How To Raise Chickens pt. 2 – The Coop, Feeding and Predators

Welcome back folks! You’ve got your chickens, now where to put them? The hardest and most costly part about raising your birds is the coop. You are looking for a coop that will give the ladies enough room to roost, while working with your available space and resources. In this post, we will address a few hints for properly sheltering your hens and protecting them from natural predators.

Design and DIY or Pre-made Purchase?

Luck for you, there are many different ways to go about procuring a coop. First, set a budget for materials. Take a look at how much time you can allocate to construction of your coop. Most coops can be made in a weekend, but you want to make sure that you can construct it right the first time, and save yourself the trouble of redesign while you have a full house of hens to shelter. Set aside at least $100 for materials, and check your local Craigslist and dumpsters for cheap, leftover wood. Keep an open mind with your search for supplies. An old door, windows or large trunk could end up being a clever part of your design. The more ways to reuse old structures, the better. Remember to measure twice and cut once! This post with examples of greenhouses made from old doors and windows could easily inspire a functional and beautiful coop! Attach a simply framed wire mesh run and you’re good to go.

If you don’t have the time or ability to construct your own, you can also purchase a coop kit or a pre-made coop from a farm store in your area, Craigslist, or online (try Ebay!). However keep in mind where your coop was manufactured and try to make a responsible decision when it comes to purchasing. This is the more expensive, and less rewarding option.

There is a wealth of free and simple coop designs online, accessible by Google search. The simplest and most effective coop you could build is essentially a tall, rectangular frame with a small hinged door in the back for egg access, with a smaller opening in the front, attached to a wire meshed “run” or grazing area. I recommend a slanted, sheet metal roof for easy rain drainage. Inside the coop, you will want to install a sturdy wooden rod or slab for your chickens to perch on. They need a perch to feel safe and comfortable and dry. A fun perch from found material could be a long piece of drift wood from a beach, or an old wooden ladder.

Feeding

The more room your flock has to roam, the more foraging they can accomplish on their own by finding insects and other wild treats. Backyard chicken owners with little room, will need to purchase commercial feed from a farm store to supplement your bird’s diet. Commercial feed also contains minerals and nutrients that are hard to provide otherwise. Plan on around a half cup of feed per day for each chicken, and don’t hesitate to feed them your fruit, veggie, and grain table scraps. Raw food is best for them, so excellent options are carrot tops, beet greens, and wilted produce, but leftover bread and rice will be gobbled up too. However, avoid giving your flock anything you absolutely wouldn’t eat yourself, such as potato peels and leaves of somewhat poisonous plants. Try asking the produce section of your local co-op grocery store if they give out the produce they would otherwise throw away! Many will be happy to do so. Remember to avoid feeding your birds processed food-products, just as you may want to avoid them yourselves.

You will also need to provide your birds with some sort of gravel, or crushed shells. Chickens need to ingest a small amount of gritty material in order to digest properly. Crushed oyster shell, available at farm stores, is also great source of calcium.

Predators

Raccoons, hawks, foxes, and possums can all be a threat to your flock. Make sure that when you build your coop, the chicken run or fence that guards their grazing area  goes underground to prevent predators from digging under. Fences should run at least 1 foot underground. Check your coop and fence often for cracks and holes, make sure it is sturdy. Build your coop in an open area, away from bushes and hiding areas. Unfortunately, there is always a risk that you could lose your birds no matter what you do, so be prepared to run outside in the middle of the night with a slingshot if you hear a squak!

Happy Trails!

Amelia

How To Raise Chickens pt. 1 – Chicks

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You want to raise chickens. Not only are chickens easy animals to care for, they give the gift of food in return for your love. Before you find your new friends, there are a few factors to consider so that you all have the best lives possible. In three parts, The Trading Post will be pulling from direct experience to teach you the basics of chicken raising from chicks to coops to carnivorous predators!  

BEFORE YOU BUY CHICKS MAKE SURE YOU WILL NOT ABANDON THEM! There have been stories in the news lately about young folks jumping on the backyard chicken trend only to neglect and abandon their friends. Plan on having your chickens for at least three years, and make proper arrangements if you need to give them up. 

