Using Hens to Muck Out a Barn

I love chickens; they are an ideal homestead animal! Our chickens are quadruple-purpose birds. Not only do they provide us with eggs and meat, they till/improve the soil and help muck out the barn.
It doesn’t take long for the wasted hay on the barn floor to build up. Soon, it is a compressed thatch that requires the pitchfork to pry up. It is smelly, heavy work. When I stay on top of the hay mess by raking it out each day, there are no problems. The task of keeping it raked out certainly gets away from me fast.
The storm last week meant keeping the ram lambs in the barn and feeding them hay. The strong winds upended the chicken tractor and so the three, homeless hens were sent to bunk with the ram lambs. They started right in scratching that spoiled hay up and sending it flying. Seeing the fun they are having and what a good job they are doing, I decided not to deprive them of the pleasure of loosening that packed bedding. Tomorrow, I will rake out all the loose stuff and see what kind of job they did.

Basement Window Well Cover Greenhouse

We built our house with a full daylight basement that includes a mother-in-law apartment. This means that all rooms, except the bath and laundry room, have large egress windows. They allow enough light into all rooms, so the basement is nearly as bright as the main floor. There is a large window well around the outside of each of these windows.
 In years past, my husband made frames for the south-facing windows. These frames were covered with builder’s plastic and functioned as mini-greenhouses when we started our garden plants. On sunny days, we could open them to warm the living room and bedroom. If the temperatures were going to plummet, we could easily pull the plants back into the house, so they would not freeze. There are two drawbacks to this method. It is not possible to see outside through the plastic. The plastic only lasts a couple of years.
My recent Internet search for more permanent window well covers was rewarded. Window well covers made of Plexiglas can be custom-made for any window well. Some of these covers come with the well surround attached. I suppose they do not come cheap but neither does a greenhouse and these are multipurpose. Having the wells covered will keep the house warmer in winter. I will no longer have use a step stool to get down into the well to rescue the small animals that sometimes fall in. I do not know if they will make the house hotter in the summer, and that is something to consider.

Update on the Cattle Panel Hoop House

The hoop pictured is the one that will house our laying hens this winter. Tarps will be used for the skin instead of builder’s plastic. We noticed that there is more condensation on the inside of the hoop when clear plastic is used. That is good for plants but not for chickens. Even with tarps, there will still be days that it drips inside the hoop. We can open the doors on both ends to provide ventilation. I would love to have louvered vents in the tops of the doors that could be opened and closed. Maybe next year.
One year we had a four or five panel hoop that housed 25 chickens. We used deep litter on the floors. Each day I’d scatter some corn on the floor and the chickens would get busy scratching for it. That kept the bedding turned and aerated so there was no ammonia buildup. New bedding was added as needed. The combination of the decomposing bedding and the right number of birds kept their drinking water from freezing unless we had sustained below zero weather.

Hoops to House Chickens or Salad Greens

Cattle panel hoop 600.jpg

We use these arched structures for different purposes. They are relatively easy for two people to build. My husband could put them together by himself. One year we used a long one to keep salad greens and thyme alive from November until February. The leaf lettuce stopped actively growing in November and resumed growing at the end of February. The months in between the greens were still alive and able to be harvested. Kind of like extended … Continue reading

Grow and Harvest Your Own Arthritis Remedies

There are a couple of easy to grow plants that are reputed to relieve arthritis pain. I’m up for that! The first, rose hips, can be found in most people’s yards. Hips are the fruits that follow the rose flower and contain seeds for future bushes. If you didn’t go crazy with the pruning shears, you should have some about ready to harvest. Heirloom roses are the best if growing rose hips is the goal. The studies I’ve seen on line used powdered rose hips to treat arthritis. I don’t know if I’ll break out the dehydrator or just enjoy a cup of rose hip tea each day. The tea sounds nicer.
The second plant can be made into an oil to rub on aching joints. Comfrey can be grown just about anywhere, I think. I had the same success with it in north Florida that I have in northern Michigan. It grows rampantly. Take a quart jar out and fill it up with leaves. Dig up some of the root, too. Chop the leaves and the root (after washing, of course) and return it to the jar. Fill the jar with cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil. Set in a dark place, like a cupboard, for one to three months. Strain and rebottle in some nice or official-looking dark glass bottle. Sunlight degrades the potency. If you discover that you have more than enough for your own use, bottle the excess to give as gifts to friends with aching joints.