Country Living & Penny Pinching

Getting back to "Little House on the Prairie" living

Category: Chickens and Poultry (page 2 of 3)

The ups and downs and everything in between for poultry

Deciding on Free Ranging or Building a Run

To cage or not to cage? That is the question. We chose to not cage but everyone’s answer is going to be different. When asking this question one needs to consider the land, neighbors, money, predators and time.

  1. Land – If you live in a cul-de-sac my guess is that you will be building a run. Although if you train them to come when called and have supervised free-ranging time, there could be the best of both worlds. The more land you have the more options there are. We live on seven acres so we chose a stand alone coop and the birds have free reign over the whole property.
  2. Neighbors – When in close proximity you MUST make friends if you decide to free range. Go around to the neighbors and let them know what you are thinking on doing, then hear them out and go from there. If they are being difficult try an egg offering deal such as every couple of weeks bringing them a dozen eggs. If they are happy about having chickens running around then still bring them an egg offering to keep them happy. When building a run make sure that you keep it clean and not too smelly or else know an egg offering is needed to keep the neighbors OK with smelling poop.
  3. Money – This was our biggest challenge. In order to safely enclose the amount of chickens we wanted we would have had needed a couple hundred dollars in fencing to keep them safe. There was no way that was going to happen. So free ranging them became even more of a reality. Survival of the fittest right? If you have the money and are only doing a few, then a run would not be nearly as expensive.
  4. Predators – Ask around! Again with the neighbors. People who have lived in your area for more than a year will know what to watch out for. If your predator is bears, get livestock guardian dogs; coyotes, trees for the birds to jump in; hawks, bushes for the poultry to hide under; snakes, set a trap. Building a run will over course help deter all of these predators except the bears. All in all a livestock guardian dog will help with all predators but…that is only for the people who have major flocks. Some regular dogs are easy to train and will help with the predator problem as well, just be careful because dogs are also a type of predator to the poultry. Bottom line, make sure there is a place that the flock can escape to if a predator decides to come traipsing into camp.
  5. Time – If you are impatient like me, not to cage (free ranging) will definitely be your answer. How much time do you want to spend cleaning the run? How much time do you want to spend building it? Planning? Your time is valuable, always remember that. Opportunity Cost! Economics class coming into play. What you choose to spend doing for thirty minutes is time you could be doing something else. Choose what matters and is important.
  6. Eggs – Do you want to go on an Easter egg hunt everyday, train chickens to only use the laying box, or not worry about it all? Luckily we have not had a problem laying outside the nesting box but we are only dealing with one laying hen at the moment.

So now you know the factors to consider free ranging or building a run. I do realize this is all written in a free ranging voice, but there is no right or wrong way to raise birds. Keep them safe, love on them (to a point), do what is best for your family, and if you do something and it doesn’t work out just dust yourself off and try again. Good luck on making your choice.

If you have chickens what choice did you make? If you don’t which one would you lean closer to? and why?

Stages of the Duck Pond

If your husband is anything like mine than all you need to do is get ducklings and he will jump on the farming band wagon. We started with two Muscovy ducks. This breed was chosen because they do not need a pond, it would be great but they wouldn’t suffer if there was not a permanent pond in place. So plans were never made for one, but since the Hubby was smitten he declared they must have water since they really did love playing in it. That brought us to the 1st stage of the duck pond. A Pie Tin!!!


Two little ducklings sitting in a tin, S-P-L-A-S-H-!

Yep, this was a throw away pie tin in my cupboards from a certain restaurant that sold Calendar’s (haha I crack myself up, Marie Calendar’s). It was the right size for them to sit together, splash around, and still left plenty of room for them to walk around the cage.

Once the ducklings moved to the pen with the chickens on the deck we quickly learned the pie tin was now too small and the chickens would try to sit on the edge and dump it over immediately. This is where the 2nd stage came in. It was brought on by the Hubby’s love for the ducks and not knowing which dishes were the expensive ones.

a Pyrex Baking Dish

That’s right, one of my glass Pyrex baking dishes. in his defense there really wasn’t anything better to choose from in the cupboards and this worked out really really well. Heavy enough to not flip, deep enough to dunk their heads in, and really easy to clean. So props went to the Hubby after I had a couple of breaths and thought it through. Also I happened to have a weird size and he thankfully used that one, which is one I do not use regularly.  So I definitely recommend this to others as one of the stages to use for growing ducklings.

our lovely ladies

After the ducks were in the coop we realized they were getting way to big for the baking dish and needed something bigger that would not break the bank, easy to clean, store, and move around. Thus moving us into the 3rd stage of the duck pond. We went to Walmart and found the $4.88 kiddie pools! The Littles got a blue one and the lady ducks got pink. It took some coaxing but the ducks eventually learned that this bright pink thing was something fun and they would only go in when we weren’t watching. By the time we could get the camera they would have jumped out and ran back into the coop.

can you even imagine what this animal conversation was?

