May 23, 2013

Raising a Garden Bed

We have a few raised beds we built several years ago for our vegetables. The chicks were very young last year and didn't really get out to roam around much. However this Spring they discovered our spinach coming back and that was the end of that. So my goal over the last few weeks was to design and build a raised bed with the ability to block access of our girls, make it economical and easy to put together.

Carmen inspecting the new lumber.
The Design - Four corner posts (typical 4x4 fence posts) with two slots on adjacent sides to allow panels to slide in and out. I used fence siding to frame the panels. The fence posts were eight feet long and the fence boards were six feet. The length of the bed is the full length of the fencing boards, six feet. The width is three feet, allowing the the fencing boards to simply be cut in half.


The Work  - I cut the fence posts in half giving me four four-foot lengths. Later I realized this was way too long and cut a foot off of each post.  I think 32" length would be OK allowing three to be cut out of one eight foot post. I put them in the ground approximately one foot deep.

To create the slots I ripped each fence board 3 times to get four pieces approximately 1 7/16" wide. Cut the strips the length of the pole minus one foot. The fence boards are approximately 5/8" thick so I use a 3/4" board as a spacer to place my strips on. This allows tolerance for any warped boards. I pre-drilled holes for nails to prevent the wood from splitting.

I used galvanized common nails to attach the strips.

For the panel frames  I ripped the boards twice to get three strips approximately 1 5/8" wide. Lengths are the same as my side panels. The vertical strips are cut at 23".

I nailed the panel frames together with galvanized fasteners, two on one side of the joint and one on the other side. These frames are later covered with chicken wire from two foot wide rolls. They are attached with staples.

Placement of the bed - I use a post hole digger to dig the holes for the post. I used my side boards to rough in the spacing. The holes are dug one foot deep. I placed all four poles in to check the position.

NOT an upside down table!

At this time I released my posts were too tall...Liz said it looked like an upside down table!- Back to the shop to cut a foot off of each corner post!

Plenty of help on hand.
I firmed up and leveled the first corner by extending boards and stakes in two directions. With the post held into position, the hole is filled and packed. I used the fence frames to help square up the other posts, then repeated packing.

Almost there.
In this case I dug up the grass in the area were the bed is however you can also use a ground cloth.

*Layers of newspaper make great ground cover, are free and last up to 18 months before disintegrating. Great for use in small flower/vegetable garden areas to keep weeds out.

 Fill with dirt and plant!  Then just slide in your siding to restrict the chickens (and dogs in our case)! Just slide out when you need to work in the bed.

The girls could probably fly over, if they wanted in bad enough, but so far they've had no interest. Maybe the main reason is that they are now too fat from worms to fly that high.

More detailed plans to come.

Happy gardening!


May 6, 2013

Little Dinosaurs, Ugly Ducklings and Teenagers

I am doing something most people seem very hesitant, even scared to do...posting photos of chicks just past the age of four weeks. There is a reason people don't post a lot photos of their chicks at this formidable age. That fluff-ball cuteness doesn't last long. Anyone thinking about getting chicks to raise might see these photos and have second thoughts...not knowing this is an extremely temporary condition. I'm talking about their 'little dinosaurs and ugly ducklings'(chicklings?) and 'teenage' stage of life.

Two of our fluff-balls
This time a year ago we were getting everything ready for our chicks to be delivered.  The end of June our chicks arrived and they were healthy, active and absolutely the cutest fluff balls ever! They are still healthy and active to this day but the sweet, cute looking, balls of fluff lasted about three or four weeks. Just as we humans go through our own ugly duckling stage so do all other living creatures!

They grow amazingly fast. There are no words that describe how fast they grow. Even people who come to see the chicks every day will think you replaced them, in the middle of the night, with older models. Seriously!

The feather growth just can't keep up with the body. So they are long, lanky, sparsely feathered and down-covered for a while. Eventually the body growth slows down and the feathers appear to be catching up. Once their bodies start filling out and the feathers start to resemble real chickens they're not so scary looking at all (much).

Warning!  Some of these first few photos might be a bit graphic for some of you, but we love them no matter.

Carmen already needed help with her 'do' !
Little dinosaurs!
Yes we loved them dearly during this stage.
One of the Hepburn sisters...
By about three months they are starting to gain weight and get their grownup feathers. Depending on their breed they also start growing their combs, wattles, ear tufts and other grownup accessories.

PARTY in the nesting box!
They looked grownup a long time before they really were grown.They played like they were grownups and were not scared of much then. They were much harder to roundup and get into the coop at the end of the day.  At this stage of their lives we just referred to them as TEENAGERS!  Hey, if you've raised your own teenagers you'll understand...

Hey, how MANY can we fit in there?
Playing pretend in the nesting box.

The nesting boxes were fun places to explore when they were little. Now, even though two can fit into one nesting box, one of our bigger, gorgeous chickens looks like she would have to be squeezed in with a shoehorn.

Full grown beautiful chickens...
 ...and their 'fluffy-butts'!

This time I want to hatch some babies!