So, maybe not a superhero move here, but our neighbors continue to be pretty superb folks. While doing chores, my bride and I were discussing how we can help our pigs and chickens that live outdoors get their feet dry with the incessant rain we have been having.
Across the street from us, our neighbor ownsGreen Shadow tree service, so I walked over to ask Chuck about getting some of the wood chips from his piles to put in our pens. He stopped what he was doing, filled his truck and brought two loads to the front of our pens for me to load in with our tractor, without me asking him to do so. I brought a few more loads from his place with our tractor and the pigs were ecstatic, or at least I interpreted their crazy running around, rooting and jumping as such.
This is another example of the type of people and friends we have around us, and reinforces how grateful we are to live where we do. People who jump to help each other, and who go beyond the need to make sure each other are ok are not common enough anymore.
If anyone needs tree service done in the greater Bethlehem area, give Green Shadow a call – he has been in business for over 30 years and has a great reputation in the area.
In our large common indoor pen, we built an access panel to accommodate access to future nesting boxes and we finally got around to building the nesting boxes this winter.
For those of you who saw our post about the turkey nesting boxes and noted the 2×4 roost, this one is considerably smaller. That is due to the fact that chicken hens way a lot less and also have smaller feet, allowing the more size appropriate roost.
The external access is great, and would make egg collecting chores easier, except we added other nesting boxes in the main pen for breed isolation during the spring egg season. Once we mix the hens again, this will be more helpful!
Our turkeys got to laying stage and needed something besides finding piles of hay or straw to lay eggs in so we used up a variety of the scrap bits we had around to set up a 2 seater nesting box. The back is screwed into the barn structure, so there are only legs on the front.
Installing the frame
Roof on, ready for hay
The front of the nesting box has a 2×4 step up rail to give the girls an easy way to get in and out of the nests and has worked quite well.
all ready for turkeys when they are done in the dust bath!
Now we are ready for eggs! We did note that we should have installed the back rail to keep eggs from rolling out the back when the hens got carried away, but that was an easy fix and we are now in business.
Items to remember if you build your own:
A nice sloped roof that overhangs the nest by a few inches discourages pooping in the nest.
Make sure you have the nests high enough to reach in comfortably without too much bending.
The girls need a roost bar to get in more comfortably, but it is not required.
Hay is better than straw inside as it is softer and makes a nicer nest
When we got our Nigerian Dwarf goats, we had to build a shelter quickly, and they ended up with a small 4×8 shelter that has served us very well. We were able to pick up the house and move it to their larger pasture on the forks of our tractor and despite the moving and shifting, it has worked out very well.
Now however, we have been able to build a larger barn and plan to over winter our goats there, to facilitate the kidding process and simplify chores. We have attached paddock areas for the goats to get outdoor play time complete with climbing toys, but the objective inside the barn was to have separate birthing stalls and a means to contain them while in the barn.
You can see in these (admittedly messy construction time) photos some of the details we built into the project. The coolest part of this build, it that we used oak board, harvest from our trees we removed to make way for the barn. We used a local sawmill and it was a good feeling to see the full circle for this lumber.
Each of our girls have their own stall, though as often as not they all pile in together. We will be adding stall gates to isolate them for the birthing. We are also planning to remove one of the wall boards to create feeding stanchions to better control what they are eating individually, but right now we manage that with buckets. The hay and straw rack on top is a handy addition that we use for storage as well as feed to keep things contained.
Lessons learned here include the fact that even little goats can climb! Note the photo of our buck on top of the wall. Overall we are happy with the result, but we will be making some updates in the coming months after we get a bit more time in to see what else we can improve.
We enjoy banana chips, as well as many other dehydrated fruits, but making them is a tedious process. We invested in a food slicer to process bulk meats and more solid fruits and veggies, but bananas are a different challenge. When my wife brought home a large load of very ripe (and discounted) bananas, I decided to make a large batch of chips, but wanted an easy way to slice them. I looked at the egg slicer and decided it would work great if it was a larger version, so I whipped up a prototype.
I save the better logs I cut around our property to make boards, and here you can see my stash of mostly white oak boards.
I pulled one and ran it through the planer after cutting it down.
I cut the board down to make the frame pieces, and also the internal cutting board, then glued and nailed up the frame. I then spaced and drilled a series of holes to weave the wire in.
I did not buy any special wire since this was just a prototype, but I did have some steel wire on hand I use for repairs, and it worked great.
After cleaning up the boards I oiled them with some olive oil I had on hand and you can see the result here. It was an acceptable finish for this little project. Here is the test cut in action. It worked exactly as planned.
In the construction process, we learned we needed to build an apron to facilitate entry and exit from our property. The apron provides a transition from the road, to the driveway / field and cleans the mud off from tires as well. to build this, we had to excavate a foot +/1 to cut through the top layer of dirt and get to the clay base, then fill it with tire scrubber rocks.
We learned a couple of key things in this process.
An apron is important and needs to be planned for (whoops, missed this at first)
Excavation can be done pretty easily on this with a tractor and bucket, no expert help needed (cost savings)
When ordering the tire scrubber rock, be sure to be clear about the grade of rock you are getting. We were not clear enough on this and ended up picking out re-bar and some scrap metal from the end result.
Pick out any scrap metal from the final product.
If you did not get a driveway permit, your township may take offense and ask for one, viewing this as a driveway…
Our Alpaca were coming and we had no facilities for them, as it was something of a surprise the way it came together.
Fortunately, they were coming on a day I had off from work and so Tommy and I ran to the store for some supplies and went to work. Here we have our generator and tools set out and are starting to lay out the simple framing. Our plan was a small 4×8 feed shed with a hay rack.
We built the base up on landscaping timbers to both keep it off the ground and also to allow us to move it more easily with the tractor. Tommy was running the screw gun on this and did a great job.
The hay rack was made by ripping down 2x4s into strips, then making the lattice on a frame cut at an angle to allow for hay to load up, while still being strong enough to support the Llama and alpacas sticking their heads in it. So far it has worked out great. We built the whole house and feed rack for about the cost of buying a ready made feed rack, so it was a pretty significant savings and not that much effort.
The alpaca like to lounge in the house as well as eat there, and it provides sufficient cover to get out of the elements with the over hang.
One of the first things we made when we got birds, was a little entertainment for them. They like to roost, even as babies. Jessica looked on line and we were both surprised at the costs for these little accessories. I whipped up a few models in my shop to see how they worked and the birds really seemed to go for them.
These were very effective when they were little and we scaled the idea up as the birds grew, from just a couple of inches off the ground, to about 18 inches and now we have birds roosting in the rafters of our barn!
I tried a few ideas as you can see here, from blocking on a 45, to ladder cutting like a stringer for stairs. They all worked well, but the ladder approach seems best for the small applications.
Leave plenty of room for each bird to roost on a level without interfering with the one below it.
Ensure there is sufficient off set to avoid raining poop
A poop tray under the roost is a great addition for clean up.
Ensure the ladder is balanced with a ground extension to prevent tipping, unless it is otherwise fastened down.