A work in progress for the meat birds. They do not range or scratch and peck well as they get older and heavier, and they are generally not fast enough to take cover when a predator appears. So, they get to hang out in their own private space. But they’ll be on fresh grass, have clean air and water, and will be mighty tasty when the time comes to process them.
The bottom of the build, looking from what will be the front to the back. This was a dry fit.
Then, a look at the back toward the front. There’s one more cross pipe that will go through the center of it.
Once everything was double checked and arranged, I moved on to the cement phase of the build. The left side and the front and back are glued in this view from the front.
And a look from the back – the right side and front and back are glued.
I also managed to drop the can of cement thanks to the issues with my left hand (fuck you, cancer!). Half of it is on the driveway now. At least I have plenty left to get the rest of the build done.
A work in progress that needs to get done quickly, because the meat birds are getting huge. All of them were a little skittish about the watermelon rinds I put in.
I know chickens are bird brains and not terribly smart, but they peck pretty much anything – just not tonight, i guess. All they did was walk on those rinds, pooping on them.
Tomorrow: onward with more mowing (did the beeyard today) and more assembly of the chicken tractor. If we get it done in the next couple of days, I’m going to kick the meat birds out of the brooder and into their nice, spacious, outdoors condo.
Don’t forget, space nerds: the Pleiads are peaking on the 12th, so look to the skies.
There’s an old movie called The Lost Weekend. Ray Milland stars as Don, an alcoholic writer willing to pawn anything or steal from anyone to get a few bucks to buy whisky. (It’s an excellent movie and you should watch it – Milland rightfully won an Oscar for his part in the film, and Billy Wilder took home a Best Director statuette.)
I had a dream the other night where Robert Redford (of all people) for some reason asked me what I really, really wanted to do. I had no answer, which was odd, because I do know I want to write and run my business and have my dogs and my bees and my chickens, and that’s what I’m doing. I don’t recall the actual context around the question in the dream – was I someone else, or myself, doing something other than I am now? Maybe.
Anyhow, I missed yesterday’s blog appointment because I was dealing with a massive issue with work that I’m not going to go into except to say it sucked. Royally. Today, we’ve dealt with two majo spamming issues related to peoples’ contact forms on their web sites. For the love of whatever you hold holy, put a fucking captcha on your forms. And DO NOT enable any “send a copy of this to yourself, submitter” crap. It’s an invitation to arbitrarily insert anyone’s email address and spammers will find it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but they will, eventually, unless you secure it.
There ends your tech lesson for the day.
The chicks continue to live by the tenets of their lives, which is to eat, drinks, poop, and sleep, in any order they feel like it. At least they know what they really, really want to do. The meat birds, bred to get big, very quickly, are certainly living up to it. After a mere week, they are twice the size of their layer bird companions. Some of them just sit in front of the feeder and eat, sleeping in the same spot. When they go out on pasture, I’ll only be feeding them once during the day. What they eat in the daylight hours will be it until the next day. Letting them eat freely 24/7 for all their time will be too hard on their bodies, and they’re not terribly good about reining in their eating habits.
Got a start today on dry fitting the pieces together for the chicken tractor the meat birds will call home. It’s probably too large for the ten of them, but it’s easier to get more chickens down the line and have the space available than it is to decide to get more in a batch and have to scramble to make a new, larger tractor for them.
We’ll also have the mobile layers to move around the place. At first, there will only be five in there, but we would be able to put more if needed, and if the whole meat bird thing works out, I’d really like to get some turkeys next year in addition to more meat birds, to have for the holidays. And they would be hanging out with the layer birds, so it would be nice to be able to move them with the layers and let them range alongside.
Tomorrow, I get to pour barium down my tube and go get my guts scanned. I can’t eat anything, either, which is why I’m about to have my last meal, as it were, just after I post this. It’s gonna be a thrill, I’m sure.
Space nuts, unite! The Perseid meteor shower will peak on August 12. Get out and do some sky watching. If it’s mosquito season, as it is here, and you have lots of standing water from constant rains, as we do here, put on something to repel them. I was out taking some pictures of Mars this evening, and they were horrific.
Speaking of Mars….
Taken with the Canon.
Taken with the Nikon. Mars is just below and left of center. Hit the image to see the fuller version. This was taken with an extended shutter time, because of course it’s dark as hell out here at the ranch, and I wanted to capture more as we have a rare clear evening here in the summer tonight. It’s gorgeous and rather humbling to gaze up at the night sky.