Part 1 – Finding Your Chickens

The first step to raising chickens is to find them. Usually, this means purchasing chicks through a farm or farm store. Craigslist’s farm & garden section is also an excellent resource, especially for us Vermonters that have so many farming neighbors. Chicks can be purchased by mail, but you risk a sad story of death in transport and supporting factory farming. A lovely way to pick out some chicks is to attend a Vermont Poultry Swap. The next scheduled swap is September 22nd in Johnson.

Favorite Breeds

Bard Rock: These black and white spotted beauties are ideal friends for Vermonters, as they fair well in cold weather and will lay with reduced quantity through the winter.

Ameraucana: These birds may have slightly anti-social tendencies when mixed with other breeds, but they lay BLUE EASTER EGGS! They also have lovely regal brown, black and gold plumage.

Rhode Island Red: These are wonderful egg layers. A healthy hen will lay up to 5-6 eggs per week. If they are well fed, you can expect them to produce more than the average bird.

Part 2 – Raising Your Chicks

It is rather easy to raise chicks, as long as you do it properly. The factors you need to control are temperature, feed, and water. We raised our chicks in a “kiddie pool” filled with a layer of pine shavings in our dry basement. A guinea pig cage will also work well, and will better contain feisty birds. Make sure your chicks have a little room to roam, and take them out to adventure on your floor for a few minutes if their quarters are close. This will help them be kind to one another. Change the pine shaving bedding often, never let it get damp for risk of infection. Provide your chicks a place to roost by placing a stick in their home after a week or so. They will love to jump on it and perch.

It is necessary to have a red brooding lamp at 92 degrees F. The red lamp will reduce visibility of bloody spots on chicks, chicks will peck each other to death if they see injury. Slowly reduce the temperature of the lamp by 5 degrees each week until they are 6 weeks old. Be careful that the lamp is not too close to the chicks, don’t cook them!

Start by feeding your chicks a starter feed mix, available at any farm store or online. At 8 weeks of starter feed, graduate them to grower mash. Use a metal feeder to keep the feed clean and dry, although you may need to scatter feed as well to ensure they are finding it. Provide plenty of clean water in shallow trays to prevent drowning. Clean the shallow dish or water feeder once daily for sanitation.

Baby chicks are not the brightest! You will need to make sure their food and water is plenty and visible. The key here is to keep your chicks warm and well fed so that they do not turn on each other. Be gentle when handling chicks, but don’t be shy! Handling your chicks and being around them often will make them friendlier and more pet-like. Once they become juvenile and have a warmer coat of feathers, you can transition your chicks to an outdoor coop. On average, your chickens will start to lay at around 6 months, provided they are happy and ready.

Next week: Part 2 – The coop and protection from predators

Happy Trails,

-Amelia

Video

Sweet Hinesburg River Meditation

 

 

 

I shot this footage in Hinesburg, one of the most magical places within 30 minutes of Burlington. As we explored, in playful mediation with the elements, I let my mind wander over the wealth of the resource. Free rushing water to wash yourself and your clothes. Sunny rocks to dry. Transportation. Tranquility. Serenity.

 

A detour to the water is well worth it for your sanity. Quest for that hidden pool. Poke mushrooms. Lay out on a rock and let your thoughts be absorbed by the rushing stream. Bathe in the river. Just beware the gorge.

-Amelia

 

 

 

How To Cultivate Edible Sprouts

fenugreek sprouts

Plants love you. They want you to help them grow, they want you to eat them, and they will happily assimilate with your being. Once dormant seeds are sprouted, they become alive with complex amino acids, proteins and phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals that will nurture your health to a potent degree. Not all of us have the luxury of fertile land with which to grow our own food. Sprouting your own seeds indoors is a joyful solution. To procure seeds for sprouting, visit your local co-op grocery or health food store and check the bulk section for dried organic seeds. These are priced by the pound and are quite economical when you think about the nutritional yield of living food they will provide.

