Previous locations haven’t worked out as a place to grow vegetables so my plan is to clear the brush and garbage trees in this area. This shot is looking south so the good Black Walnut in the foreground can stay without shading out the garden. While it is hard to judge the scale it is plenty far away to keep from having a negative effect on the garden. The chickens spent a winter here a year ago and to my knowledge hasn’t been dug up for decades, if ever. Further this is river bottom land that has flooded a couple of time in the last 10 years that I know of, further depositing organic material
My plan is raised beds with some half-rotted logs laying on the ground that I plan on burying in the beds and I can get 2 yards of compost from the township. I have a large pile of wood chips that I got a tree clearing crew to dump when they were working about a mile away that will be paths.
Here is a little video clip from closer.
She is giving me the “Keep your hand away look”
We appear to have a hen go broody. The last couple of days the same hen is in the same nesting box, refusing to leave. Time to do some research about broody hens and chicks hatching.
There is no telling what the chicks will be like, I have a Rhoad Island Red Rooster and one that is reported to be a Black Java, but I’m not sure how much “Black Java” it is. I also have a variety of hens including White Leghorn, ISA Brown, Barred Rock, Black Australorp, Rhoad Island Red, plus a couple others of uncertain breed. Therefore it’s hard to tell what will come out of the eggs, if they even hatch.
This is the year I get back to some vegetable production and maybe some other annual plants. I have found a few places that have not done so well in the past, this year I’m trying a new plot. This is an area of some brush and a few garbage trees that I will be clearing. This area hasn’t been disturbed for years so there has been leaf drop and other organic material building up. Further the chickens spent several months here last year so that adds some fertility to the soil as well.
My plan is to build raised beds in this area. There are some small logs that have been sitting around for a couple of years that I’m going to try burying under the raised beds plus I can get 2 yards of compost from the township that I will also add to the beds. According to what I’ve read this will help with keeping the moist and provide a good environment for fungi which also is reported to help plants.
I also need to setup some more area for the chickens that has overhead cover. Last year I lost more than 40 birds to the hawks and owls. Previously I had only lost a few per year when I moving them around the open ground, but once the birds of prey discovered an easy meal they hit me hard. I’m thinking an area with some small trees and pollard them off as high as I can reach and run some bird netting over the top.
After a bitterly cold winter spring has sprung with a vengeance. In just a couple of days the more than a foot of snow is rapidly disappearing. The chickens are glad to have the ground clear to scratch and peck.
I’m also considering a batch of meat birds, but I’m not sure I’m ready to process 25-50 birds. I have a line on a guy who is supposed to be in that business, but I have yet to reach him to confirm and find out his rates. Tractor Supply Company has meat birds for $1.99 each.
Time to go out and get the fence back in shape
I saw a few of the comfrey plants putting up shoots
The chickens really do not like to walk around in the snow so they spend a lot more time in the coop in the winter here in Michigan. I gathered bags of leaves from the curb in the fall and that is what I used for bedding for the first part of the winter. I didn’t have enough to last so now I am adding straw.
The chickens love it when more bedding is added as it gives them something to scratch at. I don’t do much more than cut the twine and throw some scratch grain on top, in less than a day it will be spread all through the coop. I make it a practice to trow some scratch in the bedding every day so they keep turning it over.
It is bitterly cold this weekend in Michigan, temperature around 10 degrees with a wind chill about -15. However they are doing well, going out to the food and water. What has worked for me these last two winters is to cover the sides of the coop and leave the door open. This year they got an upgrade with some blue tarps from Harbor Freight. The other advantage they have is this location is on the lee side of a drop in elevation. That is this is where the property drops down into the river bottom land so with the trees also in this area tends to be sheltered.
The two roosters I’ve got from the batch of Black Java’s are starting to act like the protectors I need them to be. I find it amusing that when I catch one of the girls outside the fence and she starts squawking the boys run right over and are jumping around trying to figure out what to do. I’ve also noticed when the owl is in the tree they are between the girls and the danger. It’s starting to look like they will work out. I haven’t lost any more in a few weeks so I am hopeful.
I am still not successful in providing a safe place to live for my flock. They are in an area with a lot of cover but I am still seeing losses, mainly around the edges. There are at least 3 owls and a hawk in the area. I am loosing at a much lower rate, I don’t know if the birds are getting smarter, & faster or the cover I’m proving is the solution or just the dumb slow ones have been culled.
I have put up some overhead netting in the open area and am in the processing of moving the fence in as close as I can to the brushy cover. Creating a semi-permanent run area is not part of my plan for keeping chickens but it looks like I don’t have much of a choice. I’ve probably lost close to 50 birds in the last 6 months, selling eggs isn’t going to show a profit this year.
I suspect I’m going to have to create several permanent runs with something overhead to protect the flock. Then I could rotate them through these runs. Not as good as the movable electro-net fencing I had such success with last year. Oh well, live and learn.
After keeping the chicks in a dog kennel for a couple of days inside the electric fence (hoping that the adult birds will get used to them) I let them out today. They took right to the woods eating honeysuckle leaves and scratching in the dirt. They are still light enough that they can get up in the air a fair amount and I’m not sure how well the fence will be at holding them.
I’m hoping this area will offer shelter from the aerial predators as it is hard to even walk through. I’m planing of this being their winter home.