Back here on the mothership, though, we still have things to do, people and animals to take care of, and on and on. I spent several hours at the NOC today, redoing a server for someone who wants a testing server in addition to their production server, and crawling around, tracing lines. It’s time for our location audit, and at least one part is done: the physical locations of every piece of gear. Tracing power cables and ethernet cables, though, is tedious, dirty, sweaty work (because you’re on the heat side of the row, with all those servers blowing hot air on you) and takes more than one trip (unless it’s a completely epic trip where you get to ignore everything else in your life for eight hours).
I had stepped outside last night to look off to the east where a storm was passing, to see it was viable to set up a camera to try to capture some lightning. It was not, but I did find this fat bumpy guy hanging out on the porch.
He didn’t budge, even when Einstein was sniffing him.
And because I have 21 chicks hanging out in my garage, here’s a pic of a bunch of them piled up in the corner after I had changed out the pads in the brooder. You’ll notice there’s already poop on the new pads. Apparently they cannot go more than two seconds without pooping. But, they are all still alive, happily peeping away when they’re not sleeping.
After the NOC work, I popped by Tractor Supply to get some pine shavings for their bedding. They’ve had enough time to understand what their food is and where, so they should not be trying to eat giant volumes of the bedding. At first, they didn’t want to walk on it. But as I spread it out all around them and then into the corner they all ran to, they got themselves together and went back to their pooping, cheeping ways.
The Cornish X bird – the yellow ones – are growing much more quickly than the layers. You can tell already. They are going to be good eating when their brief, but happy, lives comes to an end.
True story about the arrival of the chicks (ten layer chickens, plus an additional free layer thanks to the hatchery, and ten for meat, if you have forgotten or are new – and if you’re new, hi!).
It’s kind of the same story about the bees and UPS, really, except the USPS tracking updates really, really suck sometimes.
I ordered the birds on the 30th. They hatched that very day, and McMurray Hatchery (see them for all your baby chicken needs!) packed the chicks and sent them out via the USPS priority mail. They kindly sent a tracking number, and on the 31st, the tracking indicated the package of peepers was at St Paul (McMurray is in Iowa), and “pending acceptance”. I have no idea what the hell that means, USPS. So, I checked throughout the day on the 31st, waiting for some kind of change to the status – like they’d been sent on to the next fulfillment center, for instance. Nope, nothing beyond the package being in St Paul.
Now, chicks can survive for several days, as they absorb the yolk from the egg and that sustains them. But if they get lost in the byzantine maze of the USPS centers, they’ll probably die.
On the 1st, I got up, did the usual morning things, and at about 9 AM I checked the tracking again. The status said: out for delivery, with a time on that status of 8:34 AM.
Believe me, gentle reader, when I say such statuses are complete and utter bullshit.
If you are getting livestock through the mail or via UPS, it’s highly likely that you will have to go to your local post office or the UPS facility to pick them up. It’s been true for the bees I’ve ordered over the years, and I was certain it would be true this time as well. I told several people I thought it was a lie.
At about 10:30 AM, we got a call from our tiny, rural post office, saying they had our chicks and please come get them. I hate to be the one who says “I told you so” but….
I made my way to the PO – which, by the way, closes for lunch for an hour at 11:30 AM most days – and got stuck at a train crossing as a freight train rumbled and clanked its way to wherever it was going. By the time I reached that point, it was a bit after 11 AM. As much as I love trains (I do love almost everything transportation-wise except cars) I was hoping it would get itself finished so I could get across the tracks to the main road to the PO – which is the second right after the tracks.
They got themselves moved along and I made it to the PO with time to spare. I checked in the box to make everyone was alive (they were), then secured them and headed back to the ranch. My sister and her kids had arrived at the ranch to do a little work before I made it back, so while it was not a surprise I was bringing back chicks, it was a surprise for my niece, who was not even born the last time we had chickens at the ranch. And this is how she reacted.
I don’t think there’s much in this world cuter than a kid meeting baby animals for the first time.
Also, for the record, the chick she put back in the box was just fine. It went into the brooder with the rest and they are all doing well.
Chick prep day whatever: today I braved Tractor Supply to lay in some stores for the chicks, due to arrive (probably) Tuesday. I’m sure the USPS will be much happier with a box of peeping chicks than packages of humming bees.
Anyhow, the local place was hopping today: I counted over a dozen other people there, including the stereotypical grizzled old cowboy, boots, hat, and a belt buckle that was rather impressive. He had a head full of white that nicely set off his deep tan – what could be seen of it, since he was also decked out in jeans and a long-sleeved shirt. People may wonder about working outdoors, in Florida, in summer, wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts, but if you’re doing certain types of work (especially during mosquito season) it’s better to have more cover than less. He was not, alas, there to buy a new hay corral or have Big Jim (in my mind, there is always a “Big Jim” at a feed store or Tractor Supply) load up some heavy ass posts and giant rolls of cattle fencing because he was finally closing in that big piece of pasture, you know the one, on down past that new pond, right?
Just a single item, maybe two, that I couldn’t even see from where I was in the line with my 50 pound bag of chick starter feed, some chick grit, and a new trough at the other register they finally opened to relieve Elaine (that was her name, actually), who originally had us about ten deep waiting to check out.
I also had to hit up Target today, looking for a couple of adapters. It wasn’t a horrible experience, completely, but that is one soulless, non-interactive place to be. I imagine it’s only a half step up from Wal-Mart, which I have not visited in well over 15 years at this point, thankfully. Not a single person talked to me – which is fine, I don’t exactly crave human contact – and as I went toward the checkout, the air smelled curdled somehow, as if someone had dropped a jug of milk that splattered everywhere but didn’t it get cleaned up all the way. Five days ago. Or it could have been the guy in line in front of me. Either way.
To top off my day, I had to go to Best Buy, which is now a riot of sound and gigantic active tv screens. They really, really, would like you to buy various appliances. At least the people are friendly enough, but the checkout takes forever because they want to see if you are in their system already. Whatever happened to the days of just buying the crap you need and getting out?
Also, I have to say that moving all the electronic detritus you’ve accumulated from one machine to another has to rank up there with the most tedious, annoying things you have to do. Even more annoying is when you realize you copied some of the outlook-related files, but not the actual PST file that you need to go on the new system. Argh.
Funny stuff from the folks who made the hanging waterers I bought (instead of making them myself because my time is money and I’ve got enough capital tied up in other things at this moment): they would like you to know they also sell nesting boxes – for the non-chicken initiated, these are where the chickens will lay their eggs, typically, although they will also lay them on the floor or, even more fun, under bushes/plants, where you won’t find them until much, much later, and one wrong move translates into a very big mistake involving the sulfuric aroma of rotten eggs. Anyhow, their illustrations just made me laugh, and perhaps you’ll get a chuckle, too.
It is true that chickens, once they start eating their own eggs, will often continue to do so unless they are physically prevented from doing it. There are solutions for that, but the best thing is to prevent them from doing it in the first place. Giving them good nesting boxes and collecting the eggs on a regular basis tends to do the trick. More importantly: no poop on the eggs! (In reality, with good nesting boxes of any sort, the eggs will generally be poop-free.)
Today was going to be the buying all the chicken tractor things and building the chicken tractor for the meat birds. Off to the big box store we go:
Said big box store did not have two of the fittings necessary to build the frame. They claimed to have one of the parts at a “nearby” store, 90 miles away. Somehow, I think their definition of “nearby” is a tad different than my own. Fortunately, you can buy pretty much anything online these days, so I ordered those fittings plus a double wye connector to make my vertical feeder. The layers will have the vertical feeder. The meat birds will get fed in a trough. The reason I came up with a vertical feeder is simple: chickens are messy eaters, and will scratch food out of their feeders to the ground – where they will rarely touch it. It’s a space- and food-saving design.
All the birds, however, will have a nipple-accessible water supply, rather than an open one. There are a handful of reasons for this, but the most important one for the waterer AND the food can be boiled down to one word: poop.
Chickens will happily sit or stand on top of their waterers or feeders and just as happily poop all over them and their contents. Two of the waterers will be hanging, without enough room for them to sit on top. The third will be set on cinder blocks to keep it off the ground, and will have a cone-shaped top to make things uncomfortable for chicken butts.
I have some giant boxes (thanks, amazon!) to use as brooders for the chicks. While the meat birds will grow quickly enough to be kicked out into their tractor after just a couple of weeks, the layers will need a bit more time before being put out to pasture. It is necessary to clean out the brood boxes pretty frequently, unless one enjoys the smell of chicken poop (nope!). For that, I’ll line the bottom of the box with non-skid shelf liner, and then have some puppy pads on top of that. That way, when it’s cleaning time, the puppy pads can just be rolled up and tossed.
The flaps of the boxes I’ll stand upright and duct tape together, so the sides will be high enough they can’t fly out when they realize they have winds. On the top, some 1/8th inch hardware cloth for ventilation and to keep out snakes – as the chicks will likely be out back on the patio, this is necessary to keep the snakes from eating the tasty wee chicks – and then a heat lamp for each brooder, so the chicks can warm themselves if they get chilled.
The chicks are due next week, and I still have quite a bit to do to finish prepping for them. My brother is very handy, and he’s going to be building me a mobile coop when the guy who created it releases his plans for the 2.0 version, which is lighter and better balanced than his prototype. Half the layers will go into the mobile coop, and I’ll take them around the areas of the property that still need work. They’ll scratch, peck, and (most importantly) poop in these areas, which will help the building of the soil in those places. The other half will go into the chickenyard we used for the OG chickens. All the meat birds will go into the chicken tractor to live out their short but happy lives. They’ll get fresh grass and bugs and such, but they will not be ranging – they get large very quickly and they’re unable to run into a coop if a predator circles around. They also do not scratch and peck while foraging as the layers do. But – as always, the most important thing – they will be pooping, wherever they are, and that will be good for my soil.
At the end of the gardening season, I plan to design a way to let the mobile layers into the gardens themselves, to clean up whatever is in the rows – and, of course, poop everywhere – as we head into winter. They can’t be trusted in a production garden, as they will peck at pretty much anything, including fruit still on the plants and stomp all over the plants themselves. This plan is still a work in progress.
It’s been years since we had chickens at the ranch. When we did, we only had layers (not meat) birds. My mom was quite fond of them, and rejected my suggestion of culling the layers who had passed their prime and were not giving much production as they aged.
We lost one to a hawk or other aerial hunter – all that was left was a pile of feathers. We had one killed by a raccoon – raccoons apparently love brains, just like zombies, and one had ripped the head off one of the chickens as they stuck their head through the fence. Did I mention chickens are not terribly bright?
Of the others, one was lost to a mystery ailment, and the rest to redneck neighbor guy’s dogs. I had to dispatch the ill one and one of the chickens that had been attacked by (but not killed) by said dogs. I buried all of them on the property. Since the last one died, we’ve not had chickens back.
Moving out of the past and to the now: we are going to have chickens once again! This time, however, we are going to have meat birds in addition to layers. I ordered 10 meat birds. Because members of my family are too squeamish to participate in the actual butchering, that part of the process will be mine, alone. However, once the birds are dispatched, plucked, eviscerated, and washed, they’re perfectly willing to bag and weigh them before the dressed birds go into the freezer. That’s good enough for me.
I was making a list of all the things that need to be done, and there certainly are a lot of things on that list. But next week is clear of any appointments for me and the dogs, so we’ll be able to get it done, no doubt. And there will be pictures!
Another chicken down, sadly: mom informs me after she’s collected eggs that one of the chickens is dead (because I am the dead chicken collector). She didn’t take a close look as she doesn’t like to look at them too closely after they’ve died and won’t watch if I have to put one down. So, my sister happens to be here, and goes to dig a hole while I go collect the girl for burial. Through my extensive and sharply honed detective skills, I find the cause of death: the chicken’s head has been ripped off. The most likely culprit? Raccoon. I picked up the poor girl, gently placed her in the hole my sister had dug, and we covered her up. I checked the perimeter of the fence on that side and found a gap in the gate that a raccoon may have been able to fit through, and a section of the wire above the fence that is not as high as the rest but also bowed outwards – something I’ll ask my bro to address when he’s up next (as well as asking him to walk the full perimeter to check for other gaps/necessary repair locations). In the meantime: RIP, other red chicken.
Short of hiring a bunch of people to come out and get the property releveled and sloped appropriately to make up for my jerk of a neighbor raising the base of his property at my expense by trucking in huge amounts of dirt (and instead of my jerk of a neighbor doing the right thing and sloping everything to the pond he has at the back of his property), for now, every time we get dumped on, we have to deal with the flooding. We also have to deal with the animals – both chickens and dogs – getting into and drinking the water. All of the animals are happy enough to get ass deep in the water and drink from the lakes that form wherever they happen to have access, neither of which is pretty. Well, I take that back: it’s pretty disgusting, especially if it’s an area that has been shat upon by said animals. But when I look at the big picture and realize I can’t really do anything about it at this point except try to keep them out of those places until things dry out, life is much less stressful.
Almost done. After starting off the day with the dispatching and burying of a chicken before morning coffee, I did some company work and watched Olympic coverage, managing to find quite a bit of fencing on, with some archery – including the men’s team event matches, way to go USA for the silver!) – and some handball and beach volleyball. I managed to find in the DVRd early morning hours the women’s 10m air rifle final, which mom judged to be quite boring. The primetime stuff on NBC tonight is tape delayed and already decided, so unless there is nothing else on, I won’t be watching much of it, as I’ve been following the #Olympics twitter feed and already know the results. I also managed to get out and refill all the gas cans around noon when all the soccer and basketball started, none of which interests me. The tricky part will be finding a time period in the coming days to do some mowing before we’re knee deep in grass again.
More jaw stretching shortly. Counting down to the point where it makes more sense to pull the rest of my teeth than to keep working on them, and there will be no dentures for me if I can’t open my mouth. I’ve given up enough foods over this crap, and I’d prefer not to have to be restricted to a completely liquid diet.