ready to Face the Realities of Small-Scale Farming?
Changing to a New Lifestyle: the Little Things Do Add Up
One Family’s Satisfactions With Home on Few Acres

Part II – Acquiring That Spot

Selecting a Region, Community, Site
Can You Get What You Want? Homesteaders and Others
Making Your Final Choice and Following Through

Part III – Improvements For Your Place

Remodeling a House – Will It Be Worthwhile?
Harmon-y in a Double Home
A Personal Experience
Building That Dream House: Don’t Be Caught Napping
Family Work and Storage Areas Outside the House
Landscaping Around Home – Get Help, Plan Carefully
Land Improvements – What You Need to Know
Your Farmstead Buildings Can Be Simple Materials
Water and Waste Disposal, Vital for Your Few Acres
Power Sources, Equipment for Life on a Few Acres

Part IV – How to Make the Most of It

Five Years on Five Acres – Tips to go About It Right
Pigs and Pumpkins
Orchards Can Be Profitable, Good Management Is the Key
Grapes are Versatile Fruits and Have Market Potential
Two to Five Acres of Berries Can Sweeten Your Income
Vegetables Are Appealing If You Don’t Mind the Work
Can Ornamental Plants Turn a Profit for You?
Dried Flower Arrangements
Making a Mint With Herbs Is Not All That Difficult
How You Can Grow Food Organically
Starting Up a Kennel to Board, Groom Dogs
Year-Round Gardening With a Greenhouse
Beekeeping as a Hobby or Economic Sideline
Woodlots Offer Wide Range of Benefits to the Owner
Christmas Trees Pay Off, If You Can Wait 5 Years
Bringing Home the Bacon, by Raising Your Own Pigs
Plant Nursery Business Opportunities on the Rise
Growing English Walnuts, Pecans and Chestnuts
Poultry Puts Eggs on Table and Provides Meat Supply
How to Market Vegetables, Fruit, Some Other Items
Rabbits Suited to a Few Acres, and Capital Outlay Is Small
Mink Require Savvy to Raise; Market Is a Roller Coaster
Beef Cattle May Be Easy Way to Put Pastures to Work
Part-Time Sheep Producers Have Several Options Open
Two-a-Day Milkings Kill Joy of Dairying for Most Families
Dairy Goats Require Lots of Care Just to Break Even
Think Twice About Risks of Horse Rental Business
How You Can Attract Birds, Other Wildlife to Your Place
You Can Grow Fish for Fun or for Profit
Vacation Farms Attract Half a Million Each Year
Dude Ranches Capitalize on 3 Current Trends
You Can Start Producing Earthworms in a Washtub

Part V – Disposing of Property

Selling Property: Brokers, Title, Closing, and Taxes
Providing for Your Heirs – Non-Sale Property Transfers

I’ll post in-depth reviews and notes on these articles as separate blog entries.

This book has sparked my interest in the other years in this series. I plan to post reviews and information about the other years if they are worth recommending.

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Goat Care – Caring For Wounds & Cuts

My two does were recently dehorned. It takes a couple of weeks for the buds to fall off, and there could be some bleeding.  During the feeding last night, I find that, right on schedule, one of the does bumped her bud on something and it had blood where the bud used to be. Note, it was not bleeding, from what I could tell, it was done bleeding and was releasing plasma or lymphatic fluid, a clear fluid that has no odor. A healthy sign, so the goat’s natural processes are caring for the wound. At this point, don’t disturb, let it air out, keep it dry. All is well, check back next day. Had it been bleeding, you would want to stop the bleeding, and there are various products for this, homemade and store bought. Today, upon inspection the wound has not scabbed over, and there are flies trying to get at it. Here is a picture of the injury, and you can clearly see the flies hanging on and around. Looks worse than it is.

Horn Injury On Goat

Horn Injury On Goat

Horn Injury On Goat

Horn Injury On Goat

What you do at this point, is put iodine or hydrogen peroxide on it to clean it out. And I will continue to reapply at both feeding times, and maybe at some point during the day until I see improvement. Put enough so that it foams all throughout the affected area, but try to keep it out of the eyes and ears of the goat. Below are are pictures of the hydrogen peroxide applied. It may be hard to see (goats never stop moving if you are close), but there is white foam coming up on the injury.

Young Doe With Treated Bud Injury

Young Doe With Treated Bud Injury

Young Doe With Treated Bud Injury

Young Doe With Treated Bud Injury

Good luck with raising your goats! Always keep a bottle of hydrogen peroxide handy.

Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen Peroxide

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Farmstead & Homestead Site Selection

Farmstead

Quick notes on the priorities when selecting a site for a farm or homestead.

As, or when, Muddy Hall outgrows its modest 5 acre plot of land the search will be on for a larger tract for the new and improved Muddy Hall. These are some of the things to consider when searching for the right spot.

The parameters for the search should reflect natural disaster risk assessments. Sperling’s findings on the topic are published here.

In order to begin to narrow down the search, a short priority list:

1. Resources & Access Rights
2. Climate (Southern/Temperate)
3. Water (well or spring > river or stream > lake or pond)
4. Bare minimum for complete self sufficiency is 20 acres (5 acre wood lot). Realistically, atleast 200 acres for a family farm. That leaves about 75 acres for managed wood forest.

Economic climate can be the qualifier variable, once ideal locations are identified. Off farm work, market for farm products, etc. Farm-ability of site will reflect price, but with above conditions 1 – 3 met, land can be conditioned over time. Other price factors, but non-priority are fertility of soil and pasture, acreage that is clear, existing home, power hookups, paved roads, etc.

Note that comforts and conveniences are left for last. Location and water can not be changed, but everything else can be had with sweat equity and time.

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