There are chickens in the Lair’s future

This afternoon I took delivery on fifty concrete blocks, some anchor bolts, and cement. Tomorrow I’ll start leveling ground on an 8X12 space to be lined and divided into four with the blocks.

Once that’s done, I’ll build a 4X6 chicken coop that can be bolted down on one of those fourths. The idea is to move the coop from space to space and let the chickens enrich the dirt in each, which will become garden spaces. Since I never expect to raise much more than herbs, that should be enough. But the plan allows for alternatives. Since a lot of what I’d like to raise isn’t perennial, the coop might end up permanently mounted someplace else but doing it this way I can protect the chickens against predators and then fence the garden areas against rabbits. Alternately, I might build more coops in the fullness of time since there’s no plan for the birds to be pets. I’m a predator, too.

It’ll work! If I can keep the chickens alive. Landlady’s chicken-related experiments suggest that their care and feeding isn’t rocket science. I don’t expect the birds till spring, but I need to get the foundation in pretty quick.

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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8 Responses to There are chickens in the Lair’s future

  1. MamaLiberty says:

    In my experience, chicken manure is far too “hot” to use that way. It needs to compost for at least a year before being used in a garden. And, unless you only have one or two hens, your little plots will be vastly over fertilized for a very long time after the chickens are gone.

    I learned this the hard way… a friend brought me a small pickup load of fresh chicken manure and we dumped it at the edge of my large garden. I spread it out over the whole thing… about 50 X 90 feet, and tilled it in. Two years passed before anything but a few hardy weeds would grow in that soil. And it was a matter of another year or so before any root vegetables would do well there.

    I had to dig another garden in a different place in the meantime. Eventually that first plot became a very productive area, but it took time and had no new fertilizer applied for many years.

  2. Joel says:

    ML, you’re not the first to raise that objection, and (having no idea what I’m doing) I don’t discount it. I’m mostly concerned, right now, with a secure way to raise chickens without feeding coyotes, raptors and wild dogs. If the ground there ends up spending years fallow before it’s of use, it’ll still eventually be of use.

  3. ML – I hope I’m not treading on your toes here – but I want to mention a couple things. When you say the chicken manure is too “hot” – you’re probably speaking of nitrogen content. Sometimes this can come up when someone overfertilises with nitrogen and plants will get what’s called ‘nitrogen burn’.

    Composting requires a ratio of carbon and nitrogen – generally much more carbon than nitrogen. Carbon can be any dry organic material. To process all that nitrogen from the chickens – add carbons. It’s probably better not to till the material into the ground – the composting will happen faster at the surface – aided by air and moisture.

    I bring up worms often when I discuss soil building and composting – specifically worms called Red Wrigglers. They’re tireless compost loving critters that usually live close to the surface. They can really accelerate the whole composting process.

    Horse manure starts off fresh as fairly high in nitrogen and as it dries leans more to carbon. Mixing horse manure with chicken manure could result in a good ratio for compost and a really fine soil – and adding worms (and keeping enough moisture in their environment for them to survive) can break that down all the faster.

    Last April I brought in four truckloads of horse manure. After getting the moisture content right I added just a shovelful of manure from the previous pile that was full of worms. The whole pile now is full of worms and it’s broken down to where there’s little resemblance to the horse apples I’m sure you know so well. The worms ride along as I use the compost and enrich the soil wherever it’s used – keeping the soil opened up and continually breaking down and moving nutrients so that plants can get to them easier.

    I’d noticed a few weeks ago that the manure pile I mentioned (which doesn’t stink – btw) was getting shorter and more and more spread out. Then a couple weeks ago I just happened to be nearby in the late afternoon and found out who the culprits were. There were at least 3 dozen Scaled Quail all gathered there – scratching and pecking for the worms and beetle grubs that volunteered in the pile. No wonder the quail have been getting so fat and sassy lately! I mention this last bit to illustrate the circularity of this – that pile would have been just as attractive to chickens.

    If you do it right it’s not necessary to move heaven and earth to make a good garden or to raise chickens or other stock – just add the right ingredients and let each of them do what they do naturally. Ride herd on ’em and take your cut as ‘management’!

  4. Matt says:

    I had a couple of free range chickens when living in Texas. They were eaten by a free range ‘Possum. ‘Possum stew is palatable.

  5. just waiting says:

    Have you heard of a chicken tractor? Its a frame with net that you move from space to space, instead of moving the coop and pen. I guess putting wheels on it makes it a tractor.

    Started keeping chickens this year. I was going to start with 6, but every time mama went to the feed store she came home with a few more, now we have 20. “The book” said expect to lose 10-20% of your flock, I wish!
    I’m in a predator area too, fox, coyote, raptor, bear, etc. I build a fortified, raised coop, going so far as to put heavy gauge wire mesh under my floor boards to prevent digging thru.
    There’s 2 big dogs in the yard (1 1/2 ac, on edge of 1200 ac of forest and farm), so daytime predators are at a minimum.
    If you try a tractor, I’d like to know how it works

  6. MamaLiberty says:

    No, PNO, you are very correct. That was about 45 years ago… My chicken manure experiment came long before I understood any of that! LOL I tilled it into the soil without really understanding any of the chemistry or dynamics of composting or manure affect on the soil. It was one of my more frustrating learning experiences in the beginning.

    I won’t use fresh manure of any sort in my garden, actually. It is always much better when composted with plenty of organic material. Just wish I had a good source of old hay or dry leaves. It’s always a struggle to find such things here.

  7. Jay says:

    Joel, I don’t know what you’re planning on using for fencing, but don’t waste your time & money on chicken wire…a small dog can pull that stuff apart w/a little effort (voice of experience), forget a hungry coyote. I’d try stucco wire, heavier guage w/the same configuration. Or hardware cloth, tho’ they’re making that pretty light weight anymore.

    I’ve used the chicken tractor in the Albq. area & had good results. Great for de-buggifying the beds, doing superficial rototilling, knocking down the early weeds & seeds. Add an inch or two of that horsey stuff for the hens to work thru & you’ll be good to go.

    You’ll need secure chicken feed storage…coyotes like that stuff, too.

To the stake with the heretic!