Make sure seeds have not been heat treated for shipping as these will not sprout. If you do not have local access to food-grade seeds, try searching online, there are many websites that ship organic seeds for the purpose of sprouting. Sprouts from legumes and cereals should be cooked before consuming, as they carry toxins that require heat to break down before being digested by humans. As you begin a sprouting ritual, you will find that different seeds grow at different paces. It is suggested that you sample your sprouts after each daily rinse to find where you like them best.

(Honestly, you the reader should probably just go over to Sprout People, the best sprout site on the net. Just trying to share the proper basics here folks. )

Favorite Seeds

Red Clover – Vermont’s state flower is also highly nutritious and detoxifying with a light, slightly sweat flavor. Easy to grow, small, tender sprout.

Broccoli – These sprouts are extremely popular for their slightly spicy flavor and wonderful health benefits. Broccoli sprouts contain a condensed amount of glucoraphanin, a phytochemical shown to fight cancer. The amount of glucoraphanin in sprouts is 20 times that of mature broccoli. In fact, reports of this benefit has created a scarcity of broccoli seed in the world. So let’s grow some in the garden too and let it go to seed.

Fenugreek – Contains phyto-nutrients that are beneficial for breast health, even proven to increase breast size. Slightly bitter but fragrant, they are also a digestive aid and full of minerals and amino acids.

Sunflower – These tender shoots are best when they reach micro territory. Luckily, you won’t have to wait long because they are FAST! They should only take 1-2 days to form sprouts. I remember munching down on them in handfuls as a little lady, they are a wonderful snack for youngsters.

What you will need:

  • Large glass Mason jar with screw top lid
  • A mesh metal sprouting disc (available online and at health food stores) OR a piece of cheesecloth.
  • Seeds!
  • A sunny window

To begin, soak your seeds. Time required for soaking varies from 20mins to 12 hours. Try starting with 6 hours. Drain the seeds throughly and smoothly distribute into your mason jar. Set the jar in a dry windowsill to keep your seeds fresh, and rinse them twice daily with clean water until they reach a desirable shoot. Keeping your sprouts clean with a slightly foggy mason jar environment is key for a good crop. Sprouts should not be left in sanding water, drain them well to prevent bacterial growth. Simple stuff really.

To store sprouts, rinse them in a colander and set them to dry before transferring them to the fridge for prolonged storage. Mine never last more than a couple days though!

Happy Trails

-Amelia

Related articles

Natural Cleansing Techniques

One of the most uplifting minimizing changes I have made in my life so far has been converting to a soap free cleansing routine. The excess of ingredients and preservatives in even high end products can easily leave your skin confused and irritated. Most packaged products are made to take advantage of the insecurities of self-image. The most you really need to clean yourself  with is water and a washcloth.  For my lady lifestyle blog, I recently wrote an article about 100% natural skin care techniques. Here is that article, expanded and edited to include more body care options for hair and teeth.
1. Drink tons of WATER! If you are drinking enough water, it will be easier for your body to flush your skin and provide optimum cell function. Supplement your fluid intake with a small glass of pure aloe vera juice in the morning or evening to help soothe your system and help ease redness and irritation. The results of drinking aloe juice are remarkable, and you will most likely see results within a month. Aloe is easy to grow in a sunny window sill with minimal watering.
2. Stop washing with soap. In many cases, skin problems are merely caused by soap related issues. The excess of preservatives and synthetic ingredients in many cleansers and products labeled as skin remedies do little good for you. The most basic guidelines of good health are quality and simplicity. You don’t need a chemical arsenal aimed at your pores. Try rinsing your face with only warm water twice a day for a month and see what happens. Use your fingers to gently rub away the oil and dirt of the day, and your skin will be left feeling soft and breathable. Skin should not feel tight after washing! Try toning your skin with rose water to soften and soothe skin. Rose water can be made by taking organic dried rose petals and soaking them in a jar of water left out in the sun. Hair can be washed  by rinsing and massaging the roots with apple cider vinegar infused with fresh rosemary. Apply a mask of olive or coconut oil to hair overnight to deep condition if needed. Remember to brush your hair thoroughly before washing to distribute your natural sebum, making it easier to clean.
3. Moisturize while you wash. To help coax out dirt and unhealthy oil from your pores, oil cleanse while you shower. To do so, rinse your face thoroughly with warm water until it feels clean but not tight. Take a nickel-sized amount of olive, grapeseed, or coconut oil and gently massage it into your skin using circular movements. Let the oil rest on your face, drawing out any impurities. Rinse until the oil has been diminished. Oil pulls out dirt and “bad” oils from your skin, while soap merely dissolves what is on the surface, often damaging cells in the process.
4. Cleanse and balance your insides. The cleaner your system is running, the more visible your health will be on the outside. Drinking tea made from burdock, dandelion, and red clover promotes cleansing. Adding hibiscus, rose or rose hips will help soothe skin.  A tincture of Oregon Grape is especially helpful for riding the body of fungal overgrowth.
5. Steam Clean. To deep clean your pores, kill bacteria and loosen grime, steam your face biweekly. Fill a basin with boiling water. Add a few drops of pure rose essential oil, fresh thyme or calendula to the bath. Cover your head and the basin with a towel, making a chamber. Relax in the steam for 15 minutes with your face at least 5 inches away from the hot water. Rinse with warm water and pat dry.

