How to Catch a Chicken Without Chasing

I’ve been asked about this quite often. In fact, someone called just the other day seeking an answer on how to catch a bunch of birds that had escaped the coop and were now roosting in barn rafters. There are numerous reasons to want to catch chickens. Wing clipping, medicating, checking for disease, separating the broodies and butchering are a few I can think of right away. But there are often more peculiar and urgent … Continue reading

Tips & Tricks Tuesday

Do you love to find a new, easier, more productive way to accomplish a task or get more bang for your buck? I’m a fan of easy, time and money saving tips. Each Tuesday, I’ll share what works for me, for others or something I read in an old Mother Earth News. This post also a feature on the Farming in My Fifties Facebook page. Feel free to share any tips you have either place.   … Continue reading

Watering Rabbits and Poultry in Winter the Easy Way

Keeping rabbit water bottles and chicken water fountains thawed in winter is a real headache. I used to have doubles of everything. Early morning would find me making my rounds with filled water bottles and swapping them out for the frozen ones. Same with the chicken fountain. Then the frozen waterers came inside to thaw. Over the summer, I did some reading about water bottles and how rabbits don’t drink as much from them as … Continue reading

Cattle Panel Chicken Coop

The chickens were in two flocks in two different places and caring for both flocks separately was an inefficient use of time and resources. The Buckeye hens were using the little barn in the backyard for shelter while having the run of the place. A few had adopted the practice of hanging around on the back porch, and we didn’t care for the “decorating” they were doing. The Buckeye rooster was out in the garden with the White Rocks. He is a good rooster and guards his charges well which makes for some unhappy encounters with our dogs.

After reading Andy Lee’s book Chicken Tractor The Permaculture Guide to Happy Hens & Healthy Soil and Day Range Poultry Every Chicken Owner’s Guide to Grazing Gardens and Improving Pastures, we were ready to take action. The plan was to move them to a section of the sheep pasture where they could work their magic on the grass. It was astounding how much improved our lawn was after running meat birds over it one summer. We needed to devise a quick and easy shelter that would be inexpensive and fairly easy to move. It would, of course, involve cattle panels.

Material List
(2) 16′ cattle panels
(1) 16′ x 20′ tarp
(8) pieces of rebar
baling twine

The first panel was bent into an arch and rebar was pounded into the ground up against the panel. We used 2 pieces on each side. The next panel was lined up and the process repeated. Using twine we lashed the panels together where they joined. We also tied the panels to the rebar. The wool was used to wrap around all the rough edges that would rub against the tarp. The tops of the rebar were also wrapped. We tied the wool in place with more twine.

It took three of us to put the tarp on because the wind was whipping up a storm. The handy grommets on the tarp allowed us to secure it to the panel structure with yet more hay string. We left the south facing side mostly open so the birds can enter and exit. On the north side, the tarp is pulled all the way down. The extra fabric on the sides and back is weighted down with tires.

Portable, electric poultry netting protects the birds from predators. More on the trials and tribulations of e-net in another post.

Tarp at back of hoop is weighted with tires

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Super Worm Update

When the worms first arrived, seven worms were placed in individual compartments so they would pupate. They must be totally isolated from each other for that process to begin. I gave them each a fresh piece of potato or carrot when I replenished the food for the general population, usually once every couple of days. You can tell when they are beginning to change when they curl themselves into a circle.

It takes them a few days to do this and they don’t all begin to pupate at the same time. Some of them shed their skins first, like snakes do. Then one day, you look to see an alien-like being has replaced the curled up, dead-looking worm. The cream colored pupa has some distinguishable features like legs, head and body. The pupae are removed to a separate container and another super worm is placed in the cell they vacated.

As they mature, the legs and eyes become darker and the beetle it will become is more discernible. The more advanced pupa in the picture below has darker legs. It will become a beetle in the next couple of days. It will be moved to yet another container so when it morphs it won’t feed on the less mature pupae.

The super worms arrived on 3/3/11 and we had our first Darkling Beetle on 4/3. It is about 1″ long which is longer than I expected it would be. There are a couple more pupae that look like they are ready to begin life as beetles very soon.

According the the booklet from Carolina Supply, Darkling beetles can live 3 months to one year. This is good news. You can keep a small breeding population of beetles and not be a slave to monitoring pupae. The beetles are moved to a fresh container every week to prevent them from feeding on the eggs they’ve laid in the bedding.