April 27th, 2017 by Ed Bruske
This year my wife put her foot down: no more brooding chicks in the basement. The problem was the dust from the non-GMO feed we buy from a local farmer settled on everything we had stored downstairs. Last fall we cleaned for the second time and the spouse insisted: No mas.
Too bad, because the basement was an awful handy place to keep baby chicks out of cold. The only alternative was the tool shed about 50 yards from the house. We worried a lot about what kind of brooder we could build that would stay warm enough in early April when temperatures can easily drop below zero (like last year when it was -20).
Turns out we needn’t have worried so much. With a bit of plywood and 2x4s from the hardware store I built a box four feet wide, eight feet long and two feet high–plenty big enough for 50 chicks or even more to grow for a month before they head out to pasture. At each end of the box my wife installed an electrical box to fit a 250-watt heat bulb. For a lid, I bolted together some 2x4s and covered it with screen we happened to have on hand.
When we covered the lid with moving pads, the brooder inside stayed downright toasty and our first group of chickens, arriving April 13, did just fine.
We were also concerned that being so close to the elements the chicks might be threatened by predators burrowing into the brooder from underneath. We addressed that problem by fastening wire mesh–aka hardware cloth–to the bottom of the brooder before we dropped it in place.
Feeding and watering the chicks is a bit more of hike these days. But peace rules the basement.
April 12th, 2017 by Ed Bruske
They don’t call it mud season for nothing.
It may be my imagination, but it seems like everything is softer underfoot this year. We had a big thaw in February, then a blizzard in March that dumped more than a foot of snow. Then rain, rain, rain.
The worst is around the chicken coops where the laying hens have denuded the soil of any foliage. Our farm slopes and the drainage all seems to pass through this particular area. That great sucking sound you hear is me collecting eggs.
The sheep all look like they’re wearing tiny black boots. Emily our Jersey cow lowers her head as she treads oh so carefully. The chickens don’t seem to care, but they love a dry spot where they can take their dust baths.
Yesterday we had record high temperatures and a breeze. I say bring it on. I can hardly wait to be walking on solid ground again.
More Recent Posts
Our animals have free range over 12 acres of pasture and that makes us a little nervous this time of year when they’re walking around pregnant. You never know where they might decide to give birth and we’ve had to carry more than one newborn lamb back to the shelter to get it out of […]
Read more »
We normally don’t see new lambs until April. But this morning when I stopped by the paddock to feed the animals I found these two little girls fresh out of the womb and eyeballing their new surroundings. We don’t have a barn for lambing, just a three-sided shelter, and last year we lost several newborns […]
Read more »
I attended a memorial service over the weekend in Annapolis for my recently deceased father-in-law, Dave Green, and was besieged by fans of the Slow Cook all asking the same question: “When are you going to start writing again”? This was a first for me. I even met one friend of my father-in-law who said […]
Read more »