6. Brush your teeth with this recipe: three parts baking soda to one part sea salt with a drop of peppermint oil. Mix 3 tbs. glycerine to every 1/4 cup of dry mixture. Store in a small jar. As long as you eat with your health in mind, this paste is all you need to keep your teeth and gums clean. Once a week, practice the Ayurvedic method of oil pulling by holding 1 tbs. of olive or coconut oil in your mouth for 20 minutes before eating in the morning. Let the oil swill around your mouth, as it does it will pull out impurities from your system. After 20 minutes have passed, spit out the now cloudy oil and brush your teeth and tongue.

Please share any other natural cleansing techniques you have by e-mailing thetradingpostv@gmail.com
-Amelia

Time and Consequence

Thank you for taking your time to join us as we collect material for this publication. As a reader contributed blog, posting may be infrequent until the fire gets blazing. In the meantime, please consider the following broad sentiment.

Where convenience is scarce, humans must provide for themselves with desperation to survive. Crops must be tended, water must be found, shelter must be built, without the escape of a bureaucratic career of privilege.

When resource becomes scarce because of misuse of convenience, humans should share what they can, and work together to repair the damage, no matter what caused it.

In our technologically saturated world, we cannot deny that we have traded the free cycle of self-sufficient survival for a grid of convenience. This grid relies on the harvesting of energy dense resources in order to cheat the cycle of the seasons. This gives those that conquest these resources a heavy upper hand in the shaping of our future. Those deeply ingrained in an energy saturated lifestyle might argue that their forefathers earned this right to consume over others. We at The Trading Post wish to chuck our addiction to privilege out the window.

This starts with recognizing what overwhelming privilege we hold (with a computer in our hands no less). We must learn to feel our impact when we wake up in the morning, and how to use our momentum in the direction of human welfare. Wield the infinite powers of choice in the favor of love and you will find yourselves in rapture. Here we propose not only the destruction of ego by way of self reflection, but a way to harness the power released in this maneuver. This power is pure creativity. Solutions from the other side. Cloud Knowledge. Now that the internet is in our hands we have an even better chance at sustainable self-sufficiency. Connect with each other and share information they usually don’t teach you unless you’re paying.

Amelia, editor

We Value Your Contributions

The Trading Post is running and seeking submissions for our blog and first edition hard copy manual. We will publish all submitted work and research with relevancy to the struggle for self-sufficiency. This includes food, health, building, planning, activism, and any general know-how the contributors seek to provide.

Send us your:

  • How-to Instructions
  • Guides to responsible consumption
  • Tips for conservation
  • Stories of success and failure
  • Reactions to our world climate

Consider donating a contribution from the wealth of your personal knowledge to our archives by e-mail to:

thetradingpostvt@gmail.com