Word of caution! Baby chicks and duck ponds do not mix very well. Our dog was acting weird so we went out to see what was wrong and there she was with this hen staring at one of our Leghorn chicks who had fallen into the pool…I mean pond and couldn’t get out.

Eventually we would love to make a real pond but seeing as we are penny-pinching, our kiddie pool will suffice for now. Have you ever had a duck pond? What was it like? Pictures are always great too!!

Attempting the DIY Brooder

When bringing the chicks home the Hubby said they must have a  home before entering the house. With little to no money to spend on the brooder I attacked our moving boxes, grabbed some leftover duct tape from labeling those moving boxes and started making a Frankenstein brooder.

a little bit of elbow grease and duct tape

Knowing that each chick needed SOOOO much space in order to be healthy I duct taped all those moving boxes together. These boxes ended up being bigger than my dining room table. Let me add that I have a huge dining room table (we thought we lived in a mansion when we bought it for our tiny newlywed apartment). We were expecting about twenty chicks overall and they are supposed to grow really fast so I made enough space for about 100 chicks.

These chicks did not needs so much space. Do not let these fancy books tell you otherwise. For the first few weeks they only need the size of a storage tub. maybe an extra long one. Next time the brooder will be about a tenth of the size.

Despite the size, I was determined to have everything be D.I.Y. (do it yourself) This would be saving money AND recycling. Here are the waterer and feeder…

Waterer and Feeder

The feeder worked great, the chickens could of course scratch some of it out but I feel like almost all DIY feeders wont be perfect. I used scissors to make the holes and hot glued the juice bottle bottom to the 8 oz baby cereal container.

The waterer was not so great. I hot glued the fancy plastic water bottle to a jar lid, made holes with scissors at the bottom of the bottle and it took me days to figure out why it wasn’t working that well. Every time I tried to fill it, it would overflow.

The holes are just above the lip of the lid…yep! The holes need to be lower than the top of the bottom piece (in my case a tiny jar lid). None of the instructions I read ever said that REALLY IMPORTANT piece of information. So the 2nd generation waterer was cat food cans. These worked and were cheap and of course got spilled but that’s why we had four to five cans in at one time. I didn’t have any more bottles and bottoms to try and make another proper waterer that did not leak.

this is only half of the brooder

Besides the basics we added fun toys. Roosts were in the corner poking through the sides or dangling in the wire. We added a floating wire top because the cat kept jumping in. The roosts really did help them stay distracted and they started roosting at about one week old.

Diamond sitting on his/her roost

There was also a mirror from the 99 Cent Store which had a handle that could be tied to the side or top. Ours leaned against the side since the walls weren’t very sturdy and kept getting knocked over. But boy oh boy those chicks loved coming up to it and seeing themselves.

pink mirror for the self absorbed chickens LOL

We had this set up for eleven days. That was all I could take of the heat lamp near the cardboard. So I kicked all of the chicks outside in a dog cage on our deck. But more on that set up next week 🙂

Have you ever made a brooder?

You Know You’re a Homesteader if…

  1. Your daughters have and wear bonnets. We got ours from Calico Ghost Town, but I would love to make them myself.

    the oldest Little

  2. Smash ants with your hands. These are the least of my worries out here.
  3. Leave the daddy-long-legs in the shower to eat the other bugs. that come crawling in the night.
  4. The barn cat makes friends with your inside cat. Our barn cat has become like a big papa.

    black is inside cat, orange is barn cat

  5. You have a barn cat!
  6. Chickens come to the front door clucking  for dinner. In our case a few of them have to have a baby gate up so they won’t actually come inside.     
  7. Turkeys cuddle with your feet.. and you love it.

    ignore my feet 😉

  8. The Littles bring chicken feathers for the teacher. At least our eldest brought only the cool looking feathers for her teacher.
  9. Wake up to the sound of a rooster

    Red the Rooster

  10. 9pm rolls around and your bed is calling for you.
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