Sunday, August 24, 2008

Chickens in the basement!

One of the hazards of living 'way out in the boonies as we do is the sheer volume of predators we have here. Raccoons too many to number, opossums, skunks, weasels, coyotes, hawks, owls, the list goes on. All of them eager to make a meal of my chickens. So we are forced to keep things in the most secure pens as possible, which includes a great deal of hardware cloth (very small mesh wire fencing.) A raccoon can reach in through chicken wire and pull a bird out piece by piece (very disgusting) - the only thing chicken wire is good for is keeping chickens in, not predators out. We have developed some easy to make and relatively inexpensive pens for our birds to keep them on grass. They're called hoophouses, and you can see some images of them on our website here. We have five of them at this point, and we even use them over winter (not that it gets all that cold in KY, especially compared to MN!)

The youngest of birds though, need to be kept in a temperature controlled environment, chicks need heat of 95 degrees for the first week, reducing in temp by five degrees a week until they are old enough (and feathered enough) to go outside. Some people keep their birds in their kitchens (you know who you are) but I hatch too many for that option, (chicks shed an inordinate amount of dander and fluff as they grow!) so mine have been kept in the basement since we've lived here. But DH is finally building me a brooder room in the barn, for which I am immensely grateful. Heated, lit, with boxes that don't need to be protected from the house cats, it will be heavenly! And I can finally vacuum up all of the dust that has accumulated in the basement, which I am quite looking forward to. My non-poultry owning guests never quite understand the mess down there, why it's a sisyphusian task to try to keep up with.

At present I have no birds in the house, for the first time in over a year! The last of the chicks went to a young boy who is newly starting in 4-H this fall. I love helping 4-H kids get started with good birds, it makes them happy, it makes me feel good, and is win-win all around. And I'm pleased to have my basement back, will start getting it clear of dust today. Now just have to ensure the brooder room gets done by November, as that's when I start to hatch